Web-application errors pose danger to enterprises

Under pressure to generate revenue, companies often do not even fix all of the problems

A majority of Web sites have at least one major security issue that could be used by hackers for fraud-related purposes, according to a new survey.

Some 64 percent of 1,300 Web sites run by 250 enterprises have at least one serious vulnerability, said WhiteHat Security, which specializes in finding vulnerabilities in Web applications.

The statistics come from WhiteHat's customer base, which lets the company regularly review their sites for problems.

The most prevalent problem is cross-site scripting. There's a 66 percent a Web site will have such a problem, WhiteHat said.

A cross-site scripting flaw can allow data or malicious code to be drawn from another a Web site, which can potentially cause a data breach.

Other common problems include information leakage issues, content spoofing, insufficient authorization and SQL injection.

The danger of Web-site application vulnerabilities is compound by the slowness with which companies attempt to fix them.

If WhiteHat finds a vulnerability in a Web site, it informs the customer, said Jeremiah Grossman, WhiteHat's CTO.

In the case of a cross-site scripting problem, the fix is usually just one line of code, Grossman said. The problem in getting it fixed, however, tends to be on the human side.

WhiteHat will usually inform the security department of a company, which then has to pass on the information to the developers of the Web application. The custom code of the Web application can't be modified by the security department.

Management then has to give the OK for developers to work on fixing the code rather than creating revenue-generating features, which usually get priority, Grossman said. Sometimes, it's hard to quantify the risk of Web-application vulnerabilities, which also muddies the waters for how fixing them is prioritized.

"A developer's job is to write code," Grossman said. "Security is not a priority when pushing out code."

Surprisingly, a lot of vulnerabilities take a lot time to be fixed, and some never get fixed. WhiteHat took a look at vulnerabilities that were found over a one-year period with its customers.

The company found it took an average of 67 days for a cross-site scripting problem to be fixed. That compared with 78 days for an information leakage problem, 87 days for content spoofing trouble and 62 days for a SQL injection vulnerability.

"What we can say with confidence is that IT security and development organizations must coordinate when it comes to dealing with Web-site vulnerabilities to close the time-to-fix gap," the report said.

On average, only 30 percent to 60 percent of the vulnerabilities ever get fixed, Grossman said. The awareness of Web-application problems "has never been higher but it needs to be a lot greater," he said.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags web applicationswhitehatsecurity

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Jeremy Kirk

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place