How to Protect Your Websites From Hackers
Humankind had come a long way from the time when the Internet became mainstream. What started as a research project ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) funded by DARPA has grown exponentially and has single-handedly revolutionized human behavior.
When WWW (world wide web) came into existence, it was meant to share information over the Internet, from there part through natural evolution and part through webonomics driving innovations, Internet & www has metamorphosized into the lifeblood of the world.
It is hard to imagine now how the world functioned before the time of the Internet. It has touched each aspect of human life and is now critical for day to day existence. No business today can exist without an online presence. It is no more just a medium to share information, but world economics runs over the web nowadays.
Organizations, governments, and people all depend on this. New warfares will not happen in the real world but would be fought over the cyber world. So essentially, cybersecurity is as important or more important than physical security for any business, organization, or government.
Try getting a website online without any protection, and you will immediately start seeing some traffic hits on your site. It is not because your site is something that everyone is looking for, but it is more because there are bots on the Internet that are continually looking for sites that can be exploited. To understand how to protect your site, one needs to understand how an attack happens.
How and why does an attack happen?
Attacks on-site happen for many reasons; it could be to steal private data, for some financial gains or just pure malicious reason to ensure genuine users are not able to reach your site.
Whatever be the reason, an attack on the website can be painful and can have a catastrophic effect. Attackers generally try and exploit security vulnerabilities found in applications; various stages of attack can be generally thought as follows.
During a reconnaissance attack, attackers try to get information of a website and see where the vulnerabilities lie, the intruder queries the alive IP in the network and then for the ports to determine the type and version of the application and operating system running on the target host and then tries to see what vulnerabilities are found in the application.
This is generally done through automated bots, and it is due to this that when a website goes online immediately, there is an uptake of traffic and bots around on the Internet, which keep looking for sites to get any information that can be used by attackers.
Once vulnerabilities are found in a site, attackers then weaponize the requests based on the vulnerabilities found and launch attacks, and this is done to exploit the vulnerabilities for some malicious intent.
Depending on the attacker’s intention, the attack against the website can be launched either to bring down the whole site altogether or to escalate from there.
Command & Control:
If the attacker chooses to escalate, then using the exploit, he might try to get control of the internal system or privilege control for the exfiltration of data from the targeted website or to infiltrate some financial crime.
How to keep your site secured?
“Be smart, understand your risk profile and ensure your site is always protected.”
One of the first steps to protect your site is to put your site behind a firewall or any intrusion prevention system, which would help you protect the site from basic reconnaissance attacks.
However, that is just not enough because as technology improves, attackers are also becoming sophisticated—they can figure out website vulnerabilities to exploit even if it is behind a firewall.
Therefore, the best defense is to not have a vulnerable application out on the web, and in order to do this, one needs to identify the vulnerabilities found in the application and fix them.
Vulnerabilities can be found through automated scans. There are multiple automated scans out there, but a good scanner should be able to crawl the application, mimick user behavior to identify different workflows, and identify vulnerabilities.
That said, automated scan alone is not enough to ensure an application is thoroughly tested from a security perspective. Some flaws, such as CSRF (Cross-Site Request Forgery) and business logic vulnerabilities, require a human to be in the loop to exploit and verify the vulnerability.
Only Manual Pen Testing (MPT) can provide identification and manual validation of these vulnerabilities. Any flaw where a real, human judgment call is needed is where pen-testing truly shines.
Some categories of vulnerabilities, such as authorization issues and business logic flaws, cannot be found with automated assessments and will always require a skilled penetration tester to identify them.
During manual PT, the penetration testers understand the application through a thorough application walk-through by talking to the customer and understanding the nature of the application, which helps them understand and define accurate business logic test cases as per the application that needs to be tested.
Post this, they test the application during run time and figure out vulnerabilities that are consolidated along with the automated scanning results and presented in comprehensive testing reports that include proof of concept and screenshots of every vulnerability to find out loopholes in a step by step process. Essentially experts do ethical hacking to identify vulnerabilities before attackers do.
Here are some examples of business logic flaws that Manual Pen Testing teams undertake in their testing scenarios:
- Malicious file upload, where the testing team will try to upload unsupportive files to the application and figure out whether those files can put any kind of severe impact on the server end.
- Price manipulation and product manipulation in e-commerce applications where they will try to change the price or quantity of products to overcome the business validation for pricing.
Pen Testing will also validate all authorization test cases as well in which they will try to bypass the authorization mechanism and access authorized pages/files/data from unauthenticated user/less privileged user.
Once the vulnerabilities are found, the application vulnerability needs to be fixed before the application goes live so that there is no application that is vulnerable and can be exploited by attackers.
Unfortunately, though many organization makes the best effort to ensure their websites and web apps are not vulnerable on the web, reality kicks in.
There is always pressure on businesses to continually evolve and innovate, and in this quest, security takes a back seat. Many times, organizations do not have the security expertise to ensure their sites are safe, so they end up employing the wrong tools or the security measures they have in place most of the time remain inadequate.
How can AppTrana help you?
AppTrana is the only solution in the industry that offers a comprehensive solution to provide organizations with the ability to identify the risk profile of their application and protect them immediately. The best part is organizations are not expected to have any security expertise, AppTrana is a completely managed security solution.
With AppTrana, customers get the ability to scan their application through its automated scanner to find out vulnerabilities. In addition to it, customers can also request Premium Scans (manual pen testing scans) where Indusface security experts scan the application through ethical hacking means to find any business logic vulnerabilities in the application and give customers a complete risk profile of their application.
It does not stop there. AppTrana comes with an inbuilt web application firewall where the vulnerabilities found can be immediately protected.
The rules in the AppTrana portal are written by Indusface security experts. There is no need for customers to have any expertise. AppTrana has 3 sets of rules:
- Advance — which is fine-tuned for FPs, and they can be put in block mode immediately.
- Premium — which is monitored and tuned for application characters
- Custom — which customers can request based on specific application needs.
AppTrana provides a comprehensive view of vulnerabilities found in the application, and the protection status indicates they are protected in the WAF layer or not. Based on these, customers can ensure their web apps and websites are always secure, and there are no assets that are vulnerable, which can be exploited by attackers.