Today’s always-on digital businesses and service providers rely on web applications and APIs to fuel growth, run eCommerce sites and customer portals, and engage 24/7 with customers. Cyber criminals are also targeting these public-facing assets for monetary gain or to make a political statement. In fact, 43% of data breaches have been tied to web application vulnerabilities, highlighting the importance of understanding and protecting these business-critical assets. Managed Service Providers (MSPs) must also make protecting web applications a key priority.
This article outlines software security best practices as well as web application importance, the implications of security gaps, and the challenges and best practices for protecting web applications.
Insight on Web Applications
A web application or “web app” runs on a web server with user access via a web browser. Examples of web apps include online forms, eCommerce shopping carts, email programs, collaboration software, and business tools like Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace. Web application protection involves incorporating security measures during the software development cycle and not bolting it on as an afterthought. Users of third-party software must also maintain defenses against malicious web attacks within their MSP businesses and customer operations, with vulnerability scanning and comprehensive patch management. Legacy tools like Web Application Firewalls (WAFs) are a good foundation but are no longer sufficient against modern cyber criminals who are persistent and well-funded. Web apps can collect personally identifiable information (PII), use login credentials that cyber criminals can exploit to elevate privileged access, or serve as an entry point to valuable data for ransomware exfiltration.
Attacks on Web Apps are Rising
The volume of web applications in use is skyrocketing as organizations look to increase customer and citizen engagement, and 24/7 access to web portals and tools. This pervasive use of web apps makes them a tempting target for cyber criminals. Web attacks can be used by financially-motivated or politically-led attackers for either monetary gain or to deface a website for a visible statement. The rise in web application use and acceleration of software development cycles has also led to more human errors that can create unintended security gaps. Finally, Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) has made more advanced tools and TTPs (tactics, techniques, and procedures) available to less sophisticated cyber criminals in the underground ecosystem.
Web Apps Can Create Risk
The average business has hundreds of software applications in use, creating IT complexity to maintain over time. Besides lost revenue, you and your customers can experience tarnished brand reputation, decreased revenue, compliance fines, as well as customer dissatisfaction and even defections surrounding web app attacks.
Ensure your digital transformation initiatives are backed with web application security to reduce risk, maintain resilience, and evade cyber criminals.
Leverage Best Practices in the OWASP Top 10
The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that guides the development and maintenance of security software applications and trusted APIs. A real-world list of software threats called the OWASP Top 10 outlines often-exploited software gaps based on data analytics and the expertise of software and cybersecurity industry professionals.
Comprehensive vulnerability management that includes OWASP coverage is the foundation of proactive cybersecurity, moving beyond legacy tools like WAFs.
A Layered Defense to Business Enablement
Business-critical web servers and online applications are driving digital transformation as well as customer and citizen engagement. Web applications will continue to be an attractive threat vector for cyber criminals. In addition to OWASP best practices, advice for web app security across your entire organization and customer base includes:
- Implementing robust access control with Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
- Training around security and social engineering as well as avoidance of suspicious websites and online apps
- Understanding of real-world MITRE ATT&CK techniques that can help bolster your defense
- Prioritizing software and hardware patching for rapid response against the vulnerabilities that could impact your organization the most
- Logging and monitoring for complete visibility and speedy detection of suspicious activity
A multi-layered security strategy includes the staff, processes, and technology to defend against web app attacks and dangerous cybersecurity threats. Netsurion Managed Threat Protection is comprehensive cybersecurity for today’s relentless attackers who start with the easy payoff of unpatched systems and known vulnerabilities.
Author Paula Rhea is product marketing manager, Netsurion, which develops the Managed Threat Protection platform for MSSP and MSP partners. Read more Netsurion guest blogs here. Regularly contributed guest blogs are part of MSSP Alert’s sponsorship program.