Ninety-four percent of all web applications suffer from high-severity software vulnerabilities, a new report revealed.

According to “Automated Code Analysis: Web Application Vulnerabilities in 2017,” every web app tested by security firm Positive Technologies contained vulnerabilities of varying severity. In addition to the 94 percent of appplications that contained a high-severity flaw, 85 percent carried an exploitable vulnerability.

A Tempting Target for Cybercriminals

For the report, Positive Technologies conducted vulnerability assessments against 33 applications. Some of the applications tested were publicly available at the time of analysis, while others worked for internal business functions only. All were susceptible to code and/or configuration weaknesses, while other flaws, such as unpatched software updates, were not considered in the report.

Of all the vulnerabilities identified, cross-site scripting (XSS) bugs were the most prevalent at 82 percent of applications, followed by HTTP response splitting and arbitrary file reading at 58 percent and 52 percent, respectively.

Aside from enabling attacks against users, the vulnerabilities discovered in 70 percent of applications laid the foundation for denial-of-service (DoS) conditions. This medium-level threat was more common than four others of high severity, including arbitrary file reading (61 percent), operating system (OS) commanding (55 percent), unauthorized database access (45 percent), and deletion or modification of server files (42 percent).

Some industries’ web applications were more vulnerable to weaknesses than others. For instance, Positive Technologies found critical vulnerabilities in 100 percent of financial institutions’ web apps, while 83 percent of government apps and 75 percent e-commerce software suffered from high-severity flaws.

Proactive Security Measures Key to Protecting Web Applications

Leigh-Anne Galloway, cybersecurity resilience lead at Positive Technologies, said the report indicates that web applications are obvious targets for attackers.

“A large number of unfixed, exploitable vulnerabilities is a windfall for hackers, who can use these flaws to steal sensitive information or access an internal network,” Galloway explained, as quoted in a press release. “Fortunately, most vulnerabilities can be discovered long before an attack ever happens. The key is to analyze application source code.”

The report noted, however, that detecting vulnerabilities in application source code isn’t enough. It advised organizations to also embrace proactive security measures, such as web application firewalls (WAFs).

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