The amount of web applications available to users is growing by the day. Web application development can be greatly beneficial to enterprises seeking to create better online interfaces for users to interact with their businesses. In different industries from the financial sector to healthcare, customers seek ways to access account information and management tools and resources online. While creating a sleek user experience may be the main objective in application development, the security of web apps cannot be overlooked.
In any instance of customer information being made accessible on the web, the security of this information is of utmost importance. The Federal Trade Commission regulates business conduct regarding data security when it comes to consumer information, and can take penal action against companies that do not comply with privacy and security standards. For this reason, developers need to ensure that applications have security measures to maintain the privacy of both company information and consumer data.
There are agreed upon standards for web application security that developers can refer to when considering the robustness of their application. For example, the OWASP Top 10 brings awareness to the most critical flaws in web application security. Referring to this list, created by security experts around the globe, and ensuring that their application does not contain any of the items included, is a good starting point for developers in assessing the level of security for their app.
A number of tools exist that will scan an application against these flaws, or other standards. These tools, often referred to as vulnerability or security scanners, can be useful for finding potential risks within an application. When considering the sensitivity of information that might be accessed via a web application, however, it should go without saying that trusting the security of business and consumer data should not be left to software alone. In real-world scenarios, motivated attackers may find gaps in security that automated software may not be designed to detect.
For organizations and enterprises that understand the importance of application security, a more rigorous approach is the solution.
Manual Analysis While bots may play a role in many security attacks that occur on the web, all attacks are initiated or guided by some kind of human intervention. It only makes sense then, that humans should also play a role in ensuring the security of web applications.
IT security and penetration testing companies offer security engineers (“hackers”) that will manually assess the security of web applications by testing the application against their knowledge base of research, tools, and expertise. The objective in these application security assessments is to discover any vulnerabilities within the application – from basic methods such as credential and encryption hacking to more sophisticated circumventions such as changing access parameters – that might be overlooked by simple scanners.
Why Testing Matters
The benefit of manual assessments is more than just insight. Having a secure application can prevent the costly repercussions of infiltration – which can include regulatory fines, losses in legal suits, and damage to an organization’s reputation following an information breach. For this reason, assessments should be performed for any new application in development or for any version updates that could change the security landscape of an application.