What Are Code Vulnerabilities?

Dec 7, 2023

In today’s world, where most of our lives revolve around apps and software, a single flaw in an application’s codebase can wreak havoc. These flaws, more often called code vulnerabilities, serve as entry points for malicious actors to access sensitive data or unleash programs like ransomware. Most exploits happen at the application level, so ensuring security is built in from the ground up should be a top priority for developers who want to improve their cybersecurity posture.

👨‍💻 Why Do Developers Write Vulnerable Code

It’s not usually intentional, but vulnerabilities creep into code for a lot of reasons. Poor coding habits, the absence of input validation, and skipping rigorous security tests are among the most common. Another frequent source of vulnerabilities is using open-source code (prevalent in today’s applications). While many developers pride themselves on meticulous coding, open-source code can introduce unforeseen weak points that may be exploited.

Considering that many hackers use automated tools to search for vulnerabilities to exploit, ignoring code vulnerabilities is akin to playing with fire. Recent history bears testimony to this, with the MOVEit hack in July 2023 as a stark reminder. A mere SQL injection gave the Russian ransomware gang, CLOP, unparalleled access, compromising the sensitive data of millions. The aftermath? A staggering loss of around $65 million.

🔎 Identifying Common Code Vulnerabilities

The Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency (CISA) keeps a catalog of known exploited vulnerabilities and the actions developers should take to mitigate them. The following are the most common that cause security incidents.

1. SQL Injection 

Picture this — an attacker subtly inserts malicious SQL queries into an innocent-looking input field, which the back-end database then unsuspectingly executes. Boom. Just like leaving the door of a secure vault unlocked, culprits can now view, alter, and even destroy data. This vulnerability can exist when you use user-supplied data in SQL queries without proper validation or escaping. Attackers exploit this weakness to manipulate your SQL queries and may then view, corrupt, and delete data and even execute administrative operations on the database.

2. Cross-Site Scripting

Imagine a scenario where an attacker slips a script into a webpage. Innocent users then view this page, unknowingly triggering the script. This is the essence of cross-site scripting (XSS). It’s a security vulnerability that allows attackers to inject malicious scripts into web pages viewed by other users. This attack occurs when a web application does not properly validate, sanitize, or escape user-generated input before rendering it on a web page. XSS can expose sensitive data, allow unauthorized actions, and even provide full control over the affected user’s interaction with a web application.

3. Command Injection

Think of this as an attacker having a magic wand, where they can run arbitrary commands on a system, turning it into their playground. This vulnerability mainly crops up when user input directly influences system commands without scrutiny. When exploited, command injection can give an attacker considerable control over a system, allowing them to read, write, or delete files, access databases, and execute various administrative operations.

4. Insecure Cryptographic Storage

A fortified vault can be an excellent place to store important data. But, if you leave the combination taped to the door, well… Insecure cryptographic storage is kind of like that — improperly handling, storing, or managing sensitive information using weak or flawed encryption techniques. In some cases, developers might neglect to use encryption altogether for data that should be kept confidential. This security flaw exposes sensitive data like passwords, financial information, and personal user details to unauthorized access, posing a significant security risk. Keep in mind that even if encryption is used, weak techniques can expose confidential data such as passwords and financial details.

5. Cross-Site Request Forgery

Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) is a web security vulnerability that allows an attacker to trick an unsuspecting user into performing unintended actions on a web application where they’re authenticated. This cunning vulnerability is often used by exploiting the trust placed in the user’s browser.

Best Practices for Developers to Avoid Vulnerabilities

Okay, so we’ve established that there are a lot of ways that hackers and attackers can get the best of developers’ creations and wreak havoc. But the good news is that with proactive vigilance and the right tools, you can help to make sure that your code isn’t the code that’s exploited. The following are best practices that developers can implement into their software development life cycle (SDLC).

Static Application Security Testing (SAST): Static application security testing with a tool like Kiuwan can analyze code to find vulnerabilities, allowing developers to remediate them before the code is deployed.

Software Composition Analysis (SCA): Given that many apps utilize open-source components, SCA can test for vulnerabilities in such code, enabling developers to eliminate risks before they become a problem.

Code Obfuscation: One of the stealthiest ways to shield your code from prying eyes is through obfuscation. By using tools like PreEmptive to transform the original source code into a version that’s harder to read and decipher, you put a barrier against reverse engineering and code exploitation.

Code Reviews: While automation is powerful, a manual review can catch nuances that machines may miss. A developer’s perspective on another’s code often uncovers overlooked vulnerabilities.

Least Privilege Principle: Limit user and system access to only what’s necessary. It’s like giving the key to only specific rooms in a large building.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Double up on verification. This ensures that even if one security layer is breached, another stands guard.

Data Encryption: Protect sensitive data at every step, whether it’s on the move or at rest.

Secure Configuration: Think of it as building a fortress. Turn off what’s not needed, raise the firewalls, and ensure settings are as stringent as possible.

Regular Updates and Patch Management: Software, much like our understanding of threats, evolves. Stay updated on current vulnerabilities and provide patches when needed.

Penetration Testing: Simulated hacking attempts via penetration testing, aka pen testing, can unmask weak spots in an application.

Compliance Checks: Regular audits to meet industry regulations can unveil potential security loopholes.

Vendor Risk Management: Your security is only as strong as its weakest link. Ensure third-party vendors meet your security standards.

🛑 Don’t Let Your Guard Down — Secure Your Code With Kiuwan

Every rose has its thorn. When it comes to digital innovation, cyber threats and the attackers who launch them are the thorn in the side of developers. What are the consequences if they succeed? Damaged reputation, financial losses, and a tarnished legacy that might take years to rebuild.

Kiuwan offers the industry’s best end-to-end application security platform, which empowers your team to develop secure code throughout the development process. With SAST, SCA, and code quality solutions, Kiuwan is aligned with all major security frameworks and standards.
Don’t risk being the next victim of a cyber-attack when prevention is a click away. Reach out today for a free trial or click the link below for a demo to learn how Kiuwan can harden your code against the ever-evolving threats of the digital landscape.

Get Your FREE Demo of Kiuwan Application Security Today!

Identify and remediate vulnerabilities with fast and efficient scanning and reporting. We are compliant with all security standards and offer tailored packages to mitigate your cyber risk within the SDLC.

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