Web site security holes make case for protection

The prevalence of vulnerabilities in scanned Web sites show why you can't just watch where you surf and be safe online.

Two-thirds of the sites that tend to care most about security still have serious unfixed vulnerabilities, according to an analysis from web security firm WhiteHat Security.

The statistics from WhiteHat's report, released today, cover vulnerabilities found in custom Web applications on 1,364 different Web sites. That number is only a small fraction of the number of sites online, but it represents those companies that have contracted with WhiteHat for additional security scanning, and therefore likely care more about security flaws than the average Web site.

Historically, 83 percent of the sites WhiteHat looks at have had a serious vulnerability at some point, according to WhiteHat founder Jeremiah Grossman. Currently, 64 percent still have at least one flaw. These numbers represent flaws in custom apps the companies make themselves, and not basic security holes resulting from a missing operating system or Web server patch, for instance.

The report's data is in line with previous analyses, and likely won't surprise anyone in the security business. Web surfers should take the findings as further evidence that the days of being able to stay safe online by simply avoiding sketchy sites are long gone. Online crooks often exploit these prevalent site vulnerabilities to hide attack code on otherwise benign Web sites, so to stay safe from these drive-by-download risks, even careful surfers should use capable antivirus protection and keep all software up-to-date.

Business can take note of WhiteHat's look at those sites that don't currently have any vulnerabilities. According to Grossman, safe companies didn't differ much from companies with vulnerable sites in terms of the Web technology used. Instead, he theorizes, companies with secure sites are those that put in the continuing human effort to identify and close security holes.

According to WhiteHat's report (requires registration), cross-site scripting vulnerabilities were the most common type of problem found, while social networking sites were the most likely to be vulnerable. Grossman suggests that social networking sites typically change their sites much more often than banks, for instance, which makes it more likely that new security holes will pop up even as older ones get closed.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags whitehatsecurity

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Erik Larkin

PC World (US online)
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?