Browsers Aiding in Website Attacks

Website attacks are on the rise with intruders using an array of hacking techniques from cross site scripting to SQL injection.  Although careless development and insecure applications play a major role in a site’s vulnerability, the typical web browser is a contributing factor as well.

Despite the fact that several improvements have been made, none of the top web browsers are completely secure.  Because of this, many web security experts are projecting that website attacks will continue to be an issue.  The combination of enhanced functionality and the lack of adequate security implementations have left a number of browsers vulnerable to sophisticated attacks.  Some researchers are saying that the increasing number of exploits is the direct result of Web 2.0 technologies and advanced web hosting features.

Evolution in Technology Opens Doors to Further Threats

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Things were fairly innocent in the early days of the internet when static pages were prevalent, before technologies such as JavaScript and Active X came into play.  Today’s World Wide Web is dominated by dynamic web-based applications and complex server-side scripting languages, factors that enable browsers to be used in various ways to exploit websites.  Gary McGraw of Cigital, a software security company, agrees that these feature-rich designs have made browsers far less secure, stating that they are structured more like complete operating systems.

This past September Google released Chrome, its new web browser which was immediately faced with stiff competition in the form of Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari and Opera.  While internet users have a wide variety of browsers to choose from, the options are still limited in terms of security, including Chrome.  Experts contend that the browser war of who can out do one another in the feature department is what ultimately leads to these security vulnerabilities.

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Though quite serious, the security issues associated with today’s popular web browsers are not attributed to a lack of effort.  Some say that developers are doing all they can but when considering the fact that website attacks such as cross site scripting and cross site request forgery are typically the result of design, these flaws tend to be much harder to fix than bugs found in software code.  Observers suggest that the vulnerabilities are not going to disappear entirely but do stress that browser developers can do more to enhance security.

In general, development teams only have a little time to address browser vulnerabilities before the hacker community is able to discover them.  Developers are being encouraged to practice browser security just like those who make other software products.  This is extremely important as the major web browsers literally have hundred of millions of users.  One solid approach towards website security is standardized authentication, something that would need to be addressed by system administrators.  Another recommendation is for browser developers to design products that alert users when they are being directed to intranet zones such as localhost or RFC1918 as attackers are increasingly targeting internal devices.  Security firms have also predicted that the manner in which data is handled when requests are made between a browser and website should play a critical part in future designs.

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