12 Feb Broken Access Control Vulnerability
Broken access control is like giving a toddler the keys to a candy store. The toddler will have a massive sugar rush, but your candy store is a complete mess.
Broken access control is a growing security concern for organizations reliant on web applications to store and manage sensitive information. OWASP called broken access control the #1 security concern in 2021, moving from its #5 spot in 2017.
Understanding broken access control and knowing the best practices will help organizations take the necessary steps to protect their information.
Let’s take a look inside this candy store.
- Broken access control is the #1 security concern according to OWASP in 2021, moving from its #5 spot in 2017.
- It is a vulnerability in the access control system that allows unauthorized access to sensitive data or resources, leading to data breaches and loss of credibility.
- There are several types of broken access control vulnerabilities, including inadequate access control, inconsistent access control, bypassing access control, insufficient authorization, and lack of access control management.
- Examples of attacks include SQL injection, session fixation, cross-site request forgery (CSRF), privilege escalation, and path traversal.
- The best practices for detecting broken access control vulnerability include manual, automated, and penetration testing, focusing on the most critical parts of the application and testing both front-end and back-end.
- Organizations must conduct regular security audits, penetration testing, and threat assessments to prevent broken access control vulnerability, focusing on implementing secure authentication and authorization.
Understanding Broken Access Control
What is Broken Access Control?
Access control refers to the processes and technologies used to manage system, network, or resource access. It helps to ensure that only authorized users can access sensitive data and perform specific actions, such as changing settings or executing commands.
The definition of broken access control is the vulnerability in the access control system that allows unauthorized access to sensitive data or resources.
When access control becomes broken, the severity of the impact is dangerous.
It can lead to unauthorized access to sensitive data, potentially leading to data breaches, theft of confidential information, and loss of credibility and trust. Broken access control can leave organizations vulnerable to attacks from malicious actors who can exploit the vulnerability to gain access to sensitive resources.
Types and Causes of Broken Access Control
There are several different types of broken access control vulnerabilities, including:
- Inadequate Access Control – where there must be proper measures to ensure that only authorized individuals can access sensitive information or systems.
- Inconsistent Access Control – where different security measures are applied to other areas or resources, leading to an uneven and unpredictable level of protection.
- Bypassing Access Control – the act of circumventing or bypassing the security measures to restrict access to information or systems, allowing unauthorized individuals to gain access.
- Insufficient Authorization – where an individual is granted access to information or systems without the necessary level of permission required to carry out the intended actions, leading to security risks.
- Lack of Access Control Management – There is no effective system for monitoring and controlling access to information or systems, resulting in security vulnerabilities.
Examples of Broken Access Control Attacks
Here are some examples of attacks:
- SQL Injection: An attacker inserts malicious SQL code into a web application’s input field to access or manipulate the underlying database.
- Session Fixation: An attacker hijacks a user’s session by fixing their session ID, allowing them to access sensitive information.
- Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF): An attacker tricks a victim into submitting a malicious request to a web application, bypassing the victim’s authorization.
- Privilege Escalation: An attacker takes advantage of a vulnerability in the system to gain elevated privileges and access restricted resources.
- Path Traversal: An attacker manipulates the URL path to access restricted resources or files, bypassing the authorization checks.
How to Detect Broken Access Control Vulnerability
Broken access control is best mitigated by regularly monitoring your systems and applications to detect any instances of broken access control. There are several standard methods for detecting broken access control vulnerabilities.
- Manual Testing: This method involves testing the application to see if unauthorized access to resources is possible. This method can be time-consuming, but it is often the most effective way to detect broken access control vulnerabilities.
- Automated Testing: Automated testing involves using specialized tools to scan your applications for broken access control vulnerabilities. These tools can be highly effective but require technical knowledge to configure and use.
- Penetration Testing: This method simulates your application’s real-world attack to determine if any broken access control vulnerabilities exist. Penetration testing can be very effective, but it can also be quite expensive and time-consuming.
Best Practices for Testing for Broken Access Control
When testing for broken access control vulnerabilities, you should follow several best practices to ensure that you are getting accurate results. Regular testing and monitoring of your applications are critical to detecting and preventing broken access control vulnerabilities.
Some of these best practices include:
- Start with a comprehensive security assessment: Before testing for broken access control vulnerabilities, it is vital to conduct a comprehensive security assessment of your application. Performing this test will help you identify any potential security risks and prioritize your testing efforts.
- Focus on the most critical parts of the application: When testing for broken access control vulnerabilities, you must focus your efforts on the most vital application features. The test will help you identify and fix any vulnerabilities that could cause the most harm.
- Test both the front-end and back-end of the application: When testing for broken access control vulnerabilities, it is essential to test both the front-end and back-end of the application. This test will help you identify any vulnerabilities that could allow unauthorized access to resources and data.
How to Prevent a Broken Access Control Vulnerability
One of the first steps to mitigate broken access control vulnerabilities is to understand if your system is vulnerable in the first place. Organizations can do this through regular security audits, penetration testing, and threat assessments. These assessments can identify potential access control weaknesses and recommend securing your system.
This section will discuss whether your systems are vulnerable, the best practices for securing access control in web applications, and how to implement secure authentication and authorization.
Signs You Are Vulnerable
Even if you regularly monitor and test your applications for broken access control vulnerabilities, you may not know if you are vulnerable. Some signs that you may be susceptible include:
- Unauthorized access to resources and data: If you notice that unauthorized users are accessing resources and data that they should not have access to, this could indicate a broken access control vulnerability.
- Increased frequency of attacks: If you are experiencing increased attacks on your applications, this could indicate that you are vulnerable to broken access control vulnerabilities.
- Security alerts and warnings: If you receive security alerts or notifications about broken access control vulnerabilities, it is essential to take these warnings seriously and take steps to address the vulnerability.
Best Practices for Securing Access Control in Web Applications:
Here are some practices for web applications to secure access control:
- Implement Strong Authentication and Authorization Mechanisms: Strong authentication and authorization mechanisms, such as multi-factor authentication, are critical for preventing unauthorized access to sensitive information and functionalities.
- Validate user input: Validating user input can prevent attackers from exploiting vulnerabilities in your access control systems. By ensuring the validation of all information, systems avoid malicious actors from compromising your systems.
- Use access control systems with proven security: Access control systems are critical for preventing unauthorized access. Ensure that your access control systems have been tested and proven secure before implementing them in your web applications.
- Regularly monitor and update access control systems: Regular monitoring and updating of access control systems are critical to ensure that they continue to function correctly and provide adequate security.
Broken Authentication vs. Broken Access Control
Broken authentication and broken access control are two distinct vulnerabilities that can occur in web applications.
Broken authentication refers to the failure of authentication systems to verify the identity of a user correctly.
In contrast, broken access control refers to the loss of access control systems to enforce the security policies set in place perfectly.
Both broken authentication and broken access control can lead to serious security breaches. They must be addressed to ensure the security of sensitive information and resources.
Broken access control vulnerabilities are critical security concerns that can expose sensitive information and compromise users’ privacy.
Preventing these vulnerabilities requires a combination of strong authentication and authorization mechanisms, proper validation of user input, and regular monitoring and updating of access control systems.
Implementing these best practices can help ensure the security and privacy of user data and prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information.