Your Guide to a Comprehensive Web Application Vulnerability Plan

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In a predominantly internet-driven world, it’s no surprise that more and more businesses are choosing to move their activities online. But doing this comes with a lot of associated risks. Web application attacks are on the increase, and there are a whole host of techniques that hackers can use to infiltrate your business platform.

While this is a definite cause for concern, there are as many solutions as there are problems. By following a few key steps and implementing some simple security measures, you can be sure that you’re doing everything you can to keep yourself and your business safe. 

What is a Web Application?

Let’s start with the basics. A web application is (unsurprisingly) an application that resides on the Web. It sounds obvious, but this is opposed to the application being on a company database or similar.

This means that it is not hidden behind a firewall like other applications on a company database would be. It also means that any authorized individual can access it over the network. This, as you might be beginning to understand, can cause a truckload of security issues. When anyone and everyone can use your application, security and internet safety can become huge risks.

Especially during this new normal, if you’re working from home and managing a remote team, it’s imperative that you come up with a web application vulnerability plan as soon as possible. We’ll give you some tips on the best way to do this.

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What’s a Web Application Vulnerability Plan?

A vulnerability plan takes stock of all the places your web application might be vulnerable to cyber-attacks and decides the best way to circumvent those weaknesses.

Making a plan like this can be the difference between keeping your platform safe and being exposed to a potential hack.

Tips for Making a Comprehensive Web Application Vulnerability Plan

Vulnerability plans consist of these steps:

  • Awareness
  • Planning
  • Implementation
  • Management
  • Testing

Firstly, it’s important to recognize and be aware of the most common areas of web application vulnerability. This includes SQL injection, sensitive data exposure, and cross-site scripting. You must figure out what your business’s individual vulnerabilities are, then act accordingly.

For example, what is your order management software security like? Are they the same or does one need a bit more work?

Caller ID information is often overlooked but is a pivotal element of security. It might not seem like it at first glance, but in reality, it’s about making your customers feel as safe as possible during interactions with your business.

Are you using vanity phone numbers? If not, your customers may have concerns that you’re not who you say you are. Having a number that states what your business is about can help to alleviate these worries. This applies to local phone numbers as well: if it seems like you’re calling from outside of the local area, it may raise concerns among your customers that your identity may have been compromised.

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Check your application once more. Are there any other glaring flaws? If you’re an online merchant, for example, is every product SKU and listing in order? It’s tempting to get caught up in the minutiae, but sometimes the most obvious security lapses are the ones most often missed. Try to see your platform from the perspective of a potential hacker.

Now, it’s time to plan. This is often an overlooked step, but is an absolutely crucial part of a successful vulnerability check, especially if you’re aiming for comprehension and efficiency. The better you plan, the more time you’ll save yourself, and the less you’ll have to worry about the finer details going forward.

Implementing your procedures can sometimes seem intimidating, but if you’re confident in your plan and what needs to be done, it should be a breeze.

Use a checklist to make sure you’ve tested everything! Missing things now can cause lots of problems in the future, so be careful and thorough.

Now it’s time to manage your vulnerability plan. Inform all of your employees what procedures and updates you have implemented, and ensure that each one of them is following safety guidelines. 

Hopefully, it shouldn’t get to this point, but if you find that an employee is consistently breaking security rules you may have to raise a formal grievance. If you’ve never done this before you can use a grievance response template or ask a manager to carry out the grievance. 

You should also be prepared for a grievance to be raised against you, should an employee feel that the procedures you have implemented are not adequately proportionate to the security risk.

Testing your vulnerabilities after you’ve planned and implemented security measures is often the most nerve-wracking step of the whole exercise. After all, this is the crucial point: if this doesn’t work then the procedures are flawed, and you’ll probably need to start all over again.

Using mobile bots can be an efficient way of testing your security changes, particularly if you lack the manpower to do it via human means. It also reduces human error by automatically finding the smallest cracks in your code, meaning that your security can be better improved. However it’s always best to be vigilant in choosing when to automate testing.

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Summary

A comprehensive vulnerability plan is heavily reliant on context, which is why it’s so important to make sure everybody’s on the same page at all times.

Something that a human might miss, the data could pick up. An inconsistency in the data could be explained by human error or an overriding procedure. With all this in mind, it’s crucial to incorporate a blended method of planning and testing, to ensure the best results for your business’s security.

Vulnerability is an ongoing issue. As technology advances further and further, so too will the methods of those who want to undermine businesses and e-platforms. Therefore it’s very important to update your vulnerability plan annually or once every six months, whichever is more suitable for your business.

Ultimately, it’s all about attack prevention rather than attack solutions. The idea is to stop attacks before they happen, by anticipating where hackers might aim and strengthening those weaknesses before they get the chance.

By following the steps outlined above, you can be sure you’re giving you and your business the best chance of decreasing your vulnerability to cyber attacks.

Nick Shaw
Nick Shaw has been Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) of Brightpearl, the number one retail-focused digital operations platform which encompasses sales, accounting, logistics, CRM and more, since July 2019 and is responsible for EMEA Sales, Global Marketing and Alliances. Before joining Brightpearl, Nick was GM and Vice President of the EMEA Consumer business at Symantec and was responsible for a $500m revenue business.

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