When You Should Consider Client-Side Security

Managed IT Services

Securing your organization’s network from fraud and malicious attacks is one of the top priorities for many business owners and leaders. Many hackers will try to exploit vulnerabilities at any point in your organization for entertainment and profit. And the cost of these attacks is tremendous, with cyber fraud costs estimated to exceed $720 billion in 2021 in the United States.

To minimize the threat and anticipated losses, organizations take digital security far more seriously than they have in the past. But network security can be constructed in a multitude of ways to meet the unique needs of any organization. Therefore, it’s imperative to understand all of their options and when to select certain options over others.

What is Client-Side Security?

Client-side security embraces an application design principle that moves app functionality onto the client or the user’s device. In this type of relationship, the client conducts application processing on the user’s device before sending information to a server. This type of structure can be desirable for multiple reasons; it mainly reduces the server’s processing requirements while still creating a customized user experience.

Additionally, general development processes often rely on open source components to speed up development, and many websites use third-party scripts at runtime. The drawback to these externally sourced pieces of code is that the attack surface for client-side attacks is increased greatly. And since many traditional server-side security and network security measures do not protect the client-side data. The amount of growing threats means that client-side security is essential in many settings.

Client-side security enhances overall security in some circumstances. For instance, we can look at the benefits of client-side encryption. Encryption encodes the data so that only those with authorization may access it. In many cases, it is used when sending data, such as email. If the email is intercepted, the hacker may not decode the message, leaving them with nothing of value. Encrypted connections allow multiple devices to have a conversation by allowing encrypted data to be decrypted by the recipient.

The primary vulnerability here is when there is no client-side encryption. In that case, there is no guarantee that it is being transmitted securely. So, while data may be secure when sent, there’s no certainty that it will remain secure on the path to the recipient’s computer, and each server presents a possible vulnerability. Client-side encryption solves the problem by ensuring that data encrypted when sent remains encrypted until it reaches its intended recipient. The servers present no vulnerability since there would be no way to decode the message.

The Drawbacks of Client-Side Security

However, despite some benefits, placing security on the client-side can lead to many problems. First and foremost, security controls are now in the user’s hands. And while most users do not have nefarious intentions, a hacker could easily bypass these controls and exploit the vulnerability. Client-side attacks occur when a user downloads malicious content. The victim downloads – often without knowing – the content from the attacker, which can then be used to gain access to sensitive data or attack the network. This process is different than server-side attacks in which the attacker pushes content or gains access from the server.

Client-side attacks are especially difficult for organizations that allow Internet access. Clients can include commonly used applications, such as word processing software, spreadsheet, media plays, and browsers. And while many firewalls or other security measures are designed for server-side attacks, they cannot necessarily prevent many client-side attacks.

Implementing Client-Side Security to Bridge Security Gaps

While there are many instances in which elements of client-side security can enhance overall network safety and security, truly protecting any network from client-side attacks requires vigilance and incorporation of security elements in every aspect of deployment. No matter what changes you make to the network, from infrastructure changes to application development and installation, you must consider security procedures and tools that lock down the network and the applications that employees need to complete their jobs. To do this adequately, you must also generally incorporate additional elements than client-side security measures.

Client-side security measures are one way to protect from the continuous cycle of change and evolution of cyber threats. These attacks challenge the confidentiality of data and the integrity of the network. Therefore, any measures that can reduce the risk may be part of an overall comprehensive security strategy. And web-based security gaps often stem from application execution that may occur on the user’s browser. Web client browsers must also include functional controls that address server-side vulnerabilities, which can be done using client-side security measures.

However, modern security infrastructure largely ignores these client-side vulnerabilities, even though they remain an attractive target to hackers. Client-side security can address:

  • Cross-Site Scripting (XSS): This technique uses a strategy called injection, where an attacker finds a way to get scripts running on a target website. The code will then run on a user’s browser, and any downloaded scripts can expose sensitive information. This type of attack can also redirect a user to an infected website.
  • Content and Ad Injection: Also called malvertising, this type of attack has grown tremendously with the rise of online advertising. These attacks are similar to XSS attacks in that they find ways to infect the code through legitimate advertising outlets.
  • Man-in-the-middle Attacks: This type of attack is common since server-side security tools do not account for the damage done on the client-side. Web application firewalls will not detect the activity, leaving a vulnerability.

Like every other type of cyber attack, client-side attacks are occurring with increasing frequency. A comprehensive security strategy must address server-side security and will include many traditional security tools and resources. However, client-side security is often necessary to shore up any weaknesses and protect from the vulnerabilities that exist on the client itself.

Sagacent Technologies is a Managed IT Service Provider for the San Jose region. To learn more about leveraging the enhanced security measures that can be implemented on the client-side, contact out team today!