How to Hack Web Based Applications




Most of the companies don’t focus on implementing or making the best practices for web app security a priority until they become a victim. To avoid becoming a victim, it comes down to the penetration testing engineering team of the company to access vulnerabilities and proactively take measures to prevent the risk.

According to a research study conducted on web app attacks in the 3rd quarter of 2017, statistics show that:

  • Nearly 1 in 2 attacks were aimed at accessing confidential data,
  • 30 percent of the attacks aimed at target users,
  • Top sectors that faced more number of attacks were healthcare (1526 attacks per day) followed by banks, IT and Government.

The growing number of hacking cases related to web applications is predominantly linked to two reasons. Firstly, failure to implement best security practices; and that there are numerous ways to hack web based applications.

Let’s take a look at some of the common and popular ways to hack web apps:

Mapping of the Server and Application

Just like any type of hack, to carry out a successful web based application hack it’s vital to have good information about the target. However, for web application the information that is important is the target web server, OS and the technologies that support the web app. This is called mapping the server and app.

The technique may also require you to include enumerating app functionality and content, identifying the server-side functionality and then mapping out the attack surface. All this helps increase the success chances of the hack.

Hack Client-Side Controls

This is a popular web app hacking act where the hacker manipulates the application when the data is being transmitted via the client. Hackers hack the client-side controls and eventually capture user data. They do this by locating all instances within the web application where hidden form fields, URL parameters and cookies are apparently used to transmit data via client. Then they attempt to determine and guess the role that particular item plays in the app’s login (based on the context it appears).

Furthermore, hackers then modify item values in ways that are relevant to its purpose in the app. When the URL parameters are displayed in the browsers’ location bar, they can be modified easily.

Hack Session Management

Another way to hack web apps is to hack their session management. Session management basically enables the app to identify the user uniquely, and across different requests. So, when the user tries to log in, the session management helps user interaction with the application without the need for re-authentication of the request. Therefore, if hackers can break the session management of the app, they can easily bypass the authentication. Furthermore, it also eliminates the need for cracking username or password to gain access.

Hack Backend Components

Using SQL injections, backend components of web apps can be hacked. SQL injections consist of injections of SQL queries through data input from client to the web app. If injected correctly, it can exploit and easily read sensitive data from the client’s database. Wait there’s more! Hackers can also modify it, and execute administration functions and operations like shutting down DBMS.

In other words, SQL injection allows hackers to spoof their identities, manipulate database and cause a great deal of damage to the target. Did you know that 25.5 percent of the web app attacks in Q3 of 2017 were SQL injection followed by cross site scripting (22.7%) and local file inclusion (10 percent)?

Therefore, to avoid web based application hacks, cyber security training is a must. Let’s take a look at the many ways you as a penetration testing engineer can stop such hacks.

Ways to Protect Against Web Based Application Hacks

Avoid User Inputs

Create a web app that doesn’t accept content like text, images or attachments that can be uploaded by users because all the user supplied content can be exploited by a skilled hacker to manipulate the underlying web app.

Have a Solid Understanding of the Web App Vulnerabilities that can Compromise on Your App’s Security  

Learn about and develop a solid understanding of the web application vulnerabilities mentioned by OWASP that can compromise the security of your web app. Among the top vulnerabilities include SQL Injection, XSS and file-include vulnerabilities. By developing a good understanding about these web application vulnerabilities, you can proactively determine ways to lower the potential threats posed by them and protect your web application from hackers. A good way to gain such knowledge is cyber security training programs.

Cyber security training courses can provide you with the information and the skill-set that you need to integrate optimal security measures for your app and protect it against intrusions. 

Understand Security Controls in the Language that you are working

You must have a good understanding of the security controls in the language you’re working for example PHP, .Net or Java. Each language has its own nuances. It’s important to know the security controls because it helps in building and developing web apps with the right code checking tools to minimize and stop exploits such as from cross site scripting (XSS) and SQL injection.

Enroll in Ethical Hacker Cyber Security Classes

These classes are essential to improve your web app security as it helps you think and act like a hacker. This further helps as you test the security of your own app by trying to hack it. If loopholes exist and it’s easy to hack it, then you can take immediate measures to strength the security of your web app.

Cloud Security Certification

Another great way to prevent web app hacks and ensure optimal security of IP and IT infrastructure is to get certified in cloud security. You’ll be able to audit the current security measures and make sure your web app system and business IT infrastructure complies with the best security standards.

Applying Security Controls Consistently

Consistency is vital to ensure optimal security. This is important because hackers only have to find a place where you don’t have a proper security control to hack your app. However, to prevent this from happening, make sure to app security consistently and throughout your web software development lifecycle.

So, try these methods to lower the chances of web based application hacks significantly. Good Luck!

About The Author
Muzzammil
Product Manager at QuickStart

Muzzammil Hanif

With over 8 years of experience in the IT industry, Muzzammil is a tried and tested expert at product management. He has a special interest in InfoSec related certifications and courses, and has his finger on the pulse of the latest developments in the cyber security industry. When he is not working, he likes to watch movies and spend time with his family.