Full Scale
Top 10 Web Application Vulnerabilities

10 Web Application Vulnerabilities (And How to Beat Them)

Always take web application vulnerabilities seriously. They can pose severe security risks to your web apps and the data they handle, which are costly to resolve.

Today, web applications have become an integral part of our lives. We use them for everything, from online shopping to social networking to accessing our financial information. However, with great convenience comes great responsibility, especially when it comes to web application security.

That is why it’s essential to understand web application vulnerabilities if you’re developing a product. Once you know the common threats, you can also take steps to prevent and reduce them.

10 Common Web Application Vulnerabilities

Web application vulnerabilities are flaws in their design, implementation, or maintenance. These weaknesses are like cracks in the packaging of your product, waiting to be exploited by malicious actors. So here are some common web application vulnerabilities and ways to thwart them.

1. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

Cross-site scripting (XSS) is one of the most prevalent web application vulnerabilities. It occurs when an attacker injects malicious scripts into web pages viewed by other users. As a result, it enables the execution of arbitrary code in their browsers. This leads to various attacks, including stealing user credentials or spreading malware.

To prevent XSS attacks, input validation and output encoding are your best friends. You can take a look at a simple example in Python using the Flask framework:

from flask import Flask, request, render_template_string

app = Flask(__name__)

@app.route('/search')
def search():
    query = request.args.get('query')
    # Sanitize user input by escaping special characters
    safe_query = escape(query)
    return render_template_string("You searched for: {{ query }}", query=safe_query)

if __name__ == '__main__':
    app.run()

Other tips to prevent XSS attacks include:

  • Using security libraries/frameworks that automatically sanitize user input and output.
  • Enabling Content Security Policy (CSP) headers to restrict script sources.

2. SQL Injection

SQL injection is another one of the notorious web application vulnerabilities. Your attackers can manipulate SQL queries by injecting malicious SQL code. They can gain unauthorized access to a database. It’s like giving the keys to your database to an intruder.

That is why you must always use parameterized queries or prepared statements. In addition to that, you can employ an Object-Relational Mapping (ORM) library.

Here’s an example in Java using the Spring Framework:

import org.springframework.jdbc.core.JdbcTemplate;

public class UserRepository {
    private final JdbcTemplate jdbcTemplate;

    public UserRepository(JdbcTemplate jdbcTemplate) {
        this.jdbcTemplate = jdbcTemplate;
    }

    public User getUserByUsername(String username) {
        // Use parameterized query to prevent SQL injection
        String sql = "SELECT * FROM users WHERE username = ?";
        return jdbcTemplate.queryForObject(sql, new Object[]{username}, User.class);
    }
}

3. Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

By leveraging their authenticated sessions, cross-site request forgery (CSRF) attackers trick users into executing unwanted actions on a different website. It’s like someone is forging your signature to access your bank account. That is why conquering CSFR should be on top of your web application vulnerabilities list of priorities.

To prevent CSRF attacks, implement anti-CSRF tokens in forms to validate requests. Here’s an example in HTML and JavaScript:

<!-- In your HTML form -->
<form action="/transfer" method="POST">
    <input type="hidden" name="csrf_token" value="{{ csrf_token }}">
    <!-- Other form fields -->
    <button type="submit">Transfer Money</button>
</form>

In the server-side code (e.g., Python with Flask):

from flask import Flask, request, session
import os

app = Flask(__name__)
app.secret_key = os.urandom(24)

@app.route('/transfer', methods=['POST'])
def transfer():
    if request.form['csrf_token'] != session['csrf_token']:
        return "CSRF Attack Detected!"
    # Handle the money transfer
    return "Money transferred successfully!"

Remember to always check the “Origin” or “Referer” headers on the server. This way, you can ensure requests come from the expected or legitimate domain.

4. Broken Authentication and Session Management

Weak or poorly implemented authentication and session management can lead to unauthorized access. And that’s a welcome mat for attackers.

To prevent cybersecurity attacks and web application vulnerabilities, securely store sensitive session data. Try to arrange a process where you regenerate session IDs upon login and logout. And make sure to enforce proper session timeout policies.

Also, use strong password policies and implement multi-factor authentication (MFA) wherever possible. Using the Passport library, here’s a sample in Node.js:

const passport = require('passport');
const LocalStrategy = require('passport-local').Strategy;
const User = require('./models/user');

passport.use(new LocalStrategy(
    function(username, password, done) {
        User.findOne({ username: username }, function(err, user) {
            if (err) { return done(err); }
            if (!user || !user.validPassword(password)) {
                return done(null, false, { message: 'Incorrect username or password.' });
            }
            return done(null, user);
        });
    }
));

In this example, we’re using the Passport library with a local strategy for authentication. By implementing a robust authentication system, you can thwart many potential attacks.

Web Application Vulnerabilities You Should Prevent Now
10 Web Application Vulnerabilities (And How to Beat Them) 1

5. Security Misconfiguration

Inadequate security settings or misconfigurations in servers, applications, or databases can expose sensitive data.

Regularly test, audit, and review your server, application, and database configurations. Then, you may disable unnecessary services and features. Follow security best practices for server and framework configurations.

Now, look at this example of Apache web server configuration:

# Disable directory listing
Options -Indexes

# Prevent access to sensitive files
<FilesMatch "\.(htaccess|htpasswd|ini|log|conf|bak|swp)$">
    Require all denied
</FilesMatch>

# Set appropriate file permissions
<Directory /var/www/html>
    Options -Indexes
    AllowOverride None
    Require all granted
</Directory>

Have you noticed something in the snippet? We’re disabling directory listing, preventing access to sensitive files, and setting proper permissions. These are just a few steps you can take to mitigate security misconfigurations.

6. Insecure Deserialization

Insecure deserialization is a web application vulnerability that exploits the deserialization process to execute arbitrary code. It could lead to remote code execution.

To prevent insecure deserialization, avoid deserializing data from untrusted sources. Use serialization formats that include integrity checks. And implement proper input validation and filtering for serialized data.

Here’s an example in Python using the pickle module:

import pickle

# Deserialize data only from trusted sources
def deserialize_data(data):
    try:
        return pickle.loads(data)
    except Exception as e:
        # Handle deserialization errors
        return None

7. Unvalidated Redirects and Forwards

Unvalidated redirects and forwards occur when attackers manipulate URLs to redirect users to malicious sites. Or perform actions on their behalf.

You can prevent this issue by avoiding the use of user-controlled input to construct URLs for redirection. You should also validate and sanitize user input used in redirect operations if necessary.

Look at this code in PHP:

$target = $_GET['url'];
if (validateURL($target)) {
    header("Location: " . $target);
} else {
    echo "Invalid URL!";
}

function validateURL($url) {
    // Implement URL validation logic
    return filter_var($url, FILTER_VALIDATE_URL) !== false;
}

As you can see, we validate the URL before redirecting. This code ensures that you only use legitimate URLs.

8. File Upload Vulnerabilities

Insecure file upload forms can allow attackers to upload malicious files. This compromises your web application security.

To avoid it, restrict allowed file types and enforce strict file extension validation. Store uploaded files in a separate, non-executable directory.

Review this sample code in Ruby on Rails:

# Only allow image file uploads (e.g., JPEG, PNG, GIF)
valid_extensions = %w[jpg jpeg png gif]
uploaded_file_extension = File.extname(uploaded_file.original_filename).downcase

if valid_extensions.include?(uploaded_file_extension)
    # Process the uploaded file
else
    # Reject the file upload
    flash[:error] = "Invalid file type"
    redirect_to upload_page_path
end

9. XML External Entity (XXE) Injection

This flaw occurs when attackers exploit XML parsers to disclose internal files. Or perform remote requests and execute arbitrary code.

To prevent XXE attacks, disable your external entity references in XML parsers. And use safe parsing libraries or disable DTD processing. 

Here’s an example of what you can do in Java:

DocumentBuilderFactory dbf = DocumentBuilderFactory.newInstance();
dbf.setFeature(XMLConstants.FEATURE_SECURE_PROCESSING, true); // Disable external entities

DocumentBuilder db = dbf.newDocumentBuilder();
InputSource is = new InputSource(new StringReader(xmlData));
Document doc = db.parse(is);

10. Insecure Dependencies

Using outdated or vulnerable third-party libraries and components can introduce security weaknesses into your web application.

To escape the threat, you should regularly update and patch your dependencies. Moreover, you should monitor security advisories for libraries and components. Here’s an example using npm for a Node.js application:

# Update all outdated dependencies
npm outdated
npm update

Eliminate Web Application Vulnerability At All Costs

Web application vulnerabilities are a significant concern in today’s interconnected world. Attackers constantly seek ways to exploit weaknesses in your web applications, whether they are doing it for financial gain, data theft, or other malicious purposes.

Yes, security is an ongoing process. By understanding common web application vulnerabilities and following best practices for prevention, you can stay resilient against potential threats.

Full Scale Makes Cybersecurity A Priority

As an offshore software development center, Full Scale knows the value of top-notch security. We only use advanced tools and tech stacks for our projects. Our developers, testers, and leaders build web apps with proper safeguards against threats.

Check out how we can help you build a software development team quickly and affordably. Trust our people, platform, and process—and we’ll help you succeed.

Build A Secure Web App Now

Scroll to Top