A Look At The Advantages of Web Application Firewalls (WAFs)

Latest Update: 12/10/2023

A Look At The Advantages of Web Application Firewalls (WAFs)

The benefits of WAF (Web Application Firewall Benefits) help fill in the security holes in the website or application. It not only protects the website but also improves the website’s performance. WAF can also protect customers’ personal and financial data from cyberattacks such as SQL Injection and DDoS.

What Is A Web Application Firewall?

Businesses and users alike are increasingly reliant on web applications (e.g. web portals, enterprise web applications, business automation web solutions, eCommerce web applications, etc.). The Web Application Firewall (WAF), which is located at layer 7 of the OSI model, monitors HTTP/HTTPS requests and protects these web applications from harmful activities.

As a result, WAF provides critical protection against a growing variety of web security vulnerabilities.

How does WAF work?

WAF protects servers by monitoring HTTP traffic and filtering out harmful activity before it reaches the server. WAFs are configured to run on a set of policies that assist in determining which traffic is malicious by stating the vulnerabilities and traffic behavior to monitor.

WAF can be configured in one of three ways: Whitelisting, Blacklisting, or Hybrid. Whitelisting instructs WAF to only allow traffic that has been pre-approved and meets defined criteria to pass through. Blacklisting is configured to deny communication containing known vulnerabilities and harmful signatures while allowing all other traffic. Hybrid is configurable to integrate both Whitelisting and Blacklisting methods based on the unique requirements of the web application.

Each of these options offers a number of pros and cons, depending on the web application’s intended use. A server can be configured optimally for particular web applications by an internal information technology (IT) team or a third-party IT partner.

What types of WAF firewalls are there?

There are three major types of WAFs available on the market. They all accomplish the same thing but are installed and distributed differently. As a result, the three variants vary in terms of price, maintenance, and speed. Because no aspect of nature is preferable to another, it is up to your IT team or managed service provider to determine the optimal choice for your unique circumstances.

1. Hardware-based WAF

Hardware-based WAF is a WAF that is installed on a physical piece of hardware in a LAN or local area network. The operating system is contained within the device and is responsible for updating the WAF. Due to the fact that this solution is hardware-based, it comes with inherent pros and cons.

Owning and maintaining physical equipment is expensive, making this option more expensive than other types of WAFs, however, due to its proximity to the server, this option offers excellent speed and performance. This option can be optimal for businesses with a large customer base and high daily online traffic.

2. Software-based WAF

Instead of hardware, software-based WAFs are housed in a Virtual Machine (VM). This alternative performs the same functions as hardware-based WAF, but provides greater flexibility due to on-premises or cloud usability, and at a lower cost due to the absence of hardware.

However, a software-based WAF lengthens the time required to monitor and filter traffic, causing online applications to slow down. This may be the optimal choice for small and medium-sized organizations seeking to secure themselves while also reducing costs.

3. Cloud-based WAF

The cloud-based WAF is offered via a SaaS paradigm or software-as-a-service. In this design, WAF is entirely cloud-based, and the WAF service provider maintains everything. This simplifies the deployment and management of WAFs for businesses, as service providers continuously optimize and upgrade WAFs. This is an excellent option for businesses with a limited number of IT staff prepared to monitor and manage their WAF.

Which businesses need to use WAF?

Almost 70% of all websites now employ HTTPS, a critical first step toward securing any data collected on your sites, such as customer or payment information. However, HTTPS provides only a rudimentary level of security and is insufficient to prevent hackers from breaching your database and obtaining critical consumer information.

Due to the fact that WAF employs a set of policies to continuously filter and reject undesired web traffic, as well as to protect against the most frequent forms of attacks, it can help secure in ways that HTTPS cannot. Additionally, WAF aids in the acceleration and performance of websites through the use of caching techniques.

While any business with a web application should have a WAF, certain types of businesses may be more vulnerable to web attacks than ever before, including the following:

  • E-commerce website

  • Online financial services

  • Entertainment and news sites

  • Online health care service

Web Application Firewall Benefits

While Web Application Firewall Benefits are not a complete security solution by themselves, they contribute to the development of a comprehensive and robust security system. The WAF system will detect and prevent unauthorized traffic to a web application that a firewall alone cannot. WAF installation, deployment, and management are extremely simple, especially if the software option helps fill in the security holes left by conventional firewalls.

Without a WAF in place, a business is extremely exposed to cyber-attacks, which can result in the loss of critical business or customer data, a tarnished consumer reputation and confidence, and even a website takeover. Your website has been blacklisted by search engines. In sum, this will have a major impact on any business. Among the benefits of a Web Application Firewall are the following:

1. Prevent Cookie Poisoning

Cookie poisoning, alternatively referred to as session hijacking, occurs when cybercriminals change or fake cookies in order to circumvent security measures or obtain access to a server in order to steal data. When a user is required to log in to an account, the cybercriminal intercepts the cookie and extracts stored data, such as auto-populated personal information.

WAFs can help avoid this by securing and encrypting personally identifiable information and identifying modified or “tainted” cookies on the server.

2. Prevent SQL Injection

SQL is an acronym for Structured Query Language, a widely-used programming language. SQL Injection occurs when cybercriminals alter the queries made by an application, granting them access to sensitive personal or financial information.

WAF can prevent this by executing rules that require SQL Injection to match defined circumstances; if it does not, the user is prevented from accessing the web application entirely.

3. Prevent Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)

Cross-Site Scripting, or XSS, is a form of vulnerability that involves malicious scripts. Cybercriminals attempt to acquire cookies or other sensitive data stored in the browser and used by the web application by sending malicious code straight to another end user via a web application.

WAF can help prevent this with policies configured to scan and monitor these requests and block them when security conditions are not appropriate. If the WAF identifies it as malicious XSS, it will block it from accessing it.

4. Prevent Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks

This type of attack employs several malicious devices to overwhelm a web application by creating an abnormally high volume of traffic. This results in a denial-of-service assault on normal traffic, generating bottlenecks and eroding security layers.

WAF can identify and prevent this type of behavior based on important indicators such as heavy traffic from a certain IP address, unusual traffic patterns, or high traffic on a specific page.

If you want to learn more about how to secure a website or Anti-DDoS, please leave your contact information in the form below. VNETWORK experts will respond to you as soon as possible.

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