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Enterprises’ growing need for web application firewalls in today’s threatened security landscape

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Web security architects suggest that any effective web application security program needs multiple layers of defense. Despite what some money-minded vendors might tell you, a single layer of protection has the potential to tumble down in case of a sophisticated cyber attack. Multiple layers of web application security enable one system to prevent an attack missed by another layer of security.

In any hosted environment, these layers of security include intrusion detection systems (IDS), server security, and firewalls. As the technology evolves and more robust security systems are implemented, so do threats to web security. Therefore, it is important for every organization to add a web application firewall to its layered web security model.

The rise of ‘watering hole’ threat and other attacks

As companies of all sizes continue to enhance their internal security, hackers are becoming increasingly creative at figuring out new ways to access their target organizations’ networks. One of the common methods used by these attackers is the ‘watering hole.’ It involves an attacker compromising a website that he or she knows employees of a target company uses and then utilizes it to launch several attacks against the employees of the company being targeted.

Note that the technique of successfully phishing a user, install malware, and remotely use it to control the compromised device without anyone knowing hasn’t proved to have a high rate of success yet. Besides, find the right data to steal requires time and the longer the hacker remains in the company’s network, the higher the chances of getting caught.

This is the primary reason hackers started shifting their focus to exploiting various elements of web application security vulnerabilities. Such attacks are very effective. Each time you visit a website and enter your credentials, open a record, sign up for a particular account, or make a purchase, all those details are stored in a server located behind every application. If an attacker takes over an app or a website by exploiting a particular software vulnerability, they will get free access to the information collected and stored in that server.

Besides, hackers can successfully inject malicious code into various web forms and access the application that fails to sanitize the users who can access their fields correctly.

Web application firewalls can help

These types of sophisticated attacks are where web application firewalls shine and fill all the gaps left by firewall and IDS. WAF is a highly dynamic type of firewall located between web application users and servers that host a particular application. Thus, it intercepts all the traffic to a web application while searching for all malicious requests and attempts to block the outright or report them. This is how WAFs keep both customers and organization’s web applications safe.

Web application firewalls are different from the traditional firewalls. This is because they do more than just blocking a particular IP address. They perform an in-depth inspection of a web application traffic checking for any sign of cross-site scripting attack or any form of SQL injection. WAF can also be customized, allowing an organization to write rules that are specific to their web applications.

WAFs also differs from IDS as they have many heuristic abilities. Note that the attack surface of any web application is always changing. On the other hand, hackers are always looking for new, effective ways to launch more effective attacks against these applications. The attacker must, therefore, scan for vulnerability and launch unique traffic patterns to compromise the server.

Unlike IDS that needs specific patterns on which to match, a web application firewall can detect unusual traffic activity, and block it automatically. For instance, unusual traffic including probing of non-public facing pages or burst of an activity from a suspicious internet protocol address block can be blocked by a WAF automatically. This doesn’t depend on whether or not the traffic matches a recorded ‘bad’ pattern.

Given the ever-growing web security threats and the growing need to sufficiently mitigate complicated security flaws in web applications, WAF remains an indispensable security tool for every organization.

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