The demand for more responsive web applications is on the rise and one big concern that comes with such demand for using modern tools is security. This is a very important aspect of web application development. It is true both for users and developers alike, which means they all have to put web security into consideration. The responsibility is however much more on the developers because they should have the technical skills for implementing web security best practices to keep users safe and protected.
Why you need web security
The need for having a good web application security framework cannot be over-emphasized. This means both users and web developers are expected to learn the basics of web application development. There are several reasons why we need web application security. Let us take a look at some important reasons.
Complicated threats come up regularly
Most users are unaware of the kind of security threats that come up on a regular basis. Hackers are always looking for sophisticated ways to exploit new vulnerabilities found in applications and network operating systems. This means there has to be a strict plan against web application threats. It calls for having things such as improved patch management, network access control and much more.
Issues with bug reports
There are several mechanisms that are in place for reporting any form of vulnerability found. This is very common for well-structured software such as operating systems. When we take a closer look, however, we realize that most web applications are custom built, which makes it challenging to have a centralized database for bug reporting. Because of the lack of such a centralized location for bug reporting, it becomes challenging for developers and users to keep track of new vulnerabilities. Hackers often exploit vulnerabilities before developers get to find out about it. This is another good reason for the proper implementation of a web development security framework.
Lack of standard in terms of web application security
Unlike the design of an Operating System, which is carried out by recognized companies such as Microsoft, web application development can be carried out by any programmer with the right skills. This simply means that security standards are not always adhered to. It is very easy to deploy web applications that are not fully tested and ready for deployment. This makes it relevant that users and developers put security measures in place alike.
Some web security concepts web developers need to know
Although everyone is responsible for their security when they decide to use any web application, it is however left for web developers to follow the best practices while developing applications for users. This has to do with putting every important point into consideration before deploying the web application for users. Let us take a look at some important points that should be considered by web application developers.
If you have been using the Internet for a while, you must have heard about or seen cookies. Most applications make use of this to store different kinds of information, which is aimed at making the entire experience of the user. Some useful information such as authentication tokens, last pages visited by the user, etc. As a developer, it becomes relevant that you always turn on the secure HTTP flags on cookies. It is very common to see developers forget these important flags. So as a web developer, make sure you set the flags to true, so as to enable cookies information to be sent via an encrypted medium. This will help both users and developers avoid some security threats.
Storing sensitive application data
Insider facts in applications incorporate administrator passwords, seemingly perpetual tokens, API keys and private keys. Putting away privileged insights in initialization directories, in the source code or in an exposed location must be completely avoided. Rather developers should utilize enterprise-review mystery administration arrangements, for example, KeyWhiz, Vault, Knox, Confidant and so on. Insider web development facts may even break through log records and they ought to either not be composed to log at all or conceal where required. This simply means as a web developer, it is important that you consider avoiding using logging when it comes to secret application information.
Prepare for Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks
If you are a web application developer, then chances are that you are already familiar with the whole concept of Distributed Denial of Service attacks. It is worth mentioning that these attacks are often carried out on web servers, i.e. by flooding the server with illegitimate HTTP requests, thereby overwhelming it. As a web application developer, it becomes imperative that you take the time to fully understand how this works and what can be done with preventing it from happening to your web server. Although this is something that is often handled by the server administrator, it is also important that you have the required knowledge to secure your web application.
Averting account spoofing is necessary
Clients perform tasks utilizing their confirmation token, which they acquire upon login. Applications ought to dependably separate the userId from the token and contrast it and the userId of the record being worked upon. This guarantees you can’t utilize client A’s token — though valid — to perform tasks on client B’s record. This is another important point to put into consideration when it comes to web development security. Making use of this strategy during application development can easily prevent spoofing.
Regularizing input approval and database inquiries
Web security threats, for example, SQL-injection can without much of a stretch be anticipated if both content and size of client input are approved legitimately. Approving against a whitelist is desirable over approving against a blacklist. For SQL, it is desirable over utilize parameterized commands or statements, recorded techniques as opposed to utilizing progressively created inquiries.
Parameterised commands securely regard all clients provided contribution as the strict portrayal of those strings as opposed to regarding them as a major aspect of a SQL query, in this manner forestalling SQL injection threats. Always keep in mind not to make use of dynamically generated statements, as hackers to carry out SQL injection attacks on your web application database could use these.
Make sure you take care of cross-site request forgery
Another important thing you should put at the back of your mind as a web developer is cross-site request forgery. Users with malicious intentions can make use of the authentication details from a different site to acquire some sensitive information on your site. This can often be seen as a type of threat that focuses on state-changing activities – not really information theft.
This is more so because the hacker doesn’t have access to the reply of the forged request. Web developers are simply advised to make use of tokens to protect their applications. This helps because tokens are not easy to spoof. It means HTTP requests can be checked before sending a response to the client initiating the connection.
Better auditing can be achieved by implementing individual IDs
It is a typical practice among groups overseeing delicate information to share one administrator account with all colleagues. Every one of them knows the secret key and can utilize the accreditations to refresh highly important information. This is against numerous enterprise review security rehearses. Rather than utilizing such non-specific records, it is prescribed to attach the credentials and individual identity to legitimate administrator permission. This guarantees legitimate examining of changes. Doing this we help the administrator carry out auditing in a much better manner.
Protect your app from client-state manipulation
The most effective method to ensure your application’s security on the Internet: keeping in mind the end goal to be secure, web applications ought to never confide in web-customers, and ought to dependably approve input gotten from them. Shrouded inputs ought not to contain delicate data and ought to be approved like some other inputs received while using the web application, regardless of whether the server is producing the data put away in this concealed input.
Try not to utilize GET requests for highly sensitive data. Rather, store a session-id and send that to the customer, as opposed to the real information esteem. Utilize ‘marked states’ and approve any input got from the customer, including concealed inputs. As a web developer, it is relevant that you take the time and fully understand how client-state manipulation works, and how to prevent it on your web application.
Know about cross-site scripting or XSS
Cross-site scripting will happen when an attacker injects malicious script to an application. This can happen when a web application doesn’t have proper validation on forms. When the malicious script is injected into the application, an unsuspecting user might browse to the page which contains the script tag, and the malicious script will run.
The user who happened to visit the site will most likely not know that something has happened. But this can cause a lot of damage.
Some examples of what kind of damage this method can do for you as a user:
- Steal your cookie information. The cookies in the browser store things like user sessions. With this information, the attacker can impersonate that user.
Being able to provide good web security for your applications is very important for any web developer out there. It becomes relevant that you learn the basic ways to protect your application. To put everything into perspective, or brief summary, let us quickly look at some important points.
The first thing to keep at the back of your mind is that user inputs can cause a total nightmare if you are not careful, so never trust all user inputs. This simply means you have to put up a mechanism for carefully validating inputs from your users. A very common mistake most developers make is to think that user inputs are basically the same. Just keep in mind that there are users out there who have malicious intentions. So, make sure you put that at the back of your mind during the development process. Using two-factor authentication can always help you minimize the dangers of getting malicious user inputs.
Another important tip is to consider the use of a whitelist rather than a blacklist. This is true because it is easier to know the things to allow access to your application, rather than things to deny. Using a blacklist is more likely to expose your application to threats, as you might not be able to cover everything.
It is very important that you properly educate users on how to stay safe while using the web application. Let them know about the security best practices expected of them. These could be things such as checking to see if a web server makes use of SSL for encryption before providing their sensitive information, being able to verify the source of an email sent before opening any link that might be contained in it. Some other important point includes things such as being able to keep a very strong password and updating it regularly. Let your users know the importance of avoiding dictionary words as passwords.
The Open Web Application Security Project or simply OWASP has some important information when it comes to web application security. Make sure you take the time to go through the OWASP list to learn more about some common vulnerabilities to consider when building your web application.
A good way to always check your application for vulnerabilities is to make use of automated monitoring tools. This is true because new vulnerabilities come up every single day and you cannot keep track of everything manually. The best way to go is to make use of automated vulnerability scanners that can check for vulnerabilities on regular basis.
The final tip is to always stay up-to-date. You have to keep in mind that ethical hackers always uncover new tricks used by black hat hackers. This means it is your responsibility to always read up on what is happening in the web application development security space.