While website owners consider scalability and high performance to be supreme, the changing threat landscape requires security to be an equally crucial consideration. The first step to securing a vulnerable website is to identify application vulnerabilities, and then take corrective actions to mitigate them. In this article, we explore how to find a vulnerability in a website, the importance of comprehensive website assessment, and how adopting security practices can prevent application issues.
But First… What is vulnerability management?
It’s the collection of tools and techniques used to detect, evaluate, remediate and report on potential weaknesses in a system. The process is implemented alongside other security controls to harden the system and ensure potential vulnerabilities are addressed before hackers can exploit them.
Vulnerability assessments also form the foundation for an effective patch management strategy so developers can quickly fill security and performance gaps. Comprehensive vulnerability management ensures web developers generate a robust security posture by addressing identified vulnerabilities before they make it to production.
The importance of finding vulnerabilities on your website
Attackers commonly target common web application vulnerabilities in an attempt to exploit security weaknesses of application configuration and penetrate deeper into information systems. As a result, it is important to configure application vulnerability detection mechanisms while leveraging a security scanner to identify common vulnerabilities. In addition, knowing the basics of web application security is always a good way to avoid issues.
Organizations also typically leverage ethical hackers, specialized tools, and security auditing to proactively identify application security vulnerabilities. While the fundamental goal of doing so is to enrich the application code which is clear of security issues, there are several other organizational level benefits, such as:
Enforcing workload management
Continuous vulnerability scanning and testing simplify security operations by relieving the pressure on penetration testers and developers. With continuous proof-based scanning, security professionals can find and address vulnerabilities one at a time. Finding vulnerabilities in batches regularly offers efficient workload management while fostering collaboration between relevant departments.
Reducing the attack surface
When researchers and testers discover a new vulnerability, it is listed in the Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE) index. Developers and security professionals pick the vulnerability in question and then work on required security patches to rectify the flaw. Attackers also misuse CWE listings to develop exploits that facilitate a malicious attack through various vulnerable versions. Regular assessments through vulnerability scanning tools ensure web organizations address these vulnerabilities before they can be exploited.
Application performance monitoring
Modern websites involve a combination of multiple services and applications working together for an enhanced user experience. Since modern networks are highly dynamic, the interactions between these systems are periodically unpredictable. This could result in a range of defects that affect application performance such as:
- Response timeouts
- Database server errors
- Outdated server software
- Insecure HTTP headers
- Website outage
- Poorly configured application firewalls
- Un secure application server
Regular vulnerability scanning helps organizations pinpoint the cause of these defects before they cause a significant impact on the website’s availability and reliability.
Forensics and attack detection
Vulnerability scans can be used to analyze the root cause of a successful attack. These scanners can be used to identify various indicators of compromise that show an attack in progress. Identifying vulnerabilities aids in knowing the exact techniques used to infiltrate the system, such as unexpected open ports, malicious files, and existing malware. Some vulnerability assessment tools also identify machines used to commit the attack, which can help in the identification of threat actors.
Speeding up continuous delivery
In the olden days, security testing would present bottlenecks for the development process since bugs were identified at the end of the development life cycle. Vulnerability assessment is a significant component of modern DevOps workflows that eliminates these bottlenecks. Vulnerability scanners automatically check the code and systems for weaknesses, which are quickly patched. This allows for rapid, frequent product releases.
Ways to find a vulnerability in a website
The ever-changing cybersecurity landscape makes finding vulnerabilities and fixing them a major consideration for website developers. Failure to address these vulnerabilities leaves hackers with open doors to access the website with elevated privileges. Web developers and administrators can find vulnerabilities on the websites in a number of ways, including:
Free vulnerability scanning
An application security scanner is a tool that is configured to query specific interfaces to detect security and performance gaps. These tools rely on documented tools and scripts to check for known weaknesses. Vulnerability scanners simulate various if-then scenarios to evaluate user actions and system configurations that could facilitate an exploit. An efficiently configured passive web security scan helps examine applications and networks, then provides a log of weaknesses to be addressed in order of priority.
Crashtest Security Suite is a highly popular and effective scanner that simplifies vulnerability scanning by helping organizations establish an end-to-end continuous testing process. Besides detecting and alerting on system weaknesses, the online scanner also helps developers to establish a reliable, repeatable remediation process.
Conducting penetration testing
Penetration testing is a proactive security approach in which security professionals attempt to safely exploit vulnerabilities such as different types of SQL injections, cross-site scripting, cross-site request forgery, and cross-site request. Once vulnerabilities are identified, organizations tend to simulate and understand the actions of an attacker. Security teams conduct penetration tests to evaluate the efficiency of security mechanisms and compliance with security policies. To do so, testers simulate an attacker’s workflow, relying on existing vulnerabilities and privilege escalation to access system data. They then outline detailed reports on insights provided by the test, which are then used to fine-tune security controls.
Creating a Threat Intelligence Framework
Once the penetration test report has been tabled, it is important to create a central repository for the detection, alerting, and management of security threats. A threat intelligence framework outlines a repeatable, scalable security incident management plan for all stakeholders involved in securing the website. A robust threat intelligence mechanism helps organizations lower expenses by speeding up the response to data breaches. The shared repository includes crucial information that can be used as a collaborative knowledge base for organization-wide security compliance.
Most common questions when finding vulnerabilities you should consider
How often should vulnerability scans be performed?
The frequency of vulnerability scans varies casewise and depends on various factors. These include security strategy, compliance requirements, and organizational structure. It is an industry practice to scan websites for vulnerabilities at least once every three months. It is also important for the security team to assess the threat landscape and organizational security posture and adjust the frequency accordingly.
What types of vulnerability scans are there?
Vulnerability-based application scans can be external or internal. Internal scans are performed from within the organization’s network with the tester signing in as an authenticated user. In external scans, the tester does not have authenticated access to the network and scans the application just like a hacker would.
What are the top considerations when choosing a vulnerability scanner?
Top features to look for in a scanner include:
- Level of control
- Number of vulnerabilities covered
- Reporting & visualization capability
- Update frequency
- Session management
While the importance of safe coding practices cannot be ignored an efficient vulnerability assessment helps firms improve their security posture by proactively identifying and mitigating security gaps. The OWASP top 10 is the first stop for any teams looking to harden their security as it lists common web application weaknesses and their remediation based on real-world scenarios.
Crashtest Security Suite offers a platform that scans web applications based on the OWASP Top 10 benchmark. Try Crashtest Security today for free to discover how it integrates into your development stack for efficient, automated vulnerability scanning.