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Attackers Still Enamored With Business Logic Flaws

New Ponemon report finds most organizations hit by attacks exploiting these weaknesses in their applications

Zero-days may get all of the attention, but good old-fashioned business logic flaws are still a popular attack vector.

New data from the Ponemon Institute found that more than 80 percent of organizations have been hit by at least one attack abusing their applications' business logic weaknesses in the past year, and 30 percent say they've experienced more than 20 such attacks in the same time frame.

Attackers don't need an exploit to abuse your Web application. All it takes is for them to take advantage of a business logic flaw -- a design weakness -- and they can conduct e-commerce or other types of fraud. A business logic flaw, for example, would entail using a simple script to manipulate the results of an online poll, or a shopping cart app with logic errors that allow attackers to bypass authentication and not actually pay for items.

Among the most popular business logic flaw attacks, according to Ponemon's report, are e-coupon abuse, e-wallet weaknesses, app store fraud, and bad guys testing stolen credit card numbers. The report, which was commissioned by Web fraud detection vendor Silver Tail Systems, surveyed some 640 IT security pros in the U.S.

Among the organizations that were hit with business logic attacks, more than one-fourth lost more than 4 percent in revenue due to the attack, and two-thirds lost between 1 and 4 percent in revenue.

It's not easy to detect this type of abuse, either: Nearly three-fourths of the organizations say it's hard to tell a real customer from a poser on their websites.

"This is kind of a tough area -- it doesn't really fit naturally into a category," says Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute. "This is not a trivial problem, either. [These attacks] can be very costly."

Fixes can also require changes website design, which can prove to be problematic, he says. "And respondents are not confident in their company's ability to solve the problem."

More than 70 percent say they don't have enough budget to find and fix these flaws, while 69 percent say they don't even have the right tools. Around 65 percent lack the manpower in-house.

Nick Edwards, vice president of marketing at Silver Tail Systems, says business logic flaws are challenging. "Traditionally, customers have tried to keep together their log data to understand what's happening ... But it doesn't give you information all the way down to what the user was trying to do," Edwards says.

The full report is available here (PDF) for download.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor 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 ... View Full Bio

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