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5/17/2009
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Report: Over 60 Percent of Websites Contain Serious Vulnerabilities

Newly released client data from White Hat Security finds organizations are slow to close known security holes in their Websites

Most Websites harbor at least one major vulnerability, and over 80 percent of Websites have had a critical security flaw, according to new data released today by WhiteHat Security.

The Website vulnerability statistics, based on Website vulnerability data gathered from WhiteHat's own enterprise clients, show that 63 percent of Websites have at least one high, critical, or urgent vulnerability issue, and there's an average of seven unfixed vulnerabilities in a Website today.

"What we know from this report is that the Web is at least this insecure," says Jeremiah Grossman, CTO of WhiteHat.

The top ten classes of vulnerabilities hasn't changed much from WhiteHat's findings in the fourth quarter of 2008. The pervasive cross-site scripting (XSS) flaw still leads the pack as the most likely vulnerability in a Website, with a 65 percent chance that a Website has XSS bugs, followed by information leakage, with 47 percent.

And the average number of vulnerabilities per Website over its lifetime is 17, according to WhiteHat's data.

"Customers are fixing large swaths of vulnerabilities, but it's really tough to wipe out 100 percent of vulnerabilities, even by class and severity," Grossman says. "And even if you fix nine of 10 cross-site scripting vulnerabilities, you still have one. That's why the percentage of sites likely to have cross-site scripting vulns is" so high, he says.

And all it takes is one XSS vulnerability for an attacker to do his dirty work, he says.

Around 30 percent of Websites are likely to contain content spoofing bugs; 18 percent, insufficient authorization; 17 percent, SQL injection; 14 percent, predictable resource location; 11 percent, session fixation; 11 percent, cross-site request forgery (CSRF); 10 percent, insufficient authentication; and 9 percent, HTTP response-splitting flaws, according to WhiteHat's latest counts.

But Grossman says CSRF flaws are actually much higher than 11 percent (it was 10 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008): "We know it's actually a lot higher than that," he says. "Unless you're doing a manual process [to find CSRF], that number goes under-reported."

Around 82 percent of Websites have had at least one high, critical, or urgent vulnerability as of the first quarter, and 63 percent still have at least one of these types of flaws on their sites.

Social networking companies have an 82 percent chance of having unresolved high, critical, or urgent flaws in their Websites; IT firms, 75 percent; financial services, 65 percent; insurance, 64 percent; retail, 61 percent; pharmaceutical, 59 percent; telecommunications, 54 percent; and healthcare, 47 percent.

Another problem plaguing Website owners is fixing the vulnerabilities they find in a timely manner. Today, there is an average of seven unresolved vulnerabilities on a Website, and only 60 percent of all vulnerabilities discovered in Websites by WhiteHat are fixed. Insufficient authentication weaknesses can take over two months to get fixed; information leakage, 85 days; and XSS, 58 days, for example. The quickest turnaround was SQL injection, at 38 days.

"The time-to-fix is still weeks, months, or never," Grossman says. "These numbers are likely to grow because we can only count the time-to-fix when they are actually fixed."

Grossman says how an organization prioritizes its vulnerability remediation varies from company to company. "How do you judge risk, allocate your resources? You need two strategies -- one for the Websites that have not yet been built, and another for ones that are currently live."

And IT security often struggles with keeping up on all of the Websites their organization is building. "One of the biggest things they are grappling with is knowing what Websites they have. Security guys may not know when a new Website goes live," Grossman says.

WhiteHat will host a Webinar on its latest findings tomorrow, May 19 at 11am Pacific and 2pm ET.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Kelly Jackson Higgins is Senior Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise Magazine, ... View Full Bio

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