Web applications are attacked one out of three days, report says

A typical Web application gets attacked 137 times in 59 separate days during a six-month period, Imperva says

A typical Web application is the target of an attack at least one in three days on average, according to a report released by data security firm Imperva.

The third edition of Imperva's semi-annual Web Application Attack Report (WAAR), released on Tuesday, is based on an analysis of Internet traffic collected from 50 publicly available Web applications between December 2011 and May 2012. Imperva determined that a typical Web application experienced 59 "battle days" -- days in which at least one attack incident occurred -- during the six-month period.

Many of the monitored applications differed in size and purpose, and most of them were hosted in the U.S. and the European Union, said Amichai Shulman, Imperva's chief technology officer.

Imperva found that for a typical Web application the median number of attack incidents recorded during a six-month period was 137.

An attack incident was defined by the company as a burst of malicious traffic that exceeded a rate of 30 attack requests per five minutes.

This method of counting attacks was significantly different than the one used by the company for its previous WAAR reports, which focused on the total number of attack requests.

The worst case seen by the company involved an application that experienced 1,383 attack incidents spanning 141 battle days, or 80 percent of the days in the six-month period.

The typical attack incident had a magnitude of 195 requests and lasted almost 8 minutes, Imperva said in its report. However, the worst incident lasted 10 times longer than that and involved 8,790 attack requests.

The new methodology of interpreting data revealed that SQL injection (SQLi) was the attack technique most commonly used. The median number of SQLi attacks experienced by a typical Web application was 17.5 and in the worst case it was 320.

This is a significant change, because previous WAAR reports placed cross-site scripting (XSS) and directory traversal attacks ahead of SQLi attacks in terms of frequency.

The new methodology allowed the company's researchers to see things in a different way, Shulman said. "While the number of individual requests for cross-site scripting and directory traversal is higher than for SQL injection, in reality, the number of attacks in which SQL injection is involved is higher."

However, given what other security vendors have reported in the past, the efficiency of SQLi attacks is somewhat questionable. For example, Verizon said in its 2012 Data Breach Investigations Report that SQL injection was used in only 3 percent of data breach incidents.

It's possible that SQL injection, while the most popular attack technique, is not the most successful one, Shulman said. However, "I find it hard to believe that attackers are wasting so much energy over SQL injection if it's not proving to be successful," he said.

Another interesting finding was that the highest number of SQL injection requests originated in France and not the U.S., which is the primary source of other types of attacks like remote file inclusion, directory traversal or local file inclusion.

Some attack types have a well-known geographic bias, Shulman said. For example, many email scraping attacks originate from African countries and comment spam attacks are commonly launched from Eastern Europe and Russia.

However, the fact that a large number of SQL injection attacks originated from France is unusual, Shulman said. "It's the first time we've seen this kind of geolocation bias for SQL injection and I don't have the answer yet [for why it happened]."

Shulman speculated that it might be harder to get abusive servers shut down in France than in other European countries or that attackers might prefer to use Internet Protocol addresses from a country like France, which is not commonly associated with malicious Internet traffic. However, these are just theories, he said.

Imperva tried to use a number of statistical methods to find patterns in the timing of the attacks and actually concluded that they can't be predicted, Shulman said. "The fact that you've been attacked today doesn't say anything about what is going to happen tomorrow."

Companies need to be prepared to protect their Web applications at all times and should be prepared to do so against the worst attacks, not just the average ones, he said.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?