A significant portion of cybersecurity attacks target vulnerabilities and security weaknesses discovered within web applications. Web applications continue to be a primary target for cyberattacks and is one of the most common and favored cyberattack mediums for threat actors. Web application attacks are malicious activities that target internet-facing programs to exploit vulnerabilities, steal data, disrupt services, or gain unauthorized access. These attacks pose a significant risk to organizations and individuals who rely on web applications for various purposes, including websites, online services, and cloud-based applications. Some common web applications are Outlook, Gmail, Google Docs, Microsoft 365, LinkedIn, and Spotify.

Common Web Application Cyberattacks:

  1. DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service)
    • Attackers flood a web application’s servers with an overwhelming amount of traffic, rendering the application inaccessible to legitimate users
  2. Security Misconfigurations
    • Security misconfigurations occur when web applications are not properly configured, leaving vulnerabilities exposed. This can include default settings, unnecessary services, or excessive permissions
  3. SQL (Structured Query Language) Injection
    • A common attack vector that injects malicious SQL code into user inputs on a web application. This injected SQL code can manipulate the database or expose sensitive data
  4. CSRF (Cross-site Request Forgery)
    • CSRF attacks, aka one-click attack or session riding, tricks users into performing unwanted actions on a web application without their knowledge or consent. Attackers send malicious requests on behalf of authenticated users, exploiting their active sessions
    • Read more about CSRF vulnerabilities HERE
  5. XSS (Cross-Site Scripting)
    • XSS attacks involve injecting malicious scripts (usually JavaScript) into web application content, which is then executed by users’ browsers. Attackers can use XSS to steal cookies, session tokens, or other sensitive information
  6. Brute Force and Credential Stuffing Attacks
    • Brute Force Attack: attackers attempt to gain unauthorized access to user accounts by repeatedly guessing passwords
    • Credential Stuffing: Attackers use stolen credentials from other breaches
  7. Weak Authentication
    • Weak authentication practices can allow attackers to bypass authentication, hijack user sessions, or access unauthorized areas of an application
  8. File Vulnerabilities
    • When web applications allow users to upload files without proper validation, attackers can upload malicious files (e.g., malware or scripts) that compromise the server

Data from Positive Technologies show that threat actors are able to attack users on 98% of web applications via malware, social engineering, and redirection of users to a malware infected website. 84% of web applications were exposed to unauthorized access and 91% of web applications were breached. The most dangerous but common vulnerability in web applications is user authentication. This vulnerability allows easy, unauthorized access to an organization’s internal network. The second most common web application vulnerability is information leakage. Positive Tech reveals that over 75% of these applications had vulnerabilities that could potentially expose user IDs. Additionally, personal data was disclosed in 60% of web applications and user credentials were exposed in 47%.

To mitigate web application cyber attacks, organizations should implement robust security practices such as MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) and PTaaS (Pen Testing as a Service), conduct regular security assessments and audits, keep software and frameworks updated, employ security tools like WAFs (Web Application Firewalls), and educate developers and users about best security practices.

Read more about Web application vulnerabilities HERE

CISA Web Applications Cybersecurity Advisory 

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