Web Application Firewall (WAF)

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Web Application Firewalls (WAF) Software specifically caters to web applications and monitor, filter, or block HTTP traffic and data packets as they travel between the Internet and the web application. WAFs are either host-based, network-based, or cloud-based. Deployed through a reverse proxy, these solutions are placed in front of one or more web applications or websites. WAF solutions filter the content of specific web applications, as compared to regular firewalls that serve as a safety gate between two or more servers. A WAF inspects each packet and analyzes Layer 7 web application logic to filter out potentially harmful traffic.

Web Application Firewall

WAF examines bidirectional web traffic for detecting and blocking malicious entities with an aim to protect web apps from vicious attacks such as cross-site forgery, cross-site-scripting (XSS), file inclusion, security misconfigurations, session hijacking, buffer overflows, and SQL injection. WAF operates on the basis of a set of rules and policies that protect users against vulnerabilities in web applications by filtering malicious traffic. WAF solutions can be evaluated based on the speed and ease with which policy modification can be implemented and how quickly they respond to different attack vectors.

Organizations use web application firewalls to exercise control over cybersecurity and to protect web apps from malware infections, zero-day exploits, impersonation, and other threats. WAF is especially useful for companies that provide their products and services over the Internet, such as e-commerce shopping and online banking.

A network-based WAF is a hardware-intensive solution that requires users to undertake the storage and maintenance of physical equipment, making it a more expensive option. A host-based WAF is less expensive, more customizable, and can be fully integrated into the software of an application. Shortcomings of host-based WAFs include implementation complexity and consumption of local server resources. A cloud-based WAF is an affordable and easy to implement option. It usually comes with turnkey installation and requires minimal upfront costs—users normally pay a monthly or annual fee. Cloud-based WAF solutions provide consistent updates in order to protect users against the newest threats at no additional cost.

WAF solutions use a combination of rule-based logic, parsing, and signatures to discover and stop attacks. WAF protects web servers and their contents from Cross-Site Scripting (XSS), hidden field manipulation, cookie poisoning, web scraping, Layer 7 DoS attacks, parameter tampering, buffer overflow, backdoor or debug options, stealth commanding, forced browsing, third-party misconfigurations, and site vulnerabilities or SQL injections. Leading WAF solutions include Imperva Cloud Application Security, AWS WAF, Cloudflare WAF, Nginx, ModSecurity, Sucuri, and Cloudbric.

Both hardware WAF and software WAF perform the same basic functions. Hardware WAFs can be updated directly by the provider and prevent servers from being overloaded even at impaired capacity. Software WAFs normally require more hands-on management for each installation, and administrators need to handle accessibility and customizability options. Regardless of type, WAFs help boost security and are an important part of the network infrastructure of many organizations.

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