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10 Security Mistakes in Web Application Development

Web application development requires a long list of professional skills. To build an app from scratch that will be user-friendly, maintain high performance and stay secure at the same time is a long and hard process. In addition to that, all developers know that there is always one area that operates partially beyond the creator’s control, and that is web application security. You just can’t ever be sure who is on the other end of the HTTP connection.

This one particular aspect makes the entire development process unpredictable and creates too many web security concerns to combat in order to establish a safe and secure app. Will the final product be protected against service attacks? Is the data safe? Are there any possibilities of fake data getting into the database? How secure is the authorized access? These questions are the foundation of web development security. When all the data is stored on the web, one mistake can compromise months of work, and so, our goal today is to cover ten basic security mistakes that might lead to these unfortunate results.

10 web security problems you can escape

In this article, we will cover the most common security vulnerabilities and how to avoid them. Even though some of these principles will seem basic, they are usually the ones that appear most frequently. So let’s go over them.

1. Establishing personally developed security methods

The first and quite common mistake is the assumption that you, as a developer, will do better with the app using a homegrown algorithm or method. This comes from the thinking that the more authentic it is, the safer it can be meaning that it will be unfamiliar to hackers. But, in reality, authentication is not only more of a costly process, but it will also only increase your chances of making security holes that can be easily discovered. The best way to go about this is to use well-tested libraries.

2. Allowing invalid data from users entering the database

This stands at the top of the list when it comes to website security vulnerabilities. Any input your users give you has to be taken with all defensiveness. If you can’t validate what you receive you might end up paying a high price for possible cross-site scripting, command injection, SQL injection or another similar security threat.

3. Focus on the components, not the system as a whole

This mistake is particularly relevant when it comes to large custom projects, when a team of developers separates the work to secure different areas of the app. Now, individual security of those parts might be at the top of the class but things are not so clear with the project as a whole. This is a well-known way to cause many handoffs which make your data very vulnerable to attackers. So, make sure your app is still secure when all its components are combined together.

4. Making security development your last step

Security is not something that can simply be added at the end of the process. It should be built in as the foundation of your entire project and never as another feature left to develop only when you feel like it. In that case, your application will be open for misconfigurations and other vulnerabilities, such as SQL injections.

5. Setting weak passwords

This one doesn’t require much explanation. Don’t hand the success of your app security to its users. Set clear rules for passwords or otherwise most users will simply look for the most instant solutions. No developer who truly cares about the safety of the app can let that happen.

6. Creating plain text password storage

Having a safe way to store passwords is a step forward to having a secure application. Now, practicing the safe storage of user authentication credentials is a broad and difficult topic. But, for now, we can concentrate on the most common and dangerous mistake: plain text password storage. That’s a big no-no. You may, with a doubt, consider all of the stored information that you’ve given away once your application is hacked. The important data, as well as passwords, should only be kept in the database.

7. Keeping unencrypted data in the database

Another common mistake related to data storage is the unencrypted storage of all important details. In this way, you put user data at a huge risk whenever your database is compromised. Encrypting everything can be assumed as an extra cautious measure, but only until you’ve been actually hacked. After your database is attacked, only encryption can prevent a massive loss of information. Remember, everything that is stored online is always under threat from hackers.

8. Allowing variables through the URL path name

Placing variables in the URL is a gateway for exploiting other applications and data. It’s one of the most dangerous mistakes that anyone can make, since it basically gives an allowance to freely download any files with any valuable data your app keeps.

9. Relying too much on the client side

Surely, working in the client browser is sometimes faster and more convenient. These days, many developers switch from the server side to client side. But the truth is, you might not even know what kind of a client is used. It also takes away a large portion of the control over security simply because, by relying too much on the client side code, a developer is losing its influence over the crucial functions of the app.

10. Being overly optimistic.

Build your security with one simple truth: it can always happen to you. Keeping “what if” in the back of your mind will do no harm to your project. Web security development is a never ending process, as there is always the possibility of having security holes. A good developer is one who is aware of that and constantly prepared to search and fix the mistake.

To conclude

Security is the number one concern for any developer, despite the size or scale of the project. So, whether you are working on your first startup or in the process of developing a large project for business, be sure you don’t repeat the mistakes we have collected and discussed above.


The writer of this post is a guest. Opinions in the article are solely of the writer and do not reflect The Merkle's view.

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