Web Apps

Chris Swagler | January 26th, 2024


As the demand for access to services and information at any time and anywhere continues to grow, so does reliance on web apps. From companies’ strategies to customers’ requirements and even broader societal functions, there’s an application for almost anything these days. Unfortunately, the nature and pervasiveness of modern online apps make them targets for threat operators. We’ll explore why threat actors target online apps and emphasize the importance of continual monitoring in protecting modern web applications.

Why Do Threat Actors Target Web Apps?

  1. Multiple Dependencies – One of the most appealing aspects of online apps to threat operators is being easy targets. Consider the number of third-party components on which modern web apps rely, particularly if companies promote development models with regular releases. Additional features may imply additional integrations with third-party libraries and frameworks and larger attack surfaces. According to one study, the average software application relies on over 500 open-source libraries and components. When threat operators search for a web app’s core structure and dependencies, it only takes one vulnerable component to provide an entry point to breach the app.
  2. Valuable Data – Web applications are frequently full of valuable data that threat operators can sell on the dark web or use in targeted attacks. According to one recent study, 74% of apps that contained personally identifiable information (PII) were vulnerable to at least one known serious software attack. This is an ideal setup for threat actors and easily exploitable data.
  3. Vulnerable APIs In Charge – APIs are essential components of current web application ecosystems. The interfaces allow numerous apps and sub-components to communicate and share data, providing richer and more dynamic end-user experiences. However, the widespread use and lax protection surrounding APIs are part of what makes web apps appealing targets for threat operators. API security issues that are frequently encountered include unsecured endpoints, cryptographic failures, weak authentication, and insufficient rate limits. According to a 2023 survey, 92% of companies that replied encountered an API security issue in the previous year.

Impact of Web App Breaches

Aside from end-user annoyance, successful attacks against web apps have far-reaching impacts, including:

  • Unauthorized access to sensitive data causes data breaches. At $4.45 million on average, the data breach cost is prohibitive for most companies. The costs are frequently compounded by reputational damage, litigation, and compensation to affected parties.
  • Downtimes disrupt critical societal operations, including driver’s license renewals or social support applications, as key services become more web-app-based.
  • More cyberattacks are possible because the web app can be used to transmit malware to users. Malware can take the shape of malicious downloads or drive-by downloads that infect users’ systems without any interaction.

Why Is Monitoring Web Apps Essential?

With modern web applications being dynamic and ever-changing, so are the cyber threat actors and their strategies. In an ever-changing landscape, point-in-time security approaches are insufficient for application security on their own. Today’s security assessment may not be valid tomorrow. A point-in-time pen test won’t reveal if the apps are protected against unique attack tactics or vulnerability that appears soon after. To keep up with the constantly changing web app security landscape, penetration testing provides continuous on-demand methods for security testing. Penetration testing enables companies to detect and correct vulnerabilities in real-time.

To protect web applications at scale, SpearTip’s comprehensive penetration testing combines the depth and precision of manual penetration testing with vulnerability detection. Our penetration testing provides companies with the most up-to-date view of their applications’ vulnerabilities. In 2023, over 20% of all reported platform vulnerabilities were classed as high or critical severity. Our testing focuses on all aspects of companies’ network security, taking on internal and external threat perspectives to fully assess their security posture. Our assessments leave no stone unturned in examining how companies leverage their current technology. We review application and operating system access controls and analyze physical access to their systems. We conclude with detailed reports and recommendations to keep companies compliant and safe, according to industry standards. 43% of data breaches involve attacks against web applications. We assist companies in protecting themselves from breaches that originate through web applications with our array of assessments.

If your company is experiencing a breach, call our Security Operations Center at 833.997.7327 to speak directly with an engineer.


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