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What is the OWASP Top 10?


In the first installment of this blog series on private application protection, we’re discussing the OWASP Top 10, which represents the most critical risks to modern web applications and is widely recognized in the IT industry. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for deeper technical dives on how to prevent these security risks from compromising your applications. 

OWASP, short for the Open Web Application Security Project, is an international non-profit organization dedicated to improving software security through open source initiatives and community education. Among its core principles is a commitment to making projects, tools, and documents freely and easily accessible so that anyone can produce more secure code and build applications that can be trusted.

What is the OWASP Top 10?  

The OWASP Top 10 is a threat awareness report that ranks the most critical security risks to web applications. Simply put, it is considered the industry application security standard since its introduction in 2003. The 2021 OWASP Top 10 is based on an analysis of more than 500,000 applications, making it the largest and most comprehensive application data security set. 

As of 2021, the OWASP Top 10 includes the following web application security risks:



Source: OWASP Foundation


Read more about each risk below:

1.   Broken access controls are common in modern web apps and attackers regularly exploit them in order to compromise users and gain access to resources. Authentication and authorization flaws can lead to exposure of sensitive data or unintended code execution. Common access control vulnerabilities include failure to enforce least-privileged access, bypassing access control checks, and elevation of privilege (e.g., acting as an admin when logged in as a user).

2.   Cryptographic failures are the root cause of sensitive data exposure, which can include passwords, credit card numbers, health records, and other personal information. The most common mistake is when encryption is not implemented correctly, or at all, such as transmitting data in clear text, using old or weak cryptographic algorithms, or not enforcing secure protocols to transport sensitive data such as HTTP, SMTP, FTP.

3.   Injection refers to a broad class of vulnerabilities that allow an attacker to supply hostile, untrusted data to an application (via a form input or other data submission) that tricks the code interpreter into executing unintended commands or accessing data without proper authorization. Some of the most commonly used and easily exploitable flaws are SQL, OS command, and LDAP injections.

4.   Insecure design focuses on risks related to design and architectural flaws and represents a broad category of weaknesses. It calls for greater use of pre-coding activities critical to the principles of Secure by Design. 

5.   Security misconfiguration vulnerabilities occur when application components are configured insecurely or incorrectly, and typically do not follow best practices. They can happen at any level of an application stack, including network services, web servers, application servers, and databases. Security misconfiguration flaws can be in the form of unnecessary features (e.g., unnecessary ports, accounts, or privileges), default accounts and passwords, and error handling that reveals too much information about the application.

6.   Vulnerable and outdated components occur when a software component is unsupported, out of date, or vulnerable to a known exploit. Component-heavy development can result in development teams not knowing or understanding which components they use in their applications.

7.   Identification and authentication failures occur when functions related to a user's identity, authentication, or session management are not implemented correctly or adequately protected, allowing attackers to gain access and assume the identity of a user. 

8.   Software and data integrity failures relate to code and infrastructure that do not protect against integrity violations. When you use software plugins, libraries, or modules from untrusted sources, repositories, and content delivery networks (CDNs), they can introduce the potential for unauthorized access, malicious code, or system compromise by attackers. Examples include unsigned firmware, insecure update mechanisms, or insecure deserialization.

9. Security logging and monitoring failures are the bedrock of nearly every major incident. Attackers rely on insufficient monitoring and slow response to gain a foothold in your application and achieve their objectives while remaining undetected. On average, it takes companies 287 days to detect and contain a new breach, giving attackers plenty of time to cause disruption and damage.  

10. Server-side request forgery flaws occur when a web application does not validate the user-supplied URL when fetching a remote resource. This allows an attacker to coerce or force the application to send a crafted request to an unexpected destination, even when the application is protected behind a firewall, VPN, or another type of network access control list (ACL).  

How to Get OWASP Top 10 Protection 

The OWASP Top 10 provides a great starting point to learn about the most critical security risks to web applications. But achieving application security remains challenging as systems become more complex, and as attackers focus more efforts on targeting the application layer. Zero trust can help secure your web applications against vulnerability-targeting attacks. 

Our industry-leading zero trust network access solution, Zscaler Private Access, offers private application protection against the most prevalent layer 7 (L7) attacks with complete coverage of the OWASP Top 10 and fully customizable signatures to virtually patch zero-day vulnerabilities. It provides inline inspection and prevention capabilities so you can automatically detect and block malicious active content embedded in user traffic destined for your private apps. Private application protection along with capabilities like app discovery, user-to-app microsegmentation, and agentless access are all part of a complete zero trust network access solution.  

To learn more, join us on March 22 as our product experts discuss AppProtection and more next-generation innovations in zero trust network access. Register now for Zero Trust Live.  

Can’t wait? Watch this demo to see the end user experience and the behind-the-scenes admin setup for use cases like OWASP Top 10 protection, app-level visibility, and virtual patching against zero-day threats and CVEs: Zscaler Private Access: AppProtection.

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