Must-have checklist to address Web app vulnerabilities in 2023

Web applications have emerged as key targets of cyber attacks as they store personal data, and sensitive information and enable control of remote devices. Vulnerabilities in applications can be exploited by hackers and leveraged for malicious activities. Web apps have a client-server architecture and vulnerabilities can exist on both the client and server sides. Applications are typically run on Android or iOS operating systems. Android is widely used for web applications as it provides a rich application framework enabling developers to build innovative applications.

The alarming statistics of attack on applications has raised security concerns compelling developers to follow security best practices and treat security as a priority right from the start. With the threat landscape evolving and new security vulnerabilities constantly emerging, developers must take a proactive approach and address the vulnerabilities before they are exploited by hackers.

Use this checklist to understand web app vulnerabilities in 2022

Jailbroken devices

Compromised devices are one of the significant factors contributing to weakened app security. BYOD policies have further led to an increase in app attacks as it presents a ripe opportunity for cybercriminals to target web devices and gain illegitimate access to applications. Access to web devices enables the execution of malicious code which alters the application’s behavior.

How to address this risk?

Implementing jailbreak or root detection is an effective measure to thwart app security risks. Data within the application will stay protected if the device security is not compromised. Threats from web malware such as banking trojans, malware droppers, premium dialers, and clickers can be prevented to a significant extent with jailbreak detection.

Insecure communication

There is a frequent exchange of data from one point to another within applications which necessitates the implementation of encryption measures. Data transmitted without encryption can be easily exploited by hackers. Sensitive data like passwords, account details, or private user information are at greater risk of exploitation. Applications that fail to encrypt data are unfit for sensitive communications.

How to address this risk?

Encryption is a must for all authenticated and back-end connections. Health and fintech apps should ensure data is encrypted at all stages, at rest or in transit. Developers should implement strong encryption measures that prevent hackers from manipulating or accessing data during data transmission.

Lack of authentication

Some applications don’t perform necessary authentication checks which result in unauthorized users gaining access to application data. A user should be able to access data only if he/she has the necessary permissions. Weak password policy, touch ID features, and storing passwords locally on the device are signs of insecure authentication within the application.

How to address this risk?

Authentication requests should be performed on the server side whenever possible. Applications should have authentication procedures in line with the particular security policies of the organization. Weak patterns should be strictly avoided and local authorization checks should be performed within the app’s code for offline usage requirements.

Broken cryptography

Broken cryptography could be either due to a flawed encryption process or a weak encryption/decrypt algorithm deployed by the application. Information theft, privacy violations, code theft, and IPR theft are some of the risks linked with broken cryptography. Cryptographic failures also contribute to improper certificate validation.

How to address this risk?

Sensitive data should not be stored on web devices. SSL/TLS certificates should be validated by the application and developers should make sure to implement the latest cryptographic standards that will still stay relevant even in the future.

Poor client code quality

Poor client code quality is a result of code-level implementation problems in the web client itself. When an application uses the wrong API or insecure language constructs, it leads to poor quality code on the client side. Format string vulnerabilities and buffer overflows are the common risks associated with poor client code quality.

How to address this risk?

Implementing consistent coding patterns is an effective way to prevent poor code quality. Developers should deploy easy-to-read codes that are well-documented. Third-party static analysis tools need to be used to detect buffer overflows and memory leaks.

Information leak through application cache

Cached data can expose sensitive information if fallen into the wrong hands. Device theft is one of the major reasons for information leakage via app cache. Viewing the cache data gives malicious actors access to crucial data.

How to address this risk?

Developers should deploy a threat model to manage data during keyboard press caching, logging, URL caching, copy or paste caching, etc.

Reverse engineering

Reverse engineering refers to the process of decoding the application’s composition and using it for malicious purposes. Reverse engineering can pose varying levels of risk for organizations depending on the extent of damage it can inflict upon each business. If attackers can understand the contents of a binary’s string table or perform cross-functional analysis, the application is said to be susceptible to reverse engineering.

How to address this risk?

Developers should employ obfuscation tools to prevent reverse engineering. These tools will narrow down the methods or code segments to obfuscate while also enabling the obfuscation of string tables and methods.

Brute force – User enumeration

Applications are subject to brute force attacks when hackers bypass automated processes to determine unknown values by guessing the correct value from a range of possible values. Most users choose relatively easy passwords that consist of common terms. Hackers can arrive at the correct username and password if the app displays a different error message every time a different set of usernames and passwords is submitted.

How to address this risk?

Displaying error messages that don’t fully reveal where the error exactly lies is key to preventing brute force attacks. If a user submits a wrong username, an ideal error message would be something like this – ‘You have entered an incorrect username or password’.

Extraneous functionality

Certain functionalities present in the app that are not originally intended to be released can pose a threat to app security. Examples of such functionalities include hidden backdoor functionality or internal security development controls. While these functionalities are useful for developers, they also present an opportunity for hackers to change basic functionality or disable 2-factor authentication in applications.

How to address this risk?

Developers should ensure that test code doesn’t go into the final production stage of the application to avoid risk from extraneous functionality. App’s configuration settings should be examined and the app should only use endpoints that are well documented. No log statements should contain too much description about the backend.

Improper session expiration

Applications that fail to invalidate the session identifiers after the user completes a session will leave the data exposed to hackers. If session expiration is not taken care of by the application, users can take advantage of poorly managed sessions and perform actions by impersonating other users.

How to address this risk?

Developers must ensure the implementation of a logout button so users can sign out of the session securely. Session identifiers need to be invalidated once the user signs out from the session.

How to protect yourself against emerging web application security vulnerabilities?

It is required to enable robust code protection for apps. Also secures all source code files such as DLL, DEX, and SO. Code protection makes your app resilient against reverse engineering, app tampering, and intellectual property theft among others.

Runtime application self-protection

It is important to ensure runtime protection of applications, detecting and blocking attacks in real-time. Equipped with features like app integrity protection, source code protection, anti-debugging, network packet sniffing/spoofing tool detection, and cheat tools.It makes sure attacks can be identified and mitigated without human intervention.

Real-time monitoring dashboard

A real-time monitoring dashboard is designed to monitor incoming threats in real-time. It facilitates enterprises to make data-driven decisions and security approaches to address new vulnerabilities in web apps.

As new vulnerabilities emerge, developers and security professionals need to adjust their approach and refine and update security practices from time to time. To know more about the security best practices and tools for the protection of web apps, get in touch with us.

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