Application security is the process of developing, adding, and testing security features within applications to prevent security vulnerabilities against threats such as unauthorized access and modification. Application security describes security measures at the application level that aim to prevent data or code within the app from being stolen or hijacked. It encompasses the security considerations that happen during application development and design, but it also involves systems and approaches to protect apps after they get deployed. Application security may include hardware, software, and procedures that identify or minimize security vulnerabilities. Application security is important because today’s applications are often available over various networks and connected to the cloud, increasing vulnerabilities to security threats and breaches. There is increasing pressure and incentive to not only ensure security at the network level but also within applications themselves.
Types of application security
Different types of application security features include authentication, authorization, encryption, logging, and application security testing. Developers are always trying to code applications to reduce security vulnerabilities. They achieve this by releasing newer versions of the applications as they find and fix the bugs within the existing applications.
Authentication: When software developers build procedures into an application to ensure that only authorized users gain access to it. Authentication procedures ensure that a user is who they say they are. This can be accomplished by requiring the user to provide a user name and password when logging in to an application. Multi-factor authentication requires more than one form of authentication—the factors might include something user know (a password), something user have (a mobile device), and something user is (a thumb print or facial recognition).
Authorization: After a user has been authenticated, the user may be authorized to access and use the application. The system can validate that a user has permission to access the application by comparing the user’s identity with a list of authorized users. Authentication must happen before authorization so that the application matches only validated user credentials to the authorized user list.
Encryption: After a user has been authenticated and is using the application, other security measures can protect sensitive data from being seen or even used by a cybercriminal. In cloud-based applications, where traffic containing sensitive data travels between the end user and the cloud, that traffic can be encrypted to keep the data safe.
Logging: If there is a security breach in an application, logging can help identify who got access to the data and how. Application log files provide a time-stamped record of which aspects of the application were accessed and by whom.
Application security testing: A necessary process to ensure that all of these security controls work properly.
Application security in the cloud: Application security in the cloud poses some extra challenges. Because cloud environments provide shared resources, special care must be taken to ensure that users only have access to the data they are authorized to view in their cloud-based applications. Sensitive data is also more vulnerable in cloud-based applications because that data is transmitted across the Internet from the user to the application and back.
Mobile application security: Mobile devices also transmit and receive information across the Internet, as opposed to a private network, making them vulnerable to attack. Enterprises can use virtual private networks (VPNs) to add a layer of mobile application security for employees who log in to applications remotely. IT departments may also decide to vet mobile apps and make sure they conform to company security policies before allowing employees to use them on mobile devices that connect to the corporate network.Web application security: Web application security applies to web applications—apps or services that users access through a browser interface over the Internet. Because web applications live on remote servers, not locally on user machines, information must be transmitted to and from the user over the Internet. Web application security is of special concern to businesses that host web applications or provide web services. These businesses often choose to protect their network from intrusion with a web application firewall. A web application firewall works by inspecting and, if necessary, blocking data packets that are considered harmful.
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