Mitigating OWASP Web Application Security Top 10 – 2021 risks using F5 Distributed Cloud Platform


In the early 90’s, applications were in dormant phase and JavaScript & XML were dominating this technology. But in 1999, the first web application was introduced after the release of the Java language in 1995. Later with the adoption of new languages like Ajax, HTML, Node, Angular, SQL, Go, Python, etc. and availability of web application frameworks have boosted application development, deployment, and release to production. With the evolving software technologies, modern web applications are becoming more and more innovative, providing users with a grand new experience and ridiculously ease of interface. With these leading-edge technologies, novel exploit surfaces are also exposed which made them a primary target for intruders/hackers. Application safeguarding against all these common exploits is a necessary step in protecting backend application data. Open Worldwide Application Security Project (OWASP) is one of those security practices which protects application with above issues. This article is the first part of the series and covers OWASP evolution, its importance and overview of top 10 categories. 

Before diving into OWASP Web Application Security Top 10, let’s time travel to era of 1990’s and try to identify challenges the application customers, developers and users were facing. Below are some of them: 

  1. Rapid and diversified cyber-attacks has become a major concern and monitoring/categorizing them was difficult 
  2. Product owners are concerned about application security & availability and are in desperate need of a checklist/report to understand their application security posture 
  3. Developers are looking for recommendations to securely develop code before running into security flaws in production 
  4. No consolidated repo to manage, document and provide research insights for every security vulnerability 

After running into the above concerns, people across the globe have come together in 2001 and formed an international open-source community OWASP. It’s a non-profit foundation which has people from different backgrounds like developers, evangelist, security experts, etc. The main agenda for this community is to solve application related issues by providing: 

  1. Regularly updating “OWASP TOP 10” report which provides insights of latest top 10 security issues in web applications 
  2. Report also provides security recommendations to protect them from these issues 
  3. Consolidated monitoring and tracking of application vulnerabilities 
  4. Conducting events, trainings and conferences around the world to discuss, solve and provide preventive recommendations for latest security issues 
  5. OWASP also provides security tools, research papers, libraries, cheat sheets, books, presentations and videos covering application security testing, secure development, and secure code review



With the rapid increase of cyber-attacks and because of dynamic report updates, OWASP gained immense popularity and is considered as one of the top security aspects which application companies are following to protect their modern applications against known security issues.  

Periodically they release their Top 10 vulnerabilities report and below are the latest Top 10 - 2021 categories with their summary: 

Access controls enforce policy such that users cannot act outside of their intended permissions. Also called authorization, it allows or denies access to your application's features and resources. Misuse of access control enables unauthorized access to sensitive information, privilege escalation and illegal file executions. 

Check this article on protection against broken access vulnerabilities 

In 2017 OWASP top 10 report, this attack was known as Sensitive Data Exposure, which focuses on failures related to cryptography leading to exposure of sensitive data.     

Check this article on cryptographic failures 

An application is vulnerable to injection if user data and schema is not validated by the application. Some of the common injections are XSS, SQL, NoSQL, OS command, Object Relational Mapping (ORM), etc., causing data breaches and loss of revenue. 

Check this article on safeguarding against injection exploits 

During the development cycle, some phases might be reduced in scope which leads to some of the vulnerabilities. Insecure Design represents the weaknesses i.e., lack of security controls which are not tracked in other categories throughout the development cycle.  

Check this article on design flaws and mitigation 

This occurs when security best practices are overlooked allowing attackers to get into the system utilizing the loopholes. XML External Entities (XXE), which was previously a Top 10 category, is now a part of security misconfiguration.

Check this article on protection against misconfiguration vulnerabilities 

Applications used in enterprises are prone to threats such as code injection, buffer overflow, command injection and cross-site scripting from unsupported, out of date open-source components and known exploited vulnerabilities. Utilizing components with security issues makes the application itself vulnerable. Intruders will take use of this defects and exploit the deprecated packages thereby gaining access to backend applications. 

Check this article on finding outdated components 

Confirmation of the user's identity, authentication, authorization and session management is critical to protect applications against authentication-related attacks. Apps without valid authorization, use of default credentials and unable to detect bot traffic are some of the scenarios in this category. 

Check this article on identifying and protection against bots 

Software and data integrity failures occurs when updates are pushed to the deployment pipeline without verifying its integrity. Insecure Deserialization, which was a separate category in OWASP 2017, has now become a part of this larger category set. 

Check this article on software failures protection 

As a best recommendation, we shall always log all incoming request details and monitor application for fraudulent transactions, invalid logins, etc. to identify if there are any attacks or breaches. Applications without logging capabilities provide opportunities to the attackers to exploit the application and may lead to many security concerns. Without logging and monitoring we won’t be able to validate the application traffic and can’t identify the source of the breach. 

Check this article for identifying logging issues  

Server-Side Request Forgery (SSRF) attack is a technique which allows intruders to manipulate the server-side application vulnerability and make a malicious request to the internal-only resources. Attacker exploits this flaw by modifying/crafting a URL which forces the server to retrieve and disclose sensitive information.   

Check this article which focusses on SSRF mitigation 

NOTE: This is an overview article of this OWASP series, check the below links to prevent these vulnerabilities using F5 Distributed Cloud Platform. 

OWASP Web Application Security Series:

Updated Jul 17, 2023
Version 4.0

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