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BLOG: OWASP's top 10 web app security risks

Jonathan Lampe | Aug. 13, 2013
Compared to the 2010 list, cross-site scripting and cross-site request forgery have dropped in importance, due to wider use of safer scripting libraries.

In 2013, the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) completed its most recent regular three-year revision of the OWASP Top 10 Web Application Security Risks. The Top Ten list has been an important contributor to secure application development since 2004, and was further enshrined after it was included by reference in the in the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council's Data Security Standards, better known as the PCI-DSS.

Surprisingly, there were only a few changes between the 2010 Top Ten and 2013 Top Ten lists, including one addition, several reorders and some renaming. The most prevalent theme was probably that both cross-site scripting (XSS) and cross-site request forgery (CSRF) dropped in importance: XSS dropping apparently because safer scripting libraries are becoming more widespread, and CSRF dropping because these vulnerabilities are not as common as once thought.

In any case, the current entries in the OWASP Top Ten Web Application Security Risks for 2013 are:

A1: Injection—Injection flaws, such as SQL, OS, and LDAP injection, occur when untrusted data is sent to an interpreter as part of a command or query. The attacker's hostile data can trick the interpreter into executing unintended commands or accessing unauthorised data.

A2: Broken Authentication and Session Management—Application functions related to authentication and session management are often not implemented correctly, allowing attackers to compromise passwords, keys, session tokens, or exploit other implementation flaws to assume other users' identities.

A3: Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)—XSS flaws occur whenever an application takes untrusted data and sends it to a web browser without proper validation and escaping. XSS allows attackers to execute scripts in the victim's browser which can hijack user sessions, deface web sites, or redirect the user to malicious sites.

A4: Insecure Direct Object References—A direct object reference occurs when a developer exposes a reference to an internal implementation object, such as a file, directory, or database key. Without an access control check or other protection, attackers can manipulate these references to access unauthorised data.

A5: Security Misconfiguration—Good security requires having a secure configuration defined and deployed for the application, frameworks, application server, web server, database server, platform and overall network. All these settings should be defined, implemented and maintained as many are not shipped with secure defaults. This includes keeping all software up to date.

A6: Sensitive Data Exposure—Many web applications do not properly protect sensitive data, such as credit cards, SSNs, tax IDs and authentication credentials. Attackers may steal or modify such weakly protected data to conduct identity theft, credit card fraud or other crimes. Sensitive data deserves extra protection such as encryption at rest or encryption in transit, as well as special precautions when exchanged with the browser.


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