Web Application Attacks: What is it and how to stay protected?

  • The most common web application attacks are cross-site scripting, SQL injection, path traversal, local file inclusion, and DDoS.
  • Security experts recommend installing a Web Application Firewall (WAF) to monitor your network and block potential attacks.

As the popularity of web application continues to grow, attackers continue to use various attack vectors and techniques to target websites and web apps. Web applications attacks could adversely affect organizations and could cost their time, money, and reputation.

Common web application attacks

  • Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
  • SQL Injection
  • Path Traversal
  • Local File Inclusion
  • Distributed Denial of service (DDoS)

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) attack is one of the widely used web application attacks. XSS attacks occur when attackers inject their malicious code into a web application or execute malicious scripts in another user's browser. XSS attacks could also modify the web page of a website application to redirect its authorized users to scam sites.

SQL Injection

In a SQL injection attack, an attacker inserts a malicious SQL statement into a web application database query. A successful SQL injection could allow an attacker to gain unauthorized access to the compromised database that contains sensitive data and to bypass application security mechanisms. Attackers could also add, modify, and delete records in the compromised database.

Path Traversal

In Path Traversal attack, attackers attempt to access unauthorized files or directories which are placed outside the web root folder by injecting patterns such as “../”. A successful path-traversal could allow an attacker to improperly access site or user credentials, configuration files, databases or other sites co-located on the same physical machine.

Local File Inclusion

In the local file inclusion attack, an attacker uses directory traversal or a similar technique to trigger a web application to execute a file residing on the server.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

In a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, multiple compromised systems are used to target a server with a huge volume of traffic. DDoS attack aims at bringing services down by bombarding them with so much traffic that their services and infrastructure are unable to handle it.

How to stay protected from such attacks?

  • Security experts recommend installing a Web Application Firewall (WAF) to monitor your network and block potential attacks.
  • To prevent XSS attacks, it is recommended to sanitize user input and validate inputs.
  • To stay protected against SQL injection attacks, it is recommended to turn off the visibility of database errors in web pages and web applications.
  • Path traversal attack can be avoided by input validation.
  • It is always best to whitelist input validation and use prepared statements with parameterized queries.