Website Vulnerability

What is website vulnerability and how can it be exploited?

Pallavi Vishwakarma
July 12, 2023

A website vulnerability is a bug, system misconfiguration, outdated patch, or some other weaknesses or holes in a website that may allow attackers to intrude and gain unauthorized access to a system or process.

Websites are one of the most common vulnerable places through which attackers can enter the system, but most companies don’t pay much attention to it until a colossal security breach occurs. It is essential for an organization to actively keep on scanning for vulnerabilities present in the website, following a web application security policy, and patching them continuously to avoid such incidents.

Some common website vulnerabilities are:

          1. SQL Injection: 

Structured Query language (SQL) is the most commonly used database to manage data of an application so the attackers take the advantage of vulnerabilities present in it and inject malicious code / un-sanitized inputs into the SQL queries and gain unauthorized access to the database and the help of this they can create/delete/alter sensitive user data. 

Prevention: Developers can prevent SQL injection attacks by filtering the user input or by using well-chosen parameterized database stored procedures and parameterized database queries with bound, typed parameters.

          2. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS): 

It is similar to an SQL injection attack as this attack also includes injecting malicious code into the website but in this case, the malicious code entered only runs on the client side and not the server side. 

For example, injecting malicious code on a website's input field, form, or other fields and when a user enters their personal data it gets stored in the attacker's database. With this, they can also access the user cookies and perform session hijacking.

Prevention: Developers can prevent this attack by simply not directly returning HTML tags to the client but instead converting the HTML entities to return something else, whitelisting input or Input output encoding.

          3. Broken Authentication and session management:

These types of vulnerabilities allow attackers to steal identities and perform data theft or account takeover of a client. There are several ways to bypass the authentication method used by the website are:

  • Every time a user logs in to the website it creates session cookies and session ID for a valid session, if the user logs out or closes the browser these cookies should be invalidated but if it doesn’t then the attacker can use this session to steal the user data.
  • Storing the user password as it is in the database.
  • Session fixation

Prevention: To avoid such problems developers can use proper encryption over users' login credentials and use SSL security for proper timeout of sessions.

          4. Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF): 

In this type of attack, the attacker trips the user to perform an unwanted action on a trusted website for the attacker. A successful CSRF attack can force the user to give access to the request like fund transferring, changing their login details, etc. 

Prevention: It can be prevented by cross-verification before changing the sensitive details of users by making them re-enter the password or sending an authentication code to the user's email.

You can also read about the most common vulnerabilities present in the financial services sector website from our ebook.

How do identify vulnerabilities present on the website?

Now, after learning about website vulnerabilities and the most common ways through which attackers can access the system it is important for an organization to know how they can find out whether these vulnerabilities are present on their websites or not. To do so there are various ways some of them are:

  • Web application scanners: These scanners use known types of attacks pattern and analyze the response against them from the website and according to produce a report of vulnerabilities present on the website.
  • Network scanners: These look for unprotected IP addresses and suspicious packets from an IP address.
  • Protocol scanners: detects vulnerable network services, ports, or protocols.

To prevent website vulnerabilities and exploits, it is important for website owners to regularly update their software and plugins, use strong passwords, implement SSL encryption, and regularly scan their websites for vulnerabilities. Additionally, they should consider using web application firewalls (WAFs) and intrusion detection/prevention systems (IDS/IPS) to protect against attacks.

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