Last Updated: April 22, 2024
Web Application Security
Published On: April 22, 2024

Blog Summary:  This blog is a short but informative guide to understanding common web application security risks and threats. It will help organizations understand them in detail and how they protect their IT systems and users from malicious attacks with mitigation strategies and best practices.

Web application security can be compromised by sending a corrupted email, which can effectively result in massive data loss.

Take, for example, one of the most dangerous malware attacks of 2013, which breached more than 110 million data points at Target Corporation. It started as a phishing attack, with malware-laced emails sent to the employees of one of Target’s retail business partners.

In 2018, the software repository platform GitHub faced one of the biggest Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, which generated 1.3 terabytes of data per second.

Application security remains a huge concern, which is estimated to drive this market to USD 20 billion by 2025, as per Allianz. As security threats surge, many companies lack sufficient resources to combat them. Their inadequate cybersecurity awareness and weak practices remain a major vulnerability.

To thwart these challenges, this blog provides valuable insights to security teams so they can comprehend their operations and prevent breaches effectively.

What is Web Application Security?

The process of protecting websites and web services against different web application security attacks that are capable of exploiting code vulnerabilities is called web application security. Commonly targeted attacks include content management systems, SaaS applications, and database administration tools.

Here are some of the reasons why apps are targeted:

  • They have a highly complex code structure
  • They are prone to malicious code manipulation and vulnerabilities that are unattended
  • They include highly sensitive private information
  • Attacks are easy to execute on apps with automated launches at thousands of targets at a time

If organizations fail to adopt web development best practices to secure their web applications on time, attacks can result in theft of intellectual property, sour client relationships, and canceled licenses.

Importance of Web Application Security

The importance of web application security, also called Web AppSec, lies in the aim of building websites that function as expected, even when they are under attack. The concept works on collecting the security standards and controls that serve as a protection layer for the assets.

Web app security is essential because it implements security measures throughout the lifecycle of web development. By leveraging secure practices, web app security ensures that it addresses any flaws at the design level and bugs at the implementation level.

Testing the security of a web app helps find vulnerabilities and essential configurations. Developers test the security of web applications to identify an app’s behavior under unfavorable conditions.

These checks for weaknesses in web applications and their settings focus on the most important part of a web app, i.e., the application layer. It’s the layer that determines what runs on the internet (HTTP).

It conducts tests that involve sending different inputs to uncover errors and see if the system reacts unexpectedly, known as “negative tests“. These tests check if the system does anything it shouldn’t be doing.

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Common Web Application Security Risks

Web application hacking poses a significant threat to organizations and individuals, with hacked sites used for various malicious activities. A 2018 study shows common attacks include SQL Injection, Path Traversal, and Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), and they still remain three top attacks in 2024.

Here’s a checklist of the most common security risks for web applications with ways to mitigate them:

SQL injection

A SQL injection attack occurs when an attacker injects malicious code through user input fields, granting unauthorized access to sensitive data or allowing manipulation or deletion of data. This could potentially compromise passwords, financial information, or sensitive data stored in the database.

How to mitigate?

Mitigate SQL injection risks by validating user input, employing output encoding to prevent HTML interpretation, and using prepared statements or parameterized queries. Combining frontend and backend standards enhances the security of web application architecture against SQL injection threats.

Denial of Service (DoS) and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

DoS attacks target single servers, while DDoS attacks involve multiple compromised devices, amplifying the impact and complicating mitigation. Attackers overload a server or its infrastructure with different attacks. It disrupts results from the server’s inability to process incoming requests effectively.

How to mitigate?

Mitigate these web application attacks by monitoring network traffic, filtering malicious traffic, and managing bandwidth. Implement load balancing and distributed architecture, utilize DDoS protection services, and develop web applications with an incident response plan.

XSS (Cross-site Scripting)

Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks inject malicious code into a website, enabling attackers to steal sensitive data or perform actions. Types include reflective (immediate execution) and stored (delayed execution). Successful attacks can lead to session ID theft, website defacement, and phishing redirections.

How to mitigate?

Mitigate XSS attacks by validating and sanitizing user input, encoding output, implementing CSP headers, using HTTPOnly cookies, enabling X-XSS-Protection headers, adopting secure development practices, deploying a WAF, and keeping software updated.

Remote File Execution

Remote Code Execution (RCE) attacks enable attackers to execute a remote code on servers. RCE attacks, like the Log4j incident in 2021, have caused significant breaches, enabling attackers to execute malware and cryptojacking.

They exploit code vulnerabilities or inject malicious code through user input, leading to DoS attacks, data exposure, cryptocurrency mining, and malware execution.

How to mitigate?

Mitigate RCE risks by sanitizing user input, ensuring secure memory management to prevent buffer overflows, and regularly scanning for vulnerabilities. An experienced web development company can help you keep systems updated and employ network segmentation, access controls, and a zero-trust security approach to limit attacker movement.

Broken Access Control

Broken authentication control allows unauthorized users to access restricted pages and resources, risking exposure of sensitive data and system compromise. Similar to Insecure Direct Object References (IDOR) vulnerabilities, it differs in granting access to special functions and features intended only for authorized users.

How to mitigate?

Implement proper authentication and authorization processes, including role-based access control, to mitigate access control vulnerabilities. Enforce default deny access and grant specific access to users and roles.

Hire web app developers who use modern web frameworks with inherent routing libraries and mechanisms to ensure adequate authorization measures throughout the application.

Key Strategies for Web Application Security

Organizations must ensure their web application vulnerability testing produces easily understandable reports summarizing detected issues. Some application security testing tools include Dynamic Application Security Test (DAST), Static Application Security Test (SAST), Penetration Test, and Rapid Application Self-Protection (RASP).

Hence, adapting security practices to emerging threats, improving countermeasures, and ensuring general web app security is essential.

Redirect HTTP Traffic to HTTPS

Encryption, such as HTTPS (SSL), safeguards data between web servers and browsers, ensuring privacy. Redirecting HTTP data to HTTPS secures entire sites and prevents issues with resources like stylesheets or JavaScript when not referenced via HTTPS.

Manage Roles and Access

Implement robust account management practices, including strong password enforcement, secure recovery mechanisms, and multi-factor authentication. Other considerations include password expiration, account lockouts, and SSL encryption for secure data transmission.

Implement DDoS and DNSSEC Authentication

DDoS mitigation services use specialized filtration and high bandwidth to prevent malicious traffic from overwhelming servers. DNSSEC ensures DNS traffic reaches the correct servers securely, preventing attackers from interception. Both are crucial for robust web application security.

Adopt Exception Management

Another robust security measure includes proper exception management to prevent revealing system details to potential threats. Considering three possible outcomes—allow, reject, or handle exceptions—ensures secure operation, prioritizing user-friendly error messages to prevent unintentional operation allowance.

Validate Injection and User Input

Input validation ensures only properly formed data passes through a web application workflow, preventing the processing of bad or corrupted data that could trigger downstream malfunctions.
It includes data type, format, and value validation.
Validating inputs syntactically and semantically is crucial to prevent injection attacks and ensure data integrity and security.

Encryption Certificates and API Gateways

Third-party encryption certificate management involves overseeing SSL/TLS encryption processes, including key generation and certificate renewal, reducing the risk of oversight and private traffic exposure.

API gateways detect and block traffic targeting API vulnerabilities, managing and monitoring API traffic, including identifying shadow APIs.

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Best Practices for Web Application Security

Web apps need free traffic movement through different ports and hence require robust authentication. For that, a scanner for web application vulnerability is also important.

However, the free movement of traffic in and out of the network leaves them under the radar of hackers. To ensure that hackers don’t have access to such a large pool of opportunities to enter networks, there are some practices to follow:

Build Web Application Firewall (WAF)

Web application firewalls defend web applications from attacks like SQL injection and cross-site scripting. It acts as an HTTP filter, protecting server-client communication and preventing malicious requests from compromising the database.

Promote HTTP Security Headers

HTTP headers contain information exchanged between a web server and a user’s device. Protecting them involves using security headers like X-frame, X-content-type, refer policy, X-XSS, and content security protection.

Secure Session Management

Secure session management protects web applications from unauthorized access. It prevents attacks like hijacking and fixation by using strong session IDs and setting expiration times.

Conduct Threat Assessments

Adopt security threat assessment practices to identify vulnerabilities, understand threats, and implement countermeasures, building user trust and protecting reputation.

How do Moon Technolabs Provide Web Application Security?

Today, web applications face various threats. Understanding these vulnerabilities and their consequences enables your business to take proactive measures and address them. It starts from identifying the root causes to implement controls early in the development process, preventing issues.

Developers and testers at Moon Technolabs have extensive knowledge of attack methods that guide targeted security testing. We recognize the impact of attacks, which aids risk management, and prioritize remediation based on severity.

This comprehensive approach ensures all-round protection of your firm’s web applications against threats in today’s landscape. Regular scanning helps detect and fix vulnerabilities preemptively against major attacks like SQL injection, XSS, Path Traversal, and Remote Command Execution by helping you stay a step ahead of the attackers.


Securing your web application requires you to employ HTTPS encryption, input validation, and secure coding practices to prevent injection attacks. Further, user authentication and authorization mechanisms are also essential for controlling access. An app development company will help you update software components and libraries to patch vulnerabilities regularly. They also conduct security audits, utilize security headers, and employ firewalls and intrusion detection systems to monitor and protect against threats.

The OWASP Application Security Verification Standard (ASVS) Project offers a comprehensive framework for testing web application security controls and establishing secure development requirements. It aims to standardize security verification across the industry, providing metrics for assessing application trustworthiness, guidance for security control development, and criteria for security verification in contracts. It addresses vulnerabilities like XSS and SQL injection, ensuring confidence in web application security.

A security test evaluates computer systems or networks' security controls. Web application security tests focus on assessing web application security by actively analyzing for weaknesses or vulnerabilities. Identified issues are reported to the system owner, along with an impact assessment and proposals for mitigation or technical solutions.
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Jayanti Katariya

Jayanti Katariya is the CEO of Moon Technolabs, a fast-growing IT solutions provider, with 18+ years of experience in the industry. Passionate about developing creative apps from a young age, he pursued an engineering degree to further this interest. Under his leadership, Moon Technolabs has helped numerous brands establish their online presence and he has also launched an invoicing software that assists businesses to streamline their financial operations.

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