Attaining Perfect Web Security

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In reality, having perfect web security is nigh impossible.

Even for the most skilled and specialized security expert, designing, maintaining, and operating the perfect security system is a high feat. This is because web security in particular has no standard security measures or methods, and secure environments are built accordingly to meet the particular situation. The types of security solutions are vast and diverse and it is often difficult to find just the right solution for the right role.

For proper web security, corporate security administrators must first understand the IT system structure to apply web security to the system accordingly.

How is the IT System Structured?

Generally, the IT system of a company is composed of three layers– the networks, systems, and applications layer. Various server system architectures generally follow this structure.

gray network layer on the bottom, then blue system layer above, then applications layer on the very top

The lowest “networks” layer is in charge of communications relating to the transmission and reception of data. The “systems” layer acts as a platform for operating systems such as Windows and Linux so that it can run multiple applications. The “applications” layer has several functions and provides application services and protocols.

The application layer can be seen as the most important of the layers as hackers mainly attack the system through it, yet it is often neglected. This may be due to the fact that while establishing security for the network is simple and straightforward; establishing security for the application layer can be confusing and daunting. To establish proper web security, all three layers of the IT system built securely, with special attention given to the application layer.

The Perfect Web Application Security

When building a house, several factors can change the course of its sturdiness. In the same light, when setting up security at the application layer, all stages from development, to building, and maintenance need to be cared for. If the necessities to build a sturdy house are a proper maintenance crew, quality bricks, cement, thermal protection, etc. the necessities for a strong web application security are secure coding, web scanner, web-based malware detection, web application firewall, and data security.

Different components to create the perfect web application surrounding a gray house

The Perfect Web Application Security

Secure Coding

When building a house, the first basic necessities are solid bricks and firm grounding. The primary basics have to be strong and sturdy in order to build a safe home. Secure coding is the first basic necessity in order to build a secure web application server. It is a production method of writing code during the design phase in order to minimize all kinds of vulnerabilities during the development process.

According to Gartner, a US information technology Research and advisory company, security response costs can be reduced by 75% by reducing vulnerability by 50% before software distribution. During application development, a rapid deployment period is important. However, rather than a speedy deployment, a secure and systematic development is more important.

Web Scanner

After the house has been built, the outside of the house has to be regularly checked to see if the bricks are giving away, or if the house is starting to slant. Just like so, a web scanner is needed for the application to constantly check for any problems.

The web scanner is often referred to as the “web vulnerability assessment tool”. It is a program that is outside of the web application that analyzes potential vulnerabilities or design vulnerabilities. There are a variety of web scanners available. The performance and operation of different web scanners may be different, but its core objective remains the same—to periodically and constantly check the application status.

Web Application Firewall

The web scanner itself is unable protect the house. It tells you the vulnerability, but cannot fight against it. A web application firewall acts as a fence or wall around the house. This is to prevent intruders from approaching the house and reduce the risks of undetected internal access.

A web application firewall serves to detect and respond to external intrusions or web attacks that come in via the web. It prevents the external exposure of security vulnerabilities and protects other security solution within the application from external attacks. It also prevents malicious web server codes from being uploaded onto the web server.

The web application firewall does not have to be built within the server, and can be conveniently installed on the outside. Unlike a typical firewall that utilizes list of blacklist and whitelist IP information, the latest web application firewall technology blocks a variety of real-time attacks by logically analyzing the threat characteristics.

Web-based Malware Detection

The inside of the house also has to be inspected to check for bugs and critters and cracks for rain leakages. To check the internal status of the application, the “web-based malware detection” and “malware removal” solution exists.

Web-based malware, or often referred to as “Web Shell” is a malicious code that runs within the application. Through this, a hacker is able to gain access without authentication by bypassing the security system. You can get infected with malware if you haven’t been using web application firewall from the building stage. If already infected, malware removal solutions must be employed. Just like the web scanner, periodic maintenance and checking is necessary for web-based Malware Detection.

Data Security

The final step is protecting any valuables such as cash or bankbooks within the house. In terms of the web application, the valuables would be personal information, credit card information, account information, and other sensitive data.

In a typical web application environment a database is used to store and manage the data. However, a proper security solution is needed to securely manage this database. In general, “data encryption” solutions are used as it encrypts the data so that hackers cannot read the data. However, data encryption alone isn’t enough. Proper authority separation with access control and auditing is important as to determine who has access to what, and when it has been accessed. More importantly, a good key management system (KMS) is crucial so the encryption key that decrypts the encrypted data can be stored safely.

Now, all three layers are protected, and the application has been secured with the 5 components mentioned above. However, perfect web application security is still not guaranteed by just creating a system with all the components. Yes, all components are needed, but it is essential that the security status be accompanied and kept in check by continuous management. Constant vigilance!

Peter Cha
Peter Cha
Content crafter at MyDiamo- an encryption solution for open source databases.
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