In the past few years, data confidentiality and integrity have been more important than ever. With potential legal consequences as well as bad PR, attacks and information leaks are a huge concern. To minimize vulnerability, companies must have a strong cybersecurity strategy in place.
A good security strategy should give particular attention to web application vulnerabilities. Web applications are common targets of hackers–and are often an easy way for attackers to get hold of company information.
Luckily, there are several ways to protect your company’s web applications, ranging from testing each of your applications for vulnerabilities to using a web application firewall to block malicious traffic. With that in mind, here are five steps for protecting your data confidentiality and integrity and keeping your data secure:
- Create a detailed plan
You can’t guarantee web application security without first writing out a detailed, actionable security testing plan. If your analysis is disorganized and haphazard, you won’t be able to give a thorough assessment of each web application or keep track of vulnerabilities.
Your plan should include the steps below–e.g., identifying your web applications and their respective vulnerabilities. Decide which applications you’ll need to prioritize in terms of security, and how they will be tested.
Finally, your detailed plan should include the names of the people who will be in charge of implementing the various steps, as well as your company’s budget and costs.
- Make an inventory of web applications
You’ll probably be surprised at how much you don’t know about your company’s web applications. In fact, your company might be running applications that you never knew existed!
Conduct an inventory to determine how many web applications your company is running, where they are located, and what their purpose is. You’ll probably find applications that are pointless or redundant. Delete these so that you can focus on analyzing the vulnerabilities of the applications that matter.
- Identify and prioritize vulnerabilities
Once you create an inventory of your web applications, it’s time to identify their vulnerabilities and their level of priority. Begin by grouping your applications based on how vulnerable they are to attacks. Externally facing applications that contain customer details or other sensitive information are the most vulnerable since they are most likely to be targeted by hackers.
Now that you’ve determined which applications are the most vulnerable, take a look at the vulnerabilities themselves. All web applications have vulnerabilities and it’s impossible to eliminate them entirely. Instead, it’s much more efficient to decide which ones are worth your time and resources. Different web applications might have different exposure, so research specific application vulnerabilities to determine whether they’re worth testing for. Then, determine whether you’re going to test for these using onsite tools, third-party software, or even open source security scanners.
- Use a web application firewall (WAF)
While you’re busy testing the exposure of your web applications, you should consistently keep a web application firewall running in the background. Your business is always vulnerable to attacks, not only before your security assessment is complete but also after you’ve eliminated the most pressing ones.
In other words, you’re never finished monitoring the vulnerability of your web applications. Continue to monitor your applications for as long as your company is using them to receive security alerts and protect against attacks. Common attacks include XSS, SQL injection, cross-site request forgery (CSRF), and more, and all these can be prevented using a WAF.
- Train your employees in application security awareness
Not everyone working in your company will have a thorough knowledge of web application security. You’ll need to be sure your employees are trained to identify any unusual activity that might point towards a security vulnerability. Furthermore, employees can pose an internal threat to your company, just by being careless or unaware of security practices in their day-to-day activities.
Conduct regular employee security awareness training, and make security awareness a core component of the onboarding of new employees. Not only will this help prevent employees from accidentally being a security risk themselves, but it will also get your whole company involved in the process of identifying and eliminating vulnerabilities.
Vulnerability to attacks is often the result of company negligence in properly prioritizing, testing, and securing their web applications. Companies must create a detailed, step-by-step web application security plan; make an inventory of web applications and identify the vulnerabilities within each application; prevent bad traffic using WAFs; and, finally, engage employees in security awareness training. By implementing these five steps, you’ll be able to minimize unauthorized access to your web applications and maintain data integrity, confidentiality, and security.