As applications increasingly power our everyday lives, security is becoming a growing issue. An astonishing 72% of organizations have suffered at least one breach from an application vulnerability in the last 12 months—with many experiencing two and even three security breaches, according to one survey.
Part of the problem is that modern applications are scattered across multiple platforms, including the web, mobile phones, and desktops, creating a larger attack surface on which security attacks occur. And with many companies taking an agile approach to application development, they’re quickly releasing new apps without the needed protections, making security an even bigger challenge.
Application Security Challenges
So what are the top application security challenges you need to guard against? While the security landscape continues to evolve at a rapid pace, here are seven risks to consider:
- Code injections: One of the most common application security risks is code injections in which an attacker inserts malicious code into a web application in order to steal sensitive data, propagate a virus, take control over the application, or perform other malicious activities. One such technique is SQL injections in which an attacker inserts a SQL statement into an application to read or modify database information. Since legacy applications are especially vulnerable, one way companies can guard against these attacks is by patching or upgrading these older apps.
- DDoS attacks: Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are designed to overwhelm a website, application, or network with more traffic that it can handle in order to render it inoperable. These attacks flood the application with requests for communication to force it to crash or overload it so that legitimate customers can’t gain access. DDoS attacks are sometimes combined with other attack strategies such as ransomware demands. Over time, these attacks have become more sophisticated as attackers adopt sophisticated artificial intelligence and machine learning methods to root out the most vulnerable systems. A variety of defenses can be deployed to protect against DDoS attacks including deploying a web application firewall and monitoring traffic for suspicious activity.
- Malicious bots: Today, more than half of all Internet traffic is generated by botnets, both good and bad. While good bots perform useful automated functions such as answering user questions or providing real-time sports scores, bad bots are on the rise and now make up about one-quarter of all Internet traffic. Malicious bots can gather passwords, capture sensitive information, launch DDoS attacks, spread spam, and propagate malware as they self-propagate to infect large numbers of users. As with DDoS attacks, a variety of defenses can help to defend against bots including web application firewalls, strict user access controls, and user challenges such as CAPTCHA that help to distinguish between human and bot traffic.
- Poor user access controls: Access control, or how a web application grants access to content and functions to users, can also be a key security vulnerability. Without proper user authentication and authorization tools, organizations leave their sensitive information vulnerable to attackers who can access applications to steal, manipulate, or delete sensitive data. Many companies don’t have the proper user authentication or authorization tools in place to prevent malicious actors from accessing sensitive data, whether inside or outside the organization. Access controls can be applied in several ways including the user’s roles and responsibilities within the company (role-based access control), the user’s membership to specific groups (discretionary access control), the sensitivity of information being accessed (mandatory access control), or the permissions a user has been granted (permission-based access control). Whatever method an organization chooses, it’s critical that clear access controls be established so they are implemented consistently across the organization. It’s also important to follow the principle of least privilege—giving every user the minimum access privileges they need to perform their jobs.
- Insufficient encryption measures: Data breaches are increasingly common as attackers use stolen information to commit crimes such as credit card fraud and identity theft. The biggest reason for this is the use of weak encryption measures or the lack of encryption altogether. Without the proper encryption techniques, organizations leave themselves vulnerable to having their password data, credit card information, and other sensitive data compromised.
- Application misconfiguration: As today’s organizations quickly introduce new apps into the market, they sometimes sacrifice security in the name of agility. As a result, more than 82% of security vulnerabilities are discovered within application code. One of the best ways to prevent potential attacks is to build security into the application as it’s being developed. That means implementing best practices for writing secure code and subjecting applications to a wide range of testing tools to help identify potential threats.
- Inadequate security monitoring: According to a recent IBM report, the average time to identify and contain a data breach is 280 days. Attackers rely on a lack of monitoring to perform malicious activity without being detected. By tracking activity such as successful and failed logins, suspicious activity can be more easily identified. And by adopting an incident response plan that includes alerts and other escalation processes when unusual activity is detected, companies can quickly react to attacks when they do occur.
A Strong Application Security Strategy is Key
A thorough understanding of today’s application security challenges is the first step to a strong defense. By monitoring evolving security risks and putting strong controls in place, you can protect your organization from the growing number of sophisticated attacks that threaten your bottom line.
To learn more, visit the SailPoint Identity for Applications webpage.
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