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What Are Web App Attacks? Web Application Hacking Methodology & Tutorial

Table of Contents

  • What is Web Application Hacking?
  • Common Web App Attacks
  • Web Application Hacking Methodology
  • Vulnerability Scanning with Acunetix

What is Web Application Hacking?

Web application hacking or web app hacking is the act of exploiting vulnerabilities and weaknesses in web applications to gain unauthorized access, manipulate data, or perform malicious activities. 

It involves identifying security flaws in web apps and leveraging them to compromise their integrity, confidentiality, or availability.

Web applications are software programs that run on web servers and are accessed through web browsers. They are used for various purposes, such as online banking, e-commerce, social media, and more. However, these applications often have security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers.

Common Web App Attacks

There are several common web application attacks that hackers often exploit to compromise the security of web applications. 

Here are some of the most prevalent ones:

1. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

XSS attacks involve injecting malicious scripts into web pages viewed by other users. This can occur when the application fails to properly sanitize user input or output, allowing attackers to execute arbitrary code in the victim's browser. XSS attacks can be used to steal sensitive information, hijack user sessions, or deface websites.

2. SQL Injection

SQL injection attacks occur when an attacker manipulates a web application's database queries by inserting malicious SQL code. This can enable unauthorized access to the database, data theft, or modification of data. SQL injection vulnerabilities commonly arise when user input is not properly validated or sanitized before being used in database queries.

3. Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

CSRF attacks trick authenticated users into unknowingly executing unwanted actions on a web application. This is achieved by crafting malicious requests and exploiting the trust placed in the user's browser sessions. CSRF attacks can lead to actions being performed without the user's consent, such as changing passwords, making financial transactions, or deleting data.

4. Remote File Inclusion (RFI) and Local File Inclusion (LFI)

RFI and LFI attacks involve exploiting vulnerabilities that allow the inclusion of external or local files in a web application. Attackers can manipulate these vulnerabilities to execute arbitrary code, read sensitive files, or gain unauthorized access to the server.

5. XML External Entity (XXE) Attacks

XXE attacks target applications that parse XML input insecurely. By exploiting this vulnerability, attackers can retrieve sensitive information, execute remote code, or perform denial-of-service attacks.

6. Server-Side Request Forgery (SSRF)

SSRF attacks occur when an attacker tricks a web application into making requests to other internal or external resources on behalf of the application server. This can lead to unauthorized access to internal systems, data leakage, or further exploitation of vulnerabilities.

7. File Upload Vulnerabilities 

Insecure file upload functionalities can be abused by attackers to upload malicious files onto a server. These files can then be executed to gain unauthorized access, escalate privileges, or perform other malicious activities.

8. Session Hijacking and Session Fixation

These attacks target weaknesses in session management mechanisms. Session hijacking involves stealing or impersonating valid user sessions, while session fixation involves forcing a user to use a predetermined session ID. Both attacks can lead to unauthorized access to user accounts and sensitive data.

Web Application Hacking Methodology

The methodology for web application hacking in ethical hacking typically follows a systematic approach to identify vulnerabilities, exploit them, and assess the impact of the attack. 

Here is a step-by-step process for web application hacking methodology:

1. Reconnaissance

Gather information about the target application, its infrastructure, and the technologies used. This can include identifying the application's URL, server details, application frameworks, and any associated subdomains.

2. Mapping and Discovery

Explore the target application to identify all available entry points, such as input fields, forms, URLs, and hidden parameters. Use tools like web crawlers or manual exploration to map the application's functionality and identify potential vulnerabilities.

3. Vulnerability Scanning

Use automated scanning tools to identify common web application vulnerabilities, such as SQL injection, XSS, CSRF, and more. These tools can help identify potential security flaws and save time during the initial assessment.

4. Manual Testing

Perform manual testing to validate and further investigate the vulnerabilities identified in the previous step. This involves manually crafting and injecting payloads into input fields to test for specific vulnerabilities and their impact.

5. Exploitation

Exploit the identified vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access, manipulate data, or perform malicious activities. This may involve crafting and injecting malicious code, manipulating input values, or leveraging insecure configurations to gain control over the application or the underlying server.

6. Privilege Escalation

If access to the application is limited, attempt to escalate privileges to gain higher levels of access. This can involve exploiting additional vulnerabilities, such as privilege escalation vulnerabilities or misconfigured access controls, to gain administrative or root-level access.

7. Post-Exploitation

Once access has been gained, explore the compromised system or application to gather valuable information, such as sensitive data, credentials, or configuration details. Maintain persistence within the system, if possible, to ensure continued access.

8. Documentation and Reporting

Document all findings, including vulnerabilities discovered, exploited systems, and the impact of the attacks. Provide a detailed report with recommendations on how to mitigate the identified vulnerabilities and improve the application's security posture.

It's important to note that web app hacking should only be performed with proper authorization and within the bounds of the law. Ethical hackers or penetration testers typically carry out these activities as part of security assessments to help organizations identify and address vulnerabilities before malicious actors can exploit them.

Vulnerability Scanning with Acunetix

Acunetix is a renowned web vulnerability scanning tool. It provides vulnerability assessment and management solutions for websites and web applications. 

Web applications and websites should use this tool to enhance the security of their assets, prevent most of the cyber threats, and keep the database safe. It is a premium tool that tests for around 7000 vulnerabilities and offers security against threats like SQL injections, cross site scripting, etc. Acunetix is also available for content management systems (CMS), including WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal.

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