Enterprise Security

Why Web-Based Businesses Should Automate Their Content Security Policy

For decades, the cybersecurity industry has emphasized the need to protect the server side, or back end of a business to ensure smooth IT operations and protect the overall integrity of the business and the data it stores.

However, for businesses whose models center on the use of websites and webpages that require customer inputs, it’s the actual client-facing side of the business and user browsers that are now just as much in the crosshairs of forward-thinking CSOs and CISOs.

These executives, at the most foundational level, need to keep their businesses flying high and clear of cybercriminals looking to take advantage of client-side vulnerabilities as well as a traditional content security policy (CSP) that lacks needed automation to provide proper protection.

Security Protocols

Just as a commercial pilot would never use the “set it and forget it” approach to a flight path or flight operations, a business website’s security stance must also be continually monitored for any needed changes or actions. Pilots have a steady stream of new passengers coming aboard that must be thoroughly checked. They have to make sure that systems are working properly, and they must be trained on how to react and remediate issues that may suddenly spring up.

A website’s traffic is similar in that it welcomes an unending stream of new users. Additionally, changes and improvements are always made, and it needs to offer IT and development staff a pathway for easily rectifying potentially dangerous actions that must be addressed. In essence, like an airline, web-based businesses know they must keep their passengers safe, their engines running, and avoid a series of errors that could lead to delays, unhappy customers, or worse.

Furthering this flying analogy, it would never be possible for a pilot to manually (let alone continually) monitor all the essential systems of a plane without the assistance of sensors and computers specifically designed to do so. They go through their pre-flight safety check that rarely if ever changes and, if everything is up to snuff, the plane is good to go — but only with the knowledge and peace of mind that a highly sophisticated plane is working in the background and notifying pilots of anything that may need their attention.

The Case for Automation

Client-side security for a large company’s webpages clearly requires automation. After all, today’s cybersecurity solutions, even for the server side of a business, harness the power of AI, machine learning and various automated tasks to provide ongoing protection. Client-side security didn’t previously enjoy that same level of innovation until recently.

The constant media reports about stolen user information continues — and it’s spawning a demand among CSOs and CISOs to figure out what needs to change and why. They’re learning that front-end security is all about the need to fix a major problem: without ongoing visibility into what’s going on, you don’t know what you don’t know. Scary, but fixable.

It turns out that the content security policy frequently used by web-based businesses is all-too-often positioned in the minds of IT personnel as a generic one-off step that’s simply taken to add basic levels of security to a website. It’s not that simple — far from it. A CSP can be leveraged as a dynamic tool, but it must also be audited to see which policies work and don’t work. It must also still operate correctly if new plugins are added, etc.

Front-end systems often use many thousands of scripts that are gathered from numerous third-, fourth- or even fifth-party sources. For that reason alone, they can’t be instantly trusted. But because of the shear number of scripts used, an automated system must be in place because it’s nonsensical to think that any human would effectively or consistently be capable of reviewing or optimizing the sheer volume of scripts.

What a CSP Aims To Uncover

Unsafe scripts are one of the major items a CSP identifies. These scripts can enable cybercriminals to successfully conduct point-of-sale (POS) skimming attacks, which are gaining in popularity, as well as other types of similar attacks such as cross-site scripting (XSS) and JavaScript injection attacks.

When third-party scripts are modified, or new marketing trackers or plugins are used, there’s an opening for attacks. CSPs need to make it easy to keep track of CSP violations, initiating remediation and helping personnel fine-tune policies. If a script shouldn’t access certain assets and it’s trying to do so, red flags pop up and attacks can be averted moving forward.

By continually crawling a website and acting like an actual user, an automated CSP approach can effectively evaluate scripts, data and what they’re doing — all before it’s too late. Unlike the nearly impossible task of manually managing a large-scale CSP, an automated approach can enable an initial scan, policy creation, emulation testing, policy enforcement, violation reporting and policy tuning to take place in in moments instead of months or longer.

This greatly simplified management and monitoring of a CSP creates a far more robust security posture for the client-side of a business. Throughout the tailored CSP creation, day-to-day management and real-time policy optimization, IT personnel not only address this growing client-side threat, but they free themselves to assist with their core business more readily — while also helping to maintain a superior customer experience that emphasizes security — a differentiation that sets their business apart from the competition. It’s another way to help website visitors enjoy their “ride” with confidence.

Ivan Tsarynny

Ivan Tsarynny is CEO and Co-Founder of Feroot Security.

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