How to Find Vulnerabilities in A Website

How to Find Vulnerabilities in A Website: Discovering 8 Security Tips in 2024

While reading this sentence, you might be amazed to know that three new websites are being created. This makes 175 websites in a minute and 252,000 daily; 70% have website vulnerabilities! 

Website vulnerabilities are flaws in a site’s code or setup that hackers can exploit to access or damage it, similar to how a burglar might enter through an unlocked door in your home. They are no fairy-tale; ignoring them can cause serious technical issues to your website. 

So, along with the scalability and progress, you should also invest your time and finances to strengthen your website’s security. But how can you keep your site 99% protected from these vulnerabilities? 

This guide will share crucial information on online threats, their cause, and how to set precautions against them. 

Time to start-

What is Website Vulnerability Management & How Does it Work? 

We know website vulnerabilities; they are inherent weaknesses or flaws within your website’s infrastructure that cyber adversaries could exploit to execute unauthorized actions. 

To fight against this problem, we can use the term Website Vulnerability Management (WVM), a critical process you engage in to systematically identify, assess, mitigate, and monitor security weaknesses on your website. It encompasses several steps to ensure your digital presence remains robust against cyber threats.

There are many activities you will find at the core of WVM, 

  • Regular scanning for vulnerabilities using automated tools.
  • Identifying potential risks like SQL Injection or Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) through simulation of attack scenarios or code analysis.
  • Evaluation of the severity of identified vulnerabilities.
  • Prioritization of vulnerabilities based on their potential impact on website security.
  • Implementing fixes to address identified vulnerabilities.
  • Patching software to close security gaps.
  • Updating plugins to newer, secured versions.

However, WVM continues beyond remediation. Continuous monitoring ensures that new vulnerabilities are detected early, and periodic reassessments confirm that implemented security measures remain effective over time. 

This ongoing identification, evaluation, mitigation, and monitoring cycle forms the backbone of effective website security management.

5 Deadly Website Vulnerabilities and Their Testing Methods 

How to Find Vulnerabilities in A Website

You can’t fight against the problem if you don’t know what you are fighting against. This is why having brief knowledge of website vulnerabilities can be a crucial part of perfecting your precautionary steps towards a perfect management system. 

i. Security Misconfiguration Vulnerability

Security misconfiguration should be one of your primary concerns When looking into how to find vulnerabilities in a website. This occurs when a website’s security settings are incorrectly configured or left to default, much like leaving a window open in a storm. It can lead to unauthorized access and data leaks, putting your website at significant risk.

Testing method: To test for security misconfiguration, you must regularly audit your website’s security settings. Review all configurations, ensure up-to-date software, and remove any unnecessary services or features. It’s like double-checking all doors and windows to ensure they’re locked and secure.

ii. SQL Injection (SQLi)

SQL Injection is a classic yet potent threat. It happens when an attacker can insert or “inject” malicious SQL queries into an input field on your website, corrupting your database like termites eating through wood. They can read, modify, or even delete data, which could have devastating effects.

Testing method: Testing for SQLi involves crafting input data that includes SQL commands and observing if your system executes these commands. Use tools designed for penetration testing to simulate these attacks safely. Think of it as a controlled experiment to expose weaknesses without causing harm.

iii. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

Cross-site scripting, or XSS, is where an attacker embeds malicious scripts into web pages viewed by other users. This is akin to someone pasting deceptive notices on a community bulletin board. These scripts can steal cookies, session tokens, or other sensitive information directly from the user’s browser.

Testing method: To test for XSS vulnerabilities, inject scripts into various input fields and see if they execute. This might include adding JavaScript code snippets into comment sections, search bars, or user profiles. It’s like checking the notice board’s resilience to vandalism by monitoring how it handles suspicious postings.

iv. Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

Cross-Site Request Forgery tricks users into executing unwanted actions on a web application where they are authenticated. It’s as if someone tricked you into mailing a letter you never intended to send. This can compromise user data and lead to unauthorized actions on their behalf.

Testing method: Test for CSRF by checking if your website demands a unique token with every request that could alter the application’s state. It’s similar to verifying the authenticity of a signature before acting on a written request, ensuring it’s genuinely from the sender.

v. Insecure Direct Object References (IDOR)

Insecure Direct Object References occur when an application provides direct access to objects based on user-supplied input. This can lead to unauthorized access to data, like finding a key left under the mat and using it to open a door. Attackers could access user profiles, files, or other sensitive resources without permission.

Testing method: Testing for IDOR involves manipulating these references (such as URLs or form parameters) to access unauthorized data. Pretend you’re testing every door in a building to see which ones open without proper authorization, ensuring each requires a unique key or code that only the rightful user possesses.

8 Security Tips to Keep Your Website Protected Against Online Vulnerabilities

These are some of the best tips you can apply to make your website more secure. Also we put instructions on how to perform them. 

1) Set Up 2 Factor-Authentication for Your WordPress Account 

You can set up 2FA for your WordPress admin area, which is a great idea to extend the login period and make your WordPress ID more secure. In these tips, we will show you how to set up 2FA using miniOrange Google Authenticator

Step 1: Download miniOrange Google Authenticator

First, download miniOrange Google Authenticator and activate it. 

How to Find Vulnerabilities in A Website

After you install the plugin, you will see a set up window like this, 

Step 2: Configure the settings 

This is an extended configuration process that you will have to go through, but it’s not much time-consuming. 

> Select the top option and press Continue Setup

[Note: With this option, every time someone tries to log in from the admin panel, they will be redirected to a 2FA section] 

> After that, select the top option again and press All Done. This option is a better security measure, making your website more effective against vulnerabilities.  

[Note: With this option, the system will directly redirect any user to the 2FA section, meaning there will be no interval between login and 2FA.] 

> Now, you will see another tab that lets you configure how your 2FA will work. Press Configure 2FA for yourself

You will see these options, 

[Note: the OTP Over Email is a better, simpler, most effective option for your account. However, if you prefer other secure options, like a phone number or Google/ Microsoft account, proceed with a different choice.]  

Step 3: Finish your 2FA Setup 

In this step, you must log in to your WordPress account via your 2FA method. We used this tutorial’s OTP Over Email option and got an OTP in our email. 

You should see a tab like this; now, click the Verify option, and the app will send an OTP in your email. Enter the OTP and click on Save and Continue

When all is done, you have set up 2FA for your WordPress account. 

Keep in mind that every time you or any other people from the admin panel will have to go through the 2FA process after providing the email and password in the login section. 

2) Implement strong, unique passwords for your website admin area

Implementing strong, unique passwords for your website’s admin area is crucial for safeguarding your digital platform against unauthorized access. This security measure acts as a robust first line of defense, preventing attackers from easily guessing or cracking your credentials through common tactics like brute force attacks, where numerous possible combinations are tried until the correct one is found.

A strong password typically includes a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters, making it exponentially more difficult for malicious actors to compromise. Moreover, using a unique password for your admin area ensures that your website’s control panel remains secure even if other accounts are breached.

Here are some examples of strong, unique passwords:

  • N3v3rGu3$$Me!
  • U$eR@nd0mP@55
  • Diff!cult2Cr@ck#
  • S3cur3!tyF1rst$
  • ^High&Wall4You

You don’t have to remember your passwords, just keep a note in your phone or laptop; you can even store them in a pen drive. Having notes will make it easier for you to keep these complex passwords. 

3) You can Install a Web Application Firewall (WAF) to block malicious traffic (In simple get a hosting service) 

Securing your website with a Web Application Firewall (WAF) is essential for blocking malicious traffic, but the process is more complex than downloading typical software. WAFs are usually provided as part of a service or integrated with hosting platforms, cloud services, or standalone hardware. 

To effectively implement a WAF, you must first decide between a cloud-based service, an on-premises solution, or a WAF feature integrated into other services like CDNs or hosting platforms.

For cloud-based WAF services, such as Cloudflare, Sucuri, or AWS WAF, the initial step involves selecting a provider that matches your security needs and budget. Once a provider is chosen, you must sign up and configure your website to route traffic through the WAF by adjusting your DNS settings. 

This setup places the WAF as a protective barrier between your site and incoming traffic. Providers typically offer a dashboard for customizing security policies and specifying the types of traffic to block.

4) Don’t forget to update your plugins

How to Find Vulnerabilities in A Website

Keeping your plugins updated is one of the most crucial parts of securing your site from website vulnerabilities. 

Regularly updating your plugins is crucial for maintaining the security and functionality of your website. Plugins can introduce vulnerabilities if they’re not kept up-to-date, as they often become targets for hackers looking for a way into your site. 

Developers continuously release updates that patch these vulnerabilities, fix bugs, and improve overall performance. By staying current with these updates, you effectively close potential entry points for attackers, enhancing your website’s defense against unauthorized access or harmful activities.

Think of each plugin as a door to your website’s backend. An outdated plugin is like a door with a faulty lock, easier for cybercriminals to open. Regular updates reinforce these locks, making it more challenging for malicious actors to find a way in. 

5) Use HTTPS with a secure SSL certificate for encrypted data transmission

To use HTTPS and ensure your website’s data transmission is secure, you must obtain and install an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. This process transforms your site from HTTP to HTTPS, which encrypts the data exchanged between your website and its visitors, safeguarding against interception or tampering by third parties.

First, purchase or obtain a free SSL certificate from a trusted Certificate Authority (CA). Providers like Let’s Encrypt offer free SSL certificates, making encryption accessible for all website owners. Once you have your SSL certificate, install it on your web server. 

This process varies depending on your hosting provider and server type, but generally involves accessing your hosting control panel, finding the security or SSL/TLS section, and following the prompts to upload your certificate.

Here are is a list of great SSL certificate providers, 

  • Let’s Encrypt: Offers free, automated, and open SSL/TLS certificates, popular for their ease of use and automation capabilities.
  • DigiCert: Known for a wide range of security solutions, including SSL certificates, focusing on high assurance and enterprise solutions.
  • Comodo SSL: A leading provider of affordable SSL certificates, offering various options, including DV, OV, and EV certificates.
  • Cloudflare: Cloudflare offers free Origin Certificates, designed to encrypt the traffic between Cloudflare’s network and your origin web server. This ensures end-to-end encryption for your website’s data.
  • GoDaddy: While primarily known as a web hosting and domain registration company, GoDaddy also offers SSL certificates.
  • Thawte: A well-established CA provides various SSL certificate options, including code signing certificates.

6) Limit user access and permissions to essential personnel only

If you have a personal website and want to share admin or moderator access to someone else, then this tip is perfect for you. The best part is you can manually limit people from accessing your website’s back end, without any plugin! 

Firstly, navigate to Users and and click on All Users. From there, you will see all the people who can control your website. 

Select an individual user and change their role, which will limit their access to your website in many different areas. You can change their role to, 

  • Shop Manager: Manages the eCommerce store, including products, orders, and sales data.
  • Customer: Purchases products and accesses their own account details.
  • Contributor: Submits content for review but cannot publish.
  • Subscriber: Reads content and possibly comments, with a profile on the site.
  • Author: Writes and publishes their own posts, and manages their own comments.
  • Editor: Oversees and publishes content, including posts written by others.
  • Administrator: Has full access and control over the entire website.

You can also select No role for this site, and decline any role from that user. It’s best that you have the Administrator role for yourself. 

There is another way, where you can control how your website members can control your site. Navigate to Settings and scroll down to New User Default Role. It has the same roles as the Users section. 

7) Backup your website data

Even if you take 100s of precautions, there is still no guarantee that you are 100% safe from any website vulnerabilities. Which is why it’s best to back up your website data, so it stays protected. 

Initiating regular backups is a foundational step; automating this process allows for consistent updates of your site’s data, which includes content, databases, and configurations. 

You can use manual backup methods if your website is relatively small or if you prefer direct control over the backup process. This typically involves accessing your site’s files via FTP (File Transfer Protocol) and downloading them to a local storage device. 

Additionally, you’ll need to export your website’s database, which stores your site’s content and user data, through tools like phpMyAdmin.

For a more automated approach, especially for larger sites or those managed through a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal, using plugins or extensions designed for backups is highly effective. 

These tools can automate both file and database backups, allowing you to schedule regular backups that occur without manual intervention. They often provide options to store backups in various locations, including cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive, or dedicated backup services, enhancing the security and redundancy of your data.

8) Monitor your website’s traffic and logs for suspicious activity

Monitoring your website’s traffic and logs for suspicious activity is essential in identifying and mitigating potential security threats. To start, you’ll need to implement web analytics tools such as Google Analytics, which provide comprehensive insights into your website’s traffic patterns. 

Here is how you can get started with Google Analytics. 

Step 1: Signup to Google Analytics

Go to analytics.google.com, and click on Start Measuring 

if you have an existing account then, you will be redirected to an existing information tab. 

Step 2: Complete the signup process 

Now, give your account a name and click on Next

[Note: avoid checking any unnecessary field in this tab] 

After finishing, give your account a property name 

[Note: Set up a Google Analytics 4 property to track your website and application data. This property will store all the analytics data for any combination of websites and apps you select.] 

Now, select the Industry category and Business size. If you still don’t have a business idea, you can simply choose Other business activity in the category tab. 

After modifying the category tab, it’s time to select your Business objectives. Click on Create and proceed to the next step. 

At this point, you have created your Google Analytics account, now all you have to do is select the platform from which Google will collect data. If you are not ready yet, click on Skip for now

Finally, provide your website name and click on Create a stream

And that’s it; you created your Google Analytics account for your website. 

FAQ 

Is it possible to scan a website for vulnerabilities?

Absolutely, scanning a website for vulnerabilities is not only possible but also a critical aspect of maintaining its security. Numerous tools and services are available for this task, ranging from simple plugins for content management systems to sophisticated software suites that perform deep scans. 

These tools search for common vulnerabilities like SQL injection, Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), and outdated software components. Regularly scanning your website helps in early detection of security issues, allowing for prompt remediation and strengthening of the site’s defenses against potential attacks.

Is Owasp a vulnerability scanner tool for websites?

OWASP, or the Open Web Application Security Project, is not directly a vulnerability scanner but an open-source project that focuses on improving software security. It provides comprehensive resources, guidelines, and tools to help identify and mitigate security vulnerabilities. 

Among its many contributions, OWASP ZAP (Zed Attack Proxy) is a notable tool designed for finding vulnerabilities in web applications through manual and automated testing. This makes OWASP an invaluable resource for developers and security professionals aiming to secure web applications against threats.

How can hackers clear tracks?

Hackers employ various techniques to clear their tracks and avoid detection after launching an attack. This includes erasing log files that record their activities, using VPNs or proxy servers to hide their real IP addresses, and deploying rootkits or other types of malware designed to conceal the intrusion. 

Some sophisticated attackers may also use anti-forensic techniques, such as time-stomping, to modify timestamps on files, making it challenging for forensic analysts to determine when the breach occurred or trace it back to the perpetrator.

Is port scanning a crime for websites?

The legality of port scanning is a gray area and varies depending on the country and the specific circumstances surrounding the scan. Generally, port scanning becomes problematic from a legal standpoint if it’s conducted without the website owner’s consent, as it can be interpreted as an attempt to discover vulnerabilities for malicious purposes. 

While security professionals often use port scanning as part of a vulnerability assessment with permission, unauthorized scanning can be seen as a precursor to an attack, potentially leading to legal action under computer misuse or cybersecurity laws.

Which browser in the world has the most vulnerabilities?

Historically, Internet Explorer has been frequently cited for having a significant number of vulnerabilities, largely due to its once-dominant market share and the length of time it’s been around. However, it’s crucial to recognize that all browsers are susceptible to vulnerabilities, and the landscape is constantly changing. 

The most important defense against browser vulnerabilities is to ensure that whichever browser you use is kept up to date. Browser developers regularly release updates to patch known security issues, making regular updates a key practice for maintaining online security.

Why Should You Care about Website Vulnerabilities?

Vulnerabilities may not be as immediately disruptive as direct online threats, but their presence can lead your website into significant difficulties. By learning how to find vulnerabilities in a website, you arm yourself with essential skills to preemptively identify and address weak spots. 

This proactive approach secures your website against potential exploits and safeguards the trust your users place in your digital presence.

Best of luck! 

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