Security in Web development: protecting applications from major threats

Security in Web development: protecting applications from major threats

Security in web development is an essential aspect of any successful project. In addition to the safety of confidential user data, the stability of the web service and the reputation of the company depend on the security of the system. Today, in the era of the digital economy, ignoring security issues can be a critical mistake for an emerging business.

The main security threats in web development

Some of the most common threats in web development are:
SQL injection (hacks through the introduction of malicious SQL commands into database queries). SQL attacks can lead to unauthorized access to information, its modification or deletion. SQL protection is an important aspect of web development security. There are various strategies and techniques that help protect web applications from such attacks:

  • Prepared and parameterized queries: Using prepared or parameterized queries is one of the most effective ways to protect against SQL injection;
  • Escaping special characters: an approach in which all special characters used in SQL (such as quotation marks) are replaced with their safe equivalents;
  • Privilege restriction: Assigning database users only the privileges they really need to perform their tasks;
  • Using Web Application Gateways or Firewalls (WAFs): Detecting and blocking SQL injections by analyzing incoming traffic;
  • Penetration testing and regular security audits: Regular vulnerability testing of web applications.

Cross-site scripting (XSS attack) – one of the most common security threats in web development. Attackers inject malicious scripts into web pages viewed by other users.

Malicious scripts are often transmitted through input forms on websites with XSS vulnerabilities (which do not filter or do not effectively filter user input). When other users view these pages, their browsers execute malicious scripts. Depending on the nature of the attack and web application security measures, XSS injections can be divided into three main types: Stored, Reflected, and DOM-based.

Saved XSS attacks occur when a malicious script is saved on the server and sent to every user who views the page. They are the most dangerous, as they affect a large number of users.

Reflected XSS attacks are embedded in the URL and are activated when it is opened. Such attacks usually occur when an attacker attracts the victim to open a specially prepared URL, for example, by sending a link via email or message.

DOM-based XSS attacks occur when a malicious script modifies the structure of the DOM (Document Object Model) of a web page, which leads to the execution of malicious code.

To protect against XSS, it is important to use secure development techniques, including filtering, screening user input, using Content Security Policy (CSP) and other security technologies.

Session interception (or session interception) – a type of attack in which an attacker intercepts and uses a user’s session to perform unauthorized actions. This attack is often used to bypass the authentication process and gain unauthorized access to web services. Network listening and cross-site scripting (XSS) are the main techniques for intercepting a session.

Protection against interception includes the following measures:

  • Using secure data transfer protocols (e.g. HTTPS) that encrypt session data and prevent it from being intercepted;
  • Limiting the lifetime of sessions and session tokens to reduce the time during which an attacker can use an intercepted session token;
  • Using server-side security measures, such as validating the user’s IP address, to make sure that the session token is being used by the same user to whom it was originally issued;
  • Regular updating and testing of web applications to detect and eliminate vulnerabilities that can be used to intercept a session.

CSRF attack (Cross-Site Request Forgery) — attacks in which the attacker forces the victim to perform an undesirable action on the site in which she is authenticated.

CSRF verification (CSRF protection) is a set of measures used to prevent such attacks. One of the common methods of protection is the use of a CSRF token, a unique and random number that is generated for each user session. When a user sends a request to perform an action, the server checks whether the CSRF token in the request matches the token stored in the session. If the tokens do not match, the server rejects the request.

A CSRF verification error usually means that the CSRF token verification failed: the token is missing from the request or does not match the token in the session. This can happen if a user tries to submit a form with an expired token, or if an attacker tries to perform a CSRF attack.

Security in the design of web applications

The basic principles of secure design include data protection at all levels of the application, the use of secure authentication and authorization methods, error handling without disclosing unnecessary information, and much more.

The importance of ensuring security in the early stages of development. It is important to understand that security must be laid down at the design stage of a web application. This will help to avoid costly changes in the future and ensure reliable data protection.

Security at the web application development stage

Developing secure code requires programmers to know the main threats and how to prevent them. There are various techniques and best practices, for example, the principle of “minimum privileges” or “protection in depth”.

Using secure libraries and development tools allows you to speed up the development process and make it more reliable.

Web Application Security Testing

Approaches and techniques for site security testing include, for example, site security penetration testing or fuzzing. You can use online site security testing using popular resources (VirusTotal or Sucuri). Using automated tools for testing the security of web applications, such as OWASP ZAP or Nessus, allows you to detect vulnerabilities at an early stage.

Maintaining website security

Continuous updating and improvement of website security includes updating the system and components of the web application. Auditing the security of a web application and responding to threats to site security in real time requires constant monitoring and rapid response to emerging threats.

It is important to remember that various methods of protecting against web application attacks are not a one—time task, but an ongoing process. Threats are constantly changing and evolving, and a systematic and consistent approach is required to neutralize them.

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