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Application Security

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What is application security?

Application security refers to security measures taken at the application level to guard against data theft or code piracy. It includes security considerations throughout the application development and design, as well as systems and methods to safeguard apps after they are put into use. Hardware, software, and procedures that detect or reduce security vulnerabilities may be included in application security.

Hardware application security includes embedded features like those in a router, for example, that block Internet users from reading a computer’s IP address. However, security protections at the application level are also frequently included in the programme. An example is an application firewall, which firmly establishes what actions are permitted and not permitted. Procedures can include things like a procedure for application security that provides for regular testing and other protocols.

How does application security work?

Enhancing security procedures during the software development lifecycle and throughout the application lifecycle is one of the security measures. All app sec procedures should reduce the possibility that bad actors would be able to access systems, applications, or data without authorisation. Application security’s overarching purpose is to stop attackers from accessing, altering, or deleting confidential or proprietary data.
A countermeasure or security control is any step taken to guarantee application security. A security control is described as “a safeguard or countermeasure prescribed for an information system or an organisation designed to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of its information and to meet a set of defined security requirements” by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Why is application security important?

Application security is essential for many reasons. These are some of the most important;

Neglecting application security exposes companies to potentially devastating threats that can cause irreparable damage to reputation, customer confidence, revenue and even the very existence of the company itself. All stages of the development process for an application should include application security testing.

Common application security weaknesses and threats

The most common application security weaknesses are well-known. Various organisations track them over time. The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) Top Ten list and the Common Weakness Enumeration (CWE) compiled by the information security community are two of the best-known lists of application weaknesses.
The OWASP list focuses on web application software. The CWE list focuses on specific issues that can occur in any software context. Its goal is to provide developers with usable guidance on how to secure their code.

Application weaknesses can be mitigated or eliminated and are under the control of the organisation that owns the application. Threats, on the other hand, are generally external to the applications. Some threats, like physical damage to a data centre due to adverse weather or an earthquake, are not explicitly malicious acts. However, most cybersecurity threats arise from actions taken by malicious actors.

What follows is the OWASP Top Ten list of web application security risks, updated most recently in 2021.

Types of Application Security

Features for application security include authentication, authorisation, encryption, logging, and application security testing. Developers can also use code to lessen application security issues.

Authentication Controls

When programmers build security procedures into their applications to guarantee that only authorised users may access them, procedures for user authentication confirm that the user is whom they say they are. This can be done by requesting the user to enter a username and password when logging into the application. The use of various types of authentication, such as something you know (a password), something you have (a mobile device), and something you are, is required by multi-factor authentication.

Authorisation Controls

Following authentication, a user may be given permission to use the application. The system may confirm that the user has permission to use the programme by comparing the user's identity to a list of authorised users. Authentication must happen before authorisation for the programme to match only verified user credentials to the list of authorised users.

Encryption Controls

After a user has been confirmed and is using the application, additional security procedures can prevent sensitive data from being seen or used by a cybercriminal. Sensitive data can be protected by encrypting the traffic between the end user and the cloud in cloud-based apps.

Logging Controls

Logging controls are used to track application activities. They are critical for maintaining accountability. It can be challenging to identify what assets or resources an attack has exposed without logging. Detailed application logs are also an essential control for testing application performance.

Testing Controls

The process of securing an application is ongoing, from the earliest stages of application design to continuous monitoring and testing of deployed applications. Security teams use a broad range of tools and testing practices. The following section details security testing and tools used to secure applications.

Application security testing and tools

To ensure there are no security flaws in a new or updated software program, application developers conduct application security testing as part of the software development process. A security audit can verify that the application complies with specific security requirements. Developers must ensure that only authorised users can access the programme after it passes the audit. When conducting penetration testing, a developer adopts the mindset of a cybercriminal and searches for openings to exploit in the application. Social engineering attempts to trick users into granting unwanted access and is an example of an approach to penetration testing. 

There are many tools and techniques available, but most fall into one of the following four categories:

Trends in Application Security

Despite application security practices being well established, business priorities often mean necessary security controls are not effectively implemented. As companies move more information to the cloud, application security is shifting its focus to embrace a greater reliance on automation, AI and machine learning. Here are some of the key trends in application security for 2023:

How Gridware can help secure your applications

Corporate applications are increasingly hosted in the cloud and are protected by understaffed or underresourced security teams desperate to augment their capabilities with specialist application security capabilities.

Gridware can help build resilience in the rapidly evolving application security threat landscape. We can identify the gaps in your application security making it vulnerable to attack, then develop a plan to close them.

Gridware’s leadership in full-spectrum cybersecurity ensures we apply a vendor-agnostic, scalable solution to meet the broadest range of attack vectors and deliver a more holistic, resilient cybersecurity posture providing greater security for your critical applications.

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FAQ

Application security refers to security measures taken at the application level to guard against data theft or code piracy. It includes security considerations throughout the application development and design, as well as systems and methods to safeguard apps after they are put into use. 

To ensure there are no security flaws in a new or updated software program, application developers conduct application security testing as part of the software development process. A security audit can verify that the application complies with specific security requirements. Some of the tools of application security include code scanning tools, compliance with secure code standards, application shielding and automated application testing. 

  1. There are many ways to secure a software application, and the specific steps you should take will depend on the type of application you’re building, as well as the specific risks it faces. Some common strategies include;  

    1. Authenticating and authorising users 

    2. Encrypting sensitive data 

    3. Keeping software updated 

    4. Conducting regular security testing 

    5. Using a Web Application Firewall (WAF) 

    6. Logging and monitoring for suspicious activity 

    7. Using a secure development process (SDLC) 

It’s also important to remember that security is an ongoing process and not a one-time event, you should always be vigilant and continuously monitor your application to identify and address potential security issues as they arise. 

There are several types of application security, but generally, it can be divided into three main categories: 

    • Network security: This deals with protecting the application and its data as it travels over the network. It involves securing the communication channels and protocols used by the application, as well as protecting against network-based attacks such as DDoS. 

    • Authentication and access control: This deals with ensuring that only authorised users can access the application and its data. It involves implementing strong authentication mechanisms, such as password hashing, multi-factor authentication, and biometrics, as well as access control mechanisms such as role-based access control and least privilege. 

    • Application-layer security: This deals with protecting the application itself and its data, both at rest and in memory. It involves implementing security measures such as input validation, encryption, and secure coding practices to prevent attacks such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and other types of application vulnerabilities. 

Application security controls are a set of security measures that are put in place to protect software applications and the data they process. They can be divided into two main categories: preventive controls and detective controls. 

    1. Preventive controls: These are measures that are put in place to prevent security incidents from occurring. Examples of preventive controls include input validation, access control, encryption, and secure coding practices. 

    2. Detective controls: These are measures that are put in place to detect security incidents when they occur. Examples of detective controls include intrusion detection systems, log monitoring, and vulnerability scanning. 

About Author
Ahmed Khanji

Ahmed Khanji

Ahmed Khanji is the CEO of Gridware, a leading cybersecurity consultancy based in Sydney, Australia...

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Published December 2, 2022

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