A web application firewall (WAF) is a filter that sits in front of your application inspecting incoming traffic for potential threats and malicious activity. It is one of the most common means of protecting against attacks at the application layer.
Securing your web applications is a necessity, but in a June 2017 Mozilla survey of the top 1 million websites, a staggering 93.45% earned an F for failure to implement basic measures that would protect them from common attack methods. Companies dragging their feet to adopt and deploy application security measures to protect against the evolving threat landscape can have damaging ramifications.
Web application firewall deployment options
Historically, WAFs have been deployed as an appliance sitting within an organization’s data center. But an on-premises web application firewall is only as good as the overall company’s security, because the solution is installed locally. As companies continue to rapidly transition to the cloud and customers are demanding more agility, these WAF appliances are not sufficient in protecting against attacks on the edge of the network, because they reside deep within the network itself.
To address this security gap, enterprises are looking more and more to cloud WAF offerings that have the ability to identify and mitigate malicious traffic. This traffic may attempt to damage, take down or steal sensitive information — such as credentials, or personal data from a cloud-based application or website — before the malicious traffic ever enters the network in the first place.
Additionally, a cloud WAF is far less complex to deploy and integrate with existing security solutions. Cloud-based WAFs are often managed by a SaaS provider and easily scale. This makes them a more appealing solution for smaller organizations that lack the internal resources to support their own security operations centers (SOCs) but still must meet requirements such as the General Data Protection Regulation. The access to an experienced SOC to offload WAF tuning is imperative as well.
Benefits of cloud WAF
The ability to update and tune the web application firewall ruleset is of critical importance as hackers continue to find and exploit new and innovative ways to disrupt or steal sensitive data.
To many organizations, security is not their central focus, and it shows. Many of the most high-profile breaches in recent years have been a result of human error or negligence, whether it be leaving an Amazon S3 bucket with sensitive information open to the public, failing to update a well-known vulnerability in an Apache Strut or simply not having a WAF ruleset set to monitor in an attempt to avoid false positives. While this may be alarming, it is not at all surprising. It is absurd to assume that the majority of businesses have the talent, time or resources to dedicate to staying abreast of such issues and effectively defending against them.
The solution to this problem is the managed security offering that often accompanies a cloud WAF, which is monitored and maintained by security professionals with extensive experience in identifying and defeating critical vulnerabilities. A globally distributed SOC works 24×7 to monitor your platform and respond quickly to anomalies that an internal may miss. When combined, a strong web application firewall and experienced SOC can be an incredible first line of defense against bad actors looking to do damage to your websites or cloud-based applications.
Along with the tremendous benefits of cloud computing, comes a rapidly changing threat landscape. It is imperative that organizations invest not only in their own security, but their consumers’ security as well.