With the rapid adoption of innovative technologies, cybersecurity has become more imperative than ever. From data breaches and ransomware to web application exploits, businesses today are constantly under attack.

Not only is the number of cyberattacks increasing, but the cost of each breach is also on the rise: According to a recent report (IBM, 2021), the rapid adoption of remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the increase in data breaches. This is alarming, given that it is projected that over 80 million people will work remotely by the year 2026 (Tanzi, 2021).

Organizations need a comprehensive cybersecurity plan that includes defense against web application attacks. This article discusses some of the most common types of application security threats, how organizations can defend against them.

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SQL Injection

One of the most common web application attacks is SQL injection : a type of attack that takes place when a web application does not validate values provided by a web form, cookie, input parameter, or another source before forwarding them to SQL queries on a database server. This allows attackers to insert malicious code by manipulating the input variables. Hackers can then use that code to extract data from a database or execute malicious commands on the server.

There are several ways to defend against SQL injection attacks, but one of the most reliable is to use a web application firewall (WAF) to detect and block malicious SQL code. Input validation can also be used to check for invalid or malformed input data, and parameterized queries can be used rather than dynamic queries to prevent attackers from executing commands on the database.

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Cross-Site Scripting

Another common attack vector is cross-site scripting (XSS). XSS attacks occur when an attacker takes advantage of vulnerabilities in a web application to inject malicious code that enables them to access a target end user’s data. The code can be embedded in a script tag, iframe, or hyperlink. These attacks are typically launched using a client-side script and can occur whenever a web application uses input data from a user without validation or encryption.

There are several ways to protect against XSS attacks, including using a WAF to identify and block malicious code and input validation to identify unsafe or invalid input data. A content security policy can also be used to prevent attackers from injecting code into a webpage.

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Cross-Site Request Forgery

Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) allows an attacker to execute unauthorized requests on behalf of another user (OWASP Foundation, 2021). This can be done by embedding the target’s session ID in a malicious payload.

There are several ways to protect against CSRF attacks. The first is to use a WAF to detect and block unauthorized requests. A second approach to defending against CSRF attacks is to use authentication tokens: unique identifiers used to verify the legitimacy of a request.

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Insecure Direct Object References

Insecure direct object references (IDOR) are another common web application vulnerability (OWASP Foundation, 2020). IDOR-based attacks occur when a malicious hacker accesses sensitive data by manipulating the URLs used to reference objects in an application.

There are several ways to protect against IDOR and associated attacks. One technique is to use input validation to check that input values are safe and valid. Additionally, obfuscation techniques like URL rewriting and encoding can make it more difficult for attackers to exploit vulnerable URLs.

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