Authorization remains #1 issue - OWASP 2023 Top 10 List

Published by Anna Paykina on July 11, 2023
Authorization remains #1 issue - OWASP 2023 Top 10 List

The Open Worldwide Application Security Project (OWASP) is a non-profit foundation that works tirelessly to improve the security of software. Its Top 10 list, updated every few years, is a benchmark for evaluating the security of web applications. In 2021, Broken Access Control, a key component of authorization, topped the list, which we examined in this blog post. Fast forward to 2023, and authorization remains the paramount concern in the OWASP Top 10.

The importance of authorization

Authorization is the process of granting or denying access to a network resource. It determines what a user can and cannot do, based on their identity and role. The importance of robust authorization cannot be overstated. It is the gatekeeper that ensures only the right individuals have access to the right resources at the right times.

Failures in authorization can lead to unauthorized information disclosure, modification, or destruction of data, or even the execution of business functions outside a user's limits. This can have devastating consequences, from data breaches to compliance violations, and can significantly damage a company's reputation and bottom line.

Leading issue of 2023 - “Broken Object Level Authorization”

The top issue of the 2023 edition of the OWASP Top 10 is a specific form of Broken Access Control, where unauthorized users can gain access to objects they should not be able to interact with due to insufficient authorization checks at the object level.

Object Level Authorization is a crucial aspect of access control. It ensures that a user can only interact with the objects (e.g., files, database entries, etc.) that they are authorized to access. When this is broken, it can lead to unauthorized information disclosure, modification, or even destruction of data.

Here are some common vulnerabilities associated with Broken Object Level Authorization:

  • Missing Function Level Access Control: This happens when an application does not properly verify a user's permissions before allowing access to a certain function.
  • Elevation of Privilege: This involves a user gaining elevated access privileges that they should not have, such as acting as an admin when logged in as a user.

Mitigating access control vulnerabilities 

At Cerbos, we understand the critical role that authorization plays in securing your applications. Our mission is to provide a solution that not only mitigates the risks associated with Broken Access Control but also makes the process of implementing robust authorization as seamless as possible.

Cerbos uses policy-based Access Control (PBAC) and decouples authorization logic from an application’s business logic. PBAC is a flexible and granular approach to authorization. With PBAC, you can define policies that control access based on a user's attributes and the context of the request. This aligns with the principle of least privilege, which states that a user should have only the minimum permissions necessary to perform their tasks. Cerbos likewise can be implemented to ensure access control checks are at the object level, preventing unauthorized users from accessing or manipulating objects they should not have access to.

By integrating Cerbos into your application (an important part of your security posture), you can ensure robust Object Level Authorization that aligns with the OWASP Top 10 recommendations. This not only enhances the security of your application but also saves valuable time and resources that would otherwise be spent on building and maintaining custom access control solutions.

You can read the full OWASP 2021 Top 10 here and if you want to learn more about how Cerbos can mitigate these issues in your application check out our documentation and join our Slack Community.


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