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How Secure is Your Web or Mobile App?

Cybersecurity is a growing problem as consumers and businesses increasingly move into the cloud. While massive data breaches capture headlines, such as the theft of 530 million records from Facebook in April 2019, small and mid-sized businesses aren't immune to attack. For example, a modest DDoS attack can cause a lot of damage.

Let's look at common security vulnerabilities and how to audit your web or mobile app to mitigate cybersecurity risks.

Data breaches are depressingly familiar in today's web applications, but you can avoid many of the most common vulnerabilities using these best practices. Click To Tweet

Common Vulnerabilities

There are many different ways for malicious actors to attack a web or mobile application. While ecosystems, like Apple or Android, have built-in protections, and web application frameworks handle many risky tasks, it's still easy for developers to introduce vulnerabilities. Even large companies, like Facebook, aren't immune to these risks.

#1. DDoS Attacks

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks involve someone sending large amounts of traffic to a webserver to run up costs, limit availability, and bring it offline. Unfortunately, it's easy to rent botnets on the dark web and launch DDoS attacks. The best way to defend against these attacks is to recognize and block bots before hitting the server.

#2. SQL Injections

Structured Query Language (SQL) injections involve sending SQL instructions through insecure forms. For example, a script might run a SQL command based on an input field, enabling an attacker to run `; <any SQL command>` to assign admin privileges or drop the database. Attackers typically attempt these injections en masse using their own scripts.

#3. Cross-Site Scripting

Cross-site scripting, or XSS, involves injecting a malicious script into an otherwise benign website. A typical example is injecting a remotely hosted JavaScript snippet on a forum post. Then, the malicious script runs every time someone visits the forum post, capturing passwords, analyzing cookies, or accomplishing other malicious goals.

#4. Broken Authentication

Authentication and authorization are critical components of almost every application. However, malicious users may assign themselves permissions, break into other users' accounts, or hijack admin accounts without the proper security protocols. These problems are most frequent when developers build custom authentication algorithms.

#5. Vulnerable Dependencies

Most modern applications have hundreds of dependencies that handle everything from authentication to APIs. In some cases, dependencies may have a vulnerability that exposes an application to attack. While these security holes are quickly fixed in popular projects, many companies run outdated dependencies with advertised problems.

Security Best Practices

You can mitigate most security vulnerabilities by using a handful of best practices. By keeping these tips in mind, you can avoid many of the most common pitfalls regardless of the language or framework that you use. At the same time, it's imperative to leverage the security features of the language or framework you're using to secure your products further.

Download our Checklist of Security Audit Tools to discover different tools that you can use to lock down your application.

#1. Encrypt Your Data

Encryption is essential to keep sensitive information private. After all, if there's a data breach, encrypted user data isn't valuable to attackers without a key to decrypt the data. In addition to user data, you should encrypt API keys and other sensitive data that you check into source control to minimize the number of people with access.

#2. Treat All Data as Hostile

Most applications accept and process data from users. When doing so, you must ensure that the data doesn't harm your application or other users. For example, you might validate that data has the correct format (syntax) within appropriate parameters (semantic). These eliminate the risk of SQL injections, XSS, and similar forms of attack.

#3. Apply Access Controls

Authentication and authorization play a key role in protecting sensitive information. When developing authentication and authorization schemes, use well-known encryption protocols to hash passwords and write tests to ensure access control rules are in place. Often, popular third-party libraries provide all of these functionalities.

#4. Manage Exceptions

Application exceptions and errors may seem like aesthetic issues, but they may provide valuable clues to attackers. For example, "Wrong password" tells an attacker that they've successfully guessed a username, whereas "Wrong username and/or password" provides much less information. That said, there's a balance between security and UX.

#5. Audit with Security Tools

There are many tools that you can use to audit your codebase for security vulnerabilities. For instance, Veracode detects vulnerabilities in dependencies, inventories public-facing web applications, and makes it easy to lock down your applications. Server-side logging software can also provide details into an attack when it happens, along with legal evidence.

Outside vs. Inside Help

Most developers aren't very familiar with security. In some cases, developers may copy-and-paste code from StackOverflow or use obscure third-party libraries, introducing dangerous vulnerabilities. The good news is that there are security experts that you can hire in-house or third-parties that specialize in cybersecurity.

Don't forget to download our Checklist of Security Audit Tools to discover different tools that you can use to lock down your application.

DevSecOps is the idea of baking security into the development process. For example, you might add dependency reviews to your development cycle or incorporate security-focused tests into the agile process. The principles of traceability, auditability, and visibility play a key role in ensuring that security remains top-of-mind.

Sharkbyte specializes in developing software and applications using a value-based approach. With years of experience and ongoing projects completed, our senior-level developers always have an eye for security in the code and the infrastructure they set up. So whether you need an entire application or just some help, we can help secure your application.

Contact us to schedule a free consultation!

The Bottom Line

Cybersecurity is a growing concern for every business operating in the cloud. While most developers aren't trained in security principles, simple best practices can avert many of the most common vulnerabilities. You can also use security tools to audit your codebase and flag any problems for follow-up. If you need more help, contact us for a free consultation

Contact us today to learn how we can help finish your project on-time and on-budget.

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