Chapter 1. Web Application (In)Security

There is no doubt that web application security is a current and very newsworthy subject. For all concerned, the stakes are high: for businesses that derive increasing revenue from Internet commerce, for users who trust web applications with sensitive information, and for criminals who can make big money by stealing payment details or compromising bank accounts. Reputation plays a critical role: few people want to do business with an insecure web site, and so few organizations want to disclose details about their own security vulnerabilities or breaches. Hence, it is not trivial to obtain reliable information about the state of web application security today.

This chapter takes a brief look at how web applications have evolved and the many benefits they provide. We present some metrics about vulnerabilities in current web applications, drawn from the authors' direct experience, demonstrating that the majority of applications are far from secure. We describe the core security problem facing web applications — that users can supply arbitrary input — and the various factors that contribute to their weak security posture. Finally, we describe the latest trends in web application security and the ways in which these may be expected to develop in the near future.

The Evolution of Web Applications

In the early days of the Internet, the World Wide Web consisted only of web sites. These were essentially information repositories containing static documents, ...

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