Indusface’s research on 1,400+ Web apps, mobile apps, and APIs revealed that open vulnerabilities remain cybercriminals’ most significant attack vector.
The alarming finding is that 61,713 open vulnerabilities were found, which is a 50% jump from the third quarter. The number of open vulnerabilities directly relates to the increased threat actors.
How can you protect them? The best option is to fix known vulnerabilities using virtual patching at the WAF level while blocking attacks.
Critical Vulnerabilities Found on Applications
While any vulnerability carries a risk to your business, here are the top 10 high/critical vulnerabilities that hackers attempted to exploit during the fourth quarter of 2022:
- Server-side request forgery
- HTML injection
- Cross-site scripting (XSS)
- TLS/SSL server certificate will expire soon
- Script source code disclosure
- SQL injection
- SSL certificate common name mismatch
- TLS/SSL server certificate expired
- Untrusted TLS/SSL server certificate
- Insecure Direct Object References
Prioritize addressing these vulnerabilities if you have not done so already.
Cost of Vulnerabilities
A single vulnerability can invite thousands of cybersecurity troubles. Poodle, Heartbleed, EternalBlue, and Shellshock are just a few of the vulnerabilities that open businesses to security threats.
The report found 31% of vulnerabilities have been open for 180+ days. And 1,700+ of these are rated as critical and high vulnerabilities.
So, what happens if you don’t patch the vulnerabilities? A failure to maintain this responsibility could have severe effects, including potential security breaches.
Back in 2017, the massive Equifax security breach made headlines. Hackers exploited the known vulnerability CVE-2017-5638 in their app framework and gained access to the company’s system.
This breach exposed the personally identifiable information (PII) of 147 million people. Two years after the breach, the company said it spent $1.4 billion on cleanup costs and revamping its security program. Equifax agreed to pay up to $700 million to settle claims related to the breach.
The breach’s total cost is likely higher than the reported settlements and expenses. It also includes intangible costs such as loss of trust, brand reputation, and long-term impact on the business.
Managing Vulnerabilities With Virtual Patching
Security patches play a vital role in dealing with vulnerabilities. They patch up the security gaps and resolve the risks. After all, successful exploitation means an insecure configuration or missing security control.
The patching process can, at times, be challenging. Many companies turn to virtual patching to protect their apps on the Web application firewall (WAF) when a system can’t be patched immediately.
Virtual patching is a vulnerability shield that secures apps during your risk window and beyond. It enables you to scale your coverage and responses accordingly with appropriate defense, which can be applied in minutes or hours. Thereby, it reduces the risk of exposure to vulnerabilities.
Virtual patching is attained by implementing a security policy layer in the WAF. It eliminates application vulnerabilities without changing the codebase.
Companies can leverage virtual patching in two ways to mitigate vulnerabilities:
- Core rules
- Custom rules
The Indusface report found that the WAF core rule set blocks 40% of requests, and custom rules block 60%.
Why Are the Custom Rules Gaining Momentum?
Core rules are predefined, standardized, based on industry best practices, and designed to protect against known vulnerabilities. Security experts typically create these rules. Core rules are easy to implement and can provide high protection.
Since most dev teams work on sprints that are a few weeks long, vulnerabilities keep getting added with the changing code.
Most companies leverage weekly scans and periodic penetration testing on applications. Since fixing these on code will be long and arduous, product owners rely on WAF’s custom rules to plug these vulnerabilities while their dev team focuses on shipping features.
Whenever the teams get to a security-focused sprint, they fix these vulnerabilities in the code.
Virtual patching is also used as a risk mitigation mechanism. For instance, we have observed that geofencing is gaining popularity in the custom rule category as application owners look to limit traffic from geographies where the application is not designed to be used. The other example is blacklisting or whitelisting IPs that are used to allow traffic to the application.
False Positive Monitoring
While the power of custom rules is undisputed, they also add the burden of monitoring applications for false positives.
In talking to several security leaders, one consistent theme that we keep hearing about is the lack of skilled security practitioners who can manage a complex application like a WAF/WAAP.
The other challenge is the worsening economy; security teams are increasingly being asked to do more with less.
We are seeing an increased trend of product owners relying on managed services to help with virtual patches and guarantee no false positives.
If the attackers discover a piece of exploitable code, the next step is taking advantage of the vulnerability.
The sooner you deploy the virtual patching, the sooner attackers look elsewhere. Keep your WAF running to ensure your security and bottom line.
About the Author
Venky is an application security technologist who built the new-age Web application scanner and cloud WAF AppTrana at Indusface as a founding CTO. Currently, he spends his time on driving product road map, customer success, growth, and technology adoption for US businesses.