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Why Web Application Security Testing Is Necessary

If you own a web application that stores customer data such as credit card information, personal information or health records, you should perform web application security testing regularly. It’s a requirement of many compliance guidelines.

A web app’s design is a prime factor in determining how easily it can be breached by malicious hackers. And just like you would with a bank vault, it’s best to make sure that it’s built correctly in the first place.

Authentication

Web applications use various types of authentication mechanisms to identify users and to verify their identities. These mechanisms include logins, user authorizations, and password reset mechanisms. Vulnerabilities in these systems are common targets of attackers and can lead to unauthorized access or a compromise of data.

To prevent these attacks, it is essential to design secure authentication and session management systems for your web application. These mechanisms are critical to a website’s ability to maintain a consistent and dependable experience for users.

Authentication is the process by which a server determines if a client has permission to use a resource or access a file. It is a crucial component of web applications and is often the first step in an attack.

A security tester should test the authentication mechanism of a web app by changing user names and passwords to see if they are working as expected. They should also check for cross-site scripting (XSS), which is when a malicious script is injected into a web application and delivered to users without their knowledge or permission.

They should also test the way data is passed between different forms or screens by checking if the information is encrypted and decrypted properly at the end destination. They should also check whether the application uses salting to strengthen the input like passwords and thus make them more difficult to be cracked.

Another important factor that should be tested in a web application is URL manipulation. When a web application passes information between the server and the client through the HTTP GET method, it is possible to manipulate any input variable passed in the query string.

This can result in a leak of confidential data or a redirection to a malicious site. In addition, it can also be used to hack into an app’s database and insert data into the wrong place.

The attacker can do this by manipulating the value of any parameter in a GET request and checking if the server accepts it. In addition, they can also use a technique called SQL injection to inject data into a database through the query string.

Cross-Site Scripting

Cross-site scripting, also known as XSS, is one of the most common types of web application vulnerabilities. It is also one of the most dangerous because it allows an attacker to execute malicious code in another user’s browser without affecting the server.

In the case of a typical XSS attack, a malicious user enters a script into an HTML text field or input box that is accessible to other valid users. Depending on the severity of the attack, this could result in the unauthorized access to user accounts and private data. It might even allow a perpetrator to reveal session cookies, which could lead to an exploit of a victim’s account.

The best way to prevent a cross-site scripting attack is to sanitize the user-provided data before it reaches the website. In most cases, this means restricting user input to a specific allowlist. However, this is only practical if the input contains known and safe values.

During the process of sanitization, a website developer should use input validation and output encoding to ensure that all data received is safe. Using both sanitization and encoding will help prevent cross-site scripting by blocking user-provided data from automatically loading or being executed by the website browser.

Some of the most common XSS attacks involve stored or persistent XSS, which happens when unsanitized user input is saved on a website’s server and then reflected back to a browser. This type of XSS vulnerability is much harder to detect and defend against than non-persistent or DOM-based XSS attacks because the payload cannot be spotted by client-side XSS filters.

Another form of XSS occurs when a vulnerable web application saves data from an untrusted source, such as the database or file system, and then uses this data to generate a server response to a request from a client. This type of attack is especially dangerous because it allows attackers to inject JavaScript into a web page without having to send the injected script as an HTTP response.

OWASP provides a list of input data that can be used in the testing process. Testers should analyze the impact of each specific input to determine if it would create an XSS vulnerability in the application.

URL Manipulation

URL manipulation is a common technique used by hackers to access sensitive information and steal private data. It can be performed in many ways, from modifying the URL to redirecting users or spoofing legitimate sites. In some cases, hackers may even use it to exploit vulnerabilities in a web application.

In a typical web application, user information is passed through an HTTP GET request to the server in order to authenticate or fetch data. A security tester can manipulate the input values of these GET requests in order to see if the server accepts the altered value. This makes it easy for a hacker to steal confidential information from the application or server.

A malicious user can also modify the prices in a web cart, session tokens or values stored in cookies. These changes can be detrimental to a business’s success.

Fortunately, URL manipulation can be avoided by testing the application for vulnerabilities. This type of testing is typically conducted by manual testers and involves testing a variety of different parameters and queries to ensure that no vital information is being passed through the application.

For example, if a hidden form field is used to store account numbers and user names, it is important for the tester to verify that these are not being changed during a web application login process. If a malicious attacker were to manipulate the value of the account number, they could tamper with the credit amount and cause the application to log in as the user rather than the administrator.

Another way to prevent URL manipulation is by ensuring that sensitive information is cryptographically protected. For example, if a value is set to a credit amount that exceeds $1, the value can be encrypted. This will prevent the attacker from setting a value that exceeds this limit and will also stop them from seeing the value.

Ultimately, the only way to prevent URL manipulation is by making sure that all of the necessary security measures are in place. For instance, businesses must regularly apply patches that are released by the web server publisher. Additionally, they should remove any unnecessary or hidden directories and files from the site’s root. Finally, they should work with cybersecurity experts to ensure that the application is secure and does not allow access to unauthorized elements.

SQL Injection

SQL Injection is a form of attack that involves manipulating a web application’s database to obtain sensitive information. It can lead to the unauthorized viewing of user lists and private customer data, as well as the deletion of entire tables or the ability to gain administrative rights to the database.

In the most common types of SQL injection, the attacker creates input content that can cause the application to execute arbitrary SQL queries on the backend database. This is accomplished by injecting control characters and command keywords into the query structure. These can be matched to a specific SQL command, which can be used to access or retrieve data elements from a backend database server.

A common SQL Injection vulnerability occurs when the application accepts an unexpected command to the GET_HOST_NAME function in a web app, such as a string concatenation of the input character “” followed by a control character (e.g., ‘). It’s important to note that any type of input that can be interpreted as a SQL command is potentially vulnerable.

There are several techniques that can be used to exploit this flaw, including error-based injection, time-based injection, and union-based injection. Each technique has its own benefits and drawbacks, so testers need to be familiar with each technique’s strengths and weaknesses.

Error-based SQL Injection is the simplest and easiest to detect. It consists of inserting unexpected commands into the user interface to cause the application to produce an error message, which can include details on the structure of the target database, version of the DBMS, or operating system.

Time-based injection is a more complex SQL Injection flaw that uses a set of SQL statements separated by semicolons to force the database to wait a predetermined number of seconds before responding. Then, the attacker can use a boolean condition to determine whether the result of the query is true or false based on how long it takes for the response to elapse.

The best way to prevent these vulnerabilities is to use parameterized queries with bound, typed parameters in the application’s SQL. This prevents untrusted input from appearing in any part of the query, and can help prevent certain SQL Injection subtypes. In addition, developers should keep the application’s components updated with the latest security patches from the software vendors. This includes the application’s libraries, plug-ins, frameworks, and web server software.

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