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OWASP TOP 10: how to protect your web applications against the threats on the list

Protecting web applications from cyber threats is an undeniable priority in an increasingly digital world. But how do you identify and deal with the most critical risks? One answer comes from OWASP, the reference organization for web application security. If you’re not already familiar with the term, OWASP stands for “Open Worldwide Application Security Project”. For more than two decades, the organization has been dedicated to providing essential resources for protecting applications exposed on the Internet. The core of his contribution is the OWASP Top 10“, a list of the most frequent vulnerabilities that threaten the security of web applications.

In this article, we will explore the importance of the OWASP TOP 10 list, highlighting how it has evolved over time and what it represents for developers and security experts. In addition, we will look at a crucial solution for dealing with these threats: the Web Application Firewall (WAF). In a scenario where application protection is essential, understanding the dynamics of the main vulnerabilities and how a WAF can be the first line of defense becomes crucial for your company. Discover how this combination of knowledge and technology can guarantee the security of your web applications, whether in the cloud or on local devices, simplifying protection and offering peace of mind in a digital world full of challenges.

Putting the OWASP Top 10 into context

If someone asked you what the most critical security risks are for web applications (if they can be accessed on the Internet), what would you answer? I think most people would ask for time to think, others would ask “university students” and certainly some would answer that they are the “OWASP top 10”. OWASP is an organization of cybersecurity professionals that was founded in 2001. Its main objective is to provide resources to protect applications exposed on the Internet, which is why it was called the “Open Web Application Security Project”.

Since February of this year, however, OWASP has stood for “Open Worldwide Application Security Project”. This shows that in 22 years the project has grown a lot. And the OWASP Top 10 list, as the organization explains, is an awareness document for developers and application security. It therefore reflects a consensus among security and development professionals on the most critical security risks for them.

The importance of the OWASP Top 10 list

The first “Top 10” list was published in 2003, two years after OWASP was founded. On that list, the most critical risk was “input without validation”, i.e. data input for which there was no verification. And that, depending on its content, could have the most catastrophic consequences for an application. Want an example? Find a registration form on the Internet and try typing an expression into the e-mail field that is not an e-mail address. You will probably see a message in red letters telling you that there is an error there. This means that the application has examined what you have entered and detected an error. In the most recent list, that of 2021, the most critical risk is quite different. Thisis damaged access control, i.e. access whose control is flawed – access whose permissions are poorly controlled.

Owasp Top 10 update

Most professionals may think that the list is published every year, but it’s not: it’s updated every three years, and the last one came out in 2021. There is no list in 2023, and the next one will probably be published in 2024. What is being published in 2023 is a list of the ten vulnerabilities that are likely to make up the API Top 10 list – APIs (application programming interfaces) are an essential part of innovation in today’s world. They are used in a wide range of applications, and by their nature expose the logic of the application. Being insecure, they can expose confidential data, which makes them an attractive target for cybercriminals.

In all the cases covered by the OWASP Top 10, the essence of the problem lies in the traffic directed to the applications and the data that this traffic requests. Thus, the traffic can be malicious – containing instructions that look for some vulnerability in the application; and generally the data is fetched without any authorization.

OWASP Top 10 - 2017 x 2021
Updating the OWASP Top 10 from 2017 to 2021

The advantages of a web application firewall

The solution that generally solves both problems is a web application firewall (WAF). What it does is protect Internet-accessible applications by monitoring and blocking any malicious HTTP (or HTTPS) requests that reach the application, while at the same time preventing it from delivering any unauthorized data. This WAF behavior obeys a set of policies established by the company, which help determine which traffic is malicious and which is safe. The WAF analyzes each request at the application layer of the network. It normally recognizes the user, the session and the application – it keeps track of the applications it has to protect and the services they offer. In many organizations, WAFs represent the first line of defense for applications, and precisely to protect them from the OWASP Top 10 vulnerabilities.

Currently, some advanced network service providers, such as Huge Networks, offer customers a (cloud) combination of WAF and CDN – content distribution network. The combination is advantageous for our daily lives. It’s an increase in application performance provided by HugeCDN, plus the protection of HugeWAF, which is already integrated into the CDN solution. The implementation of the two solutions is therefore very simple and can be solved by making adjustments to the application-oriented routing. In a matter of minutes, the WAF goes to work protecting your company.

Cloud WAF: lightning deployment

As you can imagine, cloud deployment is as simple as that. All you have to do is make DNS and application settings. However, there are other alternatives that network and cloud solution providers also offer. These include deploying the WAF locally – as a hardware device – for more complex flexibility, performance and security conditions. The vast majority of companies, however, will prefer the cloud option, for a variety of reasons and advantages. Firstly, because it’s a managed service option, and also the quickest and most uncomplicated way to deploy the WAF to protect applications – which is good for those with limited internal security or IT resources. Secondly, because it is also a more economical alternative.

There is also a slightly more complex cloud option, which is the self-managed WAF. This gives customers flexibility and portability of their security policies, as well as control over traffic management and configurations. Unfortunately, it’s not the best option because it requires work and monitoring by IT staff. And as you know, IT people already have a lot of work to do.

Try HugeCDN + HugeWAF

If you want to improve your company’s security and performance, Huge Networks has an invitation for you! The HugeCDN solution with HugeWAF offers a 7-day trial period at no cost! In addition to guaranteeing the best performance for your website and application, you also stay safe from the vulnerabilities listed in the OWASP Top 10!

To try it out, simply follow this link and activate the solution in less than 5 minutes!

See you soon!

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