In a world driven by technology, innovation is on the rise. These innovations have made the simplest of tasks to even more complicated ones such as trading accessible on the go. It can all be done with just a few clicks.
We owe this to the development of technology in the field of smartphones and the internet. There is an app for everything. With the emergence of mobile and web applications, there are a lot of app developers working on newer frameworks for the same. These developers try to innovate the technology behind application development, come up with newer frameworks that make app development faster and better.
These frameworks help in developing more dynamic apps with complex functionalities simultaneously simplifying the logic behind it.
In this article we shall talk about one such significant web application development framework that changed the game; Ruby on Rails.
So, What Exactly Is ROR?
How does Ruby on Rails Work?
Ruby on Rails works on the Model View Controller architecture.
Model View Controller is architecture for applications to interact with users in a way where a particular input is translated to a database which is then performed as an action for the user. There are three main components of this architecture.
The controller collects and processes the inputs to send them as commands to the model or the view. The model controls the entire logic of the model while the view represents the information in a particular format be it charts, bar graphs, etc.
The input if processed through the three components and an action is performed based on the same that fulfills the user requirements. Ruby on Rails works in a similar manner.
Multiple commands are performed based on the user requests within this framework, allowing the app to process huge amounts of data and enable complex functionalities.
Ruby on Rails is a significant framework having affected the development of other frameworks such as DJango, Catalyst, Elixir, etc.
The Question of Security
Ruby on Rails is used to create web applications that require the processing of huge amounts of data. Wherever there is data processing, there always is the question of data security. This is even more significant as Ruby on Rails is an open-source web app development framework.
With global data security laws such as the General Data Protection Regulations in EU, the updated cybersecurity laws in Australia and places like Dubai, app development companies have to consider securing their apps to the fullest. Data security is a priority and it cannot be denied.
So, what is the security concern that Ruby on Rails development services you hire should keep in mind and how do they secure their app for the same?
Security Tips for Ruby on Rails Development Services
As a company engaged in app development as a business, you must ensure that the Ruby on Rails development services that you hire follow a proper data security protocol. A lot of data breaches can occur that make your web app vulnerable to attacks.
It is up to the web application developer to ensure security at every step of the way. For this, you must understand the stages at which a security breach can occur within your app and tackle the same.
Here are the main stages of application development where you must analyse the kind of breaches that can occur and build a security framework for the same:
Authentication is one of the earliest forms of user interaction with an app. It is simply the process where a user gains access to their profile on the application with a simple username and password.
The application might contain a range of personal and important information pertaining to the users. Hence, securing the authentication stage is a very important step.
Many times, cyber attackers try multiple types of security breach attempts to hack a user account within the application. Here are different types of attacks that can take place at this stage:
- Brute Force Attack
- Account highjacking
This is when a hacker tries to guess the authentication email ID and password of a user using multiple combinations to hack into the user account.
The hacker may use cross-site references going through the cookies of other sites where the user may have logged in to a session. The hacker will steal the password from another site and session to gain access to the user account.
In order to secure the application against authentication attacks, your Ruby on Rails development services should follow some basic protocols. The email verification process for authentication should be thorough. The email confirmation and password reset procedures for the app should be detailed.
Enable a password requirement even when a user wishes to change their email address for the app login. Make sure that the user credentials are encrypted and SSL secured within the database.
Many times users can also attack an app using malicious bots. Always make use of web CAPTCHAs that are a simple test to ensure that the user logging in is actually a human and not a bot.
These are just a few basic steps that you can follow to ensure security.
Authorization determines what content of the web application the user has access to. There are certainly important aspects of the apps that all users cannot be allowed access to or it might just crash the whole application and lead to security breaches.
Certain aspects of the application become vulnerable to attacks, data breaches and abuse of privileges if authorization is compromised.
For this, the Ruby on Rails developers should ensure that they build their entire application on the ‘least privilege’ principle. In this mindset, users are provided a minimum amount of authorization privilege within the app. They can then authorize users to access other parts of the app only if and when required.
Apart from this, there should be multiple gatekeepers for allowing access to more sensitive parts of the app. For example, in a banking web application, authorization should be required while logging in as well as while accessing important information such as fund transfer, account details, etc.
Apart from this the Ruby on Rails development services can also make use of plugins such as CanCanCan or Pundit that helps in maintaining authentication security for the app. These plugins help is managing what a user can access within the app or has control over. This simplifies the task of securing the authorization aspect of the app.
3. Session Management
A session is the period of user interaction with the web application. Application developers must ensure that the session is conducted by the same user who has logged into the application.
Many times, hackers can hijack a user session mid-session. This could be done in the following manner:
- Brute Force
- Session Hijacking
- Session Fixation
In older versions of Ruby on Rails, brute force attacks were possible where attackers could guess the session ID of users using multiple combinations. In the new version, the session id is a 32-bit long hash value, making brute force attack almost impossible to carry out.
Attackers may highjack the session using a stolen session ID of the user from a more insecure network.
In this type of attack, the hacker may create a valid session ID at the targeted application and then force the user’s browser to utilize that same session ID for their session. This way, the attacker gains access to the user’s profile on the application with their session ID.
The simplest way to avoid such attacks is to issue new and secure session IDs to the users. Apart from this, if possible, ensure that no user can access your application from an insecure network and that the browser is SSL secured.
Session management is the key responsibility of the Ruby on Rails development services as session highjacking can lead to important information being leaked. The application itself is vulnerable to harmful cyber-attacks. Hence, session management security is a major priority.
4. Data Validation
It is highly possible that an attacker may inject malicious code into your application while the data input and validation process of your app. This is one of the most dangerous forms of attacks against which you need to secure your web application.
The most common types of attacks that can happen during data input and validation are:
- Cross-Site Scripting
- Command Injection
- Cross-Site Request Forgery
- SQL Injection
- File Uploads
Cross-site scripting occurs when an attacker is successful in injecting malicious code into the app. It may do so by entering the code through a non-existing URL saved by the app which is later displayed to the user. If at all the user clicks on the URL, the attacker might gain access to their cookies which makes important information within the app vulnerable to breaches.
If your application requires certain commands to operate, it is possible that an attacker may inject certain unwanted commands within the framework to gain access to the app.
Cross-site request forgery is when the attacker is able to successfully perform an action on a targeted website in the guise of the user who may already be logged in.
A successful SQL injection into the code may authorize the attacker to read and modify certain data within the app.
An attacker may be able to successfully inject a malicious file during file upload on to the app which may compromise the security of the app.
The data and input validation process must be extremely thorough to avoid such attacks. Certain definite command parameters must be put in place to avoid command injection.
The code must be checked for malicious content on a regular basis and plugins must be installed to alert the developers of any such breaches as soon as they occur. Data encryption, logging of all activity within the app and data validation are important steps to protect your application and the user data against such attacks.
Apart from this, data breaches may occur while the application is redirecting or forwarding a user to other sites. Many times, the user may need to leave the app and move to other sites for performing certain actions. For e.g. in an e-commerce platform, a sure might need to move on to payment gateways to complete payment for their purchase.
During such a process, the user may be redirected to a malicious site which provides a gateway for attackers to hijack the users account or gain access to important information on the app.
In order to avoid any such breaches, developers must ensure that all their redirects and forwards are secured.
For maximum security, make sure that every action the user performs is logged and secured within the database. You can utilize plugins such as the Rails Semantic Logger or Papertrails for the same. Have a system in place that alerts you of any suspicious activity as soon as it occurs.
There are a lot of plugins in the market as well that help you secure your app built on Ruby on Rails framework specifically. The newer versions themselves provide a detailed library of tools that you can use to strengthen the security of your app. These are a few things that your Ruby on Rails Development services should keep in mind.
This helps in building trust-worthy user experience, thus building a loyal user base for your application. Utilizing such a complex framework for building your applications and securing the same can seem overwhelming. But trust me; all it takes is a few basic security checks while building your app in turn leading to better user experience.