Since the internet came into being, it has been home to roughly 1.86 billion websites representing various industries and serving different purposes.
As the number grows, it becomes challenging to control the vulnerability of websites and cybercrimes. Hackers use different methods to bypass the security protocols and gain some level of control of websites.
However, they only manage to attack websites with security vulnerabilities and flaws. They develop specialized tools to check for weaknesses to distribute malicious content and steal sensitive information.
Many organizations use effective internet security measures to secure their websites from cyberattacks.
They use various online tools to check the security vulnerability of the website and exploit it via automated means such as botnets and vulnerability scanners. However, most businesses lack the tools and expertise to identify threats and thus, fail to obtain protection against cyberattacks.
In this blog, we are listing some practical and effective tips to help organizations improve their cybersecurity while knowing how to find security vulnerabilities.
Before you proceed, we believe you must clearly understand website vulnerability, most common web security vulnerabilities, assessment, types, scanning, and exploitation procedures.
What is Website Vulnerability?
There is no software without bugs. As mentioned earlier, there are over 1.86 billion websites in the world. But do you know how many of them have security vulnerabilities? And how many attacks an average website suffers in a day?
According to a survey, over 113 million web pages use at least one vulnerable library, making it easier for cybercriminals to gain some level of control of the site, steal data, or inject malicious content.
A web security vulnerability is basically a weak point or misconfiguration of the website or web application that makes it vulnerable to malware attacks, script injections, file inclusions, and other cybersecurity threats.
Once detected, website vulnerabilities can even let inexperienced attackers breach security and penetrate deeper into information systems.
An effective, proactive, and defensive approach is necessary to spark a security mindset that can come up with tools and techniques for vulnerability scanning – detecting and addressing potential weaknesses before hackers can exploit them.
Want to know how web vulnerability scanning can help in finding vulnerabilities? Read on!
What is Website Vulnerability Scanning?
Every problem has a solution. Since website vulnerability is one of the most common and most threatening issues, programmers and IT professionals spent hours on their computers developing a solution to detect web security pitfalls while countering cyber-attacks.
That’s when web vulnerability scanning emerged as the most efficient way to identify potential weaknesses or misconfigurations in the security of web applications.
Web vulnerability scanning uses automated tools for continuous overall security monitoring – testing webpages for common security problems such as:
- SQL Injection
- Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
- Open Redirects
- Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)
Some businesses only rely on automated security testing tools to maintain security compliance. In contrast, others choose manual testing too that requires a test engineer to verify the vulnerability – a protective measure to ensure their software is thoroughly tested and secure.
How to Find Vulnerabilities in your Website Manually?
With cybersecurity risks growing every day, the need for security testing can no longer be overlooked. Many organizations strive to make all-out efforts and opt for a proactive and defensive approach to escape web security vulnerabilities and cyberattacks.
While some of them rely on automated security testing tools, including various scanners, to ensure foolproof security of their web applications, others believe in the manual process that requires a QA engineer to identify and eradicate the issues.
Though both methods effectively detect the vulnerabilities, many go for manual security testing to ensure their webpages are thoroughly tested and secure.
We believe it’s not about digging deeper into the capabilities of automated or manual security testing; it’s all about finding the balance.
So, let’s forget this either-or question and understand the importance of both security testing approaches and how fast they can catch and resolve vulnerabilities. Before that, we would like to tell you some valuable tips to do security testing manually to help you understand this process in a better way. CSECSYS is a professional cyber security consulting firm that can help scan your business website to spot any risks or vulnerabilities. However, if you want to look into this yourself, carry reading on.
1. Access Control Management
Access control plays a vital role in cybersecurity management, protecting webpages, applications, or system from inside threats and harmful attacks.
Access control management enables business owners/companies to regulate the access to information for each employee. It is categorized into two phases:
- Authentication: This defines designated roles within an organization. This process verifies the credentials of each member before providing access to information.
- Authorization: Once the person passes the authentication phase, they get authorization to the information according to their designation in the organization.
In short, access control determines how the information flows within a company, who should access it, and what amount of data should be permitted to perform a job as per the roles. Recently, companies faced significant challenges during WFH situation. Here is a great guide about information security risks of working from home and how to counter them.
For manual testing, test engineers should create several profiles with different roles to run a security check on applications or systems. This helps verify the level of access to every user account according to its designated position.
The tester will also know if any user has requested, or for any reason, tried to change the authorization of the account. This will highlight the access control issue residing in the application.
2. Server Access Controls
Through this method, test engineers determine the original source of the access point. Server access control lets the tester verify if intra-network and inter-network access points to the application are by expected machines (IPs), applications, and users and that all access is strictly controlled.
In order to check if access to the server is sufficiently restricted, the tester is required to use both trusted and untrusted IP addresses from various machines.
The performance of the application also keeps importance under load conditions. It determines if the server is strong enough to stay fully operational in case a variety of real-time transactions are subsequently performed.
Moreover, the tester should also check that the application is capable enough to let the users securely perform specific actions. Those actions include:
- Uploading a file exceeding the maximum permitted file size
- Trying to upload a restricted file type
- Downloading data from a restricted site
A vulnerability-free application will reject all the attempts by the user that it may find harmful and open to cyberattacks.
3. Penetration Testing (Pen Test)
Pen test is one of the most powerful platforms for static and dynamic security testing of web applications. In this process, also known as dynamic analysis, controlled cyberattacks work as a supporting tool to determine vulnerabilities of the website that could easily be targeted by bad guys.
This phase of manual security scan consists of these steps:
- Data Collection: The first step is collecting data such as:
- Table Names
- Third-party plugin details
- Software Configurations
- Risk Assessment: Once the process of data collection is completed, it is thoroughly checked to identify cyber security risks/ vulnerabilities that could be exploited by cybercriminals
- Controlled Attacks: In this step, the software penetration testing team launches stimulated attacks on the system to ensure all the vulnerabilities have been highlighted. It also helps in understanding how to counter or prevent potential threats
- Final Report: This comprehensive assessment and cybersecurity strategy results in a final outcome that helps the testing team understand the security pitfalls of the target system while chalking out the defensive approach
4. Session Management
This is another essential element of manual web security testing. Session management lets you test the performance of your application during running sessions.
When your application doesn’t have any errors, it will be capable of handling all the sessions properly. Here’s what can help you ensure that your application has proper session management:
- Check the session expiration after a particular idle time
- Check session termination after login and log out
- Check session termination after a maximum lifetime
- Check for session duration and session cookie scope
5. Password Management
If you are looking for one of the most productive security testing techniques that you can use while doing testing manually, this is the best option so far.
Password management helps you discover any pitfalls in the security of your program that may provide ease of access to attackers.
Hackers usually try to gain access to your systems using the most common or weak passwords that are easy to guess. Most users are lazy in setting up strong passwords for their accounts used to share sensitive information.
Therefore, it may be quite easy to brute force passwords and access the account.
Moreover, companies that use end-to-end encryption while saving the access codes are more likely to escape the vulnerability of being a victim of cyberattacks. Attackers use various methods to crack your password in order to steal the information stored in your database.
It is necessary to enforce strict password policies throughout the organization – asking your employees to set up strong passwords using alphanumeric and special characters to protect the systems and applications from attacks.
You can also run a security check to see which user account has the most common, weak, or easy-to-guess passphrases that can be easily cracked in a single attempt. You are most likely to find shocking results.
6. Brute-Force Attacks
Now, this is something that may sound unfamiliar to you. Brute-force attacks are among the effective ways to do security testing manually.
Cybercriminals and security testers both use this method. Attackers use brute-force attacks to guess different combinations of a targeted password to discover the correct password in order to gain access to sensitive information such as:
- Personal identification numbers
Once they have your password, they attempt to carry out identity theft, redirect domains to sites with malicious content or other malicious activities.
On the other hand, security testers use this method to test application security. They carry out multiple attempts to log in to accounts with invalid passwords to evaluate the strength of the application’s encryption.
The system will be considered safe and fully protected from security vulnerabilities if it blocks the user or the IP following a limited number of failed attempts.
7. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS Injection)
XSS, or cross-site scripting, is a common method for manual testing. The tester uses XSS to check for malicious scripts into web pages injected by the attackers through registration and contact forms, search fields, or other input forms.
Once XSS Injection is executed by the browser, it can perform various functions that can provide access to attackers into sensitive information.
During manual testing, QA engineers perform an injection attack using malicious scripts to check if the input fields allow invalid user input and execute the script in the browser.
Accepting unvalidated data and letting the tester proceed with false credentials means the application has some vulnerabilities that could help attackers get login information or session token to access the victim’s system.
In this scenario, the primary way to protect the application from an XSS injection attack is by applying proper input and output encoding.
8. SQL Injection
This type of injection is similar to cross-site scripting (XSS). However, it is considered one of the most dangerous, frequent, and oldest web application vulnerabilities as it uses SQL – a programming language designed to work with databases.
SQL Injection can affect any web application that supports Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, and other databases. Malicious SQL statements are injected into an application to modify, delete or copy data stored in the database.
Forms covered with proper validation and database requests and having zero mistakes ensure the safety of your database while protecting your data from vulnerabilities. Even a single error in your database or coding may provide access to attackers and make your sensitive information vulnerable.
Here’s an example of SQL Injection to help you understand how it works:
SELECT * FROM Users; DROP TABLE Customers
In the above line, you can see two different requests, separated by a semicolon, are placed into one string. Here, the Asterisk symbol (*) requests to show all the user entries in the table USERS, whereas the second request is to drop the table ‘Customers.’
This seems such a simple injection. However, it can do significant harm to your database as well as your business. The above query will execute both requests consecutively. As a result, the user list will be displayed on the screen, and the Customer table will be deleted.
So, how to avoid SQL injection vulnerabilities?
In manual testing, QA engineers perform parameterized database queries – enabling the database to distinguish between code and data. This process restricts an outside SQL injection pass through the database.
Stored procedures are then used for data processing. It leads to a whitelist input validation approach that won’t allow the user to enter data in any format other than the one expected.
9. URL Manipulation
Cybercriminals apply different malicious attempts to locate vulnerabilities in your web application that may be used to get access to your confidential data. URL manipulation is one of them.
This is another method that helps experienced hackers modify parameters of a Uniform Resource Locator or URL to exploit applications.
URL manipulation, also known as URL rewriting, usually occurs when transferring information between client and server by the application using the HTTP GET method. Data is passed through the query string.
Attackers can manipulate every input variable passed from this GET request to a server in order to redirect user requests from a legitimate site to an illegitimate site. The manipulated site may then install rogue code on the user’s hard drive – making a doorway for the cybercriminals to get into an application and get the required information.
Testers perform comprehensive URL Manipulation testing to ensure that database records are not accessed, and sensitive information is protected from unauthorized users.
10. Ethical Hacking
Most of us think that hacking is all about attacking systems, stealing sensitive information, or corrupting data for malicious purposes.
However, not every hacker is a bad guy. There are two types of hackers. Black Hats, who use their skills to fulfill their ill intentions, and White Hats, who positively use them.
Ethical hacking is different from other forms of hacking. In other words, it’s hacking with ethics.
Ethical hackers use their hacking skills to help identify potential threats on a computer or network. They also test the applications, networks, and servers and bypass the system security to look for any vulnerability that could benefit cybercriminals.
White Hat hackers run a comprehensive check on systems to locate any misconfigurations that could be exploited by Black Hats. They may suggest system changes to strengthen the level of online security.
How to Find Vulnerabilities in a Website Using Kali Linux?
Kali Linux is one of many effective ways to find weaknesses in a website, making it easier to eradicate all the potential threats while securing the URL from malicious attacks.
If you are also looking for a reliable source to detect, evaluate, and eradicate web security issues, these two methods may help you strengthen the security of your website.
Using Vega in Kali Linux
Vega is a freeware penetration testing or pentest tool that lets you run a careful and detailed inspection of your website to detect Cross-Site Scripting, SQL injection, and other vulnerabilities. You can use this scanner to begin the scan by following the given steps:
- Go to Applications, click on Web Application Analysis, then click on Vega to launch the application
- Once it’s launched, locate the ‘+’ (plus) sign to start the process
- It will ask you to enter the URL of the website you want to scan. Click ‘Next’ to proceed
- Now, tick all the boxes of modules according to your need and click on the ‘Next’ button
- Another hit on the ‘Next’ button and then click ‘finish’ to complete the process.
- If a popup appears in the middle, click ‘Yes’ on it.
You will get the results showing all the details of vulnerabilities.
Joomla Scan (JoomScan)
Known for its flexibility, Joomla is one of the most widely-used Control Management Systems considered the best way to detect weaknesses or misconfigurations of a website. Here’s how you can scan Joomla sites using JoomScan:
- Click the left panel at the terminal to open the scanner and then type ‘joomscan-parameter.’
- If you need any help regarding usage, type ‘joomscan/?’
- You can begin the scan by typing ‘joomscan –URL http://example.com’ (URL of the victim)
The scan results will appear on your screen, highlighting the security issues of your website.
Types of Vulnerabilities in a Website
Malicious actors constantly try to develop the latest attack methodologies to target systems, servers, networks, and databases to get inside your company’s data. They may succeed if they find any single mistake in your web application that may help them access your sensitive files.
To maintain data security and privacy, you need to protect against these most common website security vulnerabilities and threats.
1. Broken Authentication
For each valid session on a web application, a session cookie and session ID is created that contains sensitive data like username, password, etc. When the user logs out or closes the browser, the currently running session ends, so it is necessary to invalidate the cookies.
A new session should have a new cookie and session ID.
In case cookies created by the previous session are not invalidated, they will store the sensitive data in the system that may be restored upon request.
For example: if you are using a public computer (cybercafé), you should clear the cookie history before logging off. Forgetting to do that will keep your sessions stored in the browser. Any other user can simply restore the session and access your information. Hence, sensitive data such as profile details, credit card information, passwords, etc., may be compromised.
- Session IDs exposed on URL
- Unchanged session IDs (before and after logout and login)
- Session Timeouts
- Same session ID for each new session (Assigned by the application)
- Passwords stored in hashed or encrypted format
- Low-privilege sessions
What Hackers Can Do?
In case you leave any vulnerability, it may help an attacker hijack your session and gain unauthorized access to your information. Restoring the last closed session may result in disclosing and modifying sensitive data.
They can use Cross-site scripting (XSS) to hijack the session through stolen cookies.
- Wipe away all the sessions and cookie history before leaving/ logging off the public system.
- Never store your credentials such as username, passwords, credit card information, or other details in URLs or Logs.
- XSS flaws should be eliminated, which can be used to steal session IDs.
2. Insecure Direct Object References (IDOR)
IDOR occurs following a developer-side mistake. Web application URLs can expose the format/pattern set by a developer for directing users to backend storage locations or an internal implementation object, such as a file, directory, or database key.
Alone, the IDOR is considered a low-risk issue. However, if there’s also a failed access control, it may help attackers to successfully launch an enumeration attack and access your information.
In the URL.
IDOR vulnerability can be used to acquire access to unauthorized internal objects, data modification, or even corrupting it.
- Verify authorization to all reference objects
- Implement access control checks
- Avoid exposing object references in URLs
3. Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)
CSRF is a forged request that comes from the cross-site using social engineering methods to force a user to change their credentials, like username or password, in an application.
In short, it is a malicious online attempt that causes a user’s browser to perform an unwanted action on a trusted site. Unlike malware or cross-site scripting attacks, it requires a user to be logged into the application that uses only session cookies for tracking sessions or validating user requests.
If the user follows the command, the attackers gain access to the victim’s browser through a forged HTTP request and leverage the browser to perform the rest of the attack that can include stealing your information or making online transactions.
- User Profile page
- User account forms
- Business transaction page
- Mandate user’s presence while performing sensitive actions.
- Clear cookies and sessions history as it contains all the sensitive information stored on the browser.
- Never save your banking or payment information on your browser, even if it asks for it.
- Implement mechanisms like CAPTCHA, Re-Authentication, and Unique Request Tokens.
4. Security Misconfiguration
This should be considered as one of the most prevalent web application vulnerabilities because a single pitfall may bring great harm to your company’s data as well as your business.
Every organization should take strict security measures for data protection. It should ensure that the default security settings are updated and that user accounts or profiles are completely secured with end-to-end encryption.
Suppose there’s a security misconfiguration in your application, servers, networks, or databases. In that case, it can provide unauthorized access to an attacker and may ultimately lead to data theft or exploitation.
Typical security misconfigurations include:
- Use of default accounts/passwords
- Unpatched software
- Poor firewall policies
- Leaving unused features, components, and other resources
- Lack of secure password policy
- Lack of encryption
- Lack of appropriate file and directory configurations
- Form Fields
- Input fields
- Update default usernames and passwords for all user accounts
- Disable directory listings
- Implement access control checks
- Change default administrative ID and password for off-the-shelf software
5. SQL Injection
As mentioned earlier in this blog, SQL injection allows a cybercriminal to manipulate user-supplied data by injecting malicious SQL statements.
Attackers use different queries to trick the user into executing unintended commands that may give them access to the user database. Once they obtain access, they can steal, update, or erase your inputs and even delete your entire table.
- Input Fields
- User Tables
- URLs interacting with the database
- Whitelisting the input fields
- Avoid displaying detailed error messages that are useful to an attacker
- Avoid making two requests in a single query string
6. Sensitive Data Exposure
Sensitive data exposure vulnerabilities are common user-end mistakes that leave your information visible to the public and the attackers.
Several sensitive exposure vulnerabilities exist, including:
- Weak or default cryptography keys used
- Outdated or weak encryption algorithms
- Misconfigured cloud storage locations storing data in plaintext
- Lack of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol
- Data transmitted in clear text
Data sent over the network
- Encrypt your data
- Store your data using up to date encryption algorithms
- Ensure using secure SSL protocols
7. Insufficient Transport Layer Protection (TLS)
Transport layer security (TLS) is the way that deals with information exchange between computer applications on the internet. Applications use TLS during the authentication process that verifies sensitive information like credit card information and session tokens over a network – leaving data and ID session information exposed to the secondary application user.
Using weak algorithms, expired or invalid certificates, and avoiding SSL protocols may create this vulnerability that may help cybercriminals intercept data as it travels across the internet.
Data exchange between the client and the server
- Enable secure HTTP Protocols
- Enforce credential transfer over HTTPS only
- Ensure your Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate is valid and not expired
8. Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) Injection
Applications communicate with directory services servers through Lightweight Directory Access Protocol to store user IDs, passwords, and computer accounts. Attackers wait for the applications to accept user input and execute it, then they send malicious requests to exploit the LDAP server to acquire the information.
Some examples of LDAP coding issues include:
- Excess access privileged assigned to LDAP accounts
- Lack of output regulation
- Inability to perform dynamic checks
- Lack of static source code analysis
- Enforce input validation
- Escape input with encoding
- Harden directory authorization
9. Malicious Code
Malicious code not only refers to viruses, malware, and ransomware, it also refers to a misconfiguration or programming errors that can provide the attackers a backdoor into an application that lets people gain remote access to a computer.
It usually occurs due to a lack of secure coding practices. Moreover, copy and pasting code from one source to another can also generate an unidentified error that may make the web application vulnerable.
- Clean your website files
- Locate any errors present in copied code
- Eliminate programming mistakes
- Add static analysis (White-box Testing) to your software development lifecycle
10. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
XSS or cross-site scripting vulnerabilities are used by attackers to inject malicious scripts into web pages through registration and contact forms, search fields, or any other input forms.
Once XSS Injection is executed by the browser, it can perform various functions that can provide access to attackers into sensitive information.
In short, XSS is an attack that allows the attacker to execute the scripts on the victim’s browser.
- Input Fields
- White Listing input fields
- Input-Output encoding
11. Failure To Restrict URL Access
Aligning with access rights control, this web application vulnerability can let the attackers access confidential data and resources, invoke functions, and view personal information.
Some applications use URL restrictions to prevent non-privileged users from using ‘forced browsing’ for an attack.
- Restrict access to unwanted URLs
- Implement strong access control checks.
- Enforce role-based authentication and authorization policies
12. Unvalidated Redirects and Forwards
Redirects and forwards are implemented following the submission of a form by the user. For example, if visitors need to download something from a site, they need to submit a form with their information. Once submitted, the page redirects or forwards them to the “thank you” page.
However, in case of no proper validation while redirection, attackers take the benefit and can impersonate these redirected or forwarded page URLs to phishing or malware sites in order to steal user information.
- Affiliated pages
- Input fields
- If possible, avoid using redirects and forwards in the application
- In case you have to use this option, make sure you don’t use user parameters in calculating the destination
- Ensure that the supplied value is valid and authorized for the user
13. Credentials Management
Username or ID and password are considered user credentials used for logging in to an application to access it.
When users enter their credentials, the application compares them to that stored in its database to verify that both entries match. It then grants access to the user.
The problem here is that databases often use plaintext format or other weak encryptions to save this information. It is known as poor credentials management that leads to unauthorized access to attackers.
- Input fields
- Database entries
- Always use strong credentials that are hard to guess
- Use the encrypted form of data
- Secure your credentials with end-to-end encryption
- Make sure you have up to date security certificate
14. Insecure Cryptographic Storage
When you don’t store your sensitive data properly, attackers use malicious methodologies to steal, modify, or corrupt it. This weak protection of information is known as insecure cryptographic storage.
This is a common vulnerability that occurs when you ignore encryption or hashing while entering or storing your confidential data such as profile information, health details, credit card information, etc.
- Application database
- Ensure appropriate strong standard algorithms. Do not create your own cryptographic algorithms. Use only approved public algorithms such as AES, RSA public key cryptography, and SHA-256, etc.
- Ensure offsite backups are encrypted
- Ensure that keys are managed and backed up separately
15. HTTP Verb Tampering
Applications respond to requests using the HTTP protocol. An HTTP verb is one of several actions that the application can use when querying the server. Common HTTP verbs include:
- GET (used to retrieve data from specified source)
- HEAD (used to request a preview of specified resource)
- POST (used to submit entity to specified resources, such as editing data)
- PUT (used to replace the old information with new data to the specified resource)
- DELETE (used to delete the specified resource entirely)
HTTP verbs are used by most web applications to verify user entries and manage access privileges. Attackers use different malicious tactics to bypass authentication and access controls intended to protect privileged information.
How CSECSYS Can Help?
Without stopping for a moment, CSECSYS gives you the best technology experience to protect your organization’s sensitive information from cybercriminals.
We develop leading risk-based cyber maturity solutions with advanced scanning and assessment tools to identify vulnerabilities, cybersecurity risks, and other tech issues to mitigate cyber threats and data theft.
We deliver a comprehensive information systems security network, hardware, and software performance-based security methodology to improve your digital assets and infrastructure security.
Checking Security of a Hard-coded Website
With top-notch expertise and proficiency, CSECSYS prides itself on having the most advanced tools and test engineers that help you recognize the vulnerabilities of your web applications and use effective methods to remove them.
Our cyber threat hunting, risk assessment, pen testing, malware removal, and many other services ensure exceptional accuracy, thorough coverage and eliminate false positives with evidence-based scanning. Contact us today for a free consultation!