Useful Tips to Improve Web Application Security

In today’s technology infused world, web applications are always available to the general public. Unlike internal network applications, a web browser is accessible to all users with an Internet connection; even hackers.  

Unfortunately, developers often overlook web application protection. Teams are often so focused on the functional aspects of application like coding, graphic design, and usability that   they forget to spend time on making sure it is stable and secure.  

Simple but effective measures will help developers improve web applications’ security. In this blog, we give out 10 handy tips to stop hackers from exploiting vulnerabilities on web servers. 

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DESIGN STRATEGIES FOR DATA PROTECTION 

You need to create proper data protection practices. You can essentially just follow the best data protection practices that are popularly used by organizations. 

Every web application you use must have strong password enforcement. If Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is accessible, enable it and make sure it is enabled for your most important applications.  

If you have development access to an application, make sure you use HTTPS and the latest TLS update. The x-XSS protection security header and applying the integrity of child resources to binding or script elements are also beneficial for web applications. 

LIST DOWN WHAT YOU HAVE 

You cannot protect what you do not know. We recommend that you first make a list of licensed and third-party web applications and then thoroughly go over it to familiarize yourself with them. 

As you make this list, keep in mind that you are trying to protect the communication with your customers. It means you want to enlist all applications that your customers use. These could be applications built by your development team, but this must include other third-party applications as well. It is important to enforce a policy where all the communication is through approved applications. 

HIRING A CAPABLE PEN TESTER IS A GOOD IDEA 

If your company’s business is focused on building web applications, you can hire a skilled ethical hacker to try to hack it. Yes, you read that right! A hacker can help invade the application and help solve the problem if before unethical hackers discover it. Additionally, you may also consider running a reward program to pay bonuses to people who might find errors in the app. 

If your company does not have a security department, creating a department from scratch can be a tedious process. In that case, you should consider outsourcing security to a web application testing company. 

KEEP A CLOSE WATCH ON THE SUPPLIERS 

A security chain is only as secure as its weakest component, therefore security assessments must involve technology partners. Since your web applications are almost certain to depend on third-party vendors for important functions, you can regularly review their security policies and procedures. 

It is essential to monitor the internal network security of a company. However, companies often make mistakes by bypassing the cybersecurity procedures of their suppliers. It is important to determine the potential vulnerabilities of your own suppliers to have a full rounded security check in place. 

MAKE SURE YOUR PASSWORDS AND ACCESS RIGHTS ARE UP TO DATE 

This is a tough question, especially in a fast-growing company or even if you rely on temporary workers. Even so, it is important to use a web application user credentials database and revoke credentials after an employee leaves or changes roles. Allow least privilege access (PoLP) to an application as it easily give users access to the information and tools, they need to do their jobs.  

There is no need to give full administrator access to users when viewing or editing is enough. It may seem time-consuming, but it not only protects your web applications from hackers but also from potentially malicious employees.  

Failure to apply the principle of least privilege is a critical security breach that threatens your business, leaves it vulnerable to threats, and exposes your business data to high risk. 

APPROPRIATE WEB APPLICATION FIREWALLS IN PLACE 

Hackers may target your website/app for whatever reason – persistent and prolonged hacking attempts are often hard to beat. 

However, you can implement a web application firewall (WAF) that filters inbound traffic and scans web clients before sending the request through your website.  

A WAF behaves similarly to a traditional network firewall in that it compares it to a watch list and uses AI to detect suspicious behavior. This advantage over traditional firewalls provides better visibility into sensitive application data communicating through the HTTP application layer. It can prevent application-level attacks that traditional network firewalls typically bypass. 

REGULAR BACKUPS 

Do you think backups are out of date because you heard a spinning hard drive years ago? Think again; your web application data is at constant risk and needs to be backed up outside the application. Do not back up your data in the same cloud infrastructure that your application resides on, you should also back it up off-site 

A question that often pops up when we talk about security testing is “what should we do if an app stop operating?” Losing any number of records can compromise your non-public identity, erase your family history, or even bankrupt your whole company. 

It does not matter whether you have been storing highly confidential customer data for years or just storing lots of cute photos of your dog; y the thought of losing all your data is never a pleasant one 

REGULARLY REVIEW SECURITY MEASURES 

You need to keep reviewing your security measures. You need to constantly look for a new vulnerability and continuously review your security policies. It is worth setting up a review process, even if it’s as simple as journaling a calendar. Yes, security officers are paid to keep security correct, but it is too easy to verify that a technological legacy is safe and then neglect to do a regular verification.  

A McAfee data breach report found that people in organizations caused 43% of data loss, half of which was accidental. Improved cybersecurity policies can help employees and consultants better understand how data and applications are kept safe. 

KEEP THE SOFTWARE UP TO DATE AND FIND OUT ABOUT THE LATEST SECURITY VULNERABILITY 

Another important aspect of making web applications more secure is staying up to date on the latest security vulnerabilities and cyberattacks. Keep your software and servers up to date with the latest versions at the same time.  

Since unpatched and outdated software makes your web application and data more vulnerable to cyberattacks, you should also perform multiple backups of your website data. 

SECURITY TARGETED QA PROCESS IN PLACE 

 In most cases, testers look for flaws in the user interface and make sure the application does what it is supposed to do. But is that enough? As explained below, your QA process should also ask the following question: Is the application doing something it shouldn’t?  

Organizations need to focus more on having a comprehensive and effective QA process that takes safety into account rather than just verifying that the application is doing what it is supposed to do. For security reasons, we should also care about whether an application can do things it shouldn’t. The vulnerabilities are simply the result of programmers making mistakes. 

Luckily for quality assurance, programmers keep on making the same mistakes regardless of the language or platform they are using, for example, when QA engineers review an application that interacts with a database, they ought to validate it for SQL injection vulnerability.

QA teams should look for these common types of vulnerabilities. The Open Web Application Security Program (OWASP) has compiled a list of the ten most common security vulnerabilities that they update on a regular basis. Organizations can test and remove these vulnerabilities before the code is released to stay ahead of the game. 

Conclusion 

Businesses have become incredibly dependent on web applications. Companies using the latest technology rely heavily on web applications and more often than not, these applications are not secure. Additionally, vendors who develop and maintain web applications may forget the fragility of their applications. The good news is that there are many ways to improve the security of web applications. We have highlighted some useful tips in this blog post, but every company needs to take the necessary measures depending upon their specific needs. 

We hope this blog has helped you understand the relevance of application security and enlightened you on the ways you can improve it! If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below. 

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