How to test website security

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Web Site Security Considerations - An Examination



It is unfortunate, but there are a lot of ways in which web site security can be breached. Security risks exist which impinge on Web servers and LANs (local area networks) on which Web sites are hosted, even by the normal use of a Web browser.

Web Masters shoulder the responsibility when coping with the major risks. As soon as a Web server is set up at a site, a window materializes in the local area network through which anyone who is using the Internet can peek. Naturally, on the whole website visitors look at no more than what they're meant to see, but a minority endeavor to uncover elements of the site that aren't supposed to be discernible by the rest of the world. Dishonest visitors aspire to do other than merely look; they try to undo the window and slip inside. The harm they may inflict might be sheer vandalism, such as replacing the web site's home page with one of theirs which might say or display anything at all, or it might be larceny, like gaining possession of a customers or orders list.

It is difficult to elude the virtual certainty that intricate software includes bugs. No matter how exhaustively it's tested, you can find as a rule a certain combination of events or user actions, while it might be uncommon, that leads to an error. Computer software bugs cause holes in system security. A Web server is involved software which may quite easily include a security flaw.

It's not merely the complexity of a Web server that can instigate a glitch, but also its open architecture. Think about a CGI script as a case in point. A CGI script may be processed at the server in response to a remote call from a client. This could be a request from an application or even the click of a button in a browser. If the CGI script contains a bug, there's a risk of a security breach.

Network Administrators also have to deal with problems from Web servers owing to the danger they pose to the security of the local area network. Though there should be no unauthorized intrusions, admission has to be given to web site visitors. This means that access to the network should be regulated. The Administrator therefore needs to perform a delicate balancing act. Even the most sturdy firewall may be undermined if the Web server is configured poorly. By the same token, normal use of the website can be not viable if the firewall is configured badly. Reaching an ideal resolution is yet more complicated if an intranet exists as an element of the system. Normally, the Web server then must be configured to distinguish and verify domains and user groups, which are apt to have differing permission levels and access privileges.

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The majority of people using a browser to surf the Internet suppose that they really are doing so namelessly and securely. This is not correct. Web browsers can process autonomous software on the local machine that are resident on a website. Modern browsers display a notice and request permission to run those programs. Described generally as "active content", e.g., ActiveX controls or Java applets, these programs, if malicious, might easily leave a virus or other dangerous software on the browser user's computer. After it's in the system it can cause all kinds of damage and can be very tough to eliminate.

This is also a concern for Network Administrators. Web browsers afford a path for potentially malicious software to seep all the way through the local area network's firewall. Once it is in the system, the damage it may inflict can go from furtively appropriating private data to gratuitous demolition.

Besides the problems surrounding active content, merely surfing the Net records a trail of the user's activities in the browser's history. This might be used by web sites and installed programs to create an accurate profile of the user's behaviour and interests. While this may be considered an invasion of privacy by some, it can be useful by offering applicable subject matter directly, so unburdening the user of the chore of looking for it.

Secrecy is a question which concerns not just browser users but also Web Masters and Network Administrators for the duration of the actual transmission of data by means of the Net. TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) is the fundamental language of communication for the Net. When it was created, security wasn't the most significant aspect of its design. Both network and Internet transmissions should therefore not be considered as necessarily confidential. When the browser on a local PC downloads a sensitive file from the remote Web server, or the browser user fills in a form with personal data and clicks the 'Submit' button, the transmitted information might be intercepted without authorisation.

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