In today’s interconnected world, building secure web applications is more important than ever. With cyber-attacks and data breaches becoming increasingly common, it’s essential for web developers to follow best practices to ensure their applications are secure and protect user data. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the key best practices for web application security, including authentication, authorisation, data encryption, and input validation and sanitisation to help your business stay protected.
Authentication is the process of verifying the identity of a user who is trying to access a web application. It’s essential for protecting sensitive data and preventing unauthorised access. Here are our best practices for authentication:
- Implement two-factor authentication: Adding an extra layer of security with two-factor authentication (2FA) can help protect against unauthorised access. Use a service like Google Authenticator, Authy or Phronesis to generate one-time passwords (OTPs) that users can use to log in to your application. You can even go OTP password-free whilst still validating the device in session using mobile data.
- Use HTTPS: Use HTTPS to encrypt data transmitted between the user’s browser and the server. This ensures that sensitive data, such as login credentials, cannot be intercepted by attackers.
- Implement password hashing: Passwords should be hashed before they are stored in the database. This ensures that even if an attacker gains access to the database, they will not be able to see the actual passwords.
- Limit login attempts: To prevent brute-force attacks, limit the number of login attempts a user can make before they’re locked out for a period of time.
- Use a session timeout: Implement a session timeout that logs the user out after a certain period of inactivity. This helps prevent attackers from accessing the user’s account if they leave it unattended.
- Implement brute-force protection: Implement measures to protect against brute-force attacks, where attackers repeatedly try different passwords until they find the correct one. This can include limiting the number of login attempts or using CAPTCHAs to prevent automated login attempts.
Authorisation is the process of determining what resources a user is authorised to access and what actions they’re authorised to perform. Here are some best practices for authorisation:
- Principle of least privilege: Follow the principle of least privilege when granting access to resources. Only grant access to resources that the user needs to perform their job, and nothing more.
- Use role-based access control (RBAC): Use RBAC to assign roles to users and control their access to resources. For example, an admin user might have access to all resources, while a standard user might only have access to their own resources.
- Access control checks: Implement access control checks to ensure that users only have access to authorised resources. This can include checks at both the application and database level.
- Use secure protocols: Use secure protocols such as HTTPS, SFTP, and SSH to encrypt data in transit. This ensures that data cannot be intercepted by attackers during transmission.
- Regularly audit and review permissions: Regularly audit and review user permissions to ensure that they are up-to-date and that no unnecessary access privileges have been granted. This can help prevent accidental or intentional misuse of resources.
Data encryption is the process of encoding data so that it’s unreadable to anyone who doesn’t have the decryption key. Here are some best practices for data encryption:
- Use SSL/TLS: Use SSL/TLS to encrypt data in transit between the client and server. This helps prevent man-in-the-middle attacks and protects sensitive data from eavesdropping.
- Use encryption for sensitive data: Use encryption to protect sensitive data at rest, such as passwords, credit card numbers, and other personal information. Use strong encryption algorithms like AES and RSA to ensure that the data is properly secured.
- Use strong encryption algorithms: Use strong encryption algorithms, such as AES or RSA, to ensure that data is protected against brute force attacks.
- Use secure key management: Use secure key management practices to ensure that keys are protected and only accessible to authorised users.
- Implement data encryption at rest: Implement data encryption at rest to protect data that is stored on disk or in databases. This can help prevent unauthorised access to sensitive data if the storage medium is compromised.
- Implement data encryption in transit: Implement data encryption in transit to protect data that is transmitted over networks. This can help prevent data from being intercepted by attackers during transmission.
- Regularly update encryption protocols: Regularly update encryption protocols to ensure that they remain effective and up to date. This can help prevent new types of attacks that may compromise the encryption.
- Use multiple layers of encryption: Use multiple layers of encryption, such as encrypting data at the application layer and at the database layer. This can provide an additional layer of protection in case one layer is compromised.
Input Validation and Sanitisation
Input validation and sanitisation are the processes of checking user input for errors and ensuring that it doesn’t contain malicious code. Here are some best practices for input validation and sanitisation:
- Use whitelisting: Use whitelisting to define a set of allowed characters, input types, and ranges to limit the scope of input that can be processed by the application.
- Sanitise input: Use a sanitisation library like OWASP’s ESAPI or PHP’s filter_var() function to remove any potentially malicious code from user input. This helps prevent XSS and SQL injection attacks.
- Validate all user input: Validate all user input to ensure that it conforms to the expected format and type. This can prevent malicious inputs from being processed by the application.
- Use parameterised queries: Use parameterised queries to prevent SQL injection attacks. This helps ensure that user input is not interpreted as SQL commands.
- Implement input validation at the server-side: Implement input validation at the server-side to ensure that user input is validated and sanitised before being processed by the application.
- Regularly update input validation rules: Regularly update input validation rules to ensure that they remain effective and up to date. This can help prevent new types of input validation attacks.
Your web application handles sensitive data like PII (Personal Identifiable Information) and credit card details. If this information falls into the wrong hands it can lead to significant financial loss, reputation damage, legal implications, and even identity theft for users. It’s critical that it stays secure.
Moreover, good web application security ensures that the data stored and transmitted through the application is kept confidential, integrity is maintained, and users’ privacy is preserved. This helps ensure the continuity of the services offered by the application by reducing the risks of cyber-attacks, data breaches, and other malicious activities that could compromise the functionality of the system.
Security is essential for regulatory compliance, as many countries and regions have laws and regulations in place that mandate data protection and privacy. These laws include the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the United States’ Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS).
In summary, secure web applications are crucial to protect sensitive data, ensure privacy, maintain data integrity, provide uninterrupted services, and comply with laws and regulations. As web applications become increasingly ubiquitous, security must be a top priority for web developers and organisations to protect their users and their own assets. By following these best practices, you can help protect user data and prevent unauthorised access to your web application. Remember, security is an ongoing process, so be sure to stay up to date on the latest security threats and vulnerabilities and update your application accordingly.
Keeping your customers safe can save companies tens of thousands of pounds and assure customers that their details sit within responsible and caring hands. If your company needs to bolster their identity or authentication proccesses, book a call to discuss the potentials of mobile network data as a fraud solution. Our data can both elevate your business operations and keep your customers safe.