Welcome to a primer on website security. This article aims to provide an overview of the most common website vulnerabilities and how to identify and mitigate them.
Website security is paramount to the success of any business with an online presence. Security risks can range from minor inconveniences to major data breaches that could cost businesses millions.
In fact, according to Statista.com, the average cost of a data breach in the United States amounted to 9.44 million U.S. dollars, up from 9.05 million U.S. dollars in the previous year.
And the global average cost per data breach was 4.35 million U.S. dollars in 2022.
That said, it is crucial for you, as a website owner, to be aware of the different types of website vulnerabilities. This way, you can have the plan to identify and mitigate them.
And don’t worry; I won’t bore you with technical jargon. Just plain English.
Types of Website Vulnerabilities
The most common website vulnerabilities include Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), SQL Injection, Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF), Broken Authentication, Denial of Service, and Insecure Direct Object References.
a). Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
Cross-site scripting (XSS) is a website vulnerability that allows an attacker to inject malicious code into a web page.
This code is then executed in the browser of anyone who views the page, potentially allowing the attacker to steal sensitive information or take other actions on the victim’s behalf.
There are two main types of XSS attacks: reflected and stored.
In a reflected XSS attack, the attacker injects the malicious code into a web page via a link, which the victim clicks on.
The code is then executed when the victim’s browser loads the page. In a stored XSS attack, the malicious code is stored on the web server and is executed whenever anyone views the page.
XSS attacks can happen in several ways.
One common way is through insecure input validation. If a web application does not properly validate user input, an attacker can supply malicious code as input, executed when the page is loaded.
An attacker can exploit these components to inject malicious code into the web page if these components have vulnerabilities.
b). SQL Injection
SQL Injection is another type of attack in which malicious SQL statements are inserted into the database and executed by the web application. This can allow attackers to access, modify, or delete data in the database.
c). Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)
This is a type of attack in which a malicious website or script can make requests on behalf of a user.
If execudted, it can allow attackers to perform actions in the user’s name without their knowledge or consent.
d). Broken Authentication
Broken authentication is a common vulnerability in web applications. It occurs when an attacker can exploit weaknesses in the authentication process to gain unauthorized access to a user’s account. This can happen in several ways, such as:
- Using weak or easily guessable passwords is the most common cause of broken authentication. Attackers can use tools to automate the process of trying many different passwords to try to gain access to a user’s account.
- Failing to implement strong password policies: Another common cause of broken authentication is failure to enforce strong passwords. This can include allowing users to set weak passwords, or not requiring users to update their passwords regularly.
- Failing to protect password reset processes properly: Many web applications allow users to reset their passwords if they forget them. However, if the password reset process is not properly secured, attackers can exploit this to gain access to a user’s account.
- Storing passwords in plaintext: In some cases, web applications may store user passwords in plaintext, rather than encrypting them. If an attacker can access the database where the passwords are stored, they can easily gain access to all of the user accounts.
And when it happens, it can allow attackers to bypass authentication or hijack user sessions.
e). Denial of Service (DoS)
Another very common website vulnerability is DoS.
A denial-of-service (DoS) attack is a type of cyberattack in which the attacker seeks to make a computer or network resource unavailable to its intended users by overwhelming it with a flood of traffic or requests.
In Q3 of 2022, Kaspersky’s DDoS Intelligence system detected 57,116 DDoS attacks.
This can be done in several ways, including:
- Flooding the network with traffic: In this type of attack, the attacker sends many requests to the targeted network or server, overwhelming its capacity and making it unable to handle legitimate requests. This can be done using a single computer or a network of computers, known as a botnet, which the attacker controls.
- Exploiting vulnerabilities in the system: Another way to carry out a DoS attack is to exploit vulnerabilities in the system to cause it to crash or become unresponsive. For example, an attacker might send a carefully crafted request that causes the system to crash or use a known vulnerability to gain unauthorized access to the system and take it down from the inside.
- Targeting critical infrastructure: Some DoS attacks are aimed at critical infrastructures, such as power grids or water treatment plants. By disrupting these systems, the attacker can cause widespread damage and disruption.
DoS attacks can have serious consequences, including loss of revenue, reputation damage, and customer trust.
In fact, the cost of a DDoS attack averages between $20,000-$40,000 per hour.
And that figure can even go up to $50,000!
f). Insecure Direct Object References
Insecure direct object references is a type of vulnerability that occurs when a web application provides direct access to objects, such as files or database records, based on user-supplied input.
This can allow an attacker to access or modify sensitive information, such as other users’ accounts or sensitive system files.
This type of website vulnerability typically occurs when the web application uses user-supplied input to access objects directly, without proper authentication or authorization checks.
For example, imagine a web application that uses a user’s ID number to look up their account information in a database.
If the application does not properly validate the user’s input, an attacker could supply a different ID number to access someone else’s account.
How to Identify Website Vulnerabilities
The first step in protecting your website from these vulnerabilities is to identify them.
This can be done by performing a security audit, using a vulnerability scanner, and reviewing the code for potential vulnerabilities.
A security audit is a comprehensive review of a website’s security posture. It can identify any potential vulnerabilities, as well as any areas where the security could be improved.
A vulnerability scanner is a tool that can be used to scan a website for potential vulnerabilities. These scanners are typically automated and can detect common vulnerabilities quickly and easily.
Finally, it’s crucial to review the code for any potential vulnerabilities. This can be done manually or with automated code review tools. It’s important to look for any areas where the code is not secure or where the code is vulnerable to attack.
How to Mitigate Website Vulnerabilities
Once the vulnerabilities have been identified, the next step is to mitigate them.
This can be done by installing web application firewalls, implementing secure coding practices, performing periodic security reviews, and regularly updating software.
Web application firewalls can block malicious requests and protect against attacks. They can be configured only to allow legitimate requests and block any suspicious requests.
Secure coding practices can help to prevent vulnerabilities from occurring in the first place. This includes proper input validation, output encoding, secure authentication, and secure session management.
Periodic security reviews can identify any new vulnerabilities that may have been introduced since the last review. This can help to ensure that the website is always up-to-date and secure.
Finally, regularly update software to ensure that any known vulnerabilities are patched. This can help ensure that the website is always running the most secure software version.
In conclusion, website security is important to any business’s online presence.
Be aware of the different website vulnerabilities and have the plan to identify and mitigate them.
This can be done by performing a security audit, using a vulnerability scanner, implementing secure coding practices, performing periodic security reviews, and regularly updating software.
By taking these steps, businesses can ensure that their website is secure and their data is protected.