A cybersecurity attack is like a disease. It may not make itself instantly obvious and it doesn’t happen overnight. It may be too late by the time you notice, having already done some irreparable damage.
It’s part of your job as a web developer to help prevent or thwart possible cybersecurity threats. Whether you’re flying solo or working in-house, you should know how to handle web security threats before and as they happen rather than just deal with the consequences afterward.
Here are 6 of the most common (yet no less deadly) security threats you must know as a web developer.
Injection flaws are classic threats to website security, and they’re so easily done that anyone who wishes harm to a website would undoubtedly try injections just in case. Anything on your website that can accept input from an untrusted source can be vulnerable to injections.
Hackers can inject your website by passing unfiltered data that serve as commands to read and modify servers, databases, and website codes. Some even hijack user inputs to store or use them to exploit the user using their own data.
How to prevent it: No, you don’t need to block any and all inputs to your site, but you’re going to have to filter each and every input to your website and treat every input as untrusted. Some users may come in using residential proxies with legitimate intentions, but they may be blocked for security reasons. Framework filters may be enough to block injection attacks but additional filtering rules are always welcome.
2. Broken Authentication
Whether or not a website deals with user information, it’s best practice to have authentication systems in place. The most basic form of authentication is user credentials, but most websites nowadays use additional layers of security to avoid login hijacking and bigger potential problems. This is where 2FA and security tokens might come in.
How to prevent it: Protect session tokens and make it impossible for hackers to get access to active sessions. Using a framework for its strong authentication system is the wisest and easiest way to protect your users and their data from hackers.
3. Vulnerability Checks
Hackers will try every possible entry point to get into your system. These aren’t really attacks per se, but vulnerability checks are a great way for hackers to know which ports in your server can serve as an entry point for actual attacks.
Almost 100% of the time, hackers inadvertently leave signs that an attack is likely to occur soon. Whether or not the actual attack is successful depends on a rather large set of factors, but knowing that it’s coming should help keep you on your toes.
How to prevent it: The good thing about vulnerability checks is that every attempt can be logged, but the bad thing about this is that not all web developers implement logging and monitoring systems that can help track and catch them. Proper logging and monitoring must be put in place, alerting you when suspicions arise or when transactions may be vulnerable.
4. Sensitive Data Exposure
Sensitive data may be targeted when it’s stored or when it’s in transit, and unencrypted sensitive data is always susceptible to hijacking attacks.
Web developers may unknowingly help hackers gain access to sensitive data through accidental exposure. Hackers may also target indirect data sources and get access to private keys.
How to prevent it: The only way to prevent sensitive data exposure is by making sure that sensitive data is encrypted or hashed at all times. Passwords, financial details, social security numbers, and contact information are examples of sensitive data.
5. Known Vulnerabilities
Components and dependencies usually make a web developer’s life easier. Somebody else has already done the heavy lifting so you won’t have to start from scratch.
You can save hours and days by using somebody else’s code. It’s such a heavenly feeling when the third-party components work exactly how you need and want them to.
However, using components, libraries, and dependencies made by other people may open up vulnerabilities for hackers to exploit.
How to prevent it: Limit the components connected to your network to only the ones you need. Never use abandoned components, and make sure that you use the latest security patches for the components that you do use.
If you’re using the component as is, double-check the code and see if it aligns with your coding and security standards. Always get the components from the original sources only. Make it a part of your routine maintenance checks to update or remove components as needed.
6. Broken Access Control
Access control decides which user can perform which actions. Broken access controls could mean a hacker or a tech-savvy user can get admin controls for the whole system.
Not only will they be able to see everything behind a system, including user databases, but they may also be able to modify or drop whole databases. This results in damaging and disrupting businesses as they go.
Most web developers tend to focus on stronger authentication systems and neglect access controls, but basic vulnerability checks can easily reveal access control problems within a system.
How to prevent it: Securing IDs for high-access users is a must, and limiting login attempts is great for keeping out unauthorized users. Private resources must be hidden from all users by default, and authentication for the access controls must be strong as well. Stronger access restrictions must also be put in place to help avoid insider threats.
Cyberattacks do not happen overnight, and there is a lot of careful planning that goes into successfully carrying out hacks in 2021.
In the information age, we can all agree that information is power. As a web developer, you have to protect the information entrusted to you by your website users. While most cyber hackers target the bigger corporations, you should never put it past a cyber hacker to attack hospitals, non-profit organizations, and even public school systems.
Cybersecurity attacks can be a nuisance, but there is always a chance that a simple attack can shut a whole operation down. Taking every threat seriously is how you grow as a web developer.
Always knowing what you’re up against is your first line of defense against these cybersecurity threats.