Website Vulnerabilities: How to identify Security Risks in your Website

Website Vulnerabilities
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Website Vulnerabilities: Running an eCommerce business or maintaining an online presence has its downsides. Cybersecurity assaults are a persistent risk for websites.

However, online security best practices become a priority for many businesses after a security breach. A simple way to proactively prevent breaches is to regularly run a website vulnerability scan.

Below, we explore how to find a vulnerability in a website, understand the need to assess your website for security weaknesses, and identify security practices that can identify potential web application weaknesses.

What are Vulnerabilities, and how are they exploited?

A vulnerability is a weakness that an attacker can exploit to launch an attack successfully. They can be caused by defects, features, or user errors. Cybercriminals frequently try to capitalize on any of them by combining two or more.

  • Defects or Flaws: Unintended functionality is a defect. This might be the result of a flawed design or implementation errors. Defects may go undiscovered for a considerable time. Today, the most frequent attacks target these vulnerabilities, with multiple attackers relentlessly hunting and exploiting vulnerabilities
  • Zero-day vulnerabilities: The more skilled and well-resourced attackers exploit zero-day vulnerabilities. Once zero-day vulnerabilities are made public, repeatable attacks are created, posing a threat to any device or system that has not installed the appropriate patch or updated its antivirus software
  • Features: A feature is planned functionality that an attacker may exploit to compromise a system. Features may enhance the user experience, aid in issue diagnosis, or improve management. However, they can also be abused by an adversary
  • User error: Users may be critical vulnerability source. Even the most cyber-savvy users can be duped into disclosing their password, installing malware, or providing information that an attacker may find helpful. These would allow an attacker to target and schedule an assault

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Vulnerability Management

Vulnerability management is the set of tools and processes used to identify, analyze, repair, and report potential system vulnerabilities. Along with other security measures, the procedure is established to harden the system and guarantee that possible vulnerabilities are rectified before hackers can exploit them.

Additionally, vulnerability evaluations are the basis for an efficient patch management approach, allowing developers to resolve security and performance gaps swiftly.

Comprehensive vulnerability management enables web developers to establish a solid security posture by fixing discovered vulnerabilities before release.

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Why Businesses must invest in Website Vulnerability Detection

Attackers commonly target prevalent web application vulnerabilities to exploit configuration security holes and other information systems.

Consequently, it is essential to configure application vulnerability detection techniques and utilize a security scanner to find common vulnerabilities.

Additionally, organizations generally employ ethical hackers, specialized tools, and security auditing to identify application security flaws proactively.

While the primary objective is to develop application code that is devoid of security flaws, there are several additional organizational benefits, including:

Attack Surface Reduction

Researchers and testers add new vulnerabilities to the Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE) index when they find them. Developers and security experts choose the flaw that needs to be fixed and then work on the necessary security patches.

Attackers also use CWE lists to make exploits that let them attack through different versions that are weak. Regular vulnerability scans with tools ensure that web organizations fix these problems before they can be used against them.

Application Performance Monitoring

Modern websites use a mix of services and applications that work together to make the user experience better. Since modern networks are very dynamic, how these systems interact is sometimes hard to predict. This could lead to several bugs that affect how well an application performs, such as:

  • Database server errors
  • Response timeouts
  • Outdated server software
  • Insecure HTTP headers
  • Poorly configured application firewalls
  • Unsecure application server
  • Website outage

Regular vulnerability scanning helps organizations find the source of these problems before affecting the website’s availability and reliability.

Post-Attack Forensics

By finding the system’s weaknesses, you can discover how it was broken into, such as through unexpectedly open ports, malicious files, or already installed malware.

Some vulnerability assessment tools can also find the machines used to make the attack, including helping locate the people who are a threat.

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Three Methods for identifying Website Vulnerabilities

Because cybersecurity is constantly changing, website developers must find and fix vulnerabilities.

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If these holes aren’t fixed, hackers will be able to get into the website with higher privileges. Web developers and site managers can find weak spots on websites in many ways, such as:

Vulnerability Scanning

An application security scanner is a piece of software that may be set up to query particular interfaces to identify performance and security flaws. These tools scan for known vulnerabilities using scripts and other tools that have been documented.

Scanners for vulnerabilities work by simulating several “if-then” scenarios to analyze user activities and system configurations that might make it easier to exploit a vulnerability.

An effectively set-up passive web security scan can assist in examining apps and networks. It can also offer a record of vulnerabilities that need to be resolved in order of importance.

Types of Vulnerability Scans

External or internal vulnerability-based application scans are possible. Internal scans are conducted from within an organization’s network, with the tester logging in as a verified user.

During external scans, the tester does not have authorized network access. It scans the program in the same manner as a hacker.

How Often Should Vulnerability Scans be Performed?

The frequency of vulnerability checks varies by circumstance and is influenced by several factors. This category includes security strategy, compliance standards, and organizational structure.

At least once every three months, it is standard practice to scan websites for security flaws. The security team must also evaluate the threat environment and corporate security posture and alter the frequency accordingly.

Website Vulnerability Scanning vs Vulnerability Scanning

Website vulnerability scanning and vulnerability scanning are frequently used synonymously. Contrary to popular opinion, however, these two notions are close but not identical.

As previously said, website vulnerability scanning entails using external web applications to search for vulnerabilities within a website. In contrast, vulnerability scanning conducts an audit of the IT infrastructure, including the network and endpoints. Both security protocols are advantageous additions to a business’s cybersecurity strategy.

How do web vulnerability scanners work?

Vulnerability scanners automate various operations. Application spidering and crawling, default and common content detection, and vulnerability probing.

There are two ways to scan for vulnerabilities: passive and aggressive:

  • Passive scans are non-intrusive assessments that look at things for vulnerabilities
  • An active scan simulates an assault on your site to identify vulnerabilities from the outside

Some scan types incorporate authentication, where the scanner utilizes access rights

Depending on the scan, the scanner then produces a report. This report provides the request and answers that the program used to diagnose each vulnerability.

Penetration Testing

Penetration testing is a proactive approach to security in which security experts seek to exploit vulnerabilities in a secure manner. These can include SQL injections, cross-site scripting, cross-site request forgery, and cross-site requests.

Once vulnerabilities are found, businesses often recreate and comprehend an attacker’s behavior. Security teams perform penetration testing to evaluate the efficacy of security measures and adherence to security standards.

In order to do this, testers imitate an attacker’s workflow by leveraging existing vulnerabilities and privilege escalation to get access to system data. They then supply thorough reports on the test’s findings, which are utilized to fine-tune security procedures.

Threat Intelligence Frameworks

After the penetration test report has been submitted, it is crucial to establish a central repository for the discovery, notification, and management of security risks.

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A threat intelligence framework defines a repeatable, scalable security incident management strategy for all website security stakeholders. A comprehensive threat intelligence framework helps firms reduce costs by accelerating the reaction to data breaches.

In addition, the shared repository contains essential data that may serve as a collaborative knowledge base for enterprise-wide security compliance.

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Common Website Vulnerabilities

Regular updates can play a significant role in maintaining your security posture; once a vulnerability is made public, hackers can exploit it. In many cases, websites are exposed to the following vulnerabilities (but are not restricted to them):

  • Cross-site scripting (XSS): The idea behind XSS is to change a web application’s client-side scripts to run the way the attacker wants. This is achieved when code, usually a client-side script like JavaScript, is put into the output of a web application to attack its users. XSS lets attackers run scripts in the browser of the victim. These scripts can take over user sessions, change the look of websites, or send the user to malicious sites.
  • Authentication & Session Management Exploitation: Encompassing several security issues relating to user identity security. If authentication credentials and session identifiers are not secure, an attacker can take over a user’s session and use that person’s identity.
  • Insecure Direct Object References: Files, database records, directories, and database keys are all types of internal implementation objects. When an application includes a reference to one of these objects in a URL, hackers can use it to get to a user’s personal information.
  • Security Misconfigurations: Caused by a lack of maintenance or attention to how a web application is set up. The application, frameworks, application server, web server, database server, and platform all need to be set up in a secure way. When security is set up ineffectively, hackers can get to private data or features and even take over the whole system.
  • SQL injection: One of the most prevailing types of security flaws in web applications, SQL injection is where an attacker tries to use code from the application to access or change database content. If this works, the attacker will be able to create, read, update, change, or delete back-end database data.
  • Open redirection: A scanner tests for these vulnerabilities by submitting payloads designed to test whether a parameter can cause redirection to an arbitrary external domain.

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Website Vulnerabilities: Next Steps

Most website owners place a premium on scalability and performance. Yet, the ever-changing threat landscape makes security an equally important factor.

Identifying application vulnerabilities is the initial step in safeguarding a susceptible website, followed by taking corrective measures to minimize them.

While secure coding standards cannot be disregarded, efficient vulnerability assessment assists organizations in enhancing their security posture by proactively finding and mitigating security flaws.

The OWASP top 10 is the starting point for security-conscious teams. It identifies typical web application vulnerabilities and their corresponding mitigations based on real-world circumstances.

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