What is the OWASP ASVS?

The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), is a non-profit international organization dedicated to improving the security of web applications. All of OWASP’s resources are freely accessible and easy to find on their website, enabling any company to enhance and develop the security and protection of their very own web applications. 

One of the OWASP’s projects is the Application Security Verification Standard (ASVS), which was first published in 2009. It aims to standardize overall coverage when it comes to checking the security of an application using proven and agreed-upon standards.

The following are OWASP ASVS’ key motivations:

  • It may be used as a well-defined strategy for app owners and developers to assess the level of security in their applications
  • It may be used by developers as a guide to help them incorporate successful security controls into their applications
  • It may be used to ensure that essential security standards are met when purchasing tools and services

With time, the depth of OWASP ASVS grew, and the accumulation of community efforts and feedback resulted in the release of the most recent edition of ASVS, ASVS version 4.0.2, on October 27, 2020.

ASVS is a cyber-security standard in the traditional sense, with informative instructions and over 300 individual controls (including appendices). The ASVS standard can be used as a security checklist for developers, and consumers , a training manual or a manual and automated testing guide.

ASVS covers a wide range of subjects, beginning with general security mechanisms and architectural design guidelines that strive for defense-in-depth, and then moving on to technical specifics. It addresses the common security pillars, such as:

  • Authentication (including knowledge on two-factor authentication))
  • Session management
  • Authorization
  • Input validation (mostly focusing on the web application layer)
  • Cryptography
  • Data confidentiality, logging and error handling (along with concerns such as privacy and backups
  • Network communication security

It then moves on to general measures for preventing malicious code or vulnerable holes in a product, before returning to more technical issues with chapters on protecting files and APIs. The Config segment covers a broad range of flaws, from the build phase to web server configurations.

Appendix C, which contains recent adjustments to the standard: a list of embedded device-specific specifications. Some of it repeats material from previous sections (for example, communication protections), but from a different perspective. The appendix is for field-deployed client computers, not a data center application server. As a result, it focuses more on low-level security, such as physical interface specifications (JTAG, USB, and various other serials), hardware-based key and code protections, and issues such as safe boot and executable address randomization.

What are the requirements for OWASP ASVS?

Using the Application Security Verification Standard as a guideline to build a Secure Coding Protocol unique to your application, organization or platform is one of the best ways to use it. Customizing the ASVS for your use purposes will help you concentrate on the security specifications that matter most to your projects and structures.

For implementation, the security requirements are divided into three levels of complexity:

ASVS Level 1

ASVS level 1 is tailored for basic applications which are not prone to cyber attacks and do not place a high emphasis on confidentiality. To ensure the minimal protection, every application must meet the requirements of this level. This level focuses on protecting the application from well-known vulnerabilities, and all of the steps can be penetration tested without requiring access to source code or configurations (black box testing).

ASVS Level 2

For the majority of applications, security professionals suggest ASVS level 2. The level 2 principles must be followed by applications that conduct business to business transactions on a daily basis. This level focuses on issues such as injection flaws, invalid access control, validation errors and authentication among other topics. ASVS level 2 ensures that security measures are effectively aligned with the level of threat to which the application is exposed.

ASVS Level 3

This is the most secure level of protection that an application can have. ASVS Level 3 is typically chosen by applications that require a high level of protection, such as military and healthcare, as well as the ability to record and audit their progress.

There are 14 chapters that contain a set of requirements and security measures, with the level of complexity of each requirement indicated. Each requirement is written as a short paragraph (usually a sentence or two) that is only specific enough for an experienced engineer to translate into a workable solution.

As a non-profit organization, OWASP does not approve or certify any suppliers, verifiers or applications. Third-parties, on the other hand, may provide “unofficial” guarantee services at a variety of prices. Organizations may also self-attest their ASVS enforcement. As such, it is critical to know that you can trust vendors who provide attestation or testing services. 

Why should you be OWASP ASVS compliant?

Since today’s applications are often available across multiple networks and linked to the cloud, they are more vulnerable to security threats and breaches. The most common attack vector for cybercriminals is application vulnerabilities. Today, they are at an all-time high, and both individuals and businesses are suffering greatly as a result. 84%of cyber attacks, according to analysts, happen at the application layer. The attacker’s plan is to go out and find useful data to steal in order to obtain money or other benefits. The following are some examples of common attacks: Credential Reuse, Denial of Service (DoS), Session Hijacking, SQL Injection Attack, Man-in-the-Middle Attacks, Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) and more.

You must protect your web applications, which means putting protections in place to keep cybercriminals, bugs, and other cyber threats out. Otherwise, your information could be stolen or compromised, your website could crash, you could suffer from financial loss and you can harm your organization’s reputation.

Complying with the ASVS standard assists businesses in identifying application-level weaknesses, assisting in the prevention of these attacks, supporting organizations in developing and maintaining secure applications by mitigating and enhancing protection, and allowing security tool providers, security service vendors, and consumers to align their requirements and services.

How to achieve compliance?

Threats are motivated in different ways. Some industries have distinct information and technology assets, as well as regulatory compliance requirements that are domain specific. 

The first step in the implementation process strongly encourages organizations to examine their unique risk characteristics that are a threat to their applications based on the nature of their business, and then determine the appropriate ASVS level, which ranges from Level 1 to Level 3, based on that risk and business requirements.

The next step will be to integrate the ASVS security specifications that are related to their selected level, then to compile and keep track of those that have already been implemented and those that still need more work in order to meet the ASVS specifications, and finally to generate a report that represents the level of your adherence with the ASVS requirements.

The Centraleyes platform provides a built-in ASVS questionnaire that aligns all of the requirements into the three different levels detailed above, allowing organizations to simply select their desired level of compliance, while also providing automated workflows, smart questionnaires, and a remediation planner that identifies gaps and produces actionable tickets.

Based on the answers, selections, and surveys uploaded by organization managers or CISOs, the platform then customizes  reports that fit to feed both technical and non-technical readers, allowing them to track and see the full picture of their progress and risk level of compliance to ASVS. 

Additionally, through automating vendor management and offering vendor questionnaire models that map to the ASVS Framework and other best practices, Centraleyes  significantly reduces the amount of time your company spends managing third-party security. Assisting you in monitoring and tracking the security posture of your vendors over time.

The Centraleyes powerful platform empowers your web application security management by automating and orchestrating your evolving cyber security risk while easing the process and saving you a significant amount of time.

Read more:

Does your company need to be compliant with OWASP ASVS?

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