There are several benefits of a secure web application. The majority of applications gather sensitive data, while hackers continuously search for methods to gain unauthorized access to it. Some sensitive data collected includes financial information, personal information, genetic data, biometric data, etc. According to GetAstra, there are 2,000 cyber attacks daily, with malware and phishing being the most commonly used methods by cybercriminals. The article will explore various elements to include in your web application security checklist, ensuring their consideration throughout all stages of the process. Implementing the practices below ensures that your sensitive data and web applications are safe.
Web Application Security Checklist
Most web applications handle a lot of data, and you have reduced the chance of having any vulnerability as a software developer or cyber security team. Most practices keep changing, and you must keep reviewing and updating to beat the hackers. Some of the best practices on the checklist are as follows.
1. Implementing SHA256 Encryption for Passwords
Encrypting your passwords saves you from getting hacked and losing your sensitive information. SHA256 Encryption involves using cryptography to 32-byte unique signature text when generating a hash. It makes it hard to decrypt any password that uses this algorithm. Encrypting such passwords provides extra security to all the user data providing you with additional security.
2. Employ Secure Cookies
Cookies are files that act as an identity during browsing to improve the experience and have a better loading experience. They each have a unique cookie ID, which aids in the communication between the server and computer to get the requested information. Hackers can use them to steal sensitive information and conduct different activities using the data.
There are several types of cookies, and it’s the role of the user and software teams to ensure they are secure and safe. The best practices to have secure cookies to improve web application security include:
- Use secure cookie attributes. Each cookie has several attributes, i.e., Secure Attribute. The Secure attribute tells the browser only to send the cookie if the request is being sent over a secure channel such as HTTPS, HttpOnly, Domain, Path, SameSite, and Expires Attribute. Each programming language has a different way of setting secure cookies attributes. Add the ‘Secure’ attribute to each cookie.
- Set Expiry time for each cookie. Developers should avoid using non-expiring cookies but ensure each has a reasonable expiration time.
- Manage all the application sessions using different session IDs when users log out, avoid accepting session IDs from the same cookies, etc.
3. Use of HTTPS
Ensure all your websites and applications have HTTPS encryption. It ensures all the data under transit is safe from cybercriminals and encodes all the inputs and outputs. Most customers nowadays understand which websites are safe by looking at different factors on your website. Installing HTTPS ensures a secure encrypted connection between the user’s browser and the web server.
The best way to implement this is by ensuring users can only access your application using HTTPS. Disable the HTTP option, which can lead to hackers accessing sensitive data. In some cases, developers limit HTTPS access to some pages. It is safe to restrict access to all the pages.
Some browsers like Google Chrome warn the users that the website or application they are about to visit is not secure if they visit insecure websites. To implement HTTPS protection, you should purchase an SSL certificate and install it on your server. Best companies SSL certificates include COMODO, Sectigo, and DigiCert. It secures all your connections and makes it hard to experience security issues.
4. Protection against Denial of Service (DoS)
Hackers send unlimited traffic exceeding the normal requests, making everything crash, mainly targeting large organizations like banks, institutions, big media companies, government bodies, and e-commerce platforms. Best practices you can implement to defend your websites and applications from denial of service (DoS) attacks include:
- Use DoS protection software to help you detect unusual traffic and remove it from your networks and applications. It filters the bad traffic and ensures you only deal with the right traffic.
- Create a recovery plan to help you resume your operations fast in case of an attack. It should entail tools, ways of mitigation, communication, responsibilities, etc.
- Improve network security by installing firewalls, antivirus software, network segmentation, endpoint security, and spoofing prevention.
- Promote server redundancy by using multiple distributed servers to prevent network bottlenecks.
5. Secure Configuration and Deployment Practices
Companies must ensure their developers follow the proper settings during development and deployment. The best way to achieve this is by using the DevSecOps approach, where the team focuses on security issues from the first day of development to deployment. Another way to have the best practices is to ensure the company has a standard Secure SDLC Management Process that includes all the web application security checklists.
Common ways of having secure code, server, database, etc., include the following:
- Ensure the team defines all the security requirements they need in a project and how they will implement them.
- Conduct code reviews to find any bugs that may cause security risks, like SQL injection and cross-site scripting, and fix them.
- Ensure all the hardware devices used in the development and deployment follow the correct security guidelines, i.e., servers, databases, frameworks, operating systems, firewalls, switches, routers, etc.
- Perform penetration testing during the development and after deployment to ensure there are vulnerabilities and release updates if they exist.
- Automate some deployment processes with Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment tools like Jenkins, Travis CI, Circle CI, Gutbucket, etc.
6. Follow Proper Logging Practices
Logging lets developers track all events when a web application runs, helping them debug and fix any vulnerabilities. You can also use the log data to conduct forensic research to determine how cybercriminals accessed your application and how to prevent such attacks from happening again.
The data must be kept away from hackers as they can delete their logs after conducting a hack. Proper logging is one of the best web application security measures that every company must learn how to implement.
Some of the best logging practices to implement include:
- Ensure all your logging messages are clear and have a better context for easier understanding, especially when following some events. Ensure to include the timestamps and unique and user request identifiers.
- DevSecOps and software teams must install real-time log monitoring and alert software like Relic, Better Stack, Paper trail, etc., to get real-time security or performance issues alerts. They can connect them to phones and even slacks of respective teams. Once they are notified, they work on the issue quickly through detection, diagnosis, resolution, and reducing impact on customers and the company.
- Avoid including sensitive data under your logs, i.e., personal information and source codes, as it is against data regulation bodies, i.e., GDPR and HIPAA, and you may end up paying many fines.
- Ensure you capture all logs from different sources, i.e., networks, servers, applications, clouds, and infrastructure, and centralize them in one place for easier analysis and finding out issues that may come from your web application.
Web application security takes time to cover everything on the checklist. Companies can expand their teams by hiring security specialists to speed up the process or hire freelancers who can offer the same services. By following the above practices, you will have started the first steps in ensuring your application is safe from any threats and vulnerabilities.