What is an Application Vulnerability?

Application vulnerabilities are weaknesses in an application that an attacker could exploit to harm the security of the application. Vulnerabilities can be introduced into an application in various ways, such as failures in the design, implementation, or configuration of an application.

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What is an Application Vulnerability?

The Application Threat

Application vulnerabilities have become increasingly common in recent years. In 2021, 20,169 new Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) were added to the National Vulnerability Database (NVD). This represents an over 10% increase in the number of vulnerabilities discovered in production applications from the 18,325 identified the previous year.

The rapid growth in new application vulnerabilities is outpacing organizations’ ability to identify, test, and deploy patches to correct these issues. As a result, companies are commonly running applications that contain exploitable vulnerabilities.

By exploiting these vulnerabilities, a cyber threat actor can achieve various goals. A successful exploit could lead to an expensive and damaging data breach or enable an attacker to deploy ransomware or other malware within an organization’s IT environment. Alternatively, some vulnerabilities may be used to perform a Denial of Service (DoS) attack against corporate systems, rendering them unable to provide services to the organization and its customers.

Common Application Vulnerability Exploits

While novel exploits and zero days are created on a regular basis, these often take advantage of a small set of vulnerabilities. Many of these vulnerabilities have been known for years but continue to appear within application code.

The OWASP Top Ten List is a well-known resource that highlights some of the most common and impactful vulnerabilities that appear in applications (with a focus on web applications). The current version of the OWASP Top Ten list was released in 2021 and includes the following ten vulnerabilities:

  1. Broken Access Control
  2. Cryptographic Failures
  3. Injection
  4. Insecure Design
  5. Security Misconfiguration
  6. Vulnerable and Outdated Components
  7. Identification and Authentication Failures
  8. Software and Data Integrity Failures
  9. Security Logging and Monitoring Failures
  10. Server-Side Request Forgery

This list describes general classes of vulnerabilities with a focus on the root causes of an issue. The Common Weaknesses Enumeration (CWE) provides information on specific instances of a particular issue. Each of the OWASP Top Ten vulnerabilities contains a list of one or more associated CWEs. For example, Cryptographic Failures includes a list of twenty-nine mapped CWEs such as using a hard-coded cryptographic key or improper verification of cryptographic signatures.

The Need for Application Security

Companies are increasingly dependent on IT systems and applications to perform core business processes and to provide services to their customers. These applications have access to highly sensitive data and are critical to the operation of the business.

Application security (AppSec) is vital to an organization’s ability to protect customer data, maintain services, and comply with legal and regulatory obligations. Application vulnerabilities can have significant impacts on a company and its customers, and remediating them costs significant time and resources. By identifying and remediating vulnerabilities early in the software development lifecycle, an organization can minimize the cost and impact of these vulnerabilities on the organization.

Ways to Remediate Application Vulnerabilities

As development teams adopt DevSecOps practices, automating vulnerability management is essential to ensuring security while meeting development and release goals. Development teams can use a variety of tools to identify application vulnerabilities, including:

  • Static Application Security Testing (SAST): SAST tools analyze the source code of an application without running it. This makes it possible to identify some vulnerabilities early in the software development lifecycle when an application is not in a runnable state.
  • Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST): DAST solutions interact with a running application, performing a black box vulnerability assessment. DAST tools are designed to search for known and unknown vulnerabilities within an application by sending common malicious inputs as well as random and malformed requests generated using fuzzing.
  • Interactive Application Security Testing (IAST): IAST solutions use instrumentation to gain visibility into running applications. With this internal visibility, IAST solutions can identify issues that may not be detectable with a black box DAST approach.
  • Software Composition Analysis (SCA): Most applications include third-party code, such as libraries and dependencies, which can also contain exploitable vulnerabilities. SCA provides visibility into the external code used within an application, making it possible to identify and remediate known vulnerabilities in this software.

An effective DevSecOps workflow will integrate most or all of these approaches into automated CI/CD pipelines. This maximizes the probability that vulnerabilities will be identified and remediated as quickly as possible while minimizing the overhead and disruption for developers.

Comprehensive AppSec with CloudGuard AppSec

A strong AppSec program integrates security into every stage of an application’s lifecycle from initial design to end-of-life, including both application security testing and protection at runtime with web application and API protection (WAAP). To learn more about securing your organization’s applications, check out this AppSec whitepaper.

As applications increasingly move to the cloud, cloud workload protection becomes a crucial component of an AppSec program. Learn more about securing your cloud workloads with this cloud application security ebook. Then, see how Check Point’s CloudGuard AppSec can help to enhance your organization’s application security by signing up for a free demo.

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