The Most Common Web Security Vulnerabilities Every Site Owner Must Know

From the most technically sound chief information officer to the lowliest tech analyst, every admin needs to know how to manage vulnerability within their sites. Cybersecurity is an ongoing battle between malicious actors and site owners and their tech teams.

Whether you’re a security expert or a newbie site admin, you need to stay vigilant. You need to protect your organization from those who want to exploit your data. Here are the most common web security vulnerabilities you need to know. Knowing what they are and how they happen can arm you with the right skills to repel those who threaten your site.

1. Injection Flaws

Among the most common issues that come up with almost every vulnerability assessment are injection flaws. An injection flaw can be a number of different things that send untrusted data through an interpreter. By altering backend statements and manipulating data, attackers can give commands not intended by the devs.

These flaws can attack database content, which includes SQL, NoSQL, OS, and LDAP injections. As attackers inject these flaws, admins should expect a loss of data and even hijacking clients. Many attacks go for this move to extract valuable data from unsecured servers, which makes the site divulge information like usernames, passwords, and financial information.

To prevent any injection flaw attacks, the answer can be as simple as input filtering. First, add filters for input data, only allowing select connections to perform queries and prevent manipulation. User parameterized queries and validated according to your references.

2. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

As you invest in cybersecurity, another common exploit that you’ll experience is cross-site scripting (XSS). XSS is another way of injecting code into the site, but this time these vulnerabilities target scripts within the page on the client’s side. 

Rather than attack the database, these attack the end-user’s browser. The entire process happens when the site takes untrusted data and sends it out to a client browser without authentication. These usually come in the form of Javascript, where hackers can do several actions on the client’s browser.

XSS attacks can initiate scripts and hijack their user sessions. This can then result in compromised user data, including usernames, passwords, and financial information. They can also use it to deface websites and make unintended redirects, as well as the possibility of putting clients into botnet rings.

To prevent XSS attacks on your site, the simplest way to do it is to never return HTML tags to the client, which can also protect you from HTML injection flaws. It’s also crucial for site admins to whitelist their servers and have queries examined and filtered.

3. Broken Authentication

Another common security vulnerability comes from what is called a “broken authentication.” When websites connect to a client, a web session starts, creating a session cookie and session ID for each valid session. Cookies contain details of your interaction with the website, which includes most of your personal information.

In broken authentication, cookies don’t invalidate once a session breaks, which should not be the case. Once a session is interrupted, usually by closing the browser or logging out, all previous session cookies are flushed out. If cookies don’t invalidate, session data stays within the browser, which can be a problem for the users of a site.

While this is more commonly problematic for users, there is also a risk here for site admins, as well as benefits for its prevention. For starters, broken authentication issues can be a way for attackers to hijack sessions, modify information, and even disclose data. If there are stolen cookies, attackers can use the data to keep accessing data without authorization.

To resolve this issue, it’s crucial to prevent exposure of credentials in URLs and site logs. You can also utilize a website framework to allow your builder to automate authentication. 

4. Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

Another problematic vulnerability that you need to handle for your site is a cross-site request forgery or CSRF attack. Much like XSS, a CSRF attack forces its victim to do unintended actions on the website or web app. After authentication, attackers disrupt the session, executing an action to make malicious requests.

These attacks are embedded in common website events, which include clicking images, buttons, and the like. These can result in accidentally having users relay data, including personal data, login details, financial info, and more. CSRF can use other vulnerabilities like HTTPS GET requests and the like.

One of the ways that site owners can prevent an attack is to perform advanced validation for the session. These processes can compare the current session and browser state with the request, verifying the authenticity of the session. Another simple way to resolve it is to use session protection, including CAPTCHA and unique request tokens.

5. Security Misconfiguration

Security misconfiguration is a common issue with site owners and admins who don’t perform maintenance on their websites. All vulnerabilities revolve around the lack of attention given to a site, especially to its security apps. 

In every website, a proper administrator needs to update several elements to protect their configuration. These include frameworks, applications, web servers, data servers, platforms, and more. Without proper configuration, attackers will find unpatched exploits and give unauthorized access, which can result in a full system compromise.

To prevent security misconfiguration, the simplest way to resolve the issue is to install patches as soon as possible, especially for builders and frameworks. Back up your data before installing the security patch and make sure you have up-to-date software.