Article

How (and Why) to Secure Your Web Services

Windows, UNIX, Linux, AIX
Posted:
March 29, 2017

These days, web services are an essential part of the modern enterprise. A number of important functions and critical applications are accessible through the Internet, and this availability makes it easier for employees to connect with these processes even when they're away from the office. Although this can boost productivity by making specific applications more accessible, web services can also present a security issue when not protected because business-critical information must meet with external information via the web.

Just think about all the mission-critical information your employees access and work with via your company's web services. This could include a whole host of sensitive business details, such as financial data, personal information about clients, and other content that could pose quite the threat if it fell into the wrong hands.

Now couple this with the fact that data breaches have become more prevalent than ever before; they can even impact the providers that deliver enterprise web services. In fact, just last year, one code hosting service had to shut its doors permanently after an attacker broke into the company's Amazon Web Service account and deleted the majority of the information it had stored there, according to Ars Technica.

This isn't an isolated incident, and the blame in cases like these lies with cybercriminals. Because web services are a veritable linchpin of day-to-day operations, they must be secured appropriately just like the rest of your sensitive data. Let's take a look at a few reasons why it's important to have protection for your company's web services and how security officers can go about ensuring these safeguards are in place.

Why Secure Web Services?

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The case of the code hosting service provides a real-world example of why it's incredibly important to maintain the security of web services. Anything accessed through the Internet—and even systems maintained, stored, and accessed on a company's own premises—present attractive targets for cybercriminals, and these attackers won't hesitate to attempt a hack if these services contain the information they're after.

Upon discovering that the majority of its most essential information and content had been deleted by hackers from its web service account, the company, Code Spaces, came to the conclusion that it could not keep its firm up and running. A note on the organization's website announced the decision and stated that the firm would focus its remaining efforts on trying to assist customers in recovering any data that wasn't erased by hackers.

According to a statement from Code Spaces officials, the attack began with a distributed-denial-of-service attack, which was followed up by communication from the cybercriminal, who demanded a large sum of money to cease the attack. Once within the company's system, the hacker was able to take control of the firm's most sensitive details, and began randomly deleting files once the malicious actor realized Code Spaces officials were attempting to protect the data stored there.

Just imagine viewing your company's most sensitive files on its web service control panel, only for this content to begin disappearing at the hands of a cybercriminal, never to be recovered again. Although Code Spaces had plans in place for backup and recovery, it did not help with the financial burden of losing such critical information. It was this price tag that pushed the company to close its doors.

"The cost of resolving this issue to date and the expected cost of refunding customers who have been left without the service they paid for will put Code Spaces in a[n] irreversible position both financially and in terms of ongoing credibility," a statement from the company read. "As such, at this point in time, we have no alternative but to cease trading and concentrate on supporting our affected customers in exporting any remaining data they have left with us."

This is one of the more frightening examples of what can happen when web services aren't properly secured. In this day and age, threats abound and malicious actors are always on the lookout for vulnerabilities that they can exploit. Although many online service providers have security on their side to safeguard the information businesses store in their systems, the enterprises must do their part to ensure security on their side as well.

How Can Businesses Secure Web Services?

Let's examine a few of the proven strategies that can help organizations better secure their web services.

SSL enables encryption scrambles content to make it illegible to anyone without access to the decryption key. This ensures that, even if a black hat were able to make his way into your company's account, he would be unable to decipher any of the information stored there. SSL certificates are also utilized by e-commerce retailers to protect the payment details of their customers, signaling the strong, high-level protection this type of encryption can provide.

Here are some notes from the industry on how businesses should secure web services:

  • JavaWorld contributor Sang Shin noted that one of the most-often deployed security systems for web services includes the use ofSSL alongside HTTP.

  • "HTTP includes built-in support for Basic and Digest authentication, and services can therefore be protected in much the same manner as HTML documents are currently protected," noted TutorialsPoint.

For best practices, companies should implement this encryption before migrating details to the web service platform. This ensures that they will be able to store the decryption key in a way that best suits their security plans, and that their users will be the only ones with access to it.

To further drive down the chances of unauthorized access, businesses should create unique authentication credentials for each individual that will utilize the web services. To bolster this security, enterprises should put in place two-factor authentication where possible. In this configuration, users are required to enter the typical username and password, along with a single-use code sent to a separate account or device. In this way, a hacker would have to have an individual's credentials as well as access to their connected account or device to breach the system.

Another beneficial and proactive way to protect web services is by ensuring that all programs associated with the platform, including third-party security suites, are kept up-to-date. Any security patches should be immediately deployed to prevent malicious actors from exploiting discovered weaknesses in the system.

Overall, it's clear that web services aren't going anywhere anytime soon. Web services provide essential functionality that enables even those that are away from the company's premises to access mission-critical content to complete key processes and tasks. However, these platforms are also attractive to hackers. With protections including encryption, authentication credentials and all security patches in place, businesses can mitigate their risk and better protect their web services from current threats.  

Additional resources:

Find out how Automate Schedule incorporates your web services into an enterprise job schedule to make them a seamless and secure part of your enterprise processes.

 

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