Exponentially Growing Risk Profile of Application-Centric Cyberattacks

There is no denying the fact that the hierarchical relationship between digital engagement, digital adoption, and digital transformation has taken center-stage, in the post-pandemic era. Regardless of their size, spread, and functioning, enterprises have started taking digital presence seriously, often considering it as the only mode of survival in the new normal.

Drawing Parallels with Digital Transformation

Despite going digital being such a lucrative proposition, leading to recovery and growth, almost 8 organizations out of 10 are still smarting under the implemental issues, mostly encountered early in the digital crusade. While some have already taken to the SaaS pathway, the cloud-centric linchpin isn’t expected to cater well to every vertical, thereby ensuring legacy application development, either by the in-house team or a group of development service providers.

An Open-House for Cybercriminals

Contrary to popular opinion, concerting with offshore service providers to develop legacy applications isn’t the reason for the cyberattacks. Instead, it is the uninhibited adoption of Agile and even DevOps that is primarily leading this onslaught.

Unlike Software-as-a-Service apps, legacy applications find it hard to adhere to the T2M regulations and deployment strategies. As organizations, regardless of the vertical, need to launch several upgrades, software releases, and patches frequently enough, Agile adoption seems to be the only plausible router for addressing the requirements.

Besides, it is heartening to see that almost 56 percent of organizational CIOs were ready to implement Agile or even DevOps, way before the pandemic, and things have only escalated with the catastrophe banging at our doors. However, all is not well for the Agile development landscape as the precedence also increases the risk exposure, which we will come to in the next few moments.

The Post-Pandemic Scenario

Businesses are hardly seen cutting corners with the digital initiatives post-covid19 and almost 73 percent of the organizational IT leaders are still vouching for accelerating the transformation. Besides, the willingness to adopt the same isn’t industry-specific as based on a report released by Contrast Security, 60 percent of enterprise leaders pertaining to security, development, and operations are suggesting the same.

The unabated rise in digital adoption, clubbed with newer technological scenarios, including smartphone technologies, streaming wars, 5G advancements, and more are expected to get the desired scalability, cost, and speed-based benefits with the inclusion of DevOps and Agile methodologies.

But, did you know that the post-pandemic era also opens up a new window of opportunity for cybercriminals? As per Gartner, 52 percent of IT compliance leaders have been wary of the third-party risk profiles, hindering organizational growth.

APIs and the Increased Attack Surface

Regardless of the domain, any standard organization, at any given point in time, works alongside 400 applications or more. The simultaneously executed legacy applications are connected together by over 1500 APIs, protecting which can be a daunting task in itself.

Besides, the risk exposure increases exponentially as each application, almost 90 percent in total, relies on libraries, open-source frameworks, and other risk-prone platforms as a part of the SDLC.

Why is Risk Exposure Exponential in Nature?

Cyber threats are present in almost every domain with even clients unwittingly exposing themselves to certain breaches. For instance, the rise of streaming in 2020 has made related applications, streaming platforms, and even devices prone to risks. Not just that, Healthcare breaches have also escalated owing to the massive exposure in the post-pandemic era. Regardless of the organizations, the application hit rates have been insane in the past year with each enterprise app experiencing close to 3000 cyber hits, each year.

Then again, with individuals clicking on adware to get access to original streaming content, rooting their streaming devices to access free and paid IPTV services via specific third-party applications, or accessing their medical info via unsecured servers, the threats don’t only exist at the behest of the enterprises.

Moreover, application-centric data breaches have literally exploded beyond contemplation with every attack emanating out of a specific vulnerability. Besides, even Forrester uncovered something similar in its reports, indicating that 42 percent of the global firms experienced an attack due to exploitative application vulnerability.

Nature of Application Compromises

As of July 2020, almost 25 percent of the reviewed enterprises already experienced 6 or more application compromises whereas only 5 percent didn’t report any. However, more than the nature of attacks, it is the damage or rather repercussions that would interest the security analysts.

While the business risk is certainly significant, almost 66 percent of organizations reported critical data exposure as the pressing issue. Overlapped with the same is brand degradation, as reported by 62 percent of the companies. For streaming platforms, services, and devices, operational disruption was a common issue, with almost 72 percent of enterprises reporting the same.

Regardless of the issue, there were massive financial repercussions to account for, closing in on an average of $3.86 million, per breach, as of 2019-2020. In 2021, we might experience quicker and most cost-effective recuperations as organizations are more or less expecting something untoward, at almost every point in time.

How to Steer Clear of this Threat Landscape?

While we are now aware of the queer and grave nature of the cyberattacks and the relevant threat profile, there are quite a few recommendations to strengthen and secure the DevOps and Agile adoption. The aim would be to minimize the exposure area by keeping the cybercriminals away from critical systems, enterprise applications, and data.

  • It would be important to focus on proactive application security and not wait till the software is released and out in the open
  • Try and get rid of the false positives that overwhelming the development and security teams, which then eventually fail to identify the true threats
  • Educate users regarding better application usage, especially when streaming services are concerned,  so as not to give cybercriminals a backdoor to barge into
  • Opt for strategies like RASP, which concern extending the concepts of application security from the development end to the production platform.

In the end, it all boils down to devising the perfect application security plans, which are vertical dependent and minimize the damages to data repositories, brand image, and application viability.

PRIYA JAMES is a Cyber Security Enthusiast, Certified Ethical Hacker, Security Blogger, Technical Editor, Author at GBHackers On Cyber Security

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