Application Security
1/5/2017
09:30 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Non-Web App Vulnerabilities Outpace Web App Flaws

On back of IoT and other growing application spaces, the gap between vulns found in Web apps compared to all other apps widens in 2016.

As experts start to sift through the vulnerability and attack data of the previous year, most statistics bubbling to the surface are anything but surprising. Predictably, researchers pretty much agree across the board that the total number of application vulnerabilities found keeps increasing. But digging deeper, there was a surprise: On the vulnerability front, the total number of Web application vulnerabilities actually decreased in 2016.

This stat comes by way of Imperva researchers who last week reported their findings in a technical analysis of vulnerability trends for 2016. While that might get those with rose-colored glasses to proclaim progress in Web app security, researchers Nadav Avital and Mia Joskowicz believe that corresponding attack data shoots that down as unlikely. Instead, they believe that there's only so many security researchers out there in the wide world and right now, they've got other fish to fry. 

"A more likely explanation can be that this trend stems from a shift in the cyber security research focus that was influenced by changes in network-based consumption," they wrote. "For instance, a growing number of IoT devices, with a growing number of new security vulnerabilities, were introduced to the market with little or no security at all.

As an example of the low-hanging fruit security researchers are currently plucking from the IoT space, reports from DEF CON alone last year showed that researchers found 47 vulnerabilities in a minuscule sampling of 23 IoT applications. Consider that rate of flaws in context of the magnitude of IoT growth and it becomes a very scary proposition, indeed.

According to Gartner predictions in the fall, analysts believe that by 2021 there will be 1 million new IoT devices sold every hour and $2.5 million spent per minute on IoT applications. With that kind of wide open attack surface area within individual IoT apps - combined with the current explosion in deployments - is it any wonder that researchers are shifting gears into this new frontier of security? Many recognize that the impact of their finds have a very high likelihood of making a huge splash.

"When smart thermostats alone exceed one million devices, it’s not hard to imagine a vulnerability that can easily exceed the scale of other common web vulnerabilities such as Heartbleed, especially if multiple IoT solutions include the same open source component," Forrester analysts recently wrote about IoT.

Plus, beyond the current ease of uncovering serious IoT flaws and the magnitude of pain that potential IoT vulnerabilities could cause, there's also one other major draw for researchers. The crossover of many of these IoT apps into the physical realm makes them sexy to people fascinated with breaking stuff.

What that will mean for the future of Web app vulnerability research is still up in the air, but the rise of the Mirai botnet shows that attackers in 2016 are already making hay while the sun shines, making haste to leverage obvious IoT flaws profitably. So a little diversion of resources to this niche can't come fast enough.

Related Content:

Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
5 Security Technologies to Watch in 2017
Emerging tools and services promise to make a difference this year. Are they on your company's list?
Flash Poll
New Best Practices for Secure App Development
New Best Practices for Secure App Development
The transition from DevOps to SecDevOps is combining with the move toward cloud computing to create new challenges - and new opportunities - for the information security team. Download this report, to learn about the new best practices for secure application development.
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-7445
Published: 2015-10-15
The Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) subsystem in the Linux kernel through 4.x mishandles requests for Graphics Execution Manager (GEM) objects, which allows context-dependent attackers to cause a denial of service (memory consumption) via an application that processes graphics data, as demonstrated b...

CVE-2015-4948
Published: 2015-10-15
netstat in IBM AIX 5.3, 6.1, and 7.1 and VIOS 2.2.x, when a fibre channel adapter is used, allows local users to gain privileges via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2015-5660
Published: 2015-10-15
Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability in eXtplorer before 2.1.8 allows remote attackers to hijack the authentication of arbitrary users for requests that execute PHP code.

CVE-2015-6003
Published: 2015-10-15
Directory traversal vulnerability in QNAP QTS before 4.1.4 build 0910 and 4.2.x before 4.2.0 RC2 build 0910, when AFP is enabled, allows remote attackers to read or write to arbitrary files by leveraging access to an OS X (1) user or (2) guest account.

CVE-2015-6333
Published: 2015-10-15
Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) 1.1j allows local users to gain privileges via vectors involving addition of an SSH key, aka Bug ID CSCuw46076.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
In past years, security researchers have discovered ways to hack cars, medical devices, automated teller machines, and many other targets. Dark Reading Executive Editor Kelly Jackson Higgins hosts researcher Samy Kamkar and Levi Gundert, vice president of threat intelligence at Recorded Future, to discuss some of 2016's most unusual and creative hacks by white hats, and what these new vulnerabilities might mean for the coming year.