Key Facts about Website Security and the Impact on Businesses

Any business owner, regardless of size or industry, should take the time to learn at least the basics of website security. Although most companies rely heavily on professionals to implement the appropriate security measures and oversee daily activity against potential threats, having some understanding is highly recommended.

Important Things to Know

Something that many business people overlook is cloud computing, a new method of measuring and providing effective website security. After cloud was developed, older methods, including SSL, encryption, and firewalls, became less effective. With cloud, there is an abstract way of computing network layers, which means that while users are insulated from technical complexities, additional responsibility for security is actually placed on individual website owners.

Because of this, more and more businesses are now focusing website security on areas of applications and data. Based on this switch in focus, online companies are no longer able to provide customers with a promise of absolute protection against hackers, even when the website’s perimeters are securely locked down. Instead, virtually every activity performed online, from making purchases to conducting banking business to doing simple searches, puts private information at risk.

As imagined, with a hacker gaining access to an individual’s name, address, phone number, debit or credit card information, logon identifications, passwords, and more, identity theft and financial theft become a real problem. Even in Web applications that have top-notch security measures, hackers have the ability to bypass security and/or detect vulnerabilities.

The truth is that when it comes to Web security, SSL and firewalls are highly ineffective. Because today’s hackers are sophisticated, many have the ability to get through a firewall with ease. For SSL, only data in transit are protected, leaving them in a compromising position when residing on a Web server. Therefore, whether SSL is in use or not, it is not capable of deterring most hackers.

According to the latest statistics, more than 80 percent of all websites have major security vulnerabilities. For instance, in looking at data from WhiteHat Security, 83 percent of operating websites have at least one major vulnerability, which means that every 8 out of 10 sites are at risk. While one vulnerability might not seem like a big deal, it is enough to cause havoc. In fact, if one vulnerability causes a breach into customer data, bank accounts, or administrative-level functions, it has the potential to shut a business down completely.

For this reason, it is imperative for any company with online presence to mitigate vulnerabilities. In addition, security risks must be properly managed so problems can be avoided and damages to reputation corrected.

Identifying Web Security Issues

IT professionals use an array of programs and tools to stay on top of old and new threats. Obviously, with an increase in ongoing threats, this has become a very serious challenge. One such option is the Web Application Security Consortium, or WASC, which has identified close to 50 unique vulnerability classes.

Included in the vulnerabilities are simple and common threats as well as those more sophisticated and difficult to deal with, like Insufficient Process Validation and Abuse of Functionality. Regardless, it is essential to understand that vulnerabilities for Web applications are specific to the website of the organization; within custom website code, flaws need to be identified by a security solution.

The list of vulnerabilities is quite extensive, and although a business owner does not necessarily need to know everything, having a general understanding is always recommended. Websites of a financial nature were the first to be hit by hackers. As a way of fighting back, security professionals developed many aggressive measures. For that reason, the financial services industry actually has the least number of serious vulnerabilities compared to other vertical markets. Among the markets at greatest risk are information technology, education, and retail.

The bottom line is that hackers are not going to stop doing what they do: steal information and, ultimately, money. Instead, hackers are becoming more aggressive, efficient, and sophisticated. Rather than depend on SSL, encryption, and firewalls as in the past, businesses need state-of-the-art security solutions that are proven to reduce risk dramatically.

As reported by Science Direct, today many companies are using a combination of black box and white box methods. With black box, assessments of vulnerabilities are used to measure how easy it would be for a particular website to be hacked, based on an attacker’s skill, intent, and resources.

With white box, the number of security defects is measured. In addition, white box can help reduce the number of risks within an application’s software development lifecycle. Bugs are always linked to software, so the goal is to minimize them in order to increase assurance of the product. Using the combination of black box and white box, many experts feel that many underserved customer use cases can be addressed successfully, including COTS testing and third-party validation.