Report: In-Depth Analysis Finds More Severe Web Flaws

Web Application Security Consortium (WASC) report suggests automated scanning alone isn't as thorough when it comes to serious bugs

A new report on Web threats released today by the Web Application Security Consortium says that in-depth manual and automated assessments found nearly 97 percent of sites carry a severe vulnerability.

“About 7.72% [of] applications had a high-severity vulnerability detected during automated scanning,” according to the WASC report. “Detailed manual and automated assessment using white and black box methods shows that probability to detect high-severity vulnerability reaches 96.85 percent."

WASC combined custom Web application vulnerability data from 32,000 Websites that had been searched for vulnerabilities using automated scanning as well as so-called white- and black-box scans, where manual and automated analysis methods are used. Booz Allen Hamilton, BT, Cenzic,, HP, Positive Technologies, Veracode, and WhiteHat Security all provided “sanitized” data for the report.

The pervasive cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability didn’t get a high ranking in the report (it was found in only 1.43 percent of the apps) however -- even though it’s “the most prevalent vulnerability,” according to WASC. That’s because “it is difficult to detect automatically and because a lot of experts take its existence for granted.”

As usual, the vulnerabilities most found in Web applications were cross-site scripting, information leakage, and SQL injection. XSS accounted for 41 percent of all vulnerabilities; information leakage, 32 percent; SQL injection, 9 percent; and predictable resource location flaws, 8 percent.

Security expert Jeremiah Grossman praised the report, but says to be careful not to read too much into the data. “It’s best to view reports such as these, where the true number and type of vulnerabilities is an unknown, as the best-case scenario,” blogged Grossman, CTO of WhiteHat, and a member of WASC who contributed to the report. “There are certainly inaccuracies, such as with CSRF, but at the very least this gives us something to go on.”

But that didn’t stop experts from trying to decipher what the report reveals about the state of Web security.

“Looking at the numbers, I thought SQL injection would have a bigger presence in the number of vulnerabilities and vulnerable sites. Although the statistics seem to show the number is decreasing from previous years, do not stop fighting this class of attack, and all types of injection in general!! From a threat classification perspective, client-based attacks and information disclosure (again) are the most prevalent ones,” blogged Raul Siles of the SANS Internet Storm Center.

The report also compared the testing methodologies used to identify Web vulnerabilities. The more detailed black box and white box methods better detect authorization and authentication-type vulnerabilities and logic flaws, according to the report, and these methods also are 12.5 times more likely to detect a high-risk vulnerability than an automated scanner.

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About the Author(s)

Kelly Jackson Higgins, Editor-in-Chief, Dark Reading

Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Editor-in-Chief of Dark Reading. 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, Virginia Business magazine, and other major media properties. Jackson Higgins was recently selected as one of the Top 10 Cybersecurity Journalists in the US, and named as one of Folio's 2019 Top Women in Media. She began her career as a sports writer in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, and earned her BA at William & Mary. Follow her on Twitter @kjhiggins.

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