90% of public websites are vulnerable to attack

WhiteHat Security released the fourth installment of the WhiteHat Website Security Statistics Report, which calls out the top 10 most prevalent vulnerabilities and provides a vertical industry breakdown based on attacks.

The WhiteHat report presents a statistical picture of current website vulnerabilities, accompanied by WhiteHat expert analysis and recommendations. Backed by more than two years of data, WhiteHat’s report is unique to the industry as it is the only one focused solely on previously unknown vulnerabilities on public websites.

In this latest installment, WhiteHat finds nine out of 10 websites still have serious vulnerabilities that attackers can exploit; and that there is an average of seven vulnerabilities per website. The top 10 list has remained somewhat static over the past several months with Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) as the top vulnerability class, appearing in approximately 70 percent of websites. However, CSRF, while known in the public domain for years, has recently garnered more attention from malicious hackers. Attackers using CSRF can easily force a user’s Web browser to send unintended HTTP requests such as fraudulent wire transfers, change passwords and download illegal content. Effective automated CSRF detection techniques have eluded all technology scanning vendors in the space, making identification a largely manual process. WhiteHat predicts that its ongoing research over time will place CSRF in the number two spot right behind XSS in future reports. WhiteHat Sentinel’s unique combination of advanced scanning technology and expert analysis enabled the discovery of this dangerous issue.

In its October 2007 report, WhiteHat introduced coverage of website vulnerabilities in select vertical markets. The recent findings show that Retail is still performing better than other verticals in terms of protecting websites from attacks. Verticals not faring as well include Insurance, which tops the list with 84 percent of websites having vulnerabilities that fall into the urgent, critical or high severity ranking, followed closely by Information Technology at 72 percent, and Healthcare and Financial Services neck-and-neck at 64 and 60 percent respectively.

While the security posture of some industries is better than others, the difference is largely insignificant when it comes to preventing a website from becoming compromised — attackers only need to exploit a single vulnerability. The results of malicious attacks are linked to loss of business, system outages, incident handling costs, brand damage, legal liability, regulatory sanctions and fines. Pressure is only going to increase with pending compliance deadlines such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) Section 6.6 that address website security directly.

Compliance directives such as PCI DSS 6.6, which mandates that all web application code be reviewed by an expert in website security or a Web application firewall be deployed, by June 30, 2008, are creating significant demand for complete website security. Assessing risk and understanding an organization’s security posture is more critical than ever. WhiteHat’s report helps address this need by providing timely information about how websites are hacked, how they can be defended, and visibility into the vulnerability life-cycle.

The report statistics were gathered through the deployment of WhiteHat’s Sentinel Service, a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering that provides website vulnerability management on an ongoing basis. With more than 600 sites under management, including many of the Fortune 500, WhiteHat has access to an unparalleled amount of website security data, allowing the Company to accurately identify which issues are the most prevalent and also trend across major vertical markets. WhiteHat Security uses the Web Application Security Consortium (WASC) Threat Classification as a baseline for classifying vulnerabilities.

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