Preventing Web Defacement: A Technical Manager’s Guide to Securing Web Applications
While web defacements may not be the most prevalent cyber attack in recent years, the consequences of web defacements are real – reputations may be damaged, client-customer relationships may be broken, financial losses may occur, etc. Web defacements can come in various forms, visual or non-visual (script inclusions). Hackers may perform web defacements for a variety of reasons:
- Political motivations
- Aggressive awareness campaigns on particular social causes
- Financial gains from obtaining and selling personal information
- Entertainment and fun
This is non-exhaustive, but regardless, it is important to understand some methods of web application attacks that may lead to web defacements so that mitigation measures can be implemented accordingly.
Common Web Application Attacks
- 1. SQL Injection
SQL injection attacks occur when a hacker uses input fields or other entry points to inject malicious SQL code into a database query. This can allow the hacker to bypass authentication, access sensitive data, modify or delete data, and even take control of the underlying server. If a hacker takes control of the underlying server, they would be able to modify the contents of a webpage to their gain, performing web defacement.
- 2. Cross-site Scripting (XSS)
An XSS attack occurs when a hacker inserts malicious code, typically in the form of a script, into a web page viewed by other users. The script can be inserted in the webpage’s source code, or even subtly in the URL. The malicious code executes once users browse the infected webpage. This can allow the hacker to steal sensitive data, such as login credentials, or perform other malicious actions, such as redirecting the victim to a phishing site.
These two web application attacks are not the only ways – hackers only grow more intelligent and creative as technology advances.
Best Security Practices To Secure Your Web Application
Securing a web application requires a comprehensive approach, so that the safety and integrity of your application and its users’ data are ensured. Here are 9 ways to secure your web application:
1. Implement readily available security solutions – There are a multitude of solutions already available to be utilised. At the very least, these solutions are must-haves in your arsenal of security tools.
- a. Web Application Firewall (WAF) – A WAF helps to monitor and filter incoming traffic to your web application. Any attempts at performing web application attacks will be caught and prevented. The WebOrion Protector is an industry-leading WAF and DDoS mitigation solution that stops attackers in their tracks, being able to provide complete web application security for all platforms. Read more about the WebOrion Protector here.
- c. Web Application Restoration – To maintain and/or restore trust in your customers and clients, it is imperative to ensure that your web application is urgently and safely restored to pre-incident condition should a web defacement occur. The WebOrion Restorer provides a secure replication and backup of your website without the hassle, enabling instant website restoration. Read more about the WebOrion Restorer here.
2. Keep your software updated – Ensure that you are using the latest version of your web server, application server, and other software components. Update your web application with the latest security patches, as these patches often fix known security vulnerabilities.
3. Use secure authentication – Implement secure authentication mechanisms such as multi-factor authentication, password policies, and password hashing. Avoid storing passwords in plain text and use secure password storage mechanisms like bcrypt.
4. Implement HTTPS – HTTPS encrypts data transmitted between the user’s browser and your web application, preventing eavesdropping and man-in-the-middle attacks. Obtain an SSL/TLS certificate from a trusted certificate authority and implement HTTPS throughout your web application.
5. Use secure coding practices – Write your code using secure coding practices, such as input validation, output encoding, and parameterized queries to prevent common vulnerabilities like SQL injection, Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), and Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF).
6. Use security headers – Security headers help prevent various types of attacks, such as cross-site scripting (XSS), clickjacking, and MIME-type sniffing. Implement security headers in your web application, such as X-Frame-Options, X-XSS-Protection, and Content-Security-Policy.
7. Use the principle of least privilege – Provide only the minimum necessary access to resources or actions required by each user account.
8. Perform regular security testing – Regularly perform security testing and vulnerability assessments to identify potential weaknesses in your web application. This can include penetration testing, code reviews, and vulnerability scanning.
9. Conduct regular security awareness training – Train your staff on best practices for web application security, including secure coding practices, password management, and how to identify and respond to potential security threats.
By implementing these steps, you can significantly improve the security of your web application and protect your users’ data. For more information on our WebOrion Security Suite, you may visit this page. If you are interested, do drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.