• section3-figure 41

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  • Basic Web Application Attacks

  • Summary

    Basic Web Application Attacks are those with a small number of steps or additional actions after the initial Web application compromise. They are very focused on direct objectives, which range from getting access to email and web application data to repurposing the web app for malware distribution, defacement, or future DDoS attacks.


    4,862 incidents, 1,384 with confirmed data disclosure

    Threat Actors

    External (100%), Internal (1%), Multiple (1%) (breaches)

    Actor Motives

    Financial (89%), Espionage (7%), Grudge (2%), Fun (1%), (breaches)

    Data Compromised

    Credentials (80%), Personal (53%), Other (25%), Internal (12%) (breaches)

    Basic Web Application Attacks (or BWAA), —we wanted BWAHA but we couldn’t justify the H— is the new and improved version of our trusty Web Applications pattern. We do realize the name is a mouthful, but it better captures the nature of these short and to-the-point attacks that target open web and web-adjacent interfaces (it also freshens breath and whitens teeth). Our other name option was almost as long: Simple Web Attack Group (or SWAG), and perhaps that would have been better, since those attacks are looking for some low-hanging, easily available, knick knacks to grab.

    While the Assets present in this pattern according to Figures 88 are overwhelmingly represented by the Hacking of Servers, there are a few different sub-patterns encapsulated here, and they are all easy to explain and visualize.

    The first sub-pattern covers the Use of stolen credentials and Brute force through a Web application vector to compromise either actual Web apps or Mail servers, as you can see on Figure 86. Almost all (96%) of those Mail servers compromised were cloud-based, resulting in the compromise of Personal, Internal or Medical data.

  • Figure 86
  • Figure 88
  • Figure 89
  • Astute readers will point out that if using stolen credentials is the leading characteristic of this part of BWAA, how is it differentiated from other threat actor favorites such as Social Engineering and System Intrusion? Glad you asked! It turns out that the credential abuse actions in this pattern were not preceded by any kind of Social attacks as far as the victims were aware. This could mean that either they didn’t notice it, or that they were victims of a credential stuffing attack, where the credentials were actually compromised elsewhere and were, sadly, the same on the affected system.

    Brute force and credential stuffing attacks are extremely prevalent according to SIEM data analyzed in our dataset. We found that 23% of the organizations monitored had security events related to those types of attacks, with 95% of them getting between 637 and 3.3 billion(!) attempts against them, as Figure 90 demonstrates. This is a very large number at face value, but when you consider the sheer volume of automated bots and worms looking for vulnerable services out there, it feels par for the course.

  • All of those Brute force attempts do not happen all at the same time, or even with any predictable regularity.

  • However, as you may suspect if you have been reading up on the other patterns, all of those Brute force attempts do not happen all at the same time, or even with any predictable regularity. Figure 91 demonstrates that more often than not for the organizations we reviewed, those attacks happened in very uneven intervals. It seems the cost of keeping up with potential credential dumps can’t be simplified as something you should do every month or so.

  • Figure 90
  • Figure 91
  • The other sub-pattern covers the exploitation of vulnerabilities in Web applications. They are not as common as the credential-related ones, as Figure 92 shows, but they are significant. Vulnerability exploitation is also the territory of a sister pattern, System Intrusion, but those present here in BWAA are not only focused on Web applications. They are also attacking with a small number of steps or additional actions after the initial Web application compromise.

    In those incidents, the Actor will be focused on repurposing the web app for malware distribution, defacement71 or installing malware for future DDoS attacks and calling it a day. Needless to say, a lot of the motive here is Secondary, more precisely in 78% of incidents. Threat actors are clearly not wasting the opportunity to shout “It’s free real estate!” and expand their nefarious domains. Figure 93 shows this distribution in incidents, as in defacement, cases we often cannot get confirmation of a fully realized breach.

  • Figure 92
  • Figure 93
  • 71 It’s the 90s! Join our DBIR webring in Geocities!

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