Security Misconfiguration:
What It Is and How to Prevent It

Kamil Imtiaz - December 13, 2022

Security is a vital aspect of any business, and there will always be bad actors trying to circumvent security measures. With the move to the cloud and reliance on third-party services, there are even more avenues of attack. One vulnerability common to many businesses is security misconfiguration.

Security misconfigurations often happen with reliance on out-of-the-box code or services but can be present anywhere from network security to password protection. The impact of security misconfigurations can be significant, but with the proper precautions and cybersecurity, they can be prevented.

What Is Security Misconfiguration?

Security misconfiguration is any error or vulnerability present in the configuration of code that allows attackers access to sensitive data. There are many types of security misconfiguration, but most present the same danger: vulnerability to data breach and attackers gaining unauthorized access to data.

Security Misconfigurations and Their Dangers

Security misconfiguration, because it involves flaws in security configuration, can lead to a data breach and even complete system compromise. Depending on the value of the data compromised, this can have a significant negative impact on a business. Attackers may be able to exploit or even modify parts of applications by taking advantage of security misconfigurations. These security misconfiguration vulnerabilities leave a business exposed to potential attack.

Examples of Security Misconfigurations

Some concrete examples of security misconfigurations include AD misconfigurations, vulnerabilities within the Active Directory domain. These common security misconfigurations range from attackers gaining administrative privileges to issues arising from services running on hosts with multiple administrators.

Another example is a security misconfiguration that was discovered in JIRA, a collaboration tool. One misconfiguration exposed many companies to the vulnerability of releasing corporate and personal data. In this case, it was an authorization misconfiguration in Global Permissions that caused the security risk. These are only two of the many kinds of security misconfiguration that can affect a business.

How Security Misconfigurations Occur

Security misconfiguration occurs when security settings are put in place poorly, or not implemented at all. Cloud misconfiguration and identity service misconfiguration both stem from improper security configuration.

Types of Security Misconfiguration

There are several types of security misconfiguration that can affect a business.

  • AD misconfiguration, which exposes administrator and domain credentials.
  • Identity access misconfiguration, which provides attackers easy access to applications.
  • API security misconfiguration, which leaves unrestricted endpoints and unprotected files.
  • Network security misconfiguration, which is incorrect configuration of an information system.
  • Cloud security misconfiguration, which leaves gaps in the cloud environment that may lead to security breach.
  • Web server misconfiguration, which often includes unnecessary default and sample files.

Any aspect of an application or code that should have security measures is susceptible to security misconfiguration.

Causes of Security Misconfiguration

Security misconfiguration can occur in many ways. Some of the common causes include:

  • Using default credentials or default passwords provided by a vendor
  • Installing unused features
  • Directory traversal
  • Accidental security-lax coding

The Impact of Security Misconfiguration

Security misconfiguration can expose a business to higher risk of attack, and when attackers gain access, it can lead to major impact on the business. The risks of security misconfiguration vary depending on the data that is exposed. Big or small, security misconfiguration can cause a business to lose money, customers and reputation.

Risks of Security Misconfiguration

The overarching risk of security misconfiguration is exposing systems, services or data to attackers. Different types of attacks pose different levels of risk. In a directory traversal attack, adversaries gain unauthorized access to browse file structure and discover vulnerabilities. They can potentially modify parts of an application, and in some cases reverse engineer it, causing significant loss for a business.

Other misconfigurations, such as those present in firewalls or unused administration ports, expose a business to vulnerability of a remote attack. Cloud misconfiguration can lead to application access for attackers and poses other security risks depending on what data a business stores in the cloud. Security misconfiguration exposes a business to risks which have immediate and lasting impact.

How Security Misconfiguration Impacts Businesses

When sensitive data is leaked or stolen by an attacker, the result can mean potential loss of customers, regulatory fines for failing to meet required security measures, and harm to finances and reputation. In addition, any business-critical information gained by an attacker can put a business at further risk. The access gained via security misconfiguration flaws can also lead to complete system compromise.

Any breach of data or applications can slow down a business and, in some cases, bring production to a halt. The greater the protection needs of an application or data that is exposed, the worse the impact on a business. That’s why preventing security misconfiguration is vital.

Preventing Security Misconfiguration

Preventing security misconfiguration requires implementing necessary security measures and ensuring a firm grip on access control, typically with an identity and access management (IAM) framework. It is also important to have a way to diagnose any security misconfigurations quickly and accurately as they arise.

How to Diagnose Security Misconfigurations

Finding security misconfigurations that already exist is just as important as preventing them. First, a business should improve visibility across its ecosystem. Using network diagrams and security scanning can provide insight on expected performance of applications. Improved visibility and real-time insights can provide a business with the ability to spot security misconfigurations before they become a problem.

Along with scanning, internal testing and external application security testing can give a business insight into its vulnerability. The testing stage is where discovered security misconfigurations can be diagnosed. If this is done prior to deployment, the risk can be prevented before an attacker has a chance. There are many steps needed to prevent security threats, but the most important is to know what to look for.

Learn More about Preventing Security Threats

Security misconfiguration is a vulnerability for any business. These misconfigurations are caused by poorly implemented or non-implemented security features and can deal lasting harm to a business. With proper diagnostics and prevention, businesses can reduce the risk posed by security misconfiguration.

The CrowdStrike Falcon® platform can help prevent and diagnose security misconfigurations by ensuring strong security measures are implemented across a business’s code and applications.


Kamil has 25+ years of experience in cybersecurity, especially in network security, advanced cyber threat protection, security operations and threat intelligence. Having been in various product management and marketing positions at companies like Juniper, Cisco, Palo Alto Networks, Zscaler and other cutting-edge startups, he brings a unique perspective to how organizations can drastically reduce their cyber risks with CrowdStrike’s Falcon Exposure Management.