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According to a recent WhiteHat report, an average website contains at least three critical vulnerabilities that may lead to cyberattacks. 

Dealing with various threads may cost your business millions of dollars. What’s more, sensitive information leakage and system crashes can destroy your users’ trust and spoil your company’s reputation. Hence, it’s worth finding a way to protect your web application and make it more stable. 

So what is the most widespread vulnerability in web applications? And, most importantly, how to prevent such treats? Keep reading this post to find out! 

Drawing on the Devox Software team’s rich experience in web app development and quality assurance, we will provide you with the most helpful web app security insights. You will learn the most dangerous web app vulnerabilities, how to detect them, and what you can do to enhance your website’s security.

What Are Vulnerabilities in Web Applications?

Web application vulnerabilities are system weaknesses or flaws. They may result in security threats like hacker attacks or data leaks. Unfortunately, these challenges arise much more often than network or asset risks. A recent Verizon report states that 26% of all online breaches are web app attacks. That’s due to the web application nature involving multiple interactions with various networks and global user access

That’s why it’s crucial to conduct regular application security tests and verify its vulnerabilities before they snowball into a disaster. Various security testing solutions, both automated and manual, help identify your app’s weakest points and address potential risks.  

10 Common Web Application Vulnerabilities Explained

Every year, the OWASP foundation releases a list of the top ten web application security risks. The list regularly updates since some vulnerabilities become more critical while others are getting less threatening. 

This post will provide you with our picks considering the latest OWASP reports and DevoxSoftware’s insights. So let’s learn more about the most significant application security vulnerabilities to look out for. 

 1. Injection Attacks

An injection attack occurs when a hacker conducts an unvalidated input to a web application. Most often, injections target the app’s most vulnerable and insecure components. In particular, SQL (Structured Query Language) injection attacks are some of the most common and dangerous cyber threats.

SQL is a technology allowing you to establish communication and management of databases. When an attack occurs, SQL injection (SQLI) uses malicious code to manipulate backend databases and access sensitive or confidential information like credentials, user names, and passwords. The attackers can steal, remove, or change this data, which puts businesses at enormous risk. 

How to avoid injection attacks?

  • Add filters to input fields
  • Use parametrized queries, such as prepared statements
  • Avoid using inputs directly 

2. Data Leakage

According to an IBM annual report, the average data breach cost in 2022 is nearly $4.5 million. So every business should strive to mitigate information leakage risks. However, unfortunately, such attacks often occur with web applications. 

Most commonly, attackers can steal sensitive data during its transition to the users or in case of insufficient storage encryption. Therefore, companies should do their best to keep data protected when it’s at rest and in transition. 

How to avoid sensitive information exposure?

  • Analyze website scripts during the development lifecycle 
  • Implement ciphers (encryption algorithms) for incoming data
  • Turn off caching of confidential information
  • Ensure reliable database encryption and keep the keys separately
  • Remove outdated information

3. Security Misconfiguration

Misconfiguration occurs when a vulnerability in web applications is exceptionally high. Hence, it’s much easier for an attacker to approach your app’s security. The following situations put your website at the greatest risk:

  1. Default passwords and accounts
  2. Insecure passwords
  3. Unpatched flaws
  4. Insecure file and directory
  5. Unused pages or other components
  6. Obsolete software

Security misconfiguration vulnerabilities are extremely dangerous since they may lead to attacks targeting the weakest points of your web application or website

How to avoid security misconfigurations?

  • Enhance web application’s architecture
  • Don’t use default usernames and passwords
  • Conduct access control verification
  • Use a deployment protocol for updates

4. Broken Access Control

Access control issues are some of the most common web application security vulnerabilities ranked first in the latest OWASP report. This particular challenge was the most critical in 2021. 

The issue involves a failure in user-data or user-resource interactions. It means that unauthorized access to specific actions or information may occur. Normally, the users aren’t supposed to go beyond the interface and interact with the backend of your web application. However, if the broken access control takes place, hacker attacks or breaches are inevitable. 

For example, imagine that your web app users can change payment and order details instead of just viewing them. Malicious actors will use this opportunity to manipulate or use this confidential information.

How to avoid broken access control?

  • Keep the app’s authentification configured
  • Manage role-based access control 

5. Broken Authentification

Broken authentification is another common vulnerability leading to unwanted access to your web app’s internal system. Most often, it occurs when the hackers steal passwords or keys get permission to manipulate your data. For example, they can interfere with the functioning of your networks or software.

This vulnerability takes place due to several reasons, including incorrect password hashing algorithms, poor password timeout management, and the use of insecure passwords.

How to avoid broken authentification?

  • Adopt multi-factor authentification
  • Create secure passwords and regularly update them
  • Configure password timeout length correctly

6. Cross-site Scripting

Cross-site scripting (XSS) is a cyberattack that involves inserting malicious scripts into the web app’s code to infect users’ browsers. Usually, hackers hide such scripts in links, images, or videos, so when a user opens the website, the malicious code installs into their browsers. Later, it can spread malware, redirect users to illegitimate websites, access their browsing history, or steal sensitive data

The most vulnerable objects that an XSS attack may affect are your web app’s unsanitized input fields. 

How to avoid cross-site scripting?

  • Sanitize input fields
  • Filter input and encode output data
  • Use proper response header

7. Cross-site Request Forgery

Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) is a malicious attack applying social engineering techniques encouraging users to change their account information like username and password. If doing so, the user gets tricked by the attacker who takes control over the session and can access confidential data or even perform a financial transaction. 

Web security vulnerability to CSRF attacks is often due to the lack of additional user authentification or random tokens. With their help, you can prevent malicious behavior even if a user has logged into the application.

How to avoid cross-site request forgery?

  • Use random tokens and cookies
  • Implement two-factor authentification or re-authentification 

8. Unverified Redirects and Forwards

Web applications use redirects and forwards to transport users to another URL automatically. Usually, this technique helps users quickly access specific information and effortlessly navigate the website. However, hackers and malicious actors can use this method to redirect or forward users to illegitimate pages, steal data, or install malware on their devices. 

Web application security vulnerabilities leading to such attacks are lack of identifiers for request parameters or too many destination URLs. 

How to avoid unverified redirects and forwards?

  • Minimize the number of redirects and forwards in your app
  • Validate destination parameters 

9. Insecure Direct Object References

Insecure Direct Object References (IDOR) is another web app vulnerability related to unwanted approaches to databases containing sensitive information. This risk occurs if your website’s URLs expose the format or pattern for entering your system directly. At the same time, there is no additional access control or authorization check. As a result, hackers can easily bypass authorization and enter the storage system.

This vulnerability exposes your files or keys that the attacker can change, remove or utilize to steal data.

How to avoid insecure direct object reference?

  • Provide input validation on the server-side of your app
  • Adopt additional access control checks
  • Conduct consistent permission management

10. Remote File Inclusion (RFI) 

In a web application, file inclusion refers to the “include” functionality the developers use to put data from one file to another. It’s a standard function for the PHP programming language. However, file inclusion is also a significant vulnerability in web applications. It allows hackers to access sensitive files, execute malicious code, or even perform cross-site scripting. 

Remote file inclusion (RFI) is typical for websites or servers running PHP. The attacker aims to upload malware to the website server applications from a remote URL. Once the malicious script is uploaded, hackers can access and harm the web app’s resources.

How to avoid remote file inclusion attacks?

  • Disable the remote inclusion function in your PHP configuration
  • Whitelist and sanitize input fields

How to Prevent Web Application Vulnerabilities?

It’s always better to prevent a disaster than deal with its consequences. The same applies to web app vulnerabilities. It’s worth regularly testing and updating your application to detect the weakest points and eliminate them before they become critical.

Although each vulnerability requires specific approaches, certain techniques can help you regularly check your system’s health and keep it secure. So let’s look at the most effective solutions to web application vulnerabilities.

Static Security Testing

You can apply static analysis, also known as Static Application Security Testing (SAST), which allows you to analyze your source code and detect potential vulnerabilities leading to attacks and breaches. In a nutshell, this method can help you examine your app without executing it. Therefore, SAST can be highly beneficial at various web app development stages

Note that static analysis is more effective when assessing the app’s internal structure. However, the test’s results may be inaccurate when testing the functionality.

Dynamic Security Testing

Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) is the complete opposite of static analysis. It helps test your web application and find vulnerabilities during the app’s production and deployment. Such tests simulate attacks to determine what kind of requests and inputs are the most challenging for the system

Unlike SAST, DAST doesn’t require access to the source code. Instead, it scans the app when during the execution. Quality assurance experts can use specific tools for automated dynamic analysis or conduct it manually. 

Interactive Security Testing

In some cases, it’s worth combining the advantages of static and dynamic analyses to make the most out of both solutions. That’s where Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST) comes in handy. Similar to dynamic testing, IAST scans the codebase of a running application. However, it also analyzes the source code, inspects all app interactions, and detects vulnerabilities in real-time.

Combining Automated and Manual Testing 

According to a survey, comprehensive expert analysis is almost twice as effective as dynamic scanning tools when it comes to web app testing. However, manual effort takes much time and resources, not to mention the risk of human error. Not surprisingly, nearly 40% of IT companies admit they prefer automation. 

Luckily, you can have the best of both worlds with penetration testing. This solution combines security experts’ efforts and the automation tools’ effectiveness to drive better results. This approach involves simulating cyber attacks to understand  which web application aspects are the most vulnerable.

Make Your Web App Stronger with DevoxSoftware

There are numerous web application vulnerabilities we haven’t mentioned in this article. Our list focused on the most common challenges many businesses and their tech support teams strive to overcome. 

However, although cybersecurity risks are not about to vanish, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The latest statistics show a slight but noticeable reduction in websites’ weaknesses in the face of cyber threats. Why? Because the solutions and tools detecting and addressing the apps’ weakest points are getting more powerful, clever, and effective. 

Looking for a reliable tech partner to help you spot your web application’s vulnerabilities and enhance security? We at DevoxSoftware are ready to give you a hand! We provide web app development services tailored to our clients’ unique requirements. In particular, our experts can help you with web app consulting, full-cycle app development, and re-engineering your software. 

Get in touch, and we will make your web application bulletproof!