As a security consultant it is absolutely necessary to describe your services using simple words when speaking to a customer. Dealing with customers is quite fun because they come from so varied backgrounds. Some have a strong technology background, whilst others doesn’t. The latter group is the most interesting one since I need to choose my words with care. Often when presenting our services the customers asks “what do you base your work on?”. Simply we always respond saying “OWASP Top Ten!” and the customer says “OK – great!”. The chances are that the customer have heard about it, but doesn’t know exactly what it is. So – what is it, then?

OWASP Top 10

OWASP Top Ten is an awareness document that identifies the most critical risks that organizations can face in the web landscape. Simply put, it is a list over the most common vulnerabilities found on a web site. The OWASP Top 10 list put together by a variety of security experts from around the world who have shared their ability to produce this list. Did I mention that the list is available to you free of charge directly from OWASP and that this list is often referenced in books, articles and academia? Well now you know. This list has become an industry standard.

The current version of the OWASP Top 10 was released back in 2013. The one prior to that was released in 2010. And there has been releases prior to that. You might wonder why I mention these older versions of the list? Well – each list represents the current state. From time to time the risks changes, new ones gets added and others removed. Things shifts quite easily in the world of IT. Some risks goes out of date and some new are invented. It’s important to know about the shifting climate because old risk never really goes away completely, they pop back into the scene now and then and we must face them.

OWASP Top 10 – 2013 list

The current OWASP Top 10 list were published back in 2013. I copied the following parts directly from the OWASP site. It gets a bit technical, but hang in there. Here goes:

A1 – Injection

“Injection flaws, such as SQL, 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.”

A2 – Broken Authentication and Session Management

“Application functions related to authentication and session management are often not implemented correctly, allowing attackers to compromise passwords, keys, or session tokens, or to exploit other implementation flaws to assume other users’ identities.”

A3 – Cross Site Scripting (XSS)

“XSS flaws occur whenever an application takes untrusted data and sends it to a web browser without proper validation or escaping. 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.”

A4 – Insecure Direct Object References

“A direct object reference occurs when a developer exposes a reference to an internal implementation object, such as a file, directory, or database key. Without an access control check or other protection, attackers can manipulate these references to access unauthorized data.”

A5 – Security Misconfiguration

“Good security requires having a secure configuration defined and deployed for the application, frameworks, application server, web server, database server, and platform. Secure settings should be defined, implemented, and maintained, as defaults are often insecure. Additionally, software should be kept up to date.”

A6 – Sensitive Data Exposure

“Many web applications do not properly protect sensitive data, such as credit cards, tax IDs, and authentication credentials. Attackers may steal or modify such weakly protected data to conduct credit card fraud, identity theft, or other crimes. Sensitive data deserves extra protection such as encryption at rest or in transit, as well as special precautions when exchanged with the browser.”

A7 – Missing Function Level Access Control

“Most web applications verify function level access rights before making that functionality visible in the UI. However, applications need to perform the same access control checks on the server when each function is accessed. If requests are not verified, attackers will be able to forge requests in order to access functionality without proper authorization.”

A8 – Cross Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

“A CSRF attack forces a logged-on victim’s browser to send a forged HTTP request, including the victim’s session cookie and any other automatically included authentication information, to a vulnerable web application. This allows the attacker to force the victim’s browser to generate requests the vulnerable application thinks are legitimate requests from the victim.”

A9 – Using Components with Known Vulnerabilities

“Components, such as libraries, frameworks, and other software modules, almost always run with full privileges. If a vulnerable component is exploited, such an attack can facilitate serious data loss or server takeover. Applications using components with known vulnerabilities may undermine application defenses and enable a range of possible attacks and impacts.”

A10 – Unvalidated Redirects and Forwards

“Web applications frequently redirect and forward users to other pages and websites, and use untrusted data to determine the destination pages. Without proper validation, attackers can redirect victims to phishing or malware sites, or use forwards to access unauthorized pages.”

Closing note

Maybe you found the list a bit too technical? Take comfort in that you don’t have to know the list by heart. Sometimes it’s better to hear someone talk about it than reading it yourself. We’re here to help – ask us. After all, we’re here to help and aid you!


If you feel adventurous you can check out these links for more information:

OWASP Home page

OWASP TOP 10 project

OWASP TOP 10 2013 list