A business logic attack is an exploit of the way a website’s application interprets information from users. This can result in different kinds of negative consequences for affected websites and their users, such as data loss or gained access to user accounts. The more sensitive the data that might be acquired by carrying out a particular exploit is, the bigger its impact will be on a website’s users.
Attackers can trigger a business logic attack against web applications by supplying them with crafted input which would cause the application to work in an unforeseen way, allowing cybercriminals to carry out actions otherwise not allowed by the site’s administrators. In some cases, these actions may even allow hackers to gain full control over vulnerable websites.
Business logic attack vectors
There are several different vectors through which attackers can exploit business logic vulnerabilities in websites in order to execute cybercriminal operations. Among the techniques used in these attacks, there are SQL injections and Cross-site scripting (XSS).
- SQL injection is an attack technique that involves using special characters to manipulate a website’s backend database query. By adding additional statements into the query string of an application’s frontend interface, hackers may be able to gain access to information that should normally remain hidden. This type of attack often allows criminals to obtain data that could help them carry out other types of exploits later on. Additionally, some attackers may use it as a way to take over administrator accounts by acquiring passwords for them after breaching a company’s network defenses.
- Cross-site scripting (XSS), on the other hand, is a similar type of attack that allows attackers to gain access to web application data. It works by injecting malicious scripts into the compromised website’s database which are then executed by users who access them. This can be done via browsers’ built-in capabilities or by uploading specially crafted files onto hacked sites (e.g., malware).
As mentioned above, SQL injection and XSS are now considered the most common business logic attacks since they offer hackers an easy way to exploit websites. Quite often, these types of exploits would also allow cybercriminals to piggyback off breaches carried out against other servers in order to compromise websites that would normally be safe from such attacks if it were for the initial ones.
How to fight it
If a web application is prone to business logics attacks, it has been coded in such a way that its developers have not created any mechanisms which would protect it from being fed user input so as to exploit the code of the website and cause damage.
When building applications with security in mind, preventing anything but expected and needed content from reaching an application can help limit or mitigate the impact of business logic attacks carried out on the application. A number of different techniques can be employed to accomplish this goal:
- Proper input validation – rules which specify what type of data (e.g. numbers only) an online form may accept should always be enforced by any system handling user-entered information; whenever possible, even meta characters such as quotes should be removed before reaching the application.
- Least privilege – Make sure that only the minimum required privileges are assigned to each user, group or role in an organization’s system. This way even if a hacker manages to successfully take control of an account with few permissions, he won’t be able to wreak havoc inside the company’s network without first acquiring additional credentials.
- Early detection – Whenever possible, apply monitoring tools that can help find unusual activity on the web server (e.g. denied HTTP requests). If this information is relayed to threat management systems which can also analyze incoming data for exploits aimed at carrying out business logic attacks, it will greatly increase the chances of mitigating damage caused by all kinds of threats to an organization.
The importance of protecting web applications cannot be overstated since even if they are not directly accessed by the public, they might still serve as gateways for hackers looking to penetrate company networks and steal information. Furthermore, given how quickly online threats evolve these days it is necessary that security teams keep their systems up-to-date by applying all relevant security patches (for operating systems and applications) in a timely manner.
The reason why business logic attacks are so dangerous
One of the reasons why business logic attacks are so dangerous is that they allow hackers to achieve their malicious goals in a way which cannot be easily detected by security programs since they rely on similar user behavior as legitimate ones. With this in mind, it would become difficult for sites to protect themselves from such exploits unless there is a security solution implemented with the proper capabilities. What’s worse, some attackers may even use these types of vulnerabilities against different servers in order to gain access to encrypted communications and subsequently launch man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks which could lead to them eavesdropping on users’ sessions or modifying requests in transit. In addition, any confidential information passed through websites may be intercepted and used for future attacks or to gain access to different accounts.
Possible consequences of a successful business logic attack may include:
- Data theft – from simple account credentials to credit card numbers, personal information and intellectual property.
- System damage – tampering with a website’s backend can cause it to send out spam or direct users to malicious websites without their knowledge.
- Financial damage – this may be caused not only by stolen funds but also by selling access to compromised systems on the black market which might lead to further attacks against other sites.
A successful business logic attack could spell disaster for any organization. For this reason, extra effort must be put into protecting not only web applications but also the entire network they are a part of.
How to protect your assets from business logic attacks
The best way to keep business logic attacks at bay is by having a continuous working relationship with the company responsible for your web application’s security. By consulting your web service provider on how they fight all kinds of online threats, you will be able to better protect yourself from cybercriminals trying to cause harm to websites connected to yours.
Frequently asked questions about business logic attacks
Is it easy to launch a business logic attack?
Web applications are under constant threat of being exploited by cybercriminals. Since these criminals are always evolving their tactics, it is best for companies to consult with trusted security service providers who can ensure the latest web application security protocols are met throughout all stages of development.
What’s the most common type of business logic attack?
The most commonly used strategy when attacking back-end code is input validation or parameter tampering which aims at modifying the values passed on by users in order to alter expected behavior and produce unwanted results.
How do I know if my site is already compromised by a business logic attack?
If you notice any unusual activity on your site (denied HTTP requests) you should immediately consider it to be compromised and consult your web server’s IP address with a skilled security professional to check for signs of tampering.
What is the best solution against business logic attacks?
Business Logic Attacks are difficult to detect since they often take place within the backend application code which makes them very hard to identify. The best way to fight these kinds of threats is by having continuous communication between you and your web service provider so that any potential problems can be quickly dealt with before any damage has been done.