Software Vulnerabilities – Why are they significant?
In this age of digitalization, we have every information and service right on our computer screens. This gives us immense power and ease of service, but if this power is not handled carefully, this can have its own repercussions. The data that is stored offline is more secure than the data that is stored or shared online. Every single day, more and more users connect to the internet. It increases accessibility but also results in more and more targets for hackers. Software Vulnerabilities is one of the main reasons of threat & risk of your data.
Internet is simply the collection of interconnected networks and systems. These hackers intrude into our systems by analyzing its vulnerabilities. After intrusion, they tend to attack at our sensitive data and use it for their own benefits. Accessibility devices like printers and cameras, which were not designed to prevent intrusions are also targeted as gateways to these attacks. As these attacks keep on affecting millions, we need to understand the vulnerabilities of the software & system and the kind of attacks we are at risk of. However, these risks can be avoided if we are equipped with the knowledge of what, why and how, along with training of cybersecurity.
A vulnerability, in general, is defined as the inability of the software to withstand the effects of a hostile environment. Software’s vulnerabilities are the weakness that impacts the software negatively. These vulnerabilities can impact the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the software, negatively. The software is directed by its APIs which essentially lays instructions for how the software should behave. API stands for Application Program Interface. These APIs also define the interaction and communication of the software with the external parties.
Vulnerabilities occur when there exists unintended and undocumented APIs and the hackers exploit them to gain access and sensitive information.
Reasons for Occurrence
Vulnerabilities in the software can occur due to various reasons.
- One is the lack of testing or insufficient testing. It holds a key aspect in the formulation of software’s interaction and behavior. Testing helps in the identification & deep analysis of these potential vulnerabilities that can exist while developing a software or a system.
- Another factor that contributes is the lack of an audit trail. Audit Trails are system logs that keep a track of all the changes and updates that are being made in the files of the software. These audit trails help in analyzing active threads very early, that can later cause a problem in the software and put our systems at risk. Also, they help in recording the activities and tracking malicious threads that may affect the system.
- The most common issue that leads to software vulnerability is its design flaws. Unintended APIs or missing codes contribute to design flaws and increases the risk of attacks. These APIs can act as the constraints or boundaries that define the level security architecture or the interaction of the software.
Classification of Vulnerabilities
Software vulnerabilities can be classified into various types, as different attacks target, affect & exploit specific areas of the software.
- Software Flaw Vulnerability – These are the kind of vulnerabilities that occur due to the unintended, undocumented APIs and design flaws. They can create gaps or expose the systems to the security risks that can lead to attacks or breach of security. These vulnerabilities become an inlet for the attacker, and he can enter in the system for the misuse of the software or its data. These can include vulnerabilities like input validation vulnerability. This indicates the ability to analyze whether the executions taking place are running is in a safe state or not. After validation, if the program remains in a safe state, it is executed. If not, the program is terminated as soon as it detects suspicious activity.
If correct input validations are not defined, it creates an opportunity for the attackers to introduce SQL Injections, Cross Site Scripting that can help them gain unauthorized access to the databases.
- Security Configuration Vulnerability – When software is designed, its security architecture is defined by the developer. These configurations can be altered by the software itself and hence possess the risk of getting attacked, if not maintained carefully. They also allow the configuration of the settings that define the privileges for the users to access the files that are present. It is advised that the data should be stored in an encrypted format, because, in the case of attack, the hacker may not be able to make use of the encrypted data.
In an Operating System, the security configuration offers access to control lists that mention the rules for the privileges that users will gain, to access the files. It also contains an application offering a setting to enable or disable the encryption of sensitive data stored by the application.
- Software Misuse Vulnerability – Every software offers various features & functions that fall into the capabilities defined. A software feature misuse vulnerability is defined as a kind of vulnerability in which the feature also comes along with a compromise of the security of the system, in certain ways. When a software developer, adds several features in the software with an assumption of making it easier, he fails to understand that with each additional feature there may come a vulnerability that can harm the system later.
The threats related to Software Misuse Vulnerability vary according to the lifetime of the software as the protocols vary in each stage of the development.
No system is 100% secure: every system has vulnerabilities. At any given time, the software may not have any known flaws, but security configuration issues and software feature misuse vulnerabilities are always present. To encounter such problems, regular VAPT (Vulnerability Assessment & Penetration Testing) checking with all the supported tools should be incorporated in all the systems. Different scanners based on components, such as Host-based, Network-based and Database-based should be made to run. Conclusively, vulnerabilities in every system and software would always exist. But, the security of every component involved, careful usage & regular testing can avoid the risk of getting attacked and information being misused.
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