Web security is a broad discipline, but its ultimate aim is to safeguard data and network resources from online threats. It uses a combination of monitoring tools, user training and other strategies to keep data, infrastructure and people safe from cyber attacks. Advanced web security provides a proxy between users and their browsers to block malware and advanced persistent threats.
Challenges in Web Security
Threats constantly evolve to bypass the latest cybersecurity protections. That’s why even the best cybersecurity strategy cannot completely eliminate risk. And it’s also why multi-layered web security is so important.
Administrators have traditionally deployed on-premises infrastructure to safeguard the enterprise from cybersecurity threats, including:
- Malicious websites
- Credential theft
- Social engineering
- Insider threats
- Website vulnerabilities
- Phishing emails
The drawback of on-premises infrastructure is that it requires constant monitoring, patching and updates. Recently, administrators have begun hosting infrastructure in the cloud to reduce overhead. The benefits of migrating to the cloud are often worth the risk. But administrators should be aware of the new challenges so they can implement the right tools to avoid a compromise.
While the cloud offers many benefits, it also introduces new vulnerabilities—especially if administrators aren’t familiar with configuring and managing cloud resources. In fact, cloud misconfigurations in the cloud are a primary factor in vulnerabilities. Administrators must also properly configure monitoring and logging tools to stay compliant and detect ongoing attacks in the cloud.
Importance of Web Security
Web security is typically not comprised of a single solution. Rather, it’s many tools working together, which all need to be configured, managed, updated and patched.
An advanced persistent threat is difficult for administrators to detect. It’s also extremely difficult to contain because it creates backdoors and spreads across the network. This makes it almost impossible to completely eradicate. Web security must be able to proactively find and contain these threats before they spread.
Cybersecurity infrastructure is not the only way to keep your organization safe. Simple strategies are also effective for stopping threats. Make sure that users must learn these strategies so they don’t unintentionally expose data or become an easy target for attackers.
Common web security strategies:
- Strong passwords. Users should be required to create complex passwords and frequently change them. Strong passwords reduce an attacker’s window of opportunity after a phishing attack or when credentials are stolen.
- Multifactor authentication (MFA). An MFA system adds an extra layer of security. It works by sending a personal identification number (PIN) to a user’s smartphone or email during the authentication process. Without the PIN an attacker cannot authenticate.
- Virtual private network (VPN). Every remote worker should connect to the internal network through a virtual private network. A VPN encrypts traffic between devices and the network to keep data safe from man-in-the-middle attacks.
- Security awareness. Most data breaches are caused by human error. Every organization should have a program that teaches users how to identify common cyber attacks.
Dangers Web Security Detects and Mitigates
Stopping web threats is a full-time job. The number of threats in the wild continues to rise every day. And new zero-day threats are introduced that exploit infrastructure that doesn’t have the right protections in place.
Here are just a few of the threats stopped by web security:
- SQL injection. Malformed SQL statements from online forms can change data, delete tables and even allow an attacker to escalate privileges on the targeted database server.
- Cross-site scripting (XSS). When web pages don’t validate user input, malicious code can be reflected back to the user. These scripts can perform a myriad of malicious actions, like theft of user cookies and sessions or performing actions on behalf of the user.
- Remote file inclusion. Web applications that use dynamic external scripts are vulnerable to attacks. If the path generated from user input is not validated, threat actors can exploit the referencing function to upload remote malicious files. These backdoor shells usually download malware to the targeted website.
- Password breach. Credential theft and brute-force password attacks are common on the web. Administrators should use monitors and intrusion detection to stop them from accessing private network resources. Two-factor authentication also helps.
- Data breach. When an organization’s sensitive information is taken by a third party, it suffers from a data breach. Human error and intentional disclosure are the most common reasons for data breaches.
- Code injection. Every user-generated input should be validated. Otherwise, an attacker can send malicious code that works to open vulnerabilities on the remote server.
- Malware installation. When installed on a local network, malware can cause enormous damage. Not only does it allow cyber attackers to steal data, but it can infect machines with ransomware that encrypts valuable files.
- Phishing. Most cyber attacks start with a phishing email. Web security must include a strategy to stop malicious emails from reaching users’ inboxes.
- Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS). Cyber attackers can interrupt services for days by flooding servers or the network with traffic. These attacks impact revenue and business continuity.
What Technology Is Used in Web Security?
Most web security strategies have multiple cybersecurity tools that work together. When you select technology for your organization, remember that no tool or vendor is the same. To make the right choice, identify which features are most important and research every vendor. Once you are ready for rollout, make sure each tool is properly configured to avoid vulnerabilities.
These are some common web security technologies:
- Web application firewall (WAF). A good WAF stops sophisticated DDoS attacks and blocks malicious code injection when users submit information using online forms. It should not be your sole method to stop web-based attacks, but it can strengthen your security posture and reduce attacks.
- Vulnerability scanners. Before it’s deployed to production, all software should be penetration tested. But testing shouldn’t stop there. All production software should constantly be monitored for vulnerabilities.
- Password-cracking tools. You can’t know if your users are creating weak passwords or network credentials unless you try to crack them. It’s a good idea to run tests to determine whether users are following policies and best practices for password length and complexity.
- Fuzzing tools. Fuzzing tools are similar to scanners, but they’re used to assess code as it’s developed in real time. A fuzzer searches code during testing, after it’s deployed to staging, and when it’s finally deployed to production. Unlike a simple scanner, a fuzzer provides insight on potential problems to help developers fix any issues.
- Black box testing tools. Attackers use several methods to find vulnerabilities in software. Black box testing tools mimic real-world threats, use common exploits and perform malicious actions against deployed software to help developers identify and fix any potential vulnerabilities. The term “black box testing” describes the black-hat hacker methods that are used.
- White box testing tools. As developers code their applications, coding mistakes introduce vulnerabilities. A white box testing tool analyzes code as it’s created and provides insights to developers about the application’s internal structure. This analysis helps them avoid common mistakes.
What Does Web Security Protect Against?
Web security can’t stop every attack. But it can block many common online threats. Think of it as an added layer of protection that strengthens your overall security posture.
Here are a few threats stopped by web security:
- Malware. Web security uses antivirus software and other cybersecurity tools to block malware.
- Data theft. Web security will prevent unauthorized users from exfiltrating sensitive information to outside servers.
- Phishing. Most data breaches start with a malicious phishing email. Web security filters these emails so they don’t reach users’ inboxes.
- Session hijacking. One way a cyber attacker can hijack a user session is by stealing the HTTP cookies necessary to maintain the session. Web security includes web filtering and protection to prevent these attacks.
- Malicious redirects. Websites with open URL redirects can steal user credentials and other sensitive information. Web security stops these attacks by blocking redirection to known attack sites.
- Spam. Storage space is expensive, and spam email can quickly fill up network resources. Web security blocks these emails from users’ inboxes.
- Advanced persistent threats. Sophisticated attacks can only be stopped by multiple layers of security. Web security helps you detect and stop malicious activity early.
- Shadow IT. If a device is not authorized, it should not be allowed to connect to the network. Good web security will block these devices from accessing sensitive data or resources.
How Proofpoint Can Help
Advanced web security by Proofpoint protects your entire IT environment. It proactively finds and contains advanced persistent threats and provides complete visibility across your environment so that you can quickly detect and stop any suspicious behavior. And our web security proxy keeps users safe while they browse the internet.
In addition, the cloud-based Proofpoint Sigma information protection platform provides essential management, monitoring and sandboxing tools. As a result, you can keep your data safe even when users access the internet.
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