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In the modern age, digital adoption is rapidly expanding. It also comes with it the difficulties of protecting personal and financial information from any threat actors. It is possible to close some of these gaps and guarantee that apps follow security guidelines and are secure by including web applications’ security best practices into the application development process.
The Effects of Potential Threats
It’s crucial to first consider the effects of attacks. Attackers may have a variety of motivations, including financial gain, user data theft, denial of service attacks, harming company reputations, or just seeking excitement. These attacks may result in the loss of sensitive customer and end-user data, as well as in monetary loss, interruption of service, harm to the brand, or an advantage for competing organisations.
For instance, in October 2013, Adobe declared that threat actors had gained access to its IT system. They took credit card numbers, expiration dates, names, login credentials, and passwords from 2.9 million accounts.
After a year, Yahoo! declared that 500 million user accounts had been compromised in a cyberattack. This was the biggest ever breach of personal information targeted at a single business.
Six weeks after the incident, the American credit reporting company Equifax disclosed that it had been the victim of a cyberattack that lasted several months. It was discovered in July 2017 and included 200,000 credit card numbers along with the personal information of 143 million consumers from the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, including names, birth dates, social insurance numbers, and driver’s licence numbers.
Most recently, on July 15, 2020, 130 well-known Twitter accounts were taken over by unknown people in order to spread a bitcoin hoax.
Best Practices for Developing Secure Web Applications
Be Paranoid: Require Injection & Input Validation (User Input Is Not Your Friend)
Until the contrary is demonstrated, it is a good idea to see every input as hostile. Only properly-formed data is allowed to go through a web application’s workflow thanks to input validation. This stops faulty or potentially corrupted data from being processed and from potentially causing downstream components to malfunction.
Here are a few examples of input validation types:
- Data type validation verifies if the parameters are of the appropriate kind, such as text, numeric, etc.
- Validation of data formats (ensuring that data adheres to the correct format requirements for schemas like JSON or XML).
- Validation of data values (ensuring that parameters match expected ranges or lengths of allowed values).
Though there is much more to input validation and injection avoidance, the fundamental idea is that inputs should be validated using both syntactical and semantic approaches. Semantic validation should enforce the accuracy of their values within a very specific business context (end date is greater than start date, low price is less than high price), whereas syntactic validation should enforce the correct syntax of information (SSN, birth date, currency, or whole numbers).
Encrypt your data
The fundamental method of encoding data to keep it safe from unauthorised access is known as encryption. While encryption obscures the content that can be understood by those not authorised to access it, it does not by itself prevent interference with data transmission.
Encryption is the most popular method for safeguarding private data not only while it’s in transit but also when it comes to data “at rest,” such data kept in databases or other storage devices.
When utilising Web Services and APIs, you should not only put in place an authentication strategy for the entities that access them, but you should also encrypt the data that travels via those services. A hacker’s best friend is an open, unprotected online service (and they have demonstrated increasingly intelligent algorithms that can identify these services quite easily).
Apply Authentication, Role Management & Access Control
When developing a web application, strong measures to consider include implementing efficient account management techniques like multi-factor authentication, secure password recovery systems, and strong password enforcement. Users who access more sensitive functions can even be made to undergo a forced re-authentication.
Giving each user as little privileges as feasible while creating a web application can help ensure that they can get what they need from it. By adhering to the principle of minimal privilege, you may significantly decrease the likelihood of an unauthorised user carrying out actions that could potentially crash the programme or, in certain situations, the entire platform, thereby negatively impacting other apps operating on the same system or platform.
Additional factors for authentication and access control include the expiration of passwords, account lock-outs when necessary, and SSL encryption to prevent the transmission of passwords and other account-related data in plain sight.
Use Exception Management
Effective exception handling is another security strategy with a development focus. In the event of a failure, you would never want to see anything more than a standard error message. Including the exact system messages verbatim serves as a valuable enigma for possibly dangerous entities rather than benefiting the end user.
When designing, keep in mind that, from a security perspective, there are typically just three conceivable outcomes:
- Allow the operation.
- Reject the operation.
- Handle an exception.
Generally, you will go back to rejecting the operation in the event of an exception or error. Operations won’t be accidentally permitted if an application fails securely. For instance, you would rather have an ATM fail and give the user a straightforward, amiable message rather than spilling money all over the place.
Maintain Security During Web App Development
Recognise that you can keep your web applications secure while such tools are being developed, before you rush out and employ a team of security specialists.
Avoid Security Misconfigurations
There are several ways to truly screw things up, given the plethora of options available in modern web server management software:
- Failing to prevent directories or files from being served
- Failing to delete the webserver’s default, temporary, or visitor accounts
- Opening ports on the web server needlessly
- Using outdated or inactive software libraries
- Utilising antiquated security level guidelines
- Allowing the expiration of digital certificates
Establish a well-documented procedure for configuring web servers and the software that serves websites, in addition to creating new websites.
More precise control over resources and security is made possible by the modular design of web server functionality. However, if you use them carelessly, this could make your applications less safe. When handling additional high-risk security options and features, exercise utmost caution and diligence.
Don’t Forget Hosting/Service-Focused Measures
Ensuring the security of your online applications requires appropriate configuration management at the service level, which is just as crucial as development-focused security measures.
Include Auditing & Logging
Server-level logging and auditing are other issues that we are worried about. Fortunately, a large portion of this is integrated into content serving software programmes like Internet Information Services (IIS) and is easily available in case you need to evaluate different activity-related data.
Logs not only serve as the primary documentation of questionable activities, but they also hold users personally accountable by monitoring their behaviour.
Unlike error logging, which typically requires extensive setup, activity or audit logging is typically integrated into webserver software. Make sure you use it to monitor user behaviour, identify undesirable activities, and examine application faults that were missed at the code level.
Logs may be required for legal actions in very unusual circumstances. As you are undoubtedly aware, processing the log data is crucial in these situations.
Implement HTTPS (and Redirect All HTTP Traffic to HTTPS)
Another very useful (and occasionally required) preventative measure that may be done to secure information is encryption at the service level. Usually, HTTPS (SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer) is used for this.
A web server and a browser can create an encrypted connection using the SSL technology. This guarantees the privacy of the data transferred between the webserver and the browser. Millions of websites use SSL, which is the industry standard for safeguarding online transactions.
Be Proactive to Keep Up With the Bad Guys
Since cybersecurity feels to me like an arms race, I frequently employ military terminology and analogies when I speak with people about it. New assaults and strategies are continuously being devised, and threats are always changing. To stay ahead of the “bad guys” in the world, businesses that have an online presence need to combat these dangers. Proactivity is the essential to cybersecurity, just like it is to a successful military plan.
All of your important web apps should have a clear security plan in place. This entails giving your riskier applications priority. If your company maintains an inventory or repository of all the online applications it uses or makes available to its clients, it may make identification simpler.
Your strategy and plan for dealing with security issues should also change as they do. As we use web apps to address more and more of even our most manageable business demands, we have to worry about ever-more-sophisticated enemies and ever-widening weak points. These issues demand full-time attention.
As things are right now, you cannot truly hope to stop every attack, but you should try your hardest to rise to the occasion by developing your own intelligence as a force multiplier. As you develop an active defence to identify and address new security threats and hazards, ensure sure your leadership is completely committed to the project and that sufficient resources are in place.
The landscape of web security is dynamic, and your approach to navigating it needs to be as well.
How should Web applications be secured?
Network and operating system security are typically the first things that come to mind when we discuss IT security. But with the trend towards utilising web-based programmes for… More focus is being given to “cybersecurity,” a phrase we’ve been familiar with since the early 1990s with the introduction of the internet, well, pretty much everything.
Web apps are becoming an essential part of daily life and business. Through the use of web applications, individuals and businesses may accomplish goals much more quickly by streamlining processes and completing more tasks with fewer resources.
- They are no longer in need of a storehouse filled with carefully arranged documents.
- Nowadays, communicating using actual physical mail is rarely or never necessary.
- Modern marketing campaigns are primarily web-focused.
- Even customer support no longer uses 1-800 phone lines; instead, they direct you to websites.
Web applications offer opportunities to reach a growing number of clients and customers that were not possible in the past. Web apps can engage with your clients to maintain business relationships, facilitate communication, and provide product support.
We ought to be required to take a strong stand for the protection and security of sensitive data as we use web applications for so many purposes and transmit it over so many various kinds of online channels.
At this point, no online technology has shown itself to be completely impervious. Every day, new dangers arise that necessitate modifying or improving general web-focused security as well as solutions. In order to enhance the general calibre of web apps, developers must stick to these rules.
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