OWASP Top 10 Series – Identification and Authentication Failures

In these series, I will try to explain each one of the security risks in the OWASP Top 10 (2021) list in the simplest way possible. Hopefully this can help myself and other’s to recall these concepts quickly.

Understanding OWASP Identification and Authentication Failures

OWASP Identification and Authentication Failures encompass vulnerabilities related to the improper implementation of user identification and authentication mechanisms. These vulnerabilities allow attackers to masquerade as legitimate users, potentially leading to unauthorized access to sensitive information and system resources. Addressing these vulnerabilities is crucial as they directly impact the core of an application’s security framework.

Examples and Risks of Identification and Authentication Failures

  1. Weak Password Policies: Implementing weak password policies, such as allowing easily guessable passwords, increases the risk of unauthorized access to user accounts.
  2. Insecure Credential Storage: Storing passwords in plaintext or using weak encryption exposes user credentials to potential attackers in case of a breach.
  3. Brute Force Attacks: Failing to implement proper rate limiting and account lockout mechanisms makes the application susceptible to brute force attacks that aim to guess passwords.

Real-world Example: Exploiting Identification and Authentication Failures

Consider an online banking application that allows users to set passwords with minimal complexity requirements. An attacker exploits this weakness by using a brute force attack to repeatedly guess passwords until they gain access to a user account. Once inside, the attacker can perform unauthorized transactions and access sensitive financial information.

Prevention Strategies and Best Practices

  1. Strong Password Policies: Enforce strong password policies that require a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
  2. Secure Credential Storage: Use industry-standard encryption algorithms to securely store passwords. Implement techniques like salted hashing to protect user credentials from exposure.
  3. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Implement MFA to add an additional layer of security. This ensures that even if an attacker guesses a password, they still require a secondary authentication factor.
  4. Account Lockout: Implement account lockout mechanisms that temporarily lock accounts after a certain number of failed login attempts, preventing brute force attacks.
  5. Regular Security Audits: Conduct regular security audits to identify vulnerabilities in identification and authentication mechanisms and address them promptly.