10 Common software security weaknesses

Jun 27, 2019

With regards to Software Security Weaknesses, hackers and burglars operate similarly. They are always looking for ways to get into secure places. For hackers, they are always looking for computers and networks to hack while burglars are always looking for houses and businesses to rob. Both have a range of options on how to get in; burglars can smash a window, sneak in a door that was left open, or look for rusty hinges that are easy to break.

Hackers, on the other hand, identify flaws in software and hardware to determine where to hit. They acknowledge that humans write programs and hence, inherently imperfect. The flaws in programs and software create an opening for potential hackers and attackers to cause harm. 

In a perfect world, all software would be flawless and without any weakness. Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world, and software security weaknesses are common. Most companies do not knowingly release software with security weaknesses. Most weaknesses emerge after the release of the software to the public, and millions of people begin using it. When a security vulnerability is discovered in software, the software developer is notified to issue a correction.

Effects of software security weaknesses

  • Attackers utilize software security weaknesses to damage a system and launch attacks. According to the US Department of Homeland Security, 90% of security incidences emanate from software security defects.
  • Attacks emanating from software security vulnerabilities cause financial losses amounting to billions of dollars. If software vulnerability causes downtime, a company can lose up to $1-5 million.
  • Attackers use the data obtained after taking advantage of security weaknesses for personal benefits. For instance, an attacker can use financial data to access a person’s bank account and steal money.
  • When companies fall prey to attackers, the attack tarnishes their reputation and credibility.
  • Software security weaknesses are tangible effects of mediocre software quality.

Common software security weaknesses      

1. Bugs

Bugs are a common source of software security defects. Unfortunately, almost all software contains bugs of different forms. These can be relatively minor, such as the incorrect rendering of print output or an improperly-formatted error message. Or, they can be more significant, impacting a user’s ability to log in or even leading to complete system failure (or if you’re NASA, loss of a spacecraft!). Some bugs represent security vulnerabilities that may result in an information leak or unauthorized access. These types of bugs create security weaknesses that attackers can leverage.

2. Broken authentication

Authentication refers to the process of ascertaining that users are who they say they are. Software with incorrectly configured user and session authentication poses great vulnerability. For example, when functions related to authentication are enacted incorrectly, security issues emerge. An attacker can take advantage of broken authentication to compromise users’ passwords or session tokens, or take over users’ accounts to assume their identity. 

3. Sensitive data exposure

Some software and web applications do not protect sensitive data such as health information, financial data, and other critical data like passwords and usernames, making this information available to attackers. Attackers could use this information to commit fraud, steal people’s identities, and conduct other crimes. Sensitive data requires extra protection such as encryption whether at rest or in transit to protect it from attackers and unauthorized access.

4. Injection

Injection vulnerabilities like SQL, OS, and LDAP take place when untrusted data is sent to an interpreter as a command. The untrusted data tricks the interpreter into accessing data without the right authorization or performing unintended commands.

SQL injection, for example, involves the injection of code with the intent of exploiting information in a database. The result is often the attacker gaining access to sensitive data stored in the database.      

5. Broken access control

Imagine a situation where all authenticated users have access to all information in the system. They can modify data, access other users’ accounts, and view sensitive data. It would be chaotic, right? Users would make amendments to suit their needs while accessing authorized sensitive data.

When software lacks proper configuration or missing restrictions on what users can access and what they can’t, sensitive data and other users’ accounts are compromised. Also, attackers target such flaws to access information in the system while modifying access rights and users data.

6. Security misconfiguration

Security misconfiguration is a common issue in software development. It originates from incomplete configurations, misconfigured HTTP headers, and insecure default configurations. To avoid security misconfigurations, OS, applications, and frameworks must not only be securely configured but also upgraded on time.

7. Insecure deserialization

Insecure deserialization results in remote code execution. Hackers can use it to perpetrate attacks like replay attacks and injection attacks.

8. Buffer overflow

Is a prominent phrase in technical media. Buffer overflow vulnerability is a common software security weakness. It happens when you try to put data that is too big into memory that is too small.

Overwriting the storage capacity of a program can lead to malfunctioning of the system because the new data can crush it, corrupt data, and culminate in the execution of malicious code. In some cases, an attacker uses the injected malicious code to take control of the system.

9. Utilizing components with weaknesses

Some components, such as libraries and other software modules have known vulnerabilities. Attackers can use such flawed components to unleash attacks resulting in data loss or server takeover. When you use components with known vulnerabilities, you jeopardize application defenses and enable attacks. For example, in 2014 it became public knowledge that hundreds of thousands of websites were affected by a bug in the open source OpenSSL cryptography library with the colorful name “Heartbleed.” Attackers may have used this vulnerability to steal private information for months prior to its disclosure.

10. Cross-site scripting (XSS)

Cross-site scripting is often associated with web applications. To clarify, it is the injection of code on sites and pages that users access and utilize. Therefore, hackers can use cross-site scripting to bypass access controls and harm users by conducting phishing and stealing their identities.

Software security weaknesses have numerous adverse effects. Luckily, they can be prevented if software developers are more cautious when developing software so that they don’t introduce vulnerabilities. In other words, these vulnerabilities offer an avenue for attackers to use to cause harm.

Security experts and software developers can also devise methods like automated means of vulnerability detection and security software inspections to detect software vulnerabilities. For instance, the first step to this effect is for software developers to know the common vulnerabilities listed in this article.

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