05.01.2023 09:30

Top Vulnerabilities in Web Apps and Ways to Prevent Them

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Web apps are attractive software solutions for organizations due to their availability, simplicity, and security. 

However, while they do address some of the common security flaws, web apps are certainly not impenetrable to cyberattacks. 

For these reasons, digital transformation consulting services often include safeguarding against vulnerabilities in their programs. 

To enhance preparedness, here is a list of the most relevant vulnerabilities and approaches to addressing them.

What Constitutes Top Vulnerabilities?

Before moving on to the list of threats, we should first determine the criteria for the top ones. 

There is more than one reason a vulnerability can be considered dangerous, and different parties will have different priorities.

To be consistent, one may start with the three dimensions of vulnerabilities:

  • Exploitability: How difficult is it to make use of a vulnerability? (highly exploitable ones do not require technical expertise or sophisticated tools)
  • Detectability: How difficult are they to discover? (highly detectable ones do not require code audit)
  • Impact: How damaging are they? (some are harmless, others result in system shutdown and valuable data loss)

Top Ten Vulnerabilities

Based on these criteria, analytical agencies and cybersecurity companies compile their lists of threats. 

The most noteworthy of these is Open Web Application Security Project, or OWASP – a community-led non-profit foundation dedicated to raising awareness and educating organizations about software security. 

They maintain a list of web application vulnerabilities that is regularly updated, open, and optimized for sharing. 

The OWASP community works hard to make their documentation as accessible as possible.

Still, for convenience, here is a simplified version stripped down of any technical terms:

  1. Injection: The ability to send malicious code as a part of a legitimate command and trick the software into running it.
  2. Broken authentication: A weakness in the mechanism that authenticates users, allowing the attacker to hijack the identity and take control of the software (e.g. compromise the digital supply chain to sabotage the company’s operations).
  3. Sensitive Data Exposure: Any flaw in protection that exposes sensitive data or makes it available for interception (anything from ERP software records to employees’ financial credentials).
  4. XML External Entities: Essentially, a way to obtain information about internal system files through a poorly configured service using one of the common attack methods.
  5. Broken Access Control: The exploitation of accounts that are (erroneously) given unrestricted permissions to important files and configurations.
  6. Security Misconfiguration: Basically what it says on the tin – any breach resulting from a poorly configured security system (unprotected networks, unrestricted access to corporate cloud storage, etc.)
  7. Cross-Site Scripting XSS: A type of flawed web page configuration that permits executing malicious code in the user’s browser and takes control of some activities.
  8. Insecure Deserialization: A technical flaw that allows executing attacks or malicious code remotely.
  9. Using Components with Known Vulnerabilities: Using software components to sneak exploits into the system and take over the server (e.g. steal or delete important BI data) or give way to other attacks.
  10. Insufficient Logging and Monitoring: The absence of security mechanisms that detect persisting attacks which allows the hacker to continue dismantling the protection.

Preventing Web Application Vulnerabilities

As can be seen from the list, the problem is multifaceted. Some vulnerabilities are caused by technical shortcomings, others are due to human error or even simple negligence. 

So it is fair to expect more than one possible solution.

Instead of going through every possible method, here are three broad categories that should cover most of the concerning areas.

Secure Data Exchange

As shown by the list above, there are two main ways to get a hold of sensitive data – either by stumbling upon an insecure storage location or by intercepting it traveling on the network. 

The latter applies not only to the datasets someone sends to colleagues but any information submitted to the system remotely, like logins and passwords. 

Fortunately, there is a broadly available and fairly popular method to protect the network – the VPN. 

Lauded as commercial-grade security solutions, virtual private networks actually originated as a corporate security solution. 

Aside from protecting the data, VPNs have a range of other advantages, like tightening access permissions and masking IPs of users.

Code Audit

No matter how many layers of external protection are applied to the software, there is always a possibility that a hacker will bypass them by exploiting an undetected internal vulnerability. 

Currently, there is only one known solution to the problem: try and find those weaknesses before the hacker does. This is a long and laborious process that can persist as long as the code is modified. 

This is why QA is integral to the modern DevOps model. The only way to stay ahead of the attacker is to be consistent in finding errors.


Technical means aside, the most feasible direction to explore is user proficiency in cybersecurity. The OWASP’s list above is one example of freely distributed knowledge but there are many more, so don’t skip on informing your staff about threats and protection measures. 

Also note that software developers are recognizing the issue and trying to address it by making their products more informative on security flaws, so be sure to keep everything up-to-date.

Final Thoughts

Web apps are a step forward in terms of security. Nevertheless, they still need a lot of tweaking to be entrusted with sensitive data. 

Fortunately, most of these measures can be achieved at little to no cost. Moreover, it will have a lasting effect on the culture of safety in the organization, so make sure to integrate them into the deployment process.

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