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how to prevent web application attacks

Preventing Web Application Attacks Where They Start

How to prevent web application attacks

The application environment is one of the most targeted among cybercriminals. It has reached a point where organizations can no longer ask “if” there will be an attack but “when” will be an attack. The attack surface is constantly expanding, and the means of attack are evolving and becoming more sophisticated daily. Attackers have proven their creativity when entering secure networks, whether it is a socially engineered phishing attack, telemarketing scam, or compromised source code.

Why attack applications?

Applications are a part of every organization, whether it is a customer-facing mobile banking application, online shopping, or an application only used by employees. They all leverage server workloads that communicate with other applications using different workloads and accessing different databases. To add to the complexity, often there is third-party software embedded within the applications and open source applications running in the same environment as crown jewel applications. These software supply chain components help every organization reduce the development cost and speed the entire development process, but convenience brings sizable risks.

For example, a banking application that eases transactions by directly integrating with an online shopping platform might have to use a third-party library to transmit payment card and personal data from the bank to the online shopping platform. That same third-party library is used for all shopping platform customers with many different banks. All it takes is for an attacker to compromise that one integrated application, and they can compromise all these banks’ applications. That single third-party library is often an unnoticed and unmonitored area of each organization.

Vulnerabilities exist, and secrets exist

Most security teams do their best to educate their employees to be aware of phishing scams and have implemented identity management and multi-factor authentication, but vulnerabilities still exist. What happens when an attacker gains access using authorized credentials obtained through secrets-in-code? A Secret is a digital authentication credential (API, Token, etc.) used in applications, services, and infrastructure. This can act like a password to authenticate a specific user or system to perform any number of functions. The difference is that passwords are meant to be protected, but a secret is meant to be distributed. Engineering and Dev teams constantly modify code and will sometimes keep access keys accessible to quickly make changes, usually in the form of a hard-coded secret in source code. Since code is meant to be copied, distributed, or cloned, it presents an often unknown vulnerability via exposed Secrets. In 2021, GitGuardian detected over 6 million leaked secrets on the open forum site GitHub. It is not uncommon for developers to publish code on GitHub, but sometimes it is overlooked that the code contains hardcoded secrets. GitGuardian reported that a large share of those published secrets gave access to sensitive corporate resources through applications.

Neutralizing the supply chain risk

Many organizations have prioritized Zero Trust, but Zero Trust alone may not be enough if an attacker is disguised as an authorized user. If an attacker gains access to a secure network through a compromised application using authentication tokens obtained through a leaked secret, they could move through completely undetected. By the time their presence is known, they will likely have already compromised sensitive data.

Until now, it was a very time-consuming and manual process for teams to catalog what applications were using which servers, and it was easy to miss the out-of-line behaviors of authorized users. TrueFort neutralizes the existing supply chain risks that organizations have in place.

Through behavior profiling and real-time visibility into application behavior, micro-segmentation of those applications and workloads is finally possible; malicious activity can be detected early on, and organizations can prevent lateral movement across their network, thus minimizing the blast radius around supply chain software you don’t control.

Make sure you’re prepared before the software in your applications is hit

Vulnerabilities exist, attacks will happen, and organizations that don’t have complete visibility into their application space are putting themselves at risk. Organizations need a solution that provides real-time visibility and micro-segmentation that is easy to use, cost-effective, and designed to reduce the risk of supply chain attacks. We may be biased, but to us, the solution seems obvious.


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