Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Application Security

04:30 PM

Speed of Digital Transformation May Lead to Greater App Vulnerabilities

The fastest-moving industries are struggling to produce secure code, according to AppSec experts.

Digital transformation initiatives have become a common way for companies to make their businesses more agile and to adapt quickly to market changes. But faster software development speeds and the greater number of applications may be causing vulnerabilities to be more common, application-security experts said this week.

Industries such as manufacturing, IT, and retail each have a large share of companies whose applications are always vulnerable, according to the AppSec Stats Flash monthly report from WhiteHat Security. Seventy percent of applications at manufacturing companies, 56% of IT applications, and 56% of retail applications have at least one serious vulnerability affecting the software for the entire year, the report stated.

Related Content:

Breach Data Shows Attackers Switched Gears in 2020

Special Report: Understanding Your Cyber Attackers

New From The Edge: Hacker Pig Latin: A Base64 Primer for Security Analysts

Along with government agencies, healthcare, and real estate, these industries have the largest share of applications that have year-round vulnerabilities, the report states.

"These industries fall into a group of industries that have seen their number of applications per organization increase dramatically over the last several years as their business become increasingly digital," says Zach Jones, senior director of detection research at WhiteHat Security. "For most organizations, achieving an average time to fix of less than 30 days on high- and critical-risk vulnerabilities is a policy that is rarely achieved."

As more companies pursue digital transformation initiatives — a process to become more digitally native — the rate of software creation quickens and feature deployment increases. 

WhiteHat Security's data shows a significant gap between companies that typically have a large volume of applications and those industries that are pushing digital transformation initiatives. Industries that typically have fewer applications — such as agriculture, waste management, and construction — are much more likely to have shorter exposure windows.

Manufacturing, IT, and retail are some of the most enthusiastic supporters of digital transformation initiatives and among the industries dealing with a large share of eternally vulnerable applications. 

"Organizations at large have increased the rate and volume of applications they are pushing into production while reducing the time to release these applications," WhiteHat states in its report. "Consequently, the focus on fixing critical vulnerabilities and vulnerabilities has dropped, resulting in the rise in the time-to-fix for these vulnerabilities."

Companies focused on fast DevOps-style development are more likely to use open source applications, and that means their development teams need to pay more attention to vulnerable components and not just to vulnerabilities in their own code, according to Veracode.

In the past year, 31% of applications have had more vulnerabilities in open source application components, rather than the custom-code components, says Chris Wysopal, co-founder and chief technology officer at Veracode.

"People want to use those environments because there is more open source available, but it is a double-edged sword," he says. "More open source available means you can go faster, but there are often more of the vulnerabilities in the open source rather than the code that you have written."

Some industries are becoming overwhelmed with vulnerabilities. Public administration, educational services, and utilities all take at least 365 days to fix the average vulnerability, according to the WhiteHat report. On average, critical- and high-severity vulnerabilities take less than 200 days to fix, while low-severity vulnerabilities take more than 320 days.

"Leaders and developers must be incentivized to care about building secure applications and remediating issues when they are found," WhiteHat's Jones says. "Typically, most engineering organizations are measured and compensated on feature delivery alone, and it is extremely uncommon to see a feature requirement contain any language around security requirements unless it is a specific security feature."

Cybersecurity is the top investment priority for digitally mature companies, followed by cloud and data analytics, according to an annual survey by Deloitte.

Companies should not make unrealistic goals, and driving down the time from more than 200 days to under 30 days is not going to happen overnight, says Jones. In fact, many companies never fix vulnerabilities in less than a month. 

"Setting an unrealistic policy is something we see occur very often, and it results in policy violations becoming normalized and thus ignored," he says. "Set a threshold that will mean something and that you can act on. Then when you are achieving that threshold, tighten the policy."

Veteran technology journalist of more than 20 years. Former research engineer. Written for more than two dozen publications, including CNET News.com, Dark Reading, MIT's Technology Review, Popular Science, and Wired News. Five awards for journalism, including Best Deadline ... View Full Bio

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Inside the Ransomware Campaigns Targeting Exchange Servers
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  4/2/2021
Beyond MITRE ATT&CK: The Case for a New Cyber Kill Chain
Rik Turner, Principal Analyst, Infrastructure Solutions, Omdia,  3/30/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
How Enterprises are Developing Secure Applications
Recent breaches of third-party apps are driving many organizations to think harder about the security of their off-the-shelf software as they continue to move left in secure software development practices.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-14
An issue was discovered in MDaemon before 20.0.4. There is Reflected XSS in Webmail (aka WorldClient). It can be exploited via a GET request. It allows performing any action with the privileges of the attacked user.
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-14
An issue was discovered in MDaemon before 20.0.4. Remote Administration allows an attacker to perform a fixation of the anti-CSRF token. In order to exploit this issue, the user has to click on a malicious URL provided by the attacker and successfully authenticate into the application. Having the va...
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-14
An issue was discovered in MDaemon before 20.0.4. There is an IFRAME injection vulnerability in Webmail (aka WorldClient). It can be exploited via an email message. It allows an attacker to perform any action with the privileges of the attacked user.
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-14
An issue was discovered in MDaemon before 20.0.4. Administrators can use Remote Administration to exploit an Arbitrary File Write vulnerability. An attacker is able to create new files in any location of the filesystem, or he may be able to modify existing files. This vulnerability may directly lead...
PUBLISHED: 2021-04-14
Pi-hole is a Linux network-level advertisement and Internet tracker blocking application. Multiple privilege escalation vulnerabilities were discovered in version 5.2.4 of Pi-hole core. See the referenced GitHub security advisory for details.