What is Broken Authentication and How to Prevent It?

  • By Rajat Sharma
  • October 30, 2023
  • Cyber Security
What is Broken Authentication and How to Prevent It?

What is Broken Authentication and How to Prevent It?

A broken authentication attack is a type of cybersecurity attack that exploits vulnerabilities or weaknesses in an application’s authentication and session management mechanisms. Authentication is the process of verifying the identity of users, ensuring that they are who they claim to be, and granting or denying access to a system or application based on their identity. When authentication is “broken,” it means there are flaws or issues that allow unauthorized users to gain access or perform actions as if they were legitimate users. In this blog, we will explore more about What is Broken Authentication and How to Prevent It?


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Here’s a more detailed explanation of a broken authentication attack:

User Authentication: Authentication typically involves user credentials, such as usernames and passwords. Users provide their credentials to access a system or application. Proper authentication should verify these credentials and only grant access if they are valid.

Session Management: Once a user is authenticated, a session is established to maintain their access during a certain period. The session should be properly managed to ensure that users remain authenticated throughout their interactions and that their sessions are terminated when they log out or after a period of inactivity.

Common Vulnerabilities: Broken authentication attacks occur when there are vulnerabilities or misconfigurations in the authentication and session management processes. Some common vulnerabilities include:


Weak Passwords: Users choosing weak passwords that are easy to guess.

Password Reuse: Users reusing passwords across multiple accounts or systems.

Insecure Storage: Storing passwords and sensitive data in an insecure manner, making them accessible to attackers.

Session Fixation: Allowing an attacker to set a user’s session ID to a known value, making it possible to hijack the user’s session.

Session Timeout Issues: Failing to terminate sessions after a user logs out or after a period of inactivity.

Session Cookie Handling: Mishandling session cookies, making them susceptible to theft.

Attacker’s Goals: In a broken authentication attack, the attacker’s goal is typically to gain unauthorized access to an account, impersonate a legitimate user, or perform actions on behalf of another user. This could lead to unauthorized data access, financial transactions, or changes to an account’s settings.


Prevention and Mitigation: To prevent broken authentication attacks, developers and organizations should:


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Implement strong password policies and encourage users to use complex, unique passwords. Master the Art of Cyber Security. Join SevenMentor’s Cyber Security Course in Pune and Protect the Digital World. 

Use multi-factor authentication (MFA) to add an extra layer of security.

Securely store and transmit user credentials and session data.

Enforce proper session management, including session timeout and termination.

Regularly audit and test the authentication and session management processes for vulnerabilities.

Broken authentication attacks are a significant threat, and organizations need to address these vulnerabilities to protect their systems and the privacy of their users. Regular security assessments, penetration testing, and staying informed about the latest security best practices are crucial in preventing and mitigating these attacks.


  • How to find broken authentication?

Finding and identifying broken authentication vulnerabilities in your applications or systems is crucial to maintain their security. Here are some methods and tools that can help you discover and address these vulnerabilities:


  • Manual Testing:

Testing for Weak Password Policies: Check if the application enforces strong password policies and doesn’t allow users to set weak or easily guessable passwords.

Password Resets: Test the password reset functionality to ensure that it’s secure and can’t be easily exploited.

Session Management: Review the application’s session management to identify issues like session fixation, session timeout problems, and improper session handling.


  • Automated Scanning Tools:

Consider using automated security scanning tools that are specifically designed for identifying authentication and session management vulnerabilities. These tools can help detect issues more efficiently. Some popular tools include:

  • OWASP ZAP (Zed Attack Proxy):

 An open-source security testing tool that includes features for finding authentication and session management vulnerabilities.

  • Burp Suite:

 A widely used tool for web application security testing that can identify authentication issues.


  • Penetration Testing:

Employ penetration testing services or conduct your own penetration tests to simulate attacks on your application. Experienced penetration testers can identify broken authentication vulnerabilities by attempting to exploit them.

  • Review Code and Configuration:

Analyze the source code and configuration of your application to identify issues related to authentication and session management. Look for improper password storage, insecure session handling, and other related coding mistakes.

  • Check Session Management Controls:

Review session management controls, including session cookies, to ensure they are implemented securely and that session timeouts are configured correctly.

  • Web Application Firewalls (WAFs):

Implement a Web Application Firewall that can help identify and mitigate some common authentication and session management vulnerabilities.

  • Security Headers and Best Practices:

Implement security headers like HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS), Content Security Policy (CSP), and X-Content-Type-Options to enhance the security of your web application.

OWASP Top Ten: Refer to the OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) Top Ten list, which includes common web application security risks, including broken authentication. Follow the guidelines and recommendations provided by OWASP to address these vulnerabilities.


  • Regular Security Audits:

Conduct regular security audits and code reviews to identify and address broken authentication vulnerabilities. Security should be an ongoing process, not a one-time event.

  • Education and Training:

Ensure that your development and IT teams are educated about the importance of secure authentication and session management. Training can help prevent these vulnerabilities in the first place.

It’s essential to maintain a proactive and security-conscious mindset when developing, maintaining, or operating web applications. Regularly testing and auditing your authentication and session management processes will help you find and fix broken authentication vulnerabilities before attackers can exploit them.

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  • How to prevent broken authentication?

Preventing broken authentication vulnerabilities is crucial to maintaining the security of your applications and systems. Here are some best practices and strategies to help prevent broken authentication issues:


  • Implement Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA):

MFA adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to provide two or more verification factors. This can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access even if a password is compromised.

  • Enforce Strong Password Policies:

Set and enforce password policies that require users to create strong, complex passwords. Educate users on the importance of password security.

  • Use Secure Password Storage:

Store passwords securely by hashing and salting them. Avoid storing passwords in plaintext or using weak encryption methods.

  • Implement Session Management Best Practices:

Properly manage user sessions by setting secure session timeouts, using unique session IDs, and ensuring that sessions are terminated when users log out or after a period of inactivity.

  • Implement Account Lockout Policies:

Implement account lockout policies that temporarily lock user accounts after a certain number of failed login attempts. This can help prevent brute force attacks.

  • Implement Strong Session Cookies:

Ensure that session cookies are secure by using secure flags, HttpOnly flags, and SameSite attributes on cookies. This helps protect cookies from being stolen or tampered with.

  • Implement Secure Authentication Methods:

Use strong authentication methods, such as OAuth or OpenID Connect, when integrating third-party authentication systems.

  • Implement Role-Based Access Control (RBAC):

Enforce the principle of least privilege by using RBAC to ensure that users have only the minimum necessary access to perform their tasks.

  • Regularly Audit and Test Authentication Mechanisms:

Perform regular security audits, penetration testing, and code reviews to identify and address authentication vulnerabilities.


  • Implement Rate Limiting and Intrusion Detection Systems:

Use rate limiting and intrusion detection systems to detect and block suspicious login attempts or patterns, which can help protect against brute force attacks.

  • Implement Web Application Firewalls (WAFs):

Deploy a WAF to help filter out and block malicious traffic and requests that may exploit authentication vulnerabilities.

  • Educate and Train Users and Developers:

Educate users on safe authentication practices, such as not sharing passwords, and educate developers on secure coding practices to avoid introducing authentication vulnerabilities.

  • Regularly Update and Patch Software:

Keep all software components, including authentication systems and libraries, up to date with the latest security patches and updates.

  • Follow OWASP Guidelines:

Refer to the OWASP guidelines, such as the OWASP Top Ten, to ensure you’re following best practices for preventing authentication-related security issues.

  • Implement Monitoring and Logging:

Set up monitoring and logging for authentication activities to detect unusual or suspicious login attempts and actions.


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By following these preventive measures, you can significantly reduce the risk of broken authentication vulnerabilities in your applications and systems. Security is an ongoing process, so it’s important to continuously monitor, update, and adapt your security measures as the threat landscape evolves. Acquire cutting-edge skills, protect against cyber threats, and advance your career with Cyber Security Classes in Pune!



Rajat Sharma

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