A web application firewall (WAF) filters and analyzes HTTP traffic to and from a web server. It uses “rules” to protect against various cyber attacks, such as SQL injection. A WAF can also be integrated with other security solutions, such as DDoS protection.
DDoS attacks are among the most devastating cyber-attacks because they can bring your website down entirely or severely slow it down. They are usually executed by hacked networks of devices that are programmed to send huge amounts of traffic to your web server, overwhelming it and making it impossible for legitimate users to access your site. To protect your website from these cyber attacks, a web application firewall monitors and filters your traffic, looking for unusual spikes in activity, such as sudden surges in traffic from multiple devices with a common behavioral profile. This way, a WAF can identify and block DDoS attack patterns so your website remains available for legitimate customers.
When the WAF detects an abnormally high number of requests to your web server, it automatically absorbs the extra traffic from a network of compromised devices. It diverts it from the attacker’s target. This reduces the bandwidth and server capacity that are being overloaded, keeping your website available for all your legitimate visitors. Any disruption in your website’s performance can have significant financial consequences. Even if the outage is only an hour, it can lead to lost sales and damage your reputation. E-commerce sites and ticket sellers are especially sensitive to malfunctions, as they depend on their websites for revenue.
Like the force field in a superhero movie, a WAF creates a layer of defense against cyber attacks. A web application firewall filters and monitors the traffic between your website server and the internet, inspecting incoming requests and blocking those that are not legitimate. This keeps hackers from using your site as a stepping stone to gain access to your business systems and data, which can lead to corporate espionage, data breaches, and more. WAFs operate based on a series of rules, called policies, that determine what kind of request is valid. Security researchers test and develop these policies to ensure they work as intended with the latest web-based threats and vulnerabilities.
In addition, intelligent WAFs instantly patch vulnerabilities/ loopholes in your website or web app when detected, preventing attacks from exploiting them. A WAF can also prevent SQL injection, which allows attackers to enter malicious SQL query language into your website and breach databases. This type of attack can be extremely dangerous to your business, as it can expose your customers’ personal information and credit card numbers. A WAF can block this and other zero-day attacks to keep your business safe. Any website that collects personally identifiable or financial information needs a WAF, but this type of solution is particularly valuable for companies that offer e-commerce functions. It can also help with PCI compliance, a requirement for businesses that accept credit cards online.
Malware, short for malicious software, is computer programs that gain unauthorized access to systems, networks and data. Attacks range from viruses and worms that disrupt system functionality to trojans and spyware that steal sensitive information. These attacks can lead to extortion, loss of business and even damage institutional reputations. Organizations must include malware protection as part of their overall cybersecurity strategy to combat the increasing sophistication of cyber attacks. A web application firewall (WAF) is a security solution that analyzes HTTP conversations and applies rules to determine what parts of the conversation are benign and malicious.
WAFs can be software, appliances or a cloud service and capture all traffic before it reaches a web server. They can help protect against OWASP Top 10 threats like cross-site scripting (XSS), file inclusion and SQL injection by applying pre-defined rule sets without needing application modification. A WAF can also detect the patterns of DDoS attacks, identify zero-day vulnerabilities and prevent unauthorized data transfer from the web server. For example, by inspecting and denying egress traffic with unauthorized data, a WAF can prevent syncing of database tables or other unauthorized transfer of information that could be used for identity theft and information leakage. An intelligent WAF will provide real-time insights into application traffic, performance and security. This helps administrators fine-tune security policies as attack patterns evolve, decreasing false positives and negatives.
For a WAF to work, it must understand the different elements that makeup web applications. This requires a combination of signature-based attack detection, application profiling, AI analysis, and custom rules. This enables a WAF to analyze and monitor network traffic using web protocols like HTTP and HTTPS. It can operate as a hardware appliance, server plugin, or cloud service. WAF filters and monitors network traffic to and from a Web application to ensure that malicious code does not reach the Web application’s server.
It inspects the application request and server responses, looking for common attack patterns such as session hijacking, buffer overflow, cross-site scripting (XSS), file inclusion, SQL injection, command and control communications, or denial of service attacks. It can operate in either a blocklist or an allowlist model. A blocklist WAF denies access to traffic based on the list of known attacks and only allows approved traffic that matches its security rules. An allowlist WAF admits only traffic on the list of available good traffic. A WAF is a layer seven defense that protects against a broader range of cyber attacks than traditional firewalls. Read more interesting articles on Ebeak