Cross Site Scripting: The Underestimated Website Attack

Cross site scripting or simply XSS, is one of most common threats facing website owners today. This exploit occurs at the application layer, usually targeting scripts embedded in a web page from a client-side browser rather than the server-side. In general, XSS is an attack that takes advantages of weaknesses in client-side technologies such as HTML and Javascript. The intent of cross site scripting is to manipulate the scripts within a web application and execute them in a malicious manner for the benefit of the attacker.

Cross site scripting is one of several threats that uses vulnerable applications to exploit a website. The major difference with XSS is that it does not have the ability to directly steal sensitive information from a back-end database. Unfortunately, this has led several webmasters to believe that XSS isn’t a high-risk threat. Ironically, many have gone on to learn the hard way, forced to suffer through public defacement and embarrassment.

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The Consequences of Cross Site Scripting

The damaged inflicted by XSS exploits is widely documented. There have been cases where large corporate websites were hacked by this attack with the results almost always being catastrophic. Cross site scripting is used to achieve a wide variety of malicious goals and below are some of the most common:

  • DoS (Denial of Service) Attacks
  • Accessing sensitive, unauthorized information
  • Modifying browser and security settings
  • Spying on victims’ computing activities
  • Website defacement
  • Identity theft

The consequences of a successful XSS attack can be crippling for businesses of any size. Security vulnerabilities in some of the most popular websites have led to the theft of credit card numbers and other identifying customer information. Consumers have been duped into clicking links that direct them to a rogue site purporting as a legitimate business. Unaware of the malicious ploy, the customer enters their details into the application, handing them right over to the hacker. If you are the cause of your customers being compromised, they will rightfully lose trust in your site’s security, a situation that could lead to liability issues and ultimately the loss of your business.

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Educate Yourself About Cross Site Scripting

The increasing number of successful attacks is proving that large enterprises are just as vulnerable as organizations working on a smaller budget. What this really shows is that there is not necessarily a lack of resources, yet a lack of awareness within businesses at all levels. Numerous security reports reveal that a great number of applications on the web are vulnerable to XSS. Sadly, is not uncommon to find website owners putting their customers and business at risk by not practicing sound security.

On the surface, cross site scripting may not seem as severe as other threats but that is what makes it so dangerous. This is one exploit far too many webmasters are not prepared for. Until more become aware, the problem will only escalate and continuously claim new victims. Unless you want a disaster on your hands, take every measure you can to ensure that your web applications are secure.

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