Web security demystified: WASEC

    This post is part of the ”WASEC: Web Application SECurity” series, which is a portion of the content of WASEC, an e-book on web application security I’m currently writing.

    Here is a list of all the articles in this series:

  1. Web security demystified: WASEC
  2. Introduction
  3. Understanding the browser
  4. Security at the HTTP level
  5. HTTP headers to secure your application
  6. Hardening HTTP cookies

I’ve been thinking of writing a long article around everything a web developer should know about application security for quite some time, and it’s clear to me that this mastodontic exercise is never going to take place all at once.

In order to get things rolling, I’ve decided that, instead of writing one long, exhaustive article, I’ll be splitting my efforts over a longer period of time, and come up with a series around Web Application SECurity (WASEC, since I like to shorten things).

In this article I’d like to introduce the contents I’m going to write about, and how I’m planning to publish them.

Interested in learning how a compromised CDN wouldn’t affect your users? Want to know why CSRF is going to die? Read on.

Why?

This is how I like to sum up the goal of WASEC, a series on Web Application SECurity:

As software engineers, we often think of security as an afterthought: build it, then fix it later.

Truth is, knowing a few simple browser features can save you countless of hours banging your head against a security vulnerability reported by a user. This book is a solid read that aims to save you days learning about security fundamentals for Web applications, and provide you a concise and condensed idea of everything you should be aware of when developing on the Web from a security standpoint.

Don’t understand prepared statements very well? Can’t think of a good way to make sure that if your CDN gets compromised your users aren’t affected? Still adding CSRF tokens to every form around? Then this book will definitely help you get a better understanding of how to build strong, secure Web applications made to last.

Security is often an afterthought because we don’t understand how simple measures can improve our application’s defense by multiple orders of magnitude, so let’s learn it together.

It’s been a while I’ve been thinking of writing something meaningful: not that I think my previous articles are terrible, but I always wanted to try to make something more “durable” — if you get what I mean.

With WASEC, my goal is to publish a reference for developing web application with security in mind, so that instead of receiving 100 vulnerability reports… …you could probably reduce that number to 90 :)

So now you’re a security guru?!?!

Not at all, that’s why I’d like to emphasize that this is content for the everyday software engineer that writes web applications: I’ve made a living of writing web apps for various employers, and have seen things going south as well as strong, solid approaches to security — with this, I’m simply trying to share my experience and what I like to keep in mind when trying to secure web applications.

Contents

This table of contents is as stable as a table with three legs, but should give you a rough idea of the contents I’m planning to write about:

And I’m sure I’m forgetting half of the content I originally thought of… :)

Series? E-book?

If you have followed me throughout the years, you surely noticed how I like to open-source as much as possible: helping the community comes first, the same way it helped me — if it wasn’t for the first conference I attended, I would have never become the kind of software engineer I am today (hint: a very bad one!).

I have a short history at publishing series, but over the years I’ve managed to come up with a few, connected series of articles that saw the light on this blog:

These are very short series (by the way, the probabilistic data structures one is still in progress), and I’d like to mimic my previous approach for WASEC: short articles that make an interesting story — or, in this case, a book.

I’m going to be publishing WASEC as a book, through LeanPub, and post 80% of its chapters in this blog (as well as in its medium copy).

Why not replicate the entire book on this blog? Well, I want to make sure you’d’be interested in grabbing a copy of the book as well, which I’m planning to publish in a few stores (Kindle, LeanPub) for a ridicolous amount of money. LeanPub sets the minimum price for a book at $4.99 but, if it was for me, I’d ask for $2.99 (and that’s because one of my most satisfying reads costed me that much).

Long story short: grab the book, it’s going to be worth it.

Cadence

I’m planning to release a new chapter every 45 days, meaning WASEC should be completed within a year, year and a half (~10 chapters). If this sounds like a very long-term commitment, consider this a diversion in the topics that I generally like to write about: I’ll be mainly focusing on Web Application SECurity rather than, for example, probabilistic data structures (or rant about Twitter’s ads).

This does not mean that I will forget about everything else I used to write about, but rather than 2 out of 3, maybe 3 out of 4, or 4 out of 5 articles I publish are going to be related to WASEC.

In the end…

Game on! Off to writing…


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