What Is Web Application Security and How Does It Work?

10 minutes
October 6, 2021

What Is Web Application Security and How Does It Work?

It’s 2021, and hackers look at web applications like a dog on a steak - in fact, the number of attacks on web apps increased by 800 percent in 2020.

They are a prime target for hackers as these systems contain an abundance of sensitive data, tend to have unidentified vulnerabilities, and can often be attacked using automated processes.

The average data breach costs $4.24 million, leaving a permanent mark on the reputation and trustworthiness of the compromised application. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about web application security, the essentials that will help you navigate the cybersecurity landscape a lot better.

What Is Web Application Security?

Web application security refers to various practices and tactics used to fortify web apps - from cloud-based applications and content management systems to mobile app infrastructure - against cyberattacks.

Even the most well-designed web applications may contain some loopholes bad actors can exploit to steal sensitive information.

Implementing security measures to patch up those entry points allows you to identify and eliminate these vulnerabilities to prevent bad actors from breaking in and causing damage to your application.

Why Is Web Application Security Important?

Web application security is key to ensure the long-term success of your web application, providing the following benefits to your organization:

  • Improved Online Reputation

Modern consumers are becoming more aware of web application attacks. As such, they are hesitant to do business with companies that fail to take cybersecurity seriously.

By taking a proactive approach, you can ease customer concerns and boost your brand’s reputation.

  • Data Protection

A single data breach can paralyze your business and cost you millions of dollars when you consider the cost of damage control.

It’s your primary responsibility to ensure that you have done everything in your power to protect sensitive information your customers trust you with.

Fortunately, you can substantially reduce the likelihood of a data breach by working with a team of skilled developers that understand cybersecurity.

  • Cost

When it comes to spending money on web application security, consider it to be a long-term investment.

While cybersecurity costs money in upfront and maintenance costs, your organization will be less likely to be a victim of devastating data breaches or major process interruptions that hinder daily operations.

The quality of your web application security is critically dependent on the developers that you choose to oversee your project.

While it may be tempting to go with a cheaper development agency, doing so can leave your digital assets vulnerable to web application attacks. That’s why you must choose the right web developers for your company’s security needs.

What Are the Different Types of Security Tests?

If you want to ensure that your website security measures are effective, you have to routinely conduct security tests to uncover the vulnerabilities your web application might have. 

The assessment process works similarly to beta testing as it involves measuring the performance of your applications in real-world scenarios. It focuses specifically on measuring your preparedness to ward off web application attacks. 

The most common types of web application security tests are:

  • Dynamic Application Security Tests

Also known as DAST, a dynamic application security test is an automated assessment that is primarily applied to low-risk web and mobile applications, ensuring compliance with security regulations.

Developers can also use DAST with manual assessment protocols to test a web app for common weaknesses and security threats.

  • Penetration Tests

A penetration test is an incredibly effective manual security assessment tool that entails subjecting critical applications to complex attack simulations.

  • Runtime Application Self Protection Tests

Runtime application self-protection (RASP) is a relatively new security test that acts as a preventative measure against cyberattacks, protecting the application in real-time from the inside.

In addition to identifying active attacks as they occur, RASP can also take steps to either stop a data breach completely or mitigate its potential damage.

  • Static Application Security Tests

Static application security tests (SAST) combine manual and automated testing protocols.

SAST is an excellent option for identifying bugs and glitches. This technology is also capable of continuously scanning the source code of web apps to resolve innate vulnerabilities.

  • Software Composition Analysis

Software composition analysis is a valuable tool for preventing web application attacks.

SCA software automatically evaluates the license compliance, code quality, and security of open-source digital products. 

  • Database Security Scanning

Database security scanning locates vulnerabilities within your databases.

Database scanners discover these weaknesses by assessing passwords, account permissions, role permissions, password aging, buffer overflows, auditing trails, and default account vulnerabilities. 

Like many other web application security testing tools, database scanners are fully automated.

  • Interactive Application Security Testing

Developers use interactive application security testing to analyze your website’s code for potential vulnerabilities.

Developers can run IAST software manually or implement automated testing protocols.

  • Mobile Application Security Testing

Mobile application security testing (MAST) assesses mobile apps for vulnerabilities. Specifically, developers use MAST to simulate legitimate cyberattacks and identify weaknesses within the app. 

MAST leverages several other assessment methods, including penetration tests, static analysis, and dynamic analysis. Using a combination of testing protocols, developers can perform a comprehensive assessment of mobile apps.

  • Application Security Testing Orchestration

Application security testing orchestration (ASTO) integrates various security tools into the development process.

ASTO is utilized to identify and resolve vulnerabilities throughout the entire software development lifecycle, leveraging both manual and automated testing methods.

How Does Web Application Security Work?

The next thing that you must know is how web application security works. By gaining a deeper understanding of it, you can take proactive steps to stay ahead of cybercriminals.

Once vulnerabilities have been identified through various testing protocols, you can successfully address them. However, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions due to the complexity of web and mobile applications. 

Developers implement different solutions to address specific vulnerabilities. Some of them include:

  • Web Application Firewalls
    Web application firewalls utilize a combination of software and hardware. Also known as WAFs, this preventative measure is extremely effective for preventing web application attacks. 

Developers can usually implement a firewall without altering your existing application. The firewall will analyze incoming traffic and block out anything that could potentially be a cyberattack attempt.

  • DDoS Protection

DDoS or distributed denial-of-service attacks are designed to disrupt the normal function of your network or service. They overload your server with excessive web traffic, which prevents your customers from accessing your site. 

DDoS protection software helps your server resist these attacks by protecting your network and the relays that funnel traffic to your site.

  • DNS Filtering

The DNS or Domain Name System is like a phonebook of the internet. DNS filtering blocks you and your staff from visiting certain websites that may threaten your web application by identifying banned sites by their IP addresses. 

DNS filtering is a vital security measure as 90 percent of successful data breaches are actually caused by human error.

What Are the Most Common Web Application Attacks?

The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) is an invaluable resource when you need reliable information about cybersecurity threats.

The OWASP Foundation is the largest web security nonprofit in the world. They orchestrate open-source software projects and have hundreds of chapters across the globe.

As part of their efforts to help businesses guard against cybersecurity threats, they composed a list of the top 10 web application attacks that you need to be aware of. 

The risks that made their list include:

  • Injection
  • Broken Authentication
  • Sensitive Data Exposure
  • XML External Entities
  • Broken Access Control
  • Security Misconfiguration
  • Cross-Site Scripting XSS
  • Insecure Deserialization
  • Using Components with Known Vulnerabilities
  • Insufficient Logging and Monitoring

Cybercriminals seem to get more creative by the day. They are constantly seeking out opportunities to perpetrate web application attacks that can bring a business to its knees.

These bad actors can exploit any of the vulnerabilities mentioned above to get their hands on your valuable data. That is why you have to get serious about web application security.

Meet Your Reliable Web Development Partner

As you can see, there are plenty of potential vulnerabilities that can leave your web application open to a cyberattack. 

That’s why you must partner with a reliable web development agency that utilizes the latest testing and security protocols. You need a team like ThinkLogic.

We have extensive experience in both web development and cybersecurity to create great software that is safe for your users. So, if you can’t wait to get started, get in touch with our team today to schedule a free consultation.


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