Web Threats 101: Saving your business from the bad guys.

7 Minutes

Enterprises rely heavily on an array of web applications and platforms for various aspects of their business. However, as more and more of their products and services are offered online, businesses must plan for the increased risk of online security threats. These threats can have far-reaching consequences, including data breaches, financial losses, and damage to reputations, both personal and business. 

“In 2020, data breaches on average cost $3.86 million.”

Ponemon Institute’s Cost of a Data Breach Report

To protect your enterprise from these risks, it’s crucial to be aware of the most common security threats and take proactive measures to deal with them before they become a big problem. 

Threats to keep an eye out for. 

Many attacks can happen to enterprises. Be aware of the different types and how you can learn to counteract them.

1. Phishing attacks

Phishing is still one of the biggest threats on the web for most enterprises. Attackers use deceptive emails or websites to trick employees into divulging sensitive information like login credentials, credit card numbers, or personal details. From there, they can get access to everything.

How to combat it:

  • Regular education and awareness training can help your employees recognize and avoid phishing attempts.
  • Upgrading to an enterprise email solution, such as Google Workspace, to leverage built-in spam filtering tools.

2. SQL injection attacks

Most web applications and content management systems, such as WordPress, operate on a database that uses Structured Query Language (SQL). This type of database is essential for storing and retrieving various data, including passwords. When an application needs specific data, it executes a command called a query, which can incorporate user inputs like search terms. Imagine a simple query that requests: “Retrieve all posts containing the word ‘technology’.”

SQL injection attacks exploit vulnerabilities in these queries. In such attacks, hackers embed harmful code within user inputs, aiming to gain unauthorized access to the database and disrupt data integrity. For instance, a hacker might manipulate a search to include “technology AND extract all passwords from the users’ table.” In this overly simplified example, the altered query could erroneously execute as: “Retrieve all posts containing ‘technology’ and extract all passwords from the users’ table.”

How to combat it:

  • Implementing strict input validation and using parameterized queries are effective defences against SQL injection.

3. XSS attacks

An XSS attack, or Cross-Site Scripting attack, is a type of security vulnerability typically found in web applications. It allows attackers to inject malicious scripts into content that appears to be from a trusted source. This is different from other web attacks, as it does not directly target the application itself, but rather exploits the trust that a user has for a particular site.

In an XSS attack, the attacker uses a web application to send malicious code, usually in the form of a browser-side script, to a different end user. The end user’s browser has no way to know that the script should not be trusted, and it executes the script. Since it thinks the script came from a trusted source, the malicious script can access any cookies, session tokens, or other sensitive information retained by the browser and used with that site.

These attacks can be used for a variety of purposes, from stealing credentials or personal information to spreading malware or carrying out other malicious activities. Protecting against XSS attacks involves proper data validation and encoding, where user inputs are correctly sanitized before being processed or returned in the application’s output.

How to combat it:

  • Ensuring input validation, using security libraries, and regularly updating web application frameworks can help prevent XSS vulnerabilities.

4. DDoS attacks

Distributed Denial of Service attacks overwhelm a website or web service with a flood of traffic, rendering it inaccessible to users. 

How to combat it:

  • Using dedicated security tools and services that can identify and block malicious traffic helps mitigate DDoS attacks.
  • Upgrade to a cloud DNS provider such as Cloudflare to help mitigate DDoS attacks should they happen.

5. Malware infections

Malware can infect enterprise systems through malicious downloads, email attachments, or compromised websites. Once inside, malware can steal data, disrupt operations, or damage systems. 

How to combat it:

  • Regularly updating antivirus software, employing email filtering, and educating employees on safe browsing practices are essential in preventing malware infections.

6. Credential theft

Attackers often target weak or reused passwords to gain unauthorized access to enterprise accounts. Once they’re inside, there’s no end to what can be stolen or compromised.

How to combat it:

  • Implementing strong password policies, enforcing multi-factor authentication, and regularly monitoring accounts for suspicious activity can help prevent credential theft.

7. Zero-day vulnerabilities

Zero-day vulnerabilities are security flaws in software or applications that are exploited by attackers before developers can release patches. 

How to combat it:

  • Keeping all software and systems up to date with the latest security patches is critical to protect against these threats.

The cost of web security breaches.

Web security breaches have become a common and costly threat for businesses worldwide. These incidents encompass a wide range of attacks and they can have devastating consequences for organizations.

Financial consequences

One of the most immediate and tangible impacts of web security breaches is financial loss. These breaches can result in direct costs such as fines, legal fees, and compensation to affected parties. Indirect costs include system restoration, IT remediation, and loss of business due to downtime. 

Reputation damage

Often the most significant casualty for a business is their reputation. Customers and stakeholders lose trust in a business that cannot protect sensitive data, and this loss of trust can lead to a loss of clients and revenue. Rebuilding a damaged reputation is a costly and time-consuming process and some businesses don’t come back from it.

Regulatory and legal consequences

Businesses are subject to a variety of data protection regulations, such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), which impose strict standards for data security. When a business suffers a web security breach, it can result in regulatory fines and legal actions. Businesses may also be required to notify affected individuals, which can further damage their reputation.

Operational disruption

Web security breaches can disrupt a business’s operations, leading to downtime and decreased productivity. During an attack, a company’s IT team works hard to resolve the issue, diverting resources and attention away from regular operations. This disruption can lead to missed opportunities and revenue loss.

Intellectual property theft

Web security breaches can also result in the theft of intellectual property (IP). Businesses invest significant resources in research and development, and the theft of proprietary information can have a long-lasting impact. Stolen IP can be used to create competing products or to harm a company’s competitive advantage.

Customer churn and acquisition costs

The loss of customers due to a breach can be a significant drain on resources as acquiring new customers can be expensive and time-consuming. It’s much more cost-effective to retain existing customers, making customer churn a critical concern for businesses affected by security breaches.

What WebOps can do for you

Our team pushes to be as up-to-date on the latest and safest when it comes to tech that keeps your business secure. When we build your website, we’re working with plugins we’d use on our website – we research and test to find the most trustworthy and highest-recommended apps to ensure that your site is always running the best it can be. 

If you want an ongoing WebOps monthly maintenance package, we can do that too. That way, you can focus on what’s important – your business – and we’ll take care of keeping everything you have online secure, up-to-date, and worry-free.

Learn more about our WebOps offerings.

Stay aware, stay safe.

Security threats continue to grow and evolve, becoming more sophisticated and damaging for websites. Enterprises must remain vigilant and proactive in safeguarding their online assets. Regular training, robust security protocols, and continuous monitoring are key components of a comprehensive web security strategy. 

By staying informed about common threats and taking proactive measures to address them, you can minimize your exposure to risk and protect your sensitive data and assets.