Analyzing web application threats to map out the attack surface

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web application threats

Cybersecurity leaders believe that the complex world of modern web applications is a minefield from the cybersecurity point of view

The modern web applications world is a complex area that needs efficient handling. The critical applications contain labyrinth layers and can be a breeding ground for liabilities if not built with proper security as the primary focus.

As a result, organizations need to detect and understand any element that can be manipulated to behave as a breach point for a seasoned hacker.

To ensure this, security personnel need to gain a comprehensive understanding of the vulnerabilities in the application architecture to reduce the total attack surface.

The sensitive client financial data and personally identifiable information are collated and stored in the web application. Such information is extremely valuable for everyday business operation and protected under the international cross- regulatory requirements. Compliance failure will result in hefty fines and a drastic reduction of client trust along with negative publicity.

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Most of the enterprises gave high priority to operation continuity during initial stages of global lockdown when everyone shifted to the remote work model. This left numerous applications under-secured, mainly because of unavailability of time and resources.

The solutions may have been unprepared and hence directly responsible for less-than-desired cybersecurity hygiene amongst remote employees across the world. When the security-apathy is combined with cyber-criminals’ determination, organizations are faced with dire consequences.

Threat actors have upgraded their TTPs continuously to breach into web applications for extracting sensitive personal data. Some CIOs believe that Web Application Firewall (WAF) and basic user controls are enough to mitigate disaster; however, no system is immune to simple application exploits.

Web application attacks can be dangerous for enterprises; the majority of the attacks in 2019 and 2020 were related to WAF attacks.

Mapping the attack surface and preventing attacks

CIOs feel that security teams can effectively map the attack surface related to the web application and detect the critical attack vectors before the situation becomes unmanageable. The detection process can be segmented into three stages.

Discovering the application will be the initial stage. Enterprises should have a comprehensive list of the critical web apps used by them and the possible exposure surface. Organizations with shadow IT need to locate the web apps exposed at a public stage and identify the possible blind spots.

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Next, security teams need to evaluate the risk factor of web applications compared to the most common attack routes used by hackers.

Protecting the crown jewels

Once the web applications have been evaluated against the above attack roots, security teams need to correlate the results against environmental and temporal order to decide the full risk posture.

Once the entire attack surface estimation is understood, security teams have the required measures to deploy security controls. They have the data necessary to implement continuous application testing in the security perimeter and provide ROI.