What is Vulnerability Stack?

One maintain and accesses web applications through various levels that include custom web applications, third-party components, databases, web servers, operating systems, networks, and security – Vulnerability Stack.

All the mechanisms or services employed at each layer help the user in one way or the other to acess the web application securely. When talking about web applications, organization considers security as a critical component because web applications are major sources or attacks – Vulnerability Stack.

The following Vulnerability Stack shows the layers and the corresponding element/mechanisms/service employed at each player, which make web application vulnerable.

Attackers make use of vulnerability of one or more elements amontg the seven levels to expliot them and gain unrestricted access to an application or to the entire network.

Vulnerability Stack Layer

Layer 7 – Custom Web Applications

If an attacker finds vulnerabilities in business logic (implemented using languages such as .NET and Java), he/she can exploit these vulnerability by performing input validation attacks such as XSS.

Layer 6 – Third Party Components

Third-party components are services that integrate with the website to achieve certain functionality ( e.g Amazon.com targeted by an attacker is the main website; citrix.com is a third-party website)

When customers choose a product to buy, they click on a Buy/Checkout button. This redirects them to their online banking account through a payment tgateway. Third-party websites such as citrix.com offer such payment gateways. Attackers might exploit this redirection and use this as a medium/pathway to enter Amazon.com and exploit it – Vulnerability Stack.

Layer 5 – Web Server

Databases store sensitive user information such as user IDs, passwords, phone numbers, and other particulars. Attackers might find vulnerabilities in a target website’s database. Then they exploit these vulnerabilities using tools such as sqlmap to get hold of the target’s database.

Layer 4 – Database

Webservers are software programs that host websites. When users access a website, they send a URL request to the web server. The server parses this request and responds with a webpage, which appears in the browser. Attackers can employ footprinting on a webserver, which hosts the target website and grab banners that contain information such as the web server name and its version.

Attackers can use tools such as Nmap to gather the information about web server name and its version. they might then start searching for published vulnerabilities in CVE database for that particular web server or service version number and exploit any of that they find – Vulnerability Stack.

Layer 3 – Operating System

Attackers scan an operating system to find open ports and vulnerabilities and develop viruses/backdoors to exploit them. They send the malware through open ports to the target machine; by running it, attackers compromise the machines and gets control over them. Later, they try to access the databases of the target website.

Layer 2 – Network

Routers/Switches route network traffic only to specific machines. Attackers flood these switches with huge number request that exhaust the CAM table, leading it to behave like a hub. Then they aim the target website by sniffing data (in the network), which can include credentials or other personal information – Vulnerability Stack.

Layer 1 – Security

IDS and IPS trigger alarms if any malicious traffic enters a target machine or server. Attackers perform evasion techniques to circumvent intrusion detection systems, so that while exploiting the target, the IDS/IPS no trigger any alarm.

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