Web Security – Preventing, Detecting, and Responding to Attacks

Web security is about protecting networks and computer systems from damage or theft of software, hardware, information, or money. It includes preventative measures like keeping software and applications up to date, installing and configuring firewalls, encrypting data in transit, and using role-based access control to limit user permissions. It also involves proactive detection and response to attacks and other events.

Attackers leverage flaws in a company’s web application to gain unauthorized access and steal or change sensitive information. These vulnerabilities can include design flaws, open source code, third-party widgets, API weaknesses, cookie poisoning, cross-site scripting, and many others. They can also be exploited via several different modes of attack, such as brute force, SQL injection, man-in-the-middle, DDoS, and phishing attacks. These attacks go well beyond monetary loss for companies and can have lasting negative effects on brand reputation, customer trust, and customer loyalty.

Prevention includes ensuring that software and application security patches are deployed immediately after release, using strong passwords and multi-factor authentication, limiting user access privileges, implementing encryption standards, and running regular security scans. It also includes regularly updating the content management system (CMS), plugins, themes, and underlying server software to minimize vulnerabilities.

Detection involves monitoring the website and its components to identify suspicious activity, such as malware infections, phishing attempts, spam comments or links, and bots attempting to harvest information. A web application firewall with granular traffic inspection can detect and stop these attacks in their tracks.

Responding to an incident includes working with cybersecurity experts to assess the attack, identifying the vulnerability, and taking steps to address it. It also involves assessing the impact of the attack and communicating that to the rest of the company, including customers. The goal is to take the lessons learned from an incident and apply those to improve preventive measures and responses to future incidents.

As technology continues to evolve, it’s important for businesses to keep up with the latest security trends and practices to stay ahead of attackers. A common misconception is that only large companies are the target of hackers, but even small- and mid-sized businesses can be vulnerable to web security breaches.

A lack of preventative and detective web security measures can lead to data breaches that can expose confidential information, stall business operations, or even cause a complete shutdown of the site. Whether it’s a credit card database, customer emails, or private employee records, these breaches can lead to fines, legal liability, and damaged customer relationships. Preventative web security measures can help protect businesses from these risks by ensuring that all vulnerabilities are addressed quickly and effectively. The five functions: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond and Recover will be broken down further in the following sections along with specific actions that can be taken to reduce risk. This article is by Simon Rodgers, a tech-savvy digital marketing expert with over 20 years of experience. He is currently the CEO of remote monitoring service WebSitePulse and a co-founder of the OWASP London chapter.