Love It or Hate It, JavaScript is Here to Stay

7 June 2021

Let’s start with the basics. What is JavaScript(JS)? Well, it’s a text-based programming language used on the client-side and server-side. JS allows web and application developers to build web sites and web applications with interactive elements that engage the user and enhance their experience. JS is relatively easy to learn and easy to share. 

JavaScript serves as one of the core technologies used to build web applications and websites accessed by consumers. Over 97% of websites use it for client-side web page behavioral elements. Eighty percent of websites use a third-party JS library or web framework for their client-side scripting. What this means is that websites are assembled with various pieces of third- or fourth-party JS code, which does not have any security permissions built into it. JS is inherently vulnerable to cyber attacks. It allows threat actors to deliver malicious scripts to run on a client computer via the Web. 

Developers and marketers love JavaScript on account of its flexibility and ease of use. Security teams are nervous about it, because it does not have “security permissions” built into it and is difficult to keep safe from client-side focused threat actors.

Let’s dive deeper into JavaScript to explain the risks it poses to businesses. 

Why is JavaScript Vulnerable?

JavaScript is vulnerable because it is easy for hackers and other threat actors to input query strings into forms to access, steal, or contaminate protected data. JS is the standard for the processing of personal information in client-side websites and applications. There are lots of open-source and third-party libraries available today, the majority of which have known vulnerabilities and offer easy access to threat actors. Third-party code can have an unrestricted level of access to sensitive data at the browser level, so the attack surface is broad and wide open. 

By default, JavaScript environments do not have a security permissions model built in. The World Wide Web Consortium standard is that security permissions (what code is able to execute and what script activity is allowed) are housed in browsers, and the responsibility to manage them lies with the site or application owner. The onus is on site owners to implement policies and procedures to detect and mitigate JS borne cyber attacks. The two most common JS attacks include: 

  • JavaScript Sniffers—A form of malware that is designed to steal financial transaction data from websites, web applications, and online forms when a customer decides to purchase a good or service through an ecommerce website or e-store.
  • JavaScript Injection Attacks—An attack in which a hacker or malicious user gains website or web application parameters information and can change their values. This allows the threat actor to manipulate the website or application and collect sensitive data, such as personally identifiable information (PII) or payment information. 

What Can I Do to Protect My Business from JavaScript Attacks?

As the title of this blog suggests, love it or hate it, JS is here to stay. The responsibility to protect your business from JS borne attacks is on you, regardless of your business role—i.e.,  marketer, security professional, or application developer. The challenge is that the JS security problem is massive. Building a client-side security program to detect and protect your business and customers from front-end threats and JS specific attacks is huge.  

In order to prevent JS-borne attacks, application developers and security professionals need to work collaboratively to continuously scan their JS-based web applications and web sites for malicious scripts and client-side vulnerabilities. If any issues are found, they must be mitigated immediately. 

Organizations struggle to keep track of every client-side web application, web page, landing page, and form they are using to do business with their customers. Some businesses have 100s of pages open to the World Wide Web, built on third- and fourth-party code libraries, which are extremely vulnerable to attack.

So what can you do to protect your JS-based applications? Well, there are a few options, but not all of them are simple. Security and application development teams must commit copious resources to continuous vulnerability scanning, client-side asset inventory collection, script enumeration, script hygiene (immediate removal of unused or “zombie scripts”), and immediate threat resolution. Most organizations follow arduous manual processes built around tools like Qualys and Burpsuite, and coupled with custom scripts to automate client-side security tasks. The sheer volume of script changes and the speed of client-side threats essentially renders the manual approach obsolete. You need an automated web application client-side protection platform. 

Easy Protection Alternatives—Feroot Security Inspector and PageGuard

With the potential for malicious JS query string input, it is necessary to have a tool that continuously scans webpages, issues alerts, and corrects client-side security issues in real-time. Feroot Inspector automatically finds and reports on all web assets and their data access, including JavaScript. Inspector also looks for and reports on client-side security vulnerabilities, and provides specific client-side threat remediation advice to security teams in real-time.

PageGuard offers real-time, automated application security to protect websites and web applications from client-side cyber attacks. Based on the Zero Trust model, PageGuard runs continuously in the background to automatically detect unauthorized scripts and anomalous code behavior. It is also able to deploy security permissions onto JavaScript pages and applications.

In Closing

With the numerous challenges associated with JavaScript, I encourage you to start building a client-side security program. Your customers rely on you to keep them and their data safe when they transact with you digitally. Check out our Inspector and PageGuard products. They are specifically designed to continuously scan and protect your business from attackers being able to exploit JS limitation formjacking attacks. If you would like to see our products in action, please request a demo by clicking here.

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