What is OWASP and Why Does it Matter?

Table of Contents


OWASP Methodology

OWASP is an international organization that focuses on improving software security. OWASP develops and maintains a variety of tools, checklists, and guides related to secure coding and web application security. The OWASP Top 10 is perhaps the best-known OWASP project, which identifies the ten most common attacks against web applications.

OWASP is an important resource for developers and security professionals, and it offers a wealth of information on how to improve the security of web applications. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at what is OWASP, why it is so important in the software security industry and community, what the OWASP Top Ten is, and what are some of OWASP’s other projects.

What is OWASP?

The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) is a worldwide not-for-profit organization that focuses on improving the security of software. They also have an interactive community where developers and professionals from around the world come together to build more secure apps. OWASP operates under a “community” model, which means that anyone can participate in and contribute to OWASP-related projects. For everything from technical guides and tools to events, OWASP ensures that its offerings remain free and easily accessible by everyone.

Why is the OWASP important?

OWASP is important because they are one of the few completely independent organizations, meaning they are not affiliated with any particular vendor or technology. This allows OWASP to focus on its not-for-profit mission, providing unbiased, practical information about application security.

OWASP is also important because it has several very popular projects, including the OWASP Top Ten, which is widely used by developers and security professionals all over the world, and also because its collective effort gives the organization a lot of influence in the software security industry.

What is the OWASP Top 10?

The OWASP Top Ten is a classification of the most common attacks on web applications. It is OWASP’s primary goal to make this list public to educate developers and organizations about the importance of security.

Here is the current list of OWASP Top Ten security risks:

  • A01 – Broken access control: Failures to enforce access control policy, namely that users cannot act outside of their intended permissions, can lead to vulnerabilities including violation of the least-privilege user, permitting viewing or editing someone else’s account, and elevation of privilege.
  • A02 – Cryptographic failures: The first thing is to determine the protection needs of data in transit and at rest, from having or not any data transmitted in clear text to having or not passwords being used as cryptographic keys in absence of a password-based key derivation function.
  • A03 – Injection: An application is vulnerable to attack, for instance, when user-supplied data is not validated, filtered, or sanitized by the application. Some of the most common injections are SQL, NoSQL, OS command, Object Relational Mapping (ORM), and LDAP injection.
  • A04 – Insecure design: Insecure design is a broad category representing different weaknesses, expressed as “missing or ineffective control design.” One of the factors that contribute to insecure design is the lack of business risk profiling inherent in the software or system being developed.
  • A05 – Security misconfiguration: The application might be vulnerable if the application, for instance, has improperly configured permissions on cloud services, default accounts and their passwords still enabled, overly informative error messages to users, or software that is out of date or vulnerable.
  • A06 – Vulnerable and outdated components: You are likely vulnerable if you do not know the versions of all components you use, if you do not scan for vulnerabilities regularly, or if software developers do not test the compatibility of updated, upgraded, or patched libraries.
  • A07 – Identification and authentication failures: There may be authentication weaknesses if the application, for instance, permits automated attacks such as credential stuffing, brute-force, or other automated attacks, or has missing or ineffective multi-factor authentication.
  • A08 – Software and data integrity failures: Software and data integrity failures relate to code and infrastructure that do not protect against integrity violations, allowing attackers to upload their own updates, or where objects or data are encoded or serialized into a structure that an attacker can see and modify.
  • A09 – Security logging and monitoring failures: Insufficient logging, detection, monitoring, and active response occurs anytime, for instance, when auditable events are not logged, or when the application cannot detect, escalate, or alert for active attacks in real-time or near real-time.
  • A10 – Server-Side Request Forgery: SSRF flaws occur whenever a web application is fetching a remote resource without validating the user-supplied URL, allowing an attacker to coerce the application to send a crafted request to an unexpected destination.

What are some of OWASP’s other projects?

In addition to the Open Web Application Security Project’s Top Ten, the OWASP Foundation offers the following variety of resources:

  • OWASP Cheat Sheet Series: The OWASP Cheat Sheet Series provides a list of actionable security techniques that you can implement to help mitigate the most common attacks.
  • Application Security Verification Standard: The OWASP Application Security Verification Standard (ASVS) is a guide that helps organizations assess and measure the security of their applications.
  • OWASP Open SAMM: OWASP Open SAMM is a software assurance maturity model that helps organizations assess and improve their application security programs.
  • OWASP Testing Guide: The OWASP Testing Guide guides how to properly test web applications for security vulnerabilities.
  • OWASP WebGoat: OWASP WebGoat is a deliberately insecure web application that is used to teach web application security principles.
  • OWASP Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP): OWASP ZAP is an open-source web application security scanner.
  • OWASP Application Security Risks Report: The OWASP Application Security Risks Report is a yearly report that provides an overview of the most common risks faced by web applications.
  • OWASP Risk-Rating Methodology: The OWASP Risk-Rating Methodology is a tool that helps organizations assess and prioritize the risks associated with their web applications.
  • OWASP Application Security Principles: OWASP Application Security Principles are a set of guidelines that help organizations design, develop, and deploy secure web applications.
  • OWASP Dependency-Check: OWASP Dependency-Check is a tool that helps identify dependencies with known vulnerabilities.

Wrapping up

OWASP’s raison d’être and open-source software initiatives are led by a community of passionate volunteers, with the primary goal of helping developers build more secure software. OWASP’s global community also aims to make software security visible so that individuals and organizations can make informed decisions about true software security risks, with the OWASP Top Ten as a great starting point.

With its hundreds of local chapters worldwide and tens of thousands of members, the OWASP is acting as a leading educational and training resource for web developers and security professionals.

Need to benchmark your application’s security with the OWASP Top 10? Vumetric is an industry leader in application security testing. Contact our experts to learn more about our approach for free, without obligation.

A penetration test is a simulated hacking attempt that identifies opportunities for real hackers to break through your defences and perform various malicious acts. It generally leverages tools used by hackers and various professional methodologies to replicate the steps that modern hackers would take to intrude into your IT systems.

A pentest attempts to exploit your vulnerabilities to determine their potential impact, should they be used in a real hacking scenario. They provide a list of vulnerabilities with their respective level of severity, as well as technical recommendations to help your team apply corrective measures and focus on the most critical vulnerabilities.

These services allow your organization to answer the following questions, among several others:

  • Can a hacker gain access to any sensitive information?
  • Can a hacker hijack my technologies for any malicious acts?
  • Could a malware infection spread through the network?
  • Can an attacker escalate access to an administrative user?

Learn more about penetration testing →

There are many contexts in which a penetration test should be performed.

Here are some common use cases for a pentest:

  • As part of the development cycle of an application. (To test the security of a new feature/app)
  • To comply with security requirements. (3rd-parties, PCI, ISO27001, etc.)
  • To secure sensitive data from exfiltration.
  • To prevent infections by malware. (Ransomware, spyware, etc.)
  • To prevent disruptive cyberattacks. (Such as denial of service)
  • As part of a cybersecurity risk management strategy.

All businesses are advised to conduct a penetration test at least once a year, as well as after any significant upgrades or modifications to the company network. Given the rapid rate at which new exploits are discovered, we generally recommend that quarterly tests are performed.

Various steps are taken over the course of the project to prevent the potential impact of our tests on the stability of your technological environment and the continuity of your business operations.

For this reason, a communication plan will be put in place at the beginning of the project to prevent and mitigate any potential impact. A representative of your organization will be identified to act as the main point of contact to ensure rapid communication in the event of a situation directly impacting the conduct of your daily operations, or if any critical vulnerabilities are identified, for which  corrective measures need to be implemented quickly.

While we use a simple 4 levels risk rating approach (Critical, High, Moderate, Low), our risk assessment is actually based on the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) standard. Two main criteria are considered when  assessing the risk level of each vulnerability:

  • Potential impact: The potential impact of an attack based on a vulnerability, combined with its  potential effect on the availability of the system, as well as the confidentiality and integrity of  the data.
  • Exploitability: The potential exploitability of a vulnerability; a vulnerability that is easier to  exploit increases the number of potential attackers and thus the likelihood of an attack.  Different factors are considered when evaluating the exploitability potential of a vulnerability  (e.g.: access vector, authentication, operational complexity, etc.)

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