If you’re a small business owner looking to boost your cybersecurity efforts, you’ve likely come across the term “OWASP Top 10.” The Open Web Application Security Project, or OWASP, is a nonprofit group of cybersecurity experts who aim to make cybersecurity resources easily accessible to any business or individual interested in learning about the risks that exist online today. 

The OWASP Top 10 is a list of the most critical web application security risks that anyone with a website should know about, and it’s an especially great resource for small and midsize businesses (SMBs). SMBs tend to have less budget and fewer resources available to defend against cyberattacks, so they’ve become a popular target for bad actors. The OWASP Top 10 list can help pinpoint possible vulnerabilities to help establish your cybersecurity priorities.

However, there are three threats from the OWASP Top 10 list that we think SMBs should know about and address immediately. Keep reading to learn more about these threats, as well as tips for securing your business against them.

1. Injection

Injection is listed as the No. 1 threat on the OWASP Top 10 list, and for good reason. Injection attacks, particularly SQL injections (SQLi attacks) and cross-site scripting (XSS), are not only very dangerous, but also widespread.

In an injection attack, cybercriminals insert malicious code into your website through input forms such as login and contact fields. By deploying an injection attack, cybercriminals can gain unauthorized access to critical components of your website, such as your website’s database. If cybercriminals gain this type of access to your site, it allows them to exploit for financial gain all kinds of sensitive data such as usernames, passwords, phone numbers, and bank account numbers.

Injection attacks can happen when any input field on an online form lacks additional validation. Each input field is a potential entry point for cybercriminals, so in order to protect your customers or visitors, you should put in place parameters to restrict modified SQL queries. You can do this by restricting the kind of data users (or cybercriminals) can input into forms. If a field requests an email address, for example, users should be able to input only alphanumeric values, including the @ symbol and a period. Anything else would be rejected. This helps provide an additional layer of security to the form and the website.

2. Broken Authentication and Session Management

Many websites feature the ability for users to log in to their own accounts in order to access a portal or make a purchase. Signing in with unique credentials should ensure that their information stays secure, right? Well, that is not always the case. When a user enters a username and password into a website, that visitor is assigned a session ID that confirms he’s authorized to access the server. During this process, information is sent back and forth between the visitor and the server. If the data is not encrypted while in transit, the session can be intercepted by cybercriminals, allowing them to gain unauthorized access to the server. This is referred to as a broken authentication and session management scheme. Once a cybercriminal gains access, the bad actor can impersonate that user and access the website through his or her account.

You can protect your site and users from broken authentication and session management schemes by securing your website with an SSL certificate.

3. Sensitive Data Exposure

As the name suggests, sensitive data exposure occurs when an application or program, such as a smartphone app or a web browser, does not adequately protect information such as passwords, payment information, or health data. This threat accounts for all the ways in which cybercriminals can breach websites to get their hands on the sensitive data of your customers and website visitors. Cybercriminals are often most interested in personally identifiable information, including login credentials, Social Security numbers, contact information, and credit card numbers. Cybercriminals can sell this data on the dark web for a profit or use it themselves to impersonate a user.

As previously mentioned, securing input fields and encrypting shared data are both ways you can prevent sensitive data exposure through your website. You should also have a solid information security policy in place that outlines security measures to prevent data exposure. A few good places to start are installing an SSL certificate to protect data transfers, never storing or transmitting data in plain text, and keeping a backup of your stored data separate from your website’s server. Additionally, educate your employees about the importance of protecting sensitive data and what they can do to keep your company secure, such as using strong passwords.

Customers are the lifeblood of any small business. Protecting their information by securing your website is essential to keeping their trust and confidence in your business. The OWASP Top 10 is just one resource you can use to be better prepared when it comes to cybersecurity. 

Learn more today about building a stronger cybersecurity system for your small business.

Monique Becenti is a product and channel marketing specialist at SiteLock, a cloud-based website security provider currently protecting more than 16 million websites globally. Monique is passionate about improving the customer experience for all. SiteLock’s combination of dedicated research and developmental efforts, aggressive product road maps, and access to a massive global data set make the company a leading innovator in web security.