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Types of Web Application Attacks

Web applications are a prime cyber attack target because they often contain sensitive data, such as customer information, financial data, and intellectual property. Most if not all web applications are also affected by various security vulnerabilities that continuously widen an organization’s attack surface.

This post tackles some of the most common types of web application attacks and presents tips to prevent them.

Table of Contents

What Are the Common Types of Web Application Attacks?

Types of Web Application Attacks

SQL Injection

SQL injections occur when attackers inject malicious SQL code into a database query. It can be done by exploiting vulnerabilities in a web application’s input validation code.

For example, if a web application does not correctly validate user inputs for search forms, attackers can find opportunities to inject malicious SQL code into one or more search fields.

The malicious SQL code may also be executed when the web application executes a search query, potentially giving attackers access to databases and allowing them to collect, modify, or delete data.

Cross-Site Scripting

Cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks occur when attackers inject malicious code into web pages that are then executed by victims’ browsers when they visit infected pages. As in other web app attacks, this code can steal cookies, redirect victims to malicious websites, or even take control of victims’ browsers.

Brute-Force Attack

A brute-force attack happens when malicious actors try to guess passwords or other secret codes by inputting as many combinations as possible. This web app attack has a higher likelihood of succeeding when users utilize weak and predictable passwords or if the attackers have substantial computing power that enables them to generate password combinations faster.

XML External Entity Injection

An XML external entity (XXE) web-based attack occurs when attackers exploit a vulnerability in an XML parser to execute arbitrary code on the server. Many web applications use XML parsers to analyze XML data, such as configuration files and XML documents.

XXE attacks can succeed if an XML parser is not correctly configured to prevent external entity expansion, an XML feature allowing parsers to resolve entities defined in external files. This feature enables attackers to inject malicious XML entities into XML documents. When the XML parser resolves these entities, it executes the arbitrary code defined in the external files.

Denial-of-Service Attack

In denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, attackers attempt to overwhelm an application with a high traffic volume, making it unavailable to legitimate users. Threat actors can execute DoS attacks by exploiting web application vulnerabilities like security misconfigurations. If a web application is configured to allow concurrent connections from a large number of IP addresses, attackers can launch a DoS attack by sending many simultaneous requests to the web application from different IP addresses.

Insecure Direct Object References

An insecure direct object references (IDOR) attack occurs when attackers exploit a vulnerability in a web application to access resources that they are not authorized to view. IDOR attacks can succeed if a web application does not validate user inputs correctly.

For example, web applications may use a direct object reference to allow access to users’ account information. If the URL for viewing account details is /account/<user_id>, where <user_id> is a user’s unique identifier, attackers can try guessing or brute-forcing the user IDs of other users. Once they have a working user ID, they can access other users’ account information by visiting the URL /account/<user_id>.

How Do You Prevent Web Application Attacks?

Web application attacks often occur when threat actors see an exploitable vulnerability in a system. Therefore, avoiding these attacks requires complete visibility over your web applications and continuously scanning them for vulnerabilities.

Entities often use automated tools like attack surface management (ASM) solutions to perform asset discovery and vulnerability assessment. By doing so, they can improve their ability to see and, therefore, mitigate web application vulnerabilities before attackers can exploit them.

Web application attacks have a significant impact on organizations as they can lead to data breaches, business disruption, regulatory violations, and reputational damage. However, remediating vulnerabilities that lead to these attacks can significantly minimize threat exposure.

What web application attacks could you be vulnerable to? Schedule a customized demo now to see how Attaxion can help you.

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