How to Secure Your Web Application With the Right Practices

January 4, 2022

How to Secure Your Web Application With the Right Practices

Web application security is a critical aspect of any business. Without proper security measures in place, your data and systems are at risk of being compromised by malicious actors. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the most important practices you can use to secure your web application

First, it’s important to understand the different types of attacks that your website may encounter. The OWASP organization provides a comprehensive list of all the different types of attacks, but we’ll mention some specific ones here:

  • Session hijacking

An attacker obtains access to an authenticated user’s session identifier and uses it to impersonate the victim and perform transactions on their account.

  • Cross-site scripting (XSS)

An attacker injects malicious code into a web page, which is then executed by unsuspecting users who visit the page. This can be used to steal user data or to take over their session.

  • SQL injection

An attacker injects SQL commands into a web application in order to gain access to sensitive data or execute malicious actions.

Once you understand the different types of attacks that your application may be vulnerable to, you can start implementing security measures to protect against them. The following are some of the 10 most important practices to adopt:

1. Data Encryption

Data encryption is all about protecting your most valuable data against attackers. Without encryption, it’s possible for unauthorized users to gain access to sensitive information by stealing it directly off of storage devices.

There are two types of encryption methods you can use:

The most common type is full-disk encryption (FDE), where all data is encrypted at rest. This is a good option if you want to protect data from unauthorized access, even if the device is stolen.

Another option is file-level encryption, where specific files or folders are encrypted. This is a good option if you want to encrypt sensitive data that’s stored in the cloud or on removable storage devices.

2. Inspection of all traffic

In order to protect your web application from attack, you need to be able to identify and block malicious traffic. This can be done by inspecting all traffic that comes into and out of your web server.

There are a number of different methods you can use for inspection, including:

  • Network intrusion detection systems (NIDS) can be used to inspect network traffic.
  • Log analysis tools can be used to inspect application logs.

Web application firewalls (WAFs) can be used to block malicious requests based on their content. WAFs are an additional layer of security that sits between your web server and the open internet. They work by inspecting all traffic that comes into and out of your web server and blocking any requests that match a predefined set of rules.

3. Password Management

One of the most common ways for attackers to gain access to your systems is by stealing user passwords. This can be done by exploiting vulnerabilities in your application, or by obtaining passwords through social engineering attacks.

The best way to mitigate this risk is with a strong password policy. In addition to using long and complex passwords, here are some best practices for creating your password management system:

  • Use a secure password storage mechanism

Most programming languages provide built-in methods for storing user passwords in a secure manner. You can also use third-party libraries or SDKs that provide more robust password storage functionality.

  • Enforce strong password requirements

Your password policy should require passwords to be long and complex, and should forbid users from using easily guessed passwords like “password” or “1234”.

  • Make sure passwords are updated regularly

Passwords that haven’t been changed in a while are much more likely to be compromised, so you should force users to update their passwords every few months.

4. Input Validation and Encoding

Input validation and encoding is another important step for securing your web application against attack. This includes validating that:

  • User-provided data matches the expected type (e.g., email addresses and phone numbers)
  • Data entered by users doesn’t contain any malicious code (e.g., SQL injection and cross-site scripting)
  • Data is properly encoded to prevent XSS attacks

Input validation is typically performed using regular expressions, but it can be done using a higher-level language as well (e.g., Java or C#).

5. Secure Session Management

One of the most common ways for attackers to gain access to your systems is by stealing session cookies. This can be done by exploiting vulnerabilities in your application, or by obtaining cookies through social engineering attacks.

The best way to mitigate this risk is with a strong session management system. This includes using cookies that are encrypted and tamper-proof, and requiring users to log in again after a certain amount of time has elapsed.

6. Secure Data Transmission

In order to protect your data while it’s being transmitted, you need to use secure transmission protocols. The most common secure transmission protocols are SSL/TLS and HTTPS.

An SSL/TLS certificate encrypts all of the data that flows between your web server and users’ web browsers. This prevents attackers from accessing any of this sensitive traffic.

7. External Interface Protection

Your application likely has multiple external interfaces, including the following:

  • Web application interface
  • API or microservices interface
  • User interface for management or administration purposes

Each of these interfaces should be protected with appropriate security measures. This includes using firewalls to restrict access to only authorized users and using proper authentication and authorization mechanisms.

8. Security Testing

Security testing is an essential part of protecting your web application from attack. It includes identifying and exploiting vulnerabilities in your application and then developing countermeasures to protect against them.

Security testing can be performed manually or using automated tools. Automated tools are generally faster and more accurate, but they can also be more expensive.

9. Security Awareness Training

One of the most important, but often overlooked, security measures is security awareness training. This includes educating users on common types of attacks and teaching them how to avoid these attacks.

To make your security training more effective, you should periodically test employees’ knowledge about security best practices. The results of this testing can be used to guide future security awareness campaigns.

10. Security Assessments & Audits

Security assessments are performed by security professionals to identify vulnerabilities in your web application. Security audits are a subset of security assessments and are performed specifically to determine whether your security controls are effective.

Both security assessments and audits should be performed on a regular basis, preferably at least once a year.

Wrapping up

The right approach for securing your web application is to adopt a defense-in-depth strategy. This involves using multiple layers of security that cover different steps in the attack continuum.

In addition, security needs to be an ongoing process where new techniques, tactics, and procedures are constantly being implemented to stay ahead of attackers’ methods.

Take the next step

Buy My Book
"Take your Shot"

How to Grow Your Business, Attract More Clients, and Make More Money. Learn to change your perceptions of your own business so that you get out of your own way.

Find out more

Are You Ready to Put Your Prices Up?

Answer 40 questions and we’ll send you a personalised report with feedback tailored to your specific needs. It quick and free and you get a FREE copy of Take Your Shot.

Take the Fearless Quiz

Want to work with Robin?

Sometimes it's difficult taking the first steps; in reality it's easy. Hit the big red button below to book your Diagnostic Call.

30 Minute Diagnostic Call