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8 Application Security Myths Debunked

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There are many misconceptions when it comes to application security. Many people believe that a security perimeter is enough to protect their applications. Others think that a firewall will solve all of their security issues. In this blog post, we will debunk eight of the most common application security myths, from believing that application security is about finding bugs in your code to thinking that application security is strictly a cryptography or software development issue.

Application security is the process of:

  • identifying,
  • assessing,
  • and mitigating application-level risks.

It includes both the security of the application itself as well as the data that it processes. Application security is a broad topic that covers many different aspects of software development and operations, and among the common tools it can leverage are application firewalls, application scanners, and static code analysis tools.

1. A firewall is all I need

A web application firewall, or WAF, is one of the simple, effective security measures you can use to improve your website security, helping you detect and prevent many types of attacks, but a web application firewall is no silver bullet. A WAF works by inspecting incoming traffic and comparing it against a set of rules. If the traffic violates any of the rules, the WAF will block it. In that sense, WAFs form a great application security tool, but they should not be your only line of defense. Among other things, WAF cannot stop attackers from exploiting more specific vulnerabilities such as application logic, access control, authentication, or data encryption weaknesses.

2. Only high-risk applications must be secured

Nowadays, all applications must be secured, regardless of their risk level. In the past, it was common for organizations to only focus on securing their most critical applications, but this is no longer sufficient.

Today, the attack surface not only includes application servers and databases, but also application code, libraries, frameworks, and dependencies. Any of these can be vulnerable to attacks if not properly secured.

In addition, as more and more businesses move to the cloud, the attack surface continues to expand and now requires adequate cloud security testing. Cloud-based applications are often accessible from anywhere in the world, which makes them more attractive targets for attackers.

Therefore, it is important to secure all applications, regardless of their risk level and type of hosting infrastructure. By doing so, you can help reduce the overall attack surface and make it more difficult for attackers to succeed.

3. Application security is a cryptography issue

Encrypting all of your data is not the same as securing your application. Application security is more than just a cryptography challenge, including issues such as authentication, authorization, session management, and input validation. As such, cryptography is only one part of the application security puzzle. To properly secure your application, all of these other aspects must be taken into consideration as well.

4. Our applications are secure because our network is

Security controls like firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and application gateways are important, but they cannot secure your applications on their own. These controls only protect the network level, while application security controls must be implemented at the application level. To properly secure your applications, you need to implement security controls at both network and application levels.

In addition, application-level security controls are more effective at detecting and preventing attacks that exploit application vulnerabilities. For example, application firewalls can detect and prevent SQL injection attacks, while network firewalls cannot.

5. Application security is about fixing bugs in my code

Although identifying and fixing bugs in your application code is a key security measure of application security, securing your applications also includes addressing flaws, weaknesses, or vulnerabilities identified in them. These weaknesses range from design flaws to configuration mistakes, and can often be found in application code, libraries, or dependencies.

In addition, application security also encompasses measures such as secure coding training and application hardening, which can help prevent vulnerabilities from being introduced in the first place.

6. Automated scans are enough to secure my applications

If neither humans nor A.I., each on their own, can successfully secure your applications, a combination of the two has proven a better method to do so. Automated application security scanners can quickly identify a large number of vulnerabilities in your code, but they often lack the context to understand if these findings are false positives or not.

On the other hand, humans can provide this context, but they might miss some vulnerabilities due to the sheer volume of code that needs to be reviewed. This is where application security tools that combine automation with human intelligence, such as application security assessment platforms, can be of great help. By using a combination of automated security scans and manual reviews, you can more effectively secure your applications.

7. I’m PCI-DSS compliant, so my applications are secure

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) is a great starting point for securing your application, but it is not a panacea. The PCI-DSS compliance only applies to applications that process, store, or transmit credit card data and does not cover all aspects of application security.

Other application security standards, such as the OWASP Top 10, address a wider range of application security risks and can provide a more comprehensive approach to securing your applications.

In addition, even if your applications are PCI-DSS compliant, they can still be vulnerable to attacks. Attackers are constantly finding new ways to exploit vulnerabilities, so it is important to leverage your PCI-DSS security in conjunction with other wider, far-reaching application security measures.

8. Application security is a software development issue

Application security must be considered at every stage of the application lifecycle, from design and development to testing and deployment. All application stakeholders need to be involved in application security for it to be effective. In that perspective, application security cannot be solved by a specific group of people like software developers, as It requires a collaborative effort from all application stakeholders.

Wrapping up

There are many other big myths about application security out there, but these are some of the most common. One thing is certain, securing your applications doesn’t come down to one specific security measure, such as a web application firewall or a regular vulnerability scan, but rather about embracing a more holistic approach to risk management, including measures, tools, and best practices.

In that perspective, improving your website security will help enhance your overall application security posture.

The OWASP or Open Web Application Security Project tackles application security within the wider perspective of application security risks, so, as a set of security risks factors – ranging from the attack paths attackers can take to the likelihood and potential impact of their attacks – which allows you to determine the overall security risk to be addressed in your applications.

Our web application security penetration test is a great start in protecting your applications from threats as it relies on a rigorous, holistic methodology as that of the OWASP and those of other recognized industry best-practices organizations, such as the Web Application Security Consortium (WASC).

Contact us if you need help with improving your application security.

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