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AppSec (Application Security) refers to the process of creating secure coding policies, implementing robust security controls, and addressing vulnerabilities at the application level to safeguard app data or code.

Why is Application Security (AppSec) Critical?

In the current era, application security (AppSec) has become increasingly important for businesses and users globally. Be it a mobile application or a web or desktop-based application, these tools play a critical role in an individual’s day-to-day digital life. It helps them perform general or critical tasks and interact with the marvelous world of the Internet seamlessly. However, threat actors have made applications a prime target for digital attacks due to users' increasing reliance. That said, here are some of the following reasons why AppSec is essential:

  • The most important reason why organizations must strive for a robust AppSec framework is to thwart cyberattacks. Applications are targeted with various malware and other types of cyberattacks throughout the year. Establishing safeguards against such attacks is important to prevent data breaches or unauthorized access.
  • Besides data breaches and unauthorized access, cyberattacks can also cause business disruption. For instance, malware in a healthcare ERP can cause disruption across all healthcare organizations, resulting in serious concerns for critical patients.
  • Data privacy and protection laws are becoming increasingly important these days. Almost every region in the world has some kind of data laws enacted. In fact, many industries have relevant standards and frameworks built to ensure businesses’ responsibility for consumer data protection. One of the core provisions of such regulations also involves ensuring appropriate security measures to prevent unauthorized data access, damage, or destruction.
  • Building customer trust is another reason organizations should strive for a robust AppSec framework. Assuring users of a secure application experience builds trust and improves business reputation.

Common Threats and Vulnerabilities in Application Security

There are huge numbers of threats and vulnerabilities associated with application security. If not identified, treated, or prevented, those threats or vulnerabilities can compromise the confidentiality, accessibility, availability, and integrity of the application and its data.

  • Injection attacks are amongst the most common types of AppSec threats. Threat actors find vulnerabilities in the app and leverage it to inject any malicious code or command, which can compromise the integrity of the data or users’ privacy. The most common injection attacks mostly include SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), command injection, etc.
  • Some authorization and authentication vulnerabilities can lead to application security risks, such as improper authentication or authorization processes. For example, attempting to access an admin-only page without proper credentials and gaining unauthorized access.
  • Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) offer a great way to interconnect different services and applications. However, unsecure APIs can result in security risks. Threat actors can leverage vulnerabilities in unsecure APIs to gain unauthorized access to or manipulate sensitive data.

Best Practices for Enhancing Application Security

Improving the security of applications is critical to protecting sensitive data against increasing numbers of cyber threats. Here are some of the best practices to improve application security.

  • Security should be integrated into the application right from the start, i.e., its design phase. It is more important to be proactive in thwarting cyber threats than reactive. Therefore, always consider threat modeling and other security requirements from the design phase. Security teams may also consider providing security awareness training to employees, hiring penetration testers, and creating strict security policies.
  • Code reviews should also be an integral part of the app development process. Any vulnerabilities or security gaps in the code can lead threat actors to the app or its valuable data.
  • Penetration testing should be performed sporadically to identify and resolve the app's vulnerabilities. Create a well-defined penetration testing policy informing the team of the activity's goals, methods, and expectations.
  • Integrate a robust authentication mechanism, such as a multi-factor authentication (MFA), during app development. These mechanisms improve applications’ security by verifying that only authorized users can access the application.

Tools and Technologies for Application Security Testing

Different types of app security testing tools are typically used. The Static Application Security Testing (SAST) tools help scan source codes, identify vulnerabilities, remediate the risks, and improve code quality and security. Similarly, Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) tools are used to scan web-based applications to identify security vulnerabilities, such as XSS or SQL injection, and help fix them. Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST) tools are often used to check for vulnerabilities and mitigate them in real-time.

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