How Continuous Pen Testing Protects Web Apps from Emerging Threats

Outpost24 API security

As the demand for anytime, anywhere access to services and information increases, our dependency on web-based applications deepens.

From business strategies to consumer needs and even wider societal functions, there’s an application for pretty much anything you can think of these days. 

Unfortunately, the nature and ubiquity of modern web apps make them rife for targeting by hackers. This article describes why threat actors target web apps and highlights the value of continuous monitoring in securing modern web apps.

Why Do Threat Actors Target Web Apps?

Reason #1: Multiple dependencies

One of the key attractions of web apps from a hacker’s perspective is how easy they are to target. Consider the number of third-party components modern web apps depend on, especially if an organization prioritizes development models with frequent releases.

More features can mean more integrations with external libraries, and frameworks, along with a bigger attack surface.

One study found that the average software application depends on over 500 open source libraries and components.

When hackers scour a web app for its underlying structure and dependencies, all it takes is one vulnerable component to potentially provide an entry point for compromising that app. 

Reason #2: The lure of valuable data

Web apps are often treasure troves of valuable data that hackers can sell on the dark web or use in a targeted attack. In one recent study, 74 percent of apps containing personally identifiable information (PII) were vulnerable to at least one known major software exploit. For bad actors, this is an idyllic scenario – easily exploitable data.

Reason #3: Poorly secured APIs pulling the strings

APIs are vital cogs in modern web application ecosystems. These interfaces allow different apps and sub-components to communicate and share data resulting in richer and more dynamic experiences for end-users. 

However, the extensive use and sometimes lax security around APIs are part and parcel of what makes web apps attractive targets for cybercriminals.

Commonly encountered API security flaws include unsecured endpoints, cryptographic failures, weak authentication, and inadequate rate limiting. A 2023 survey found 92 percent of organizations who responded to the survey experienced an API security issue over the last year.

With security problems so common in APIs, it’s no wonder threat actors constantly hunt the web for apps with API flaws.   

Impacts of a web app compromise

Beyond end-user frustration, there are far-reaching consequences of successful attacks against web apps, including: 

  • Data breaches that result from unauthorized access to sensitive information. At $4.45 million for an average data breach, this is not a cost that’s easy to absorb for most organizations. Reputational damage, litigation, and compensation to affected parties often compound these costs. 
  • Downtimes that break-down important societal functions, such as driver’s license renewals or social support applications given that important services are increasingly web-app based.
  • More attacks as the web app can be used as a platform to distribute malware to users. The malware can be in the form of malicious downloads, or drive-by downloads that don’t even require any user interaction to infect their systems. 

Why continuous monitoring of web apps is essential

Not only are modern web applications dynamic and constantly evolving, but so are cyber threat actors and the methods they use. Given this ever-changing landscape, point-in-time security initiatives aren’t sufficient on their own for application security. 

A security assessment today may not be valid tomorrow. A point-in-time pen test won’t capture whether an app is secured against a novel attack strategy, or vulnerability that emerges shortly after.

To stay on top of the dynamic web app security landscape, pen testing as a service (PTaaS) offers a continuous on-demand approach to security testing.

This type of solution allows you to proactively identify and rectify vulnerabilities in real-time. Outpost 24’s comprehensive PTaaS solution combines the depth and precision of manual penetration testing with vulnerability scanning to secure web applications at scale.  

Outpost24’s PTaaS gives you the most accurate view of your application vulnerabilities. In 2023, more than 20% of all reported vulnerabilities from the platform were classified as high or critical severity.

For more information about Outpost24’s unique approach to web application security, read: Can traditional pen testing keep up with modern AppSec? Ask the pen tester.

Sponsored and written by Outpost24.

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