How to Ensure Web Application Security
Written by Aqib Ijaz   
Friday, 14 May 2021

It is impossible to develop an application that is 100% secure. No matter how hard you try and how in-depth and strict your development approach is, threats can arise as the application security scenario is a dynamic one. 

However, that does not mean that you should not focus on application security at all. Here are some of the practices that can enhance the security of web applications and must be adopted by any development team trying to make an application with acceptable security. 


1. Start with a Web Application Security Blueprint

It is practically impossible to stay on top of application security if you do not have a well-made plan for that. It is shocking to see that most of the companies have a disorganized response towards web application security and often end up getting their security compromised. 

While the application is still in the early stages of development, it is paramount to sit down with the IT security team and create a detailed web application security plan. It should include everything from the organization’s goals to the actual security measures to be implemented. 

This plan needs to outline a priority schedule outlining which app needs to be secured first. It must also include what methods will be used to scan and secure applications and what will be the interval of the tests and security updates. 

2. Make an Inventory of Your Web Applications

No matter how organized your company is, you most likely don’t have an idea of which applications are running at a given time and how many of them are critical. 

It has been noted that many organizations have numerous rogue applications running all the time and they don’t even notice them until there is a problem. 

It is impossible to maintain effective web application security without having precise knowledge of the applications your company uses and when it uses them. 

It can be a time-consuming task to find out how many applications you have running at a given time, but it is necessary. While running this inspection, note the purpose of every single one of them. 

By the time you complete this inspection, you will know which one of the applications is redundant and which ones are just pointless. Remove all such applications as they are just a burden on the security team.

3. Assign Priority Levels to Your Web Applications

Once you have completed the inventory of your web applications, the next logical step is to sort them in order of priority. You might not notice it now but the list can grow to a substantial size and without knowing which applications need more attention and which ones can wait, you cannot make any meaningful progress. 

You can categorize the apps to be:  

  • Critical

  • Serious

  • Normal 

Critical apps are the ones that are open to the public and contain sensitive customer data. These applications need to be managed first because they are the ones most likely to be attacked by hackers to access the private data of your clients. 

Serious apps can be both external and internal and may or may not contain sensitive data. These need to be on the second number on your priority of securing web applications. 

Normal applications are generally not open to the outside world and seldom contain any sensitive data. However, they need to be secured down the line because you cannot afford to have any loose end that can be used to get into your secure environment. 

Such a scheme of categorization can make it possible for you to focus on the application security of the apps that need it the most. 

4. Prioritize vulnerabilities

After you have categorized the web applications according to the level of attention they need from your cybersecurity team, the next step is to classify the vulnerabilities. Not all vulnerabilities need the same amount of attention and energy. 

Eliminating every last vulnerability is not possible. Even after you have made a list of all the apps, testing each of them is a mammoth task, more importantly, a useless one. If you decide to limit your efforts to the most crucial of the vulnerabilities, you can more effectively mitigate them.

Determining which vulnerabilities need to be mitigated and which ones can be overlooked depends on your business logic and the threats that you are the most concerned about.

5. Allow the Least Privileges at Any Given Time 

Even after you have documented, tested, and fixed all your web applications, you can still not say that your apps are impenetrable. All web applications run based on specific privileges on the local and remote computers. Adjusting these privileges to enhance application security is one of the most important steps.

As a rule of thumb, the most secure approach is to run an application with the minimum possible level of privileges. 

Remember, it is better to make little changes if someone has too few privileges for the app to work properly than to have a level of privileges that can compromise the security of the app.

6. Make Sure Cookies are Used Securely

One of the areas that are overlooked by organizations when securing web applications is the use of cookies. 

Cookies are a great way of keeping track of a user and presenting them with the relevant information whenever they come back to you, they must be used carefully. It is not a good choice to not use cookies at all. 

You should rather make sure of the following regarding cookies:  

  • First of all, never use cookies to store sensitive and private user data. For example, it is not advisable to use cookies to remember the passwords or store banking information. Cookies are not very secure and are the first things hackers target. 

  • Choose the expiration time of cookies reasonably. It is tempting to let the cookies reside in the user’s browser for months but that also increases the level of threat to the user and to you in turn.

  • Last, consider encrypting the information that is in the cookies to make sure they cannot be compromised easily. 

To end it, this is not the ultimate guide to application security. Use it as a starting point and expand on it as much as you can because there exists nothing like a too-secure app.


More Information

Complete Guide to Application Security 2021

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 15 May 2021 )