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How to Find Vulnerabilities in a Website

Website vulnerabilities are exploitable weaknesses that allow attackers to access data without authorization, steal sensitive information, or disrupt an affected company’s operations. Discovering website vulnerabilities is integral to cybersecurity, as it allows organizations to identify and fix the corresponding issues before attackers can exploit them. In fact, vulnerability detection is one of the first steps in attack surface management (ASM) and vulnerability management, two critical cybersecurity processes.

This article discusses how to find vulnerabilities in a website, including manual testing and using automated tools like ASM platforms and vulnerability scanners.

Table of Contents

How to Find Vulnerabilities in a Website

There are several ways to discover website vulnerabilities. Below are some of the most common ones.

How to Find Vulnerabilities in a Website
  • Manual testing: This method involves thoroughly reviewing and executing a website’s code and configurations to discover errors that can lead to common vulnerabilities, such as Structured Query Language (SQL) injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and broken authentication. Given all that, manual testing can be time-consuming and complex.
  • Automated scanning: Many cybersecurity solutions, such as vulnerability scanners and ASM platforms, are designed to automatically scan websites for known vulnerabilities. These tools follow algorithmically defined steps and processes to quickly and efficiently identify issues, specifically those found in the common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVE) list.
  • Penetration testing: In this approach, security professionals well-versed in cyber attack techniques are permitted to attempt to exploit website vulnerabilities. Pen testers may use automated tools like ASM platforms and vulnerability scanners to get a list of all weaknesses. They then try to exploit these issues using methods that attackers would likely use and create a detailed report about the process afterward.

Organizations may use a combination of these techniques to ensure that every aspect of their website gets examined and all vulnerabilities are uncovered.

Why Is It Important to Discover and Fix Website Vulnerabilities?

It’s important to note that knowing how to find vulnerabilities in a website is not enough. You also need to fix the issues found.

To better understand how vital remediation is, take the 2017 Equifax data breach as an example. Millions of customer records were stolen after the attackers initially breached the organization’s defenses via its customer complaint web portal. More specifically, they exploited an unpatched vulnerability known as “CVE-2017-5638.” This particular vulnerability was discovered in Apache Struts and allowed threat actors to trick the widely used development framework into executing malicious code.

Thus, finding and mitigating website vulnerabilities play a big role in helping organizations strengthen their cybersecurity posture. The process enables security teams to:

  • Protect systems and sensitive data: Proactively identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities prevent attackers from exploiting them to steal sensitive data, such as personal, financial, and medical information that they can use for identity theft, fraud, and other malicious purposes.
  • Reduce the attack surface: Vulnerabilities in a website, among other aspects of an organization’s digital infrastructure, add to its overall attack surface. Discovering and mitigating web vulnerabilities is an important component of attack surface reduction.
  • Avoid regulatory noncompliance: Many industries have regulations that require businesses to conduct regular vulnerability scanning and attack surface mapping to protect their websites and user data. Failure to comply with compliance requirements can result in fines and other penalties.
  • Protect business reputation: A data breach or other website attacks can damage your business’s reputation and make it challenging to attract and retain customers. As such, it’s essential to plan the remediation of any critical vulnerability you discover.

A secure website provides attackers with fewer opportunities to attack. Regularly identifying and fixing website vulnerabilities is thus essential if you want to reduce your attack surface and lessen the risk of getting attacked.

What vulnerabilities could your website have?  Schedule a customized demo now to see how Attaxion can help you find out.

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