What Is The OWASP Top Ten?

The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) is a worldwide not-for-profit charitable organization focused on improving the security of software.  They have a community of over 42,000 volunteers all over the world who offer their assistance in a variety of ways to ensure the safety and security of the Internet.  The OWASP mission is to make software security visible so that individuals and organizations worldwide can make informed decisions about true software security risks. 



About every three years, OWASP publishes a “top ten” list of application security flaws.  Some of the OWASP leading security volunteers scour the Internet and use various resources to find the latest and greatest flaws in Internet applications so they can publish this list.  This list has become the de-facto standard for the most dangerous application security vulnerabilities found on the Internet.  While this list is certainly a valuable and powerful tool for assessing your organization’s application security, I would recommend formulating your own top ten list as well.  The top ten OWASP vulnerabilities may not be the same as your own organization’s top ten vulnerabilities. 


That said, it’s still interesting to know what vulnerabilities are out there ready to be exploited.  The OWASP top ten list that was published in 2017 is as follows:


  1. Injection. Injection flaws, such as SQL, NoSQL, OS, and LDAP injection, occur when untrusted data is sent to an interpreter as part of a command or query. The attacker’s hostile data can trick the interpreter into executing unintended commands or accessing data without proper authorization.
  2. Broken Authentication. Application functions related to authentication and session management are often implemented incorrectly, allowing attackers to compromise passwords, keys, or session tokens, or to exploit other implementation flaws to assume other users’ identities temporarily or permanently.
  3. Sensitive Data Exposure. Many web applications and APIs do not properly protect sensitive data, such as financial, healthcare, and PII. Attackers may steal or modify such weakly protected data to conduct credit card fraud, identity theft, or other crimes. Sensitive data may be compromised without extra protection, such as encryption at rest or in transit, and requires special precautions when exchanged with the browser.
  4. XML External Entities (XXE). Many older or poorly configured XML processors evaluate external entity references within XML documents. External entities can be used to disclose internal files using the file URI handler, internal file shares, internal port scanning, remote code execution, and denial of service attacks.
  5. Broken Access Control. Restrictions on what authenticated users are allowed to do are often not properly enforced. Attackers can exploit these flaws to access unauthorized functionality and/or data, such as access other users’ accounts, view sensitive files, modify other users’ data, change access rights, etc.
  6. Security Misconfiguration. Security misconfiguration is the most commonly seen issue. This is commonly a result of insecure default configurations, incomplete or ad hoc configurations, open cloud storage, misconfigured HTTP headers, and verbose error messages containing sensitive information. Not only must all operating systems, frameworks, libraries, and applications be securely configured, but they must be patched/upgraded in a timely fashion.
  7. Cross-Site Scripting XSS. XSS flaws occur whenever an application includes untrusted data in a new web page without proper validation or escaping, or updates an existing web page with user-supplied data using a browser API that can create HTML or JavaScript. XSS allows attackers to execute scripts in the victim’s browser which can hijack user sessions, deface web sites, or redirect the user to malicious sites.
  8. Insecure Deserialization. Insecure deserialization often leads to remote code execution. Even if deserialization flaws do not result in remote code execution, they can be used to perform attacks, including replay attacks, injection attacks, and privilege escalation attacks.
  9. Using Components with Known Vulnerabilities. Components, such as libraries, frameworks, and other software modules, run with the same privileges as the application. If a vulnerable component is exploited, such an attack can facilitate serious data loss or server takeover. Applications and APIs using components with known vulnerabilities may undermine application defenses and enable various attacks and impacts.
  10. Insufficient Logging & Monitoring. Insufficient logging and monitoring, coupled with missing or ineffective integration with incident response, allows attackers to further attack systems, maintain persistence, pivot to more systems, and tamper, extract, or destroy data. Most breach studies show time to detect a breach is over 200 days, typically detected by external parties rather than internal processes or monitoring.


The BIG-IP Application Security Manager is a Web Application Firewall (WAF) that provides protection from these vulnerabilities, and we will spend some time this week discussing the advantages of deploying a WAF in front of your web applications to defend against these threats.  While it’s always best to build a secure application by using secure coding practices, we understand that the reality of life today is that some (if not all) of your web applications are vulnerable to attack.



Updated May 10, 2022
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