Increasing Vulnerabilities: Protect Your Business

Organisations continue to face constant and escalating threats from cyber weaknesses. In 2023 there was a sharp rise in vulnerabilities, with over 29,000 identified—a staggering 16% increase compared to the previous year. The worrisome trend continues, with the number of vulnerabilities identified in in the first quarter of 2024, up 18% on the same period last year.

This article delves into the top five types of vulnerabilities found in 2023, and outlines the practical steps you need to take, to protect against them:

(Cross-Site Scripting) XSS

This type of vulnerability, accounting for 17% of the total vulnerabilities identified, poses a significant threat to web applications. XSS allows attackers to compromise web interactions and exploit vulnerabilities within applications, potentially leading to unauthorised access and data breaches.

To protect against XSS vulnerabilities, you should take the following steps (if you haven’t already):

  • Input validation and sanitisation – Implement strict input validation techniques to ensure that user-supplied data is properly validated and sanitised before being processed or displayed on web pages. This helps prevent the execution of malicious scripts by blocking unauthorised inputs.
  • Output coding – Use proper output encoding techniques when displaying user-generated content on web pages. This ensures that any potentially malicious code is treated as plain text and not executed by the browser.
  • Content Security Policy (CSP) – Implement a strict Content Security Policy that specifies which sources (e.g. scripts, stylesheets) are allowed to be loaded by the browser. CSP helps prevent the execution of unauthorised scripts and provides an additional layer of protection against XSS attacks.
  • Regular patching and updates – Keep software, plugins, frameworks, and other components up to date to protect against known vulnerabilities. Regularly check for security patches and updates provided by vendors and apply them promptly.
  • Secure coding practices – Follow secure coding practices, such as using parameterised queries, prepared statements, or stored procedures, to prevent XSS attacks. Developers should be trained on best practices for securely handling user input and writing secure code.
  • Web application firewalls (WAF) – Implement a WAF to detect and block malicious traffic, including XSS attacks, before it reaches the web application. WAFs analyse incoming requests and responses, filtering out suspicious or malicious content.

By implementing these preventive measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of XSS vulnerabilities and protect your web applications from unauthorised access and data breaches.

Memory Corruption

With a 10% share of vulnerabilities in 2023, memory corruption refers to alterations in computer system memory without explicit assignment. Programming errors often leave behind vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit to gain access to arbitrary code, compromising the integrity and security of the system.

To defend against memory corruption vulnerabilities, you need to take the following actions:

  • Secure coding practices: Ensure that software developers are well-versed in secure coding practices that reduce the risk of memory corruption vulnerabilities. Proper allocation and release of memory, input validation, and error handling are some of the practices that developers should follow.
  • Access control: Implement strong access control mechanisms to prevent unauthorised access to system memory. Ensuring that permissions for system memory-related files and processes are correctly set can minimise the risk of memory corruption attacks.
  • Regular patching and updates: Regularly patch and update software, libraries, and other system components to address known vulnerabilities. Keeping up to date with the latest security updates and applying them promptly can minimise the risk of memory corruption attacks.
  • Security testing and auditing: Regular vulnerability assessments and penetration tests can identify memory corruption vulnerabilities, meaning they are address them before they can be exploited.

By taking these preventive measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of memory corruption vulnerabilities and protect your systems.

Code execution

Similar to memory corruption, code execution vulnerabilities grant attackers the ability to access and modify arbitrary code. By exploiting these vulnerabilities, hackers can execute malicious code, infect machines, and gain unauthorised control over critical systems.

To safeguard against code execution vulnerabilities, the following measures should be implemented as a minimum:

  • Input validation and sanitisation: same as in XXS. Attackers often exploit code execution vulnerabilities through unvalidated data inputs.
  • Secure coding practices: Ensure that developers are using secure coding practices that minimise the potential for code execution vulnerabilities. Safe development practices include proper input validation, memory allocation, and error handling.
  • Access control and permissions: Implement strict access control mechanisms to prevent unauthorised access to sensitive code. Ensuring that permissions for application files and processes are correctly set can prevent attackers from modifying code execution vulnerabilities.
  • Regular patching and updates: Promptly checking for security patches and updates and applying them is essential to mitigate the risk of code execution attacks.
  • Security testing and auditing: Regularly perform vulnerability assessments and penetration testing to identify vulnerabilities and address them before they can be exploited.

By taking these steps, you will be taking preventative measures to significantly reduce the risk of code execution vulnerabilities and better protect your systems.

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks

(DDoS) attacks aim to overwhelm targeted servers with a massive influx of internet traffic. By saturating the server’s resources, DDoS attacks disrupt online services, rendering them inaccessible to users. These vulnerabilities accounted for 9% of the total vulnerabilities identified in 2023.

To shield against DDoS attacks, you should take the following measures:

  • Network infrastructure hardening: Strengthen your network infrastructure by implementing firewalls, intrusion detection systems (IDS), and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) to filter out malicious traffic and identify potential DDoS attempts.
  • Traffic monitoring and analysis: Monitor network traffic patterns and perform regular analysis to detect any unusual traffic spikes or patterns that may indicate a DDoS attack. Implementing traffic monitoring tools or engaging with a managed security service provider (MSSP) can assist in identifying and mitigating attacks.
  • Distributed traffic management: Distribute incoming internet traffic across several servers or data centres using load balancers and content delivery networks (CDNs). This approach helps to distribute the traffic load and minimise the impact of a potential DDoS attack.
  • Traffic filtering and rate limiting: Implement traffic filtering mechanisms to identify and block suspicious or malicious traffic. Rate limiting techniques can help reduce the impact of DDoS attacks by limiting the number of requests allowed from each source.
  • Incident response and mitigation plan: Develop an incident response plan that outlines the necessary actions to be taken in the event of a DDoS attack. This plan should include coordination with your internet service provider (ISP), the use of specialised DDoS mitigation services, and communication strategies to keep stakeholders informed during an attack.

By implementing these proactive measures, you can significantly reduce the risk associated with DDoS attacks and minimise the impact on your online services and infrastructure.

As the number of vulnerabilities continues to rise, businesses must prioritise their security efforts. Hackers are relentless in exploiting any possible vulnerability to gain unlawful access to your network and valuable data. Taking the time to assess your infrastructure, networks, and servers is essential to identify and mitigate any potential security gaps.

We understand the complexity of managing multiple applications, suppliers, and systems. We are here to help your business navigate these challenges, enhance your cyber security resilience and safeguard your networks.

Talk to one of our specialists.
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