New report from WhiteHat Security reinforces that organisations must focus on risk

WhiteHat Security has issued its eleventh annual Web Applications Security Statistics Report. Compiled using data collected from tens of thousands of websites, the report reveals that the majority of web applications exhibit, on average, two or more serious vulnerabilities per application for every industry at any given point in time.

The Report’s findings are based on the aggregated vulnerability scanning and remediation data from web applications that use the WhiteHat Sentinel service for application security testing. The research shows that no industry has mastered application security. Of the 12 industries analysed, the IT, education and retail industries suffer the highest number of critical or high-risk vulnerabilities per web application (at 17, 15 and 13 respectively).

The findings also highlight that the IT and retail industries struggle to remediate in a timely manner. It takes approximately 250 days for IT and 205 days for retail businesses to fix their software vulnerabilities.

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According to the ‘Window of Exposure’ data contained in the report, another key metric organisations need to pay attention to is the number of days an application has one or more serious vulnerabilities open during a given time period. Across all industries, a substantial number of web applications remain always vulnerable.

A few key highlights of the report include: 

  • Information Technology (IT): 60% of web applications are always vulnerable
  • Retail: Half of all web applications are always vulnerable
  • Banking and financial services: 40% and 41% (respectively) of web applications are always vulnerable
  • Healthcare: 47% of web applications are always vulnerable

“We’ve observed that organisations have hundreds, if not thousands, of consumer-facing web applications, and each of these web apps has anywhere from five to 32 vulnerabilities,” said Tamir Hardof, chief marketing officer at WhiteHat Security. “This means that there are thousands of vulnerabilities across the average organisation’s web applications. While this number is overwhelming, risk ratings can really help security teams prioritise which vulnerabilities they work on fixing first. Unfortunately, what this year’s report tells us once again is that organisations are not really relying on risk levels as a baseline to inform their application security strategies.”

Remediation rates

The report also captures data on vulnerabilities that are fixed once they’re discovered. Generally, the more critical the vulnerability, the more complex they are to understand and remediate.

For nine of the 12 industries analysed, remediation rates are below 50%. In IT, less than 25% of open vulnerabilities are remediated, while vulnerabilities in this industry have an average age of 875 days. The average time-to-fix for vulnerabilities varies by industry, from approximately 15 weeks in the energy industry to 35 weeks in IT.

Key trends from 2013-2015 include the following:

  • Remediation rates declined significantly in IT, which saw a drop from 46% to 24%, and in banking, which dropped from 52% to 42%
  • Financial services and retail saw modest increases in their remediation rates, from 41% to 48% for financial services, and from 42% to 48% for retail
  • The greatest improvement was in the food and beverage industry, where remediation rates quadrupled from 17% to 62%
  • In manufacturing, rates almost doubled from 34% to 66%, while healthcare and insurance increased from 26% to 42%, and from 26% to 44% respectively

“Since 2013, the average time to fix vulnerabilities has trended upward overall, but we’ve seen some great successes with customers who’ve embedded security into the software development process,” said Ryan O’Leary, vice-president of the Threat Research Centre and technical support for WhiteHat Security.

“Discovering vulnerabilities in development is key to reducing vulnerabilities when the application is staged. Introducing source scanning, or SAST, has the potential to eliminate 80%-90% of well-known vulnerabilities. We look forward to seeing how this report will evolve as security and development teams work together more closely around shared security and risk management goals.”

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