New OWASP Top 10 Reflects Unchanged State Of Web Security

Injection flaws still rank No. 1 in Web application vulnerabilities

The oft-cited and oft-debated OWASP Top 10 list of the most critical vulnerabilities in Web applications got an update this week with the most prevalent flaw -- injection -- remaining at the No. 1 slot.

Injection, broken authentication and session management, cross-site scripting (XSS), insecure direct object references, security misconfiguration, sensitive data exposure, missing function-level access control, cross-site request forgery (CSRF), using known vulnerable components, and unvalidated redirects and forwards round out the Top 10 list, respectively. XSS actually dropped down a slot from the No. 2 position in 2012, and broken authentication/session management moved up.

According OWASP, the jump in broken authentication and session management is most likely due to these bugs being scrutinized more closely. "We believe this is probably because this area is being looked at harder, not because these issues are actually more prevalent," OWASP wrote in its report on the new list of Web app flaws.

CSRF dropped from No. 5 to 8, mainly due to developers doing a better job in eliminating those flaws, according to OWASP.

"The OWASP Top 10 never has looked substantially different from one year to the next. Usually one category is added, one category is removed, and a few categories are repositioned. There isn't much of a difference between the 2003 and 2013 list -- and that right there is the story of Web security: We don't seem to be outright solving anything," says Jeremiah Grossman, co-founder and CTO at WhiteHat Security.

Dave Wichers, OWASP contributer and founder and chief operating officer at Aspect Security, says Web security is actually getting worse. He says "the only way out is to figure out some way to have a bigger influence on software development culture."

"The security community, including OWASP, needs to bring security into that culture, like the way Agile changed software culture," Wicher says. "We can't keep commenting from the outside, which is what we have been doing for the most part."

The OWASP Top 10 is considered the go-to list for Web application weaknesses, but some organizations lean too heavily on it without taking a bigger picture approach to application security, security experts say. "... just because something shows up at the top of the OWASP Top 10 doesn't mean it's the most important problem facing your organization," Vincent Liu, partner with Bishop Fox, recently blogged.

But OWASP says the Top 10 isn't just about eliminating bugs in Web apps. "The Top 10 is about managing risk, not just avoiding vulnerabilities," OWASP said in a post on its website. "To manage these risks, organizations need an application risk management program, not just awareness training, app testing and remediation."

"We need to encourage organizations to get off the penetrate and patch mentality," OWASP wrote.

[SQL injection drops out of WhiteHat Security's top 10 website vulnerability list. See Websites Harbor Fewer Flaws, But Most Have At Least One Serious Vulnerability.]

The 2013 OWASP Top 10 has a few other notable changes. OWASP expanded the former Failure to Restrict URL Access to the new, broader category of Missing Function Level Access Control. "There are many ways to specify which function is being accessed, not just the URL," OWASP said.

The Sensitive Data Exposure category is a merger of the vulns formerly known as Insecure Cryptographic Storage and Insufficient Transport Layer Protection. "This new category covers sensitive data protection ... from the moment sensitive data is provided by the user, sent to and stored within the application, and then sent back to the browser again," OWASP says.

OWASP also created a new category, Using Known Vulnerable Components, that previously was part of Security Misconfiguration.

"The Top 10 provides basic techniques to protect against these high risk problem areas – and also provides guidance on where to go from here," OWASP said.

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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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