What is OWASP?
The cybersecurity world has so many acronyms, and yet we pretend to know what all of them are. However, there are many occasions that leave us wracking our brains, trying to remember what one stands for. Is it a product? An organization? A process? One acronym that everyone should know is OWASP—the Open Web Application Security Project. OWASP is a vital non-profit that works to improve software security through supporting open-source projects, providing education and training, and connecting like-minded cybersecurity professionals through local chapters and national conferences. In this blog, we’ll go over one of OWASP’s most important projects—the OWASP Top 10—and how it can be used to help organizations stay secure.
The OWASP Top 10
Web application vulnerabilities are security weaknesses that exist in software built to run on a web browser. While this makes applications incredibly accessible, it unfortunately also makes them a prime target for attackers. Unfortunately, web applications are predisposed to security vulnerabilities. In fact, there are hundreds of different application security vulnerabilities, which include anything from flawed code to misconfigurations. These days, it’s unwise to think that any web applications can be without a vulnerability of some kind.
How do organizations know which vulnerability types to look for and prioritize? OWASP has done the valuable work of answering this question. The OWASP Top 10 is a list of the most critical web application threats. Eight of the top 10 are determined through data analysis, and the other two are decided through an industry survey. Though initially seen as an awareness document, this list is now considered an industry standard for development, training, and testing. It is even referenced in certain compliance regulations, like PCI DSS.
2021 OWASP Updates
At the end of 2021, OWASP came out with some exciting new changes to the list. In addition to adding three new categories, others were renamed and redefined. The new list is as follows:
- Broken Access Control
- Cryptographic Failures
- Insecure Design
- Security Misconfiguration
- Vulnerable and Outdated Components
- Identification and Authentication
- Software and Data Integrity Failures
- Security Logging and Monitoring Failures
- Server-Side Request Forgery
OWASP and Offensive Security
The goal of the OWASP Top 10 is to help organizations better understand the types of threats their web applications face. Creators of web applications can use this to their advantage even before an application goes live. Static Application Security Testing (SAST) tools like BeSOURCE can be deployed during the development stage, assessing both the code quality and security. Similarly, Dynamic Application Security Testing (DAST) tools like beSTORM can assess an application’s security from an external perspective with no access to the source code required. Even after applications are released, it’s vital to continue routine testing, since new threats can emerge after release into production environments. Vulnerability Management tools like Frontline VM can take valuable intelligence from threat feeds and apply them to prioritization when scanning for these vulnerabilities, accelerating remediation by letting an organization know which ones among them are the most pressing for their unique business.
Penetration tests also use the OWASP Top 10 to guide their engagements. Penetration tests can augment web application vulnerability scans, taking the discovered vulnerabilities and determining how an attacker could effectively exploit them. Given the complexity of environments, penetration tests must be carefully scoped with clear objectives in order to ensure they have the time to get actionable insights. The OWASP Top 10 can help define that scope, with pen testers focusing on exploiting these types of vulnerabilities. Pen testing tools will benefit from the recent changes to OWASP. In fact, Core Impact has recently been updated so that users can use automation capabilities to test web applications against the new OWASP Top 10 so they can stay ahead of the latest threats.
The Importance of OWASP
When it comes to cybersecurity, everything can seem like a priority. The OWASP Top 10 helps to establish a baseline for organizations looking to mature their vulnerability management programs. It also emphasizes the idea of proactive security. Security teams will always need reactive solutions which defend against perpetual incoming threats. But the OWASP Top 10 also reminds us that we can take action beforehand with offensive solutions like vulnerability scanning, SAST, DAST, and pen testing. All of these tactics ultimately make it that much harder for attackers, who are always looking for the easy way in.
Want to mature your vulnerability management program?
Learn how to take a proactive strategy and create a layered vulnerability management program in our guide, Taking Back Control: A Proactive Approach to Advance Your Security Maturity.