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Application Vulnerability: Trend Analysis and Correlation of Coding Patterns Across Industries
Application Vulnerability: Trend Analysis and Correlation of Coding Patterns Across Industries
Application Vulnerability: Trend Analysis and Correlation of Coding Patterns Across Industries
Application Vulnerability: Trend Analysis and Correlation of Coding Patterns Across Industries
Application Vulnerability: Trend Analysis and Correlation of Coding Patterns Across Industries
Application Vulnerability: Trend Analysis and Correlation of Coding Patterns Across Industries
Application Vulnerability: Trend Analysis and Correlation of Coding Patterns Across Industries
Application Vulnerability: Trend Analysis and Correlation of Coding Patterns Across Industries
Application Vulnerability: Trend Analysis and Correlation of Coding Patterns Across Industries
Application Vulnerability: Trend Analysis and Correlation of Coding Patterns Across Industries
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Application Vulnerability: Trend Analysis and Correlation of Coding Patterns Across Industries


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Organizations in virtually every industry are increasingly susceptible to online threats and intrusions, due in large part to more sophisticated hacking methods. For application architects and …

Organizations in virtually every industry are increasingly susceptible to online threats and intrusions, due in large part to more sophisticated hacking methods. For application architects and developers, as well as regulators, mitigating the effects of these assaults is critical. During 2012 and 2013, Cognizant analyzed and evaluated Web applications in nine vertical industries to determine their levels of vulnerability and make recommendations for lessening the impact of online attacks.

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  1. Application Vulnerability: Trend Analysis and Correlation of Coding Patterns Across Industries Using our latest assessment, security architects and developers can determine which industries — as well as areas of source code and applications — are most vulnerable to attack, and mitigate the impact. Executive Summary Attacks on Web applications threaten nearly every organization with an online presence. Based on our experience, these unwelcome assaults cost companies millions of dollars and can cause serious damage in terms of brand integrity and customer turnover. Our Enterprise Risk and Security Solutions (ERSS) assessment team recently evaluated the state of Web appli- cation vulnerability using automated vulnerability scanners and manual tests to analyze the state of security across nine industries. This white paper presents results identified during 2012 and 2013. It focuses on the general application functionalities and the correspond- ing parameters that were developed, but failed, to secure code across verticals. The paper also details suitable recommendations for mitigating security vulnerabilities that arise within these scenarios. Vulnerability Analysis The security posture of each vertical analyzed during our 2013 assessment can be best understood by examining the concentration of vulnerability across these industries (see Figure 1, page 2). Vulnerabilities pertain to severity levels — high, medium and low. Applications within the insurance vertical comprise the highest percentage in total vulnerabilities across the verticals. These applications also contain the highest number of security coding flaws or static application vulnerabilities. Banking and Financial Services (BFS) and Information, Media and Enter- tainment (IME) applications have nearly the same vulnerability levels, with IME applications being the most susceptible — showing the highest number of dynamic application vulnerabilities compared with other verticals. Vulnerability Trends in 2012 and 2013 The security posture of Web-based applications is continuously changing, primarily due to the rise of new hacking methods, the spreading awareness among developers and regulatory compliance, for example.1 Figure 2 compares application vulner- ability distribution across various verticals, based on the findings of SAST and DAST assessments conducted in 2012 and 2013. The number of appli- cations tested is also shown. In 2012, nearly 76% of the vulnerabilities we identified were found in healthcare applications, • Cognizant 20-20 Insights cognizant 20-20 insights | april 2014
  2. 2 14% were discovered in insurance industry appli- cations, and about 3% were identified in BFS applications. Fewer vulnerabilities were seen in retail, IME and other domains such as travel and hospitality and consumer goods. In 2013, nearly 37% of the vulnerabilities were detected in insurance industry applications, 27% were found in BFS, 26% in IME and 8% in retail. The following sections describe our industry- based vulnerability analysis. The study used automated vulnerability scanners and manual tests, and employed SAST- and DAST-specific interpretation of industry trends to zero in on the exact application threats and their causes. Static Application Security Testing In static application security testing (SAST), the application code is examined for flaws that can lead to security threats. SAST uses tool-based scanning, as well as manual reviews. Tool-based scanning involves tests generated by pre-defined security rules. Manual review entails validating the tool output and identifying additional security flaws using manual expertise. Automated Tool for Vulnerability Detection Tools for automated security testing produce results with false-positives (identified as applica- tion vulnerabilities by the tool, but not actually cognizant 20-20 insights 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000 12000 14000 16000 18000 DASTVulnerabilityCount SAST Vulnerability Count BFS Insurance IME Others Vulnerability Concentration Across Verticals Figure 1 20,772 12,293 10,204 16,947 618 11,774 1140000 3831 55,493 261 2519 737 0 10,000 20,000 30,000 40,000 50,000 60,000 0 50 100 150 200 BFS Insurance IME Retail OthersHealthcare VulnerabilityCount ApplicationCount 2012 Vulnerablility Count 2013 Vulnerablility Count 2012 Application Count 2013 Vulnerablility Count , 293 261 0,2 Vulnerability Concentration Across Verticals Figure 2
  3. cognizant 20-20 insights 3 vulnerabilities) and false negatives (existing vul- nerabilities that were missed by the tool). Manual analysis techniques are employed to eliminate false-positives and identify false-neg- atives. Figure 3 above illustrates the summary of the number of coding flaws identified by the automated security code scanning tools, false- positives identified by manual analysis and the actual vulnerabilities reported to the client’s point of contact for the applications of different verticals. The major verticals assessed here were BFS, Insurance and IME. Other verticals, including retail, healthcare, T&H and mobility, were grouped into one category. For this analysis, we employed a number of commercial scanners, open source tools and freeware. As shown by the data, automated security scanners have huge false-positive rates. For example, in the insurance and IME verticals, more than 90% of reported issues are false-posi- tives. In general, applications in IME verticals rely more on Web 2.0 components, Flash and Action scripts, which can increase their complexity. Automated tools are very limited when it comes to understanding the business logic and functional flow of the applications, due to the high false- positive counts found in this vertical. This makes the intervention of manual security expertise essential — not only for removing false-positives, but also for uncovering vulnerabilities in the application that automated tools fail to capture. Vulnerability Trends in Verticals Statistical information about the vulnerabili- ties pertaining to SAST with respect to different verticals and vulnerability categories is depicted in Figure 4 (next page). Security standards such as OWASP2 , WASC3 and CWE4 /SANS5 were used to classify these vulnerabilities. The various categories of secure coding flaws for different verticals are listed in Figure 5 (next page). The most prevalent of these falls under the “Best Practices Violation” category, due to the lack of awareness among developers concerning adherence to secure coding standards. Common poor coding practices include null pointer deref- erence, missing checks against null, using weak XML schema, data in hidden fields and failure to remove debug code, comments and other sensitive leftover code. “Information Leakage, Error Handling and Input Validation” flaws are also rampant due to improper handling of applica- tion input and output, which form the major entry points for application attacks. Of the total issues identified, insurance industry applications were found to contain the highest number of security coding flaws. In fact, 91% of coding flaws were found in “Best Practices Violation,” followed by 5% in “Input Validation” and 3% in “Information Leakage and Error Handling” categories. Dynamic Application Security Testing Dynamic application security testing (DAST) or “black-box” testing evaluates applications 15 107 91 181 176 22 5 18 11 15 7 4 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160 180 200 BFS Insurance IME Others VulnerabilityCount Vulnerabilities detected by tool. False positives identified by manual analysis. Vulnerabilities reported to the client. Vertical vulnerability counts are represented as multiples of 100. Automatic SAST Tool for Vulnerability Detection Figure 3
  4. cognizant 20-20 insights 4 during their execution at runtime. This is useful in determining the risks the application faces in a production environment. Our ERSS team employs automated scanning tools and manual testing techniques to dynamically test an appli- cation. The following sections of this white paper elucidate DAST vulnerability detection using automated tools and industry-based DAST vulner- ability trends. Automated Tool Vulnerability Detection Dynamic testing is performed using industry- standard automated scanners. The performance of each scanner typically depends on the security rule sets defined for these tools. Cognizant’s ERSS group performs intensive manual testing, which helps assure comprehensive coverage. Some of the manual tests include detecting business logic bypass issues and session-related problems, such as session hijacking, session fixation and session replay, as well as authentication issues like insufficient logout mechanism, improper cache management, and security misconfiguration issues such as SSL renegotiation, click jacking and other such vulnerabilities. Figure 6 (next page) summarizes the number of application vulnerabilities identified by various automated dynamic security testing tools (commercial, open VulnerabilityCount 0 1 2 3 4 5 Verticals BFS Insurance IME Others 11225 15410 7262 4019 0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000 12000 14000 16000 18000 SAST Vulnerability Distribution Figure 4 BFS Insurance IME Others 0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000 12000 14000 16000 VulnerabilityCount Vulnerability Category Input Validation Source Code Design Information Leakage and Error- Handling Direct Object Reference Resource Usage API Usage Best Practices Violation Weak Session Using HTTP GET Query Others Vulnerability Count Based on SAST Figure 5
  5. source and freeware), false-positives identified by manual analysis, and the actual vulnerabilities of different verticals reported to the client. Vertical Vulnerabilities The number of dynamic application vulnerabilities is showcased across verticals (see Figure 7). Most vulnerabilities were found in the IME vertical, with the highest count being in the “Insecure Direct Object Reference” category, followed by “Injection.” Next in line was the insurance vertical, with the highest count in “Security Misconfigura- tion,” followed by “Insufficient Transport Layer Protection.” As Figure 8 (next page) shows, the most dominant vulnerability was in the “Insecure Direct Object Reference” category. When a developer exposes a reference to an internal object to the user, this type of vulnerability occurs. A large number of vulnerabilities were also found in “Injection” and “Cross-Site Scripting,” denoting that developers still show their trust in user input by failing to perform sufficient input validation and output encoding, and using secure defaults. “Security Misconfiguration” and “Insufficient Transport Layer Protection” were also very prevalent. This could result from testing environments that do not mirror the actual production environment, have weak server configurations, or have no or poor SSL configurations. Robust configurations are essential for maintaining high security for a live site compared with a test site. 5cognizant 20-20 insights BFS Insurance IME Others VulnerabilityCount 19 30 598 2711 16 554 2211 15 45 8 0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 Vulnerabilities detected by tool. False positives identified by manual analysis. Vulnerabilities reported to the client. Vertical vulnerability counts are represented as multiples of 100. Automatic DAST Tool Vulnerability Detection Figure 6 VulnerabilityCount 27 22 45 8 1068 1537 4482 810 0 1 2 3 4 5 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 Verticals BFS Insurance IME Others 1 DAST Vulnerability Distribution Figure 7
  6. cognizant 20-20 insights 6 The overall vulnerability count in the DAST and SAST findings was highest in IME applications. The total count is comparable to those of insurance and BFS. In fact, nearly 60% of the applications tested belong to BFS, but only about 25% of the total vulnerabilities reported are present in those applications. Furthermore, these applica- tions have fewer critical vulnerabilities related to issues such as injection. Hence, it can be inferred from the statistics that BFS applications are relatively more secure. This can be attributed to the fact that the banking and finance sector deals with highly sensitive data, for which security is paramount. While confidentiality and integrity of financial data are critical, the third parameter of the security triad — availability — is equally essential for this growing industry. Security awareness is progressively increasing within the developer community in BFS because of these requirements, thereby leading developers to emphasize application security. And because BFS applications are also subject to compliance mandates, security requirements are taken care of during development. This helps to keep these applications even more secure. Security Trends in Application Development Security threats in an application can be drilled down to the particular functionality that is affected by the security flaw and the parameter that provides an entry point to the attack vector. Typical application functionality could be anything from a login/logout function to a payment function. It can further be zeroed down on the query parameters, form parameters, cookies and page parameters that are created by the developers to accomplish the respective functionality. Figure 9 (next page) shows the dis- tribution of vulnerable parameters and functions across verticals. The most commonly affected parameters are the configuration parameters, which impact the con- figuration function and make the application sus- ceptible to security misconfiguration issues. This is due to failure to employ platform-specific secure configurations. Developers should also focus on add/modify/submit functions, which are largely vulnerable; submit parameters, for instance, are often targeted by attackers. As a result, applica- tions become prone to cross-site request forgery, clickjacking and malicious content uploads. These parameters can be safeguarded during development by setting secure attributes and performing safety checks to ensure that the data or file that is submitted conforms to the accepted type, range and business logic. Other parameters that require attention include URL/links, profile parameters and IDs such as user IDs, session IDs and viewstate parameters. Failure to secure these can result in unsafe redirects and forwards, phishing, session hijacking and user imperson- ation. BFS Insurance IME Others VulnerabilityCount Vulnerability Category 0 500 1000 1500 2000 2500 Injection Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Broken Authentication Insecure Direct Object References Cross-Site Request Forgery Security Misconfiguration Insecure Cryptographic Storage Failure to Restrict URL Access Insufficient Transport Layer Unvalidated Redirects and Forwards Other Security Issues Vulnerability Count Based on DAST Category Figure 8
  7. cognizant 20-20 insights 7 It is the responsibility of the developer to ensure that URL redirects are examined for authorization. Developers should also ensure that ID parameters are generated based on stringent industry-stan- dard protocols, and that session IDs are correctly invalidated — not resused — and regenerated at frequent intervals. These session tokens and other sensitive data must be protected during transit by using proper SSL configuration, and also in cookies in order to prevent cookie theft. Payment parameters are often targeted too, as they can be exploited to execute payment frauds and cybercrimes. Therefore, the duty lies with developers to ascertain that these parameters are handled in a highly secure manner. The focus areas for the developer community should be to incorporate strong validation for input and output parameters, follow secure configurations, set safe attributes for the parameters in general, and preserve the confidentiality of the sensitive data carried by the parameters. Looking Ahead This white paper has presented statistics on application vulnerability trends across several verticals with respect to dynamic and static application security testing. The following recom- mendations will help developers improve security across numerous parameters: 0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200  Viewstate  User Name  Submit  Session ID  Search  Profile  Product  Password  Link  ID  Dropdown  Date  Credit Card & Bank Account  Cookie  Configuration  Cache Control OthersIMEInsuranceBFS 0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 OthersIMEInsuranceBFS  User Roles/ Privilege Escalation  Search  Redirect  Payment  Password  Logout  Login  File Upload/ Download  Configuration  Add/Modify/ Submit Vulnerable Parameters and Functions Figure 9 Parameters Type BFS Insurance IME Others Cache Control 5 0 0 2 Configuration 103 227 787 6 Cookie 34 0 0 10 Credit Card & Bank Account 0 8 0 0 Date 2 0 0 7 Dropdown 28 0 0 1 ID 218 22 7 50 Link 204 9 16 33 Password 2 16 6 6 Product 25 0 2 9 Profile 158 0 0 43 Search 29 8 0 3 Session ID 0 14 0 6 Submit 275 11 31 16 User Name 0 3 0 2 Viewstate 30 1 0 0 Functionality Type BFS Insurance IME Others Add/Modify/ Submit 736 18 27 122 Configuration 147 239 787 18 File Upload/ Download 13 1 23 17 Login 0 39 8 9 Logout 0 0 0 3 Password 0 0 0 2 Payment 170 12 2 5 Redirect 0 0 0 4 Search 0 8 0 14 User Roles/ Privilege Escalation 47 2 2 0
  8. cognizant 20-20 insights 8 • Ascertain the validity of input supplied by the user with respect to the data type, range, size and business logic allowed. • Ensure that session management is robust by using industry-standard session-management and handling mechanisms. • Protect sensitive data such as IDs, session tokens, user personal data, payment informa- tion and the like in transmission and storage. • Employ secure configurations for all applica- tion components. The developer community in general should closely adhere to security standards and implement secure practices throughout the software development lifecycle to create highly secure applications. Analysis Methodology Figure 10 describes the applications that were studied using dynamic (DAST) and static appli- cation security testing (SAST) methodologies. It illustrates a statistical representation of the various applications for which security testing was conducted based on their type, the verticals to which they belong and the technology used. SAST was performed on 214 applications and DAST on 105 applications. Of the total applica- tions tested, 79% were Web applications, 5% were mobile applications and 16% were other types of applications such as IVR, mainframe, native appli- cations, Web services and CS, for example. Approximately 60% of Web application assess- ments were carried out in the BFS vertical, followed by 14% in IME and 10% in the insurance vertical. Mobile application security assess- ments were performed for the insurance, retail, healthcare, travel and hospitality, IME and manu- facturing/logistics verticals. SAST was carried out on applications that were built using technologies such as Java, Android, .Net, COBOL, Objective C and PHP. Nearly 63% of the applications were developed in Java, Java-based frameworks and Android. .Net projects made up 13% of the applications and COBOL comprised 21%. SAST was performed on the codebase of Web, native and mobile applications and Web services, for example. Cognizant, as well as third party- developed code, was taken into account for this analysis. SAST for code developed over several frameworks — including mobile/Web frameworks such as Titanium Appecelerator and e-commerce frameworks such as ATG — were also considered. Application Count Based on Application Type Application Count Based on Verticals SAST Application Count Based on Technology SAST/ DAST Application Count 0 30 60 90 Java .Net .COBOL Objective C PHP 120 150 252  Web  Mobile  Others  BFS  Insurance  IME  Others 51 16 187 55 43 34  SAST Application Count  DAST Application Count 214 105 135 29 46 1 3 Application Distribution by Type, Vertical and Technology Figure 10
  9. cognizant 20-20 insights 9 Application code within the BFS domain consti- tutes the largest portion of applications under security testing — nearly 72%. The application pool comprises 13% of IME applications and 6% insurance, with the remaining being retail, healthcare, travel and hospitality, consumer goods, and manufacturing and logistics applica- tions. Acknowledgments The author would like to recognize the contribu- tions of the following Cognizant associates to this white paper: Vimalaasree Anandhan, Security Architect Mahalakshmi Ravi, Security Analyst Kavitha Karunakaran, Security Specialist Sandhana Joldrine Xavier, Security Analyst Saravanan Sankaran, Security Specialist A, Rajakumari, Security Analyst K, Ratnadeepika, Security Analyst The author would also like to thank the following experts and analysts in application security assessment: A Ajantha Anjum Afrin Arul Sumithra Balasunder Rakesh Balu Chitra Celine George TK Chendhilkumar Durga Surya Kumar Simma U Gopinath S Gowripriya Jothi Prakash, Grace Catherine K Subhashini Deivendran Karthiga Murugan Vignesh Muthuramalingam Jose Arokia Mary Muthuveeran Subash Narayanan Droupathy Subhash K Padma Prasoona Jayaprakash Pavithra Radhakrishnan Agashnarayani Ramdass Karthikeyan Karuppiah Nagamarimuthu Kuruvilla Mathew M Balaji Swaminathan Mantraratnam Sweta Marreddi Venkatesh Footnotes 1 Regulatory Compliance: Regulations a company must follow to meet specific requirements. 2 OWASP: Open Web Applications Security Project. A worldwide, not-for-profit charitable organization focused on improving the security of software. 3 SANS: The SANS Institute was established in 1989 as a cooperative research and education organization. 4 WASC: The Web Application Security Consortium (WASC) is a 501c3 nonprofit comprising an international group of experts, industry practitioners and organizational representatives who produce open source and widely agreed upon best-practice security standards for the World Wide Web. 5 CWE: Common Weakness Enumeration provides a unified, measurable set of software weaknesses that is enabling more effective discussion, description, selection and use of software security tools and services that can find these weaknesses in source code and operational systems, and better understand and manage software weaknesses related to architecture and design. Glossary BFS: Banking and Financial Services CWE: Common Weakness Enumeration DAST: Dynamic Application Security Testing ERSS: Enterprise Risk and Security Solutions HIPAA: Health Insurance Portability and Account- ability Act IME: Information, Media and Entertainment Practice OWASP: Open Web Application Security Project PCI: Payment Card Industry SANS: SysAdmin, Audit, Networking, and Security SAST: Static Application Security Testing T&H: Travel and Hospitality WASC: Web Application Security Consortium
  10. About Cognizant Cognizant (NASDAQ: CTSH) is a leading provider of information technology, consulting, and business process out- sourcing services, dedicated to helping the world’s leading companies build stronger businesses. Headquartered in Teaneck, New Jersey (U.S.), Cognizant combines a passion for client satisfaction, technology innovation, deep industry and business process expertise, and a global, collaborative workforce that embodies the future of work. With over 50 delivery centers worldwide and approximately 171,400 employees as of December 31, 2013, Cognizant is a member of the NASDAQ-100, the S&P 500, the Forbes Global 2000, and the Fortune 500 and is ranked among the top performing and fastest growing companies in the world. Visit us online at or follow us on Twitter: Cognizant. About Cognizant Enterprise Risk and Security Solutions The Cognizant Enterprise Risk and Security Solutions (ERSS) group specializes in providing end-to-end information- security solutions for various industry verticals, including retail, banking and financial services, logistics, telecom, healthcare, manufacturing and travel and hospitality – having serviced over 400 customers across various geogra- phies. Our team of experts provides information-security solutions and services based on best-of-breed products in each category of enterprise security. Our services encompass: • 600-plus security consultants specializing in Identify and Access Management (IAM), Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC), Data Security, Application Security Assessment (Secure SDLC) and Integrated Threat Management. • 300+ CISA, CISM, CISSP, CEH and vendor-certified associates. • 250+ Infrastructure Security trained associates. • Over 7000 combined years of information-security experience. • A proven track record and experience in 400-plus client engagements for security services. • Partnership with leading vendors such as IBM, CA, Oracle, SailPoint, Novell, Dell, RSA, HP, Symantec and McAfee. World Headquarters 500 Frank W. Burr Blvd. Teaneck, NJ 07666 USA Phone: +1 201 801 0233 Fax: +1 201 801 0243 Toll Free: +1 888 937 3277 Email: European Headquarters 1 Kingdom Street Paddington Central London W2 6BD Phone: +44 (0) 20 7297 7600 Fax: +44 (0) 20 7121 0102 Email: India Operations Headquarters #5/535, Old Mahabalipuram Road Okkiyam Pettai, Thoraipakkam Chennai, 600 096 India Phone: +91 (0) 44 4209 6000 Fax: +91 (0) 44 4209 6060 Email: ­­© Copyright 2014, Cognizant. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the express written permission from Cognizant. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice. All other trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners. About the Author Dr. Sivakumar Kathiresan, M.E., PhD., is a Principal Architect, Technology, within Cognizant’s Enterprise Risk and Security Solutions group. In this role, he leads the Application Security Assessment team, and has managed 120-plus security assessment projects across different verticals over the last three years. Sivakumar has 20 years of experience, including in industry, research and academia, and has delivered more than 100 knowledge-sharing sessions on various fields of enterprise security at different forums. His current areas of interest are advanced log analysis, vulnerability management, advanced persistent threats and management, and security analytics. Sivakumar received his PhD from the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee. He continues to research the area of Web security. His certificates include CEH, Sourcefire, Qualysguard, Envision, LanDesk and Big Data Associate. He can be reached at Sivakumar. K Rega S Nisha Sambasivam Suganiya Selvaraj Nithya S Sivapradha Srinivasan Amith Sundaram Kalicharan Sundaramurthy Subhashini Thomas, Lijo V Satheesh Kumar Varadarajan Pradeep Vedeshwar Raghavendra GK Yashwanth Haja Mohideen T Mohaideen Natchiya Sharmeela Jain Dinesh Jemmi Angelin