Building a website for your business is almost non-negotiable in today’s modern times. To make your brand known to potential clients, an online presence is crucial. Customers nowadays are demanding. Especially during this global crisis, over 230 million people across the United States do their shopping online. That said, creating a website that not only fits your brand but is also secured requires a level of finesse. Aside from the threat of common viruses, even a well-designed website is susceptible to open redirects. 

In this article, we would explore the value of redirects in building a website, the threat of open redirects, and the best ways to safeguard your website from this form of vulnerability. 

What are Redirects?

Redirects allow a website to forward users to a different URL than what they requested. They are an essential factor to consider when building an SEO strategy for a website. For visitors, redirects provide a better user experience. A well-built redirect framework prevents users from hitting a 404-page. Redirects are also crucial in maintaining a good SEO performance. They allow search engines to understand that content has been moved from one URL to another. 

What is Open Redirect Vulnerability?

Open redirects, otherwise known as Unvalidated Redirects and Forwards, occur when a web application accepts unvalidated input that then redirects a user to a malicious site. This becomes an avenue for hackers to endeavor in phishing scams or steal a visitor’s credentials. More often than not, hackers use URLs that are almost identical to the legitimate user’s website. This builds trust on the part of the user that leads them to provide attackers their sensitive information. 

Different Types of Open Redirect

There are two types of open redirects. These two types are differentiated by how attackers introduce unvalidated input onto a legitimate URL. 

  • Header Based

With the header-based open redirect, attackers send the malicious information to the server itself. Most malicious actors prefer to use header-based open redirect because the redirects would always work each time it is triggered. 

  • Javascript Based

Unlike header-based open redirects, javascript-based open redirects are only triggered when the javascript is executed. This form of unvalidated redirects and forwards often do not work for server-side functions. 

Why are Open Redirects a Concerning Threat?

Most web developers often ignore the threat of open redirects. This nonchalance over this threat is mainly since open redirects do not directly damage a website, nor does it allow an attacker to steal data from the company. Nevertheless, businesses must have a stronghold against open redirects. 

Open redirects mimic a legitimate website that encourages users to provide sensitive information themselves. Once hackers have the information, they can redirect visitors to the correct URL and use the data they procured to access a user’s account and perform cyber theft. This not only harms the user but tarnishes a company’s credibility. 

How to Protect Your Website from Open Redirect Threats

One of the best ways to protect your website from open direct threats is to forgo the option for redirects altogether. Nevertheless, if you still decide to redirect visitors to other URLs within your website, below are a few precautions that you can take to secure your website from this vulnerability: 

  • Use A Firewall

Website application firewall, or WAFs, are your website’s first line of defense against most malicious attacks. Firewalls have also been proven effective when it comes to protecting a website from open redirects. A good firewall also allows users to monitor website traffic periodically. This feature provides a clear picture of the overall health of the website. 

  • Use a Web Scanner

Aside from a WAF, website scanners are an effective way to monitor a website from the existence of unvalidated redirects and forwards. Through this security tool, you are able to review your website’s current status. Website scanners reveal the existence of errant strings of code. With the information in tow, you are able to prevent unvalidated data from wrecking havoc on your network. 

  • Update Regularly

Hackers work by exploiting the weaknesses of a network to gain access to a website. Failing to update the site leaves it vulnerable and exposed because malicious actors use outdated code to impose an open redirect attack. It is best to update your website as soon as patches are available for download. 

  • Opt for Penetration Testing

Similar to a website scanner, penetration testing software allows users to view the overall health of a website. Nevertheless, penetration testing provides a deeper look on the weaknesses that are present on a network. This security measure measures how vulnerable a website is to possible attacks. Knowing your vulnerable points can help you develop a better security protocol for your website. 

Redirecting Best Practices

The main goal of redirects is to provide a good user experience to visitors as well as maintain a good SEO standing on popular search engines. That said, below are best practices that you should consider when developing a redirect framework for your website:

  • Avoid Redirects, if possible

Again, the best way to protect your website from open redirect threats is by forgoing redirects altogether. Aside from creating a weak point for your network, redirects also increase load times and expand your site’s crawl budget. If you cannot forgo, minimize, if possible. 

  • Use Relevant Alternative URLs

When redirecting old URLS, it is best to use URLs that closely resemble the previous web address. This step is crucial for two reason. One, website visitors are able to identify legitimate redirect URLs from malicious ones. Moreover, using relevant alternative URLs is crucial in the way search engines consolidate pages. 

  • Avoid Chained Redirects 

Chained redirects pertain to redirecting a redirect to another redirect. While it might not impact user experience, search engines penalize pages that utilize chained redirects. Best to avoid if possible. 

Key Takeaways 

Building a good website requires a little bit of finesse. There are a lot of factors to consider especially if you want to protect your investment from any form of malicious attacks. 

When it comes to safeguarding your online home from malicious redirects, SecureBrain’s GRED Web Check is a requirement. This cloud-based website scanner provides instant alerts when your website is under cyber attack. Keep your website safe and protected with SecureBrain’s web security products today.