Web Application Security

Web Application Security – Comprehensive Beginners Guide

Web Application Security is one of the important aspects of development that every developer must consider while developing any kind of application.

The reason behind this is, “Way of doing business” has been changed .

Companies are now making use of various different applications for doing their business.

Most of the Applications have been taken online so employees from different office branches can share the sensitive data to do the business and collaborate with each other.

Web Application Development has opened the door to “Ease of doing business”.

However, with this “Ease of doing business” comes a responsibility to protect the “Sensitive Data” that is being shared over particular web applications in real time.

Hence “Web Application Security” now plays an important role and the application should be developed by keeping that in mind.

So here is a comprehensive beginner’s guide to Web Application Security, that one must follow when he or she is developing a web application.

Also read : Why HTTPS and SSL are not secured as you think it will be.

Web Application Security Beginner’s Guide

If you want to develop a secured web application then you first need to prioritize yourself as a developer.

In other words instead of developing a web application normally, you need to develop the web application using “Secure coding practice”.

After that you can move towards the next process of securing your web application with other methods.

To always start with a secure coding process is considered as one of the Web Application Security best practices.

Its best to check the web application security checklist to get the gist of the entire thing before we get to the actual Web application security guide.

Web application security checklist

This is a web application security checklist that one must follow while developing any kind of web application. The way of process is given below as it is :-

  • Secure Coding
  • The Frameworks
  • WAF – Web Application Firewall
  • Audits with VA & PT
  • Securing or Hiding the code
  • Final – Using a C.D.N to secure your content.

Now moving towards the actual guide.

Web Application Security – Secure coding

Secure coding practice depends on which type of “Programming language” you’re using, each language has its own set of rules on how to code a secured application.

In case of web application security, majority of applications are created using various programming languages like PHP, Python etc.

Hence each programming language has its own set of guidelines and rules when it comes to “Secured coding practice”. However, instead of these core-language, frameworks are in prosperity.

Web Application Security - Secure Coding
Web Application Security – Secure Coding

Many developers, instead of using the core language for development, use “Frameworks” for developing web applications. Hence, in those cases, the security comes built-in inside the framework itself.

Here the frameworks lifts the heavy task of secure coding.

That’s because these frameworks are built on SDLC, also known as “Secure development life cycle”.

And they usually has their own set-of unique guidelines that developers can follow to build different kind of functionalities in their applications.

However, these frameworks are also not perfect because they come with their own drawbacks.

 The Frameworks

Web Application Frameworks help you to code difficult application easily, because they have their own set of documentations.

And if you code according to that documentation, your development process get completed in a less amount of period. The frameworks are divided into two categories :-

  1. Front end development framework – These frameworks focuses more on UI and Interface design they got nothing to do with the back-end and its functionality.
  2. Back end development framework –  These frameworks focuses more on the back-end functionality and not on the UI or Interface design.

Now developers use frameworks belonging to these two categories for developing their web applications. However, as we mentioned earlier these frameworks are also not perfect because they come with their own flaws or drawbacks.

The Drawbacks of Frameworks

1. Front end development framework – The front end development framework has no security flaws whatsoever, but it can make your application heavy and bloated. In other words it has flaws related to designing part of the web applications.

2. Back end development framework – As we mentioned earlier, back end development framework is used to built the functionality of a web application, that means, the security flaws comes in these types of frameworks. And the security flaw commonly belongs to the coding-standard of these frameworks.

For example – Suppose, you used “Laravel framework” to build a web applications, because it makes the entire development process quite easy.

But after you deploy the web application online after few days you notice that Laravel has officially updated their framework that has improved security and features.

But you will soon notice that you can’t update the version of framework on the app that is already deployed on the web.

Web Application Security - Laravel Framework
Web Application Security – Laravel Framework

Hence the application which is online is not updated, and you re-code the entire app with the latest version of Laravel and then replace the application which is online.

This happens because you don’t entirely control the framework. If you did, it would have been easier to update the online application by just making the necessary changes instead of re-coding the entire applications.

As a result, this process not only consumes your time, but it creates a huge window for hackers to target the online application which is based on older version of frameworks.

If you code the web application without using any framework, it allows you to control everything and you can just update your application where the changes are necessary.

Web Application Security – Know what to secure

Now that we have discussed about security coding practice & Web application frameworks, we will move on to second aspects of secure coding and that is – to know what to secure in a web application framework.

That’s because excessive amount of security can even affect the functionality of web application.

OWASP TOP 10 2017
OWASP TOP 10 2017

Hence to know what we need to secure in a web application its essential for every developer to follow the list of OWASP Top 10 Vulnerabilities.

What is O.W.A.S.P?

OWASP stands for Open source web application security project.

Which is an open source software security community, which is dedicated to deliver freely-available articles, methodologies, documentation, tools, and technologies in the field of web application security.

What is O.W.A.S.P Top 10?

OWASP Top 10 is a list, that is released by OWASP itself which consists list of TOP 10 Web Application weakness that is often used to exploit or hack a web application.

Why should every developer follow OWASP Top 10?

The OWASP Top 10 Vulnerabilities list allows developer to prepare against the trending vulnerabilities, this in return help them to secure their web applications according to the standards of the Industry.

Get a server with WAF – Web Application Firewall

Whether you buy a server from a hosting company or whether you own a server, you should install a web application firewall to beef up your security level for your web application

Now people who own a Individual Blog/website or people who usually freelance, tends to buy hosting server packages from the hosting companies.

These hosting companies sometimes doesn’t offer “Web application firewalls” in their hosting packages or some packages have in-built firewall within them.

Web Application Firewall - WAF
Web Application Firewall – WAF

What you need to do is confirm with customer care service and see what kind of firewall they offer.

If they don’t offer any firewall ask them whether you can buy and install firewall manually or not.

Similarly with a private company server, you need to install a firewall depending on your needs make sure that firewall is able to secure your web applications that is deployed on that particular private server.

Audit with VA & PT

Now that you’re aware of how you can secure the application with secure coding and firewalls. When you finish developing your application you have to wait, before deploying it, its a good practice to test its security.

So make sure your web application goes under a careful audit with a combination of vulnerability assessment and penetration testing. This will allow you to point of security holes in your web application, and with this you can patch those holes accordingly.

Web Application Firewall - VA and PT
Web Application Firewall – VA and PT

Security audits of web application is one of the crucial aspects of Web App Security, that many organization or freelancers can’t do because of the lack of security team or lack of right security knowledge.

However, with secure coding and web application firewall they can cover the 40% application’s security.

Securing or hiding the code

After you’re done with the audit part and patching the security holes, next thing you should do is secure the code of your applications before deploying them.

Now the question arises – How you will secure or hide the code?

Well securing the code depends on the programming language, as you must check that you can Minify that particular code or not.

Minify Codes
Minify Codes

Yes, to secure your application code you need to “Minify” the code and make it difficult to read.

There is a great tool known as HTML Compressor that allows you to Minify the code written in the following languages :- HTML, XHTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, Smarty, ASP.

Minifying the code has one more benefit, it removes the extra load from the server and this helps your application to load even faster.

Final : Using CDN for Web Application Security

Once you deploy your Web Application or Website on the live server and if it runs properly then one additional step you should take is – “Apply another layer of security with a content delivery network” also known as CDN.

What is a CDN or Content Delivery Network?

A content delivery network (CDN) is nothing but a geographically distributed group of servers which work together to provide fast delivery of Internet content.

Web Application Security - CDN
Web Application Security – CDN

Even more than that CDN does a job of protecting the website or any web application from DDOS and other malicious attacks by adding an extra layer of security.

It even offers you a secured SSL/TLS Connection (HTTPS Connection), which is great for encrypting your data over the web.

Wrapping up

This covers all the basics of web application security. If you have any questions you can ask them below in the comment section we will try to answer your question to the best of our ability.