A recent study conducted by the Ponemon Institute on behalf of IBM investigated web application security visibility. The report revealed for the majority of organizations there is none. When it comes to application security, many companies are in the dark and either do not test the apps they use, or do not address the vulnerabilities they discover when they do.

640 application development and security professionals were asked questions about application security and the steps being taken to secure apps. The study also aimed to get an answer to the question, how much do organizations know about the security of the applications they are using on a day to day basis?

The results of the survey are worrying. More than a third of companies (35%) perform no application security testing. Consequently, they are unaware if the apps they use have security vulnerabilities. Worse still, 69% of respondents said they were not aware of all of the apps and databases that were in use in their organization.

Application Security Visibility Needs to be Improved

The study also revealed that more than two thirds (67%) of organizations do not have overall visibility into the state of application security in their respective companies. Out of the organizations that do perform application security testing, more than half do not take steps to address security vulnerabilities they discover. 34% of respondents said urgent security vulnerabilities are not being fixed and 43% said web application security was not a priority in their organization.

When asked why thorough testing of applications does not take place, 56% of respondents said it was due to time constraints and organizational pressure to release applications quickly. 55% said that their organization’s developers are too busy to work on application security issues and 70% said they believed their organization invested too little in securing web applications and that insufficient resources were allocated to the task.

Developers do not feel that it is their job to ensure applications are secure, and that this task should be conducted by information security professionals employed by their organizations. Another issue is web application security vulnerabilities take a long time to resolve. When asked how long, 38% said that each vulnerability takes around 20 hours to address.

There is, unfortunately, not enough time to make applications secure. However, there is no shortage of attackers willing to take advantage of security vulnerabilities that remain in web applications.  Unless the security of web applications is improved, those vulnerabilities could well be exploited.