What Is a Web Application Firewall?
A web application firewall (WAF) is a security solution that protects websites and web applications from inbound cyberattacks. WAFs work by scanning all HTTP and HTTPS traffic that passes through the firewall for malicious or unauthorized activity.
It's important to note that a WAF operates at layer 7, the application layer of the open systems interconnection model (OSI). This means it can filter and monitor traffic to protect against attacks like SQL injection, cross-site scripting, cross-site request forgery, and many other web-based attacks.
While investing in a WAF is advantageous, it's particularly beneficial to e-commerce sites or any other type of web application involving consumer interactions. Many businesses have seen significant reductions in security incidents after deploying a WAF.
How Does a Web Application Firewall Work?
A WAF is usually deployed in-line in front of the backend network that it protects. Additionally, this solution is used to inspect traffic to and from web applications. In other words, it would make a powerful addition to your layered security controls, combined with other tools, to protect the entire network.
A web application firewall sits in front of a web application and protects it from malicious traffic. It does this by inspecting all traffic between the web application and the Internet and blocking any suspicious requests.
There are two ways a WAF can do this:
- In a deny list model where default blocks all traffic except for known-good traffic
- In a safe list model where only known-good traffic is permitted.
In either case, the WAF inspects HTTP/S requests for patterns of attacks that would show someone was trying to exploit the web application. It can also examine server responses for these same patterns to protect the web application further.
What are the Benefits of Using a Web Application Firewall?
There are many benefits to using a web application firewall. Perhaps the most crucial benefit is that a WAF can prevent intrusion and malware, which decreases the risk of a data breach or fraud.
WAFs can help protect an organization from cyber threats by identifying and blocking malicious traffic before reaching the web application, keeping your data secure. Another significant benefit of using a WAF is that it allows you to add your own rules or policies to protect systems in a customized manner.
What Are the Different Types of Web Application Firewalls?
There are three different types of web application firewalls:
- Hardware appliance: This type of firewall sits on physical hardware in your data center.
- Software or virtual: This type of firewall runs on a software stack, such as a virtual appliance or virtual machine.
- Cloud-based: These types of firewalls are hosted in the cloud.
What Attacks Do WAFs Protect Against?
WAFs are typically used to protect against cross-site scripting (XSS), cookie poisoning, and scraping attacks. XSS is one of the most common attacks that WAFs safeguard against. This type of attack can infect web servers executing no malicious code, making it very dangerous.
Another typical attack WAFs help guard against is a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. This type of attack can overwhelm a web server with countless requests, so they can't handle the load or process legitimate requests quickly.
Web Application Firewall Solutions
Web application firewalls are among the most useful security controls you can have to protect websites and web applications. They offer powerful functionality, making them a smart way to protect against unauthorized access, cyberattacks, and other malicious activity.
It's no surprise websites are prime targets for hackers and cybercriminals because of the sensitive information that travels through them: credit card numbers, identification information, and passwords. Hackers might harvest this information, then sell it online, which can cause significant financial losses.
Don't take chances with your website, especially when you have the option of a WAF solution. Protect your website, your customers' sensitive information, and all transactions with a web application firewall.