Web Application Firewall Explained


Web Application Firewall Explained – Web application firewalls (WAFs) sit between external users and web applications to analyze HTTP communication, reducing or eliminating malicious activity and traffic. They are deployed at OSI model Layer 7 and protect against attacks like SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and distributed denial-of-service attacks.

Web Application Firewall Explained
Web Application Firewall Explained

However, WAFs require rules to be updated frequently. Alert fatigue can occur, which may weaken the organization’s risk posture.

Network Layer

To ensure network security, it is vital to implement a firewall, a powerful tool that constantly monitors and filters incoming and outgoing traffic. It works at the network layer, defined by the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model as layers 3-4 and 7. Firewalls can protect against various threats, including distributed denial-of-service attacks and SQL injections.

Firewalls work at the network level and are primarily used to prevent unauthorized access to the computer network. They also provide a gateway to control and filter incoming data and block or allow web requests based on rules. They are usually configured using a combination of rules and filters.

Web application firewalls protect against web-based threats and prevent loss of revenue. They operate at the application layer, protecting against various attack vectors, including cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL injection, and DDoS attacks.

A WAF is an essential component of a robust web application security strategy, ensuring the integrity of applications and meeting compliance requirements such as PCI DSS.

A WAF inspects a web application’s request to and from the Internet and modifies that request if necessary to prevent attacks. It can be deployed in the cloud, as a virtual or hardware appliance installed on-site at the organization’s data center, or as a hybrid solution that combines both options to create a robust defense against evolving cyber threats.

Unlike traditional network firewalls, which work at the OSI levels of Layers 3-4, WAFs work at the application layer (Layer 7). As a result, they can detect and mitigate a broader range of vulnerabilities than traditional firewalls. WAFs can be integrated with other security tools, such as IPSec and a malware protection engine, to increase their effectiveness.

While WAFs and firewalls can offer valuable security functionality, the WAF vs firewall difference is the layer they operate at. WAFs enhance the ability to detect and respond to web app and API attacks by working with other security tools such as malware protection and Duo 2FA.

Application Layer

A web application firewall (WAF) sits between your Web application and the Internet to analyze all communication at the application layer (OSI Layer 7) and detects and blocks malicious attacks. It can protect against cross-site scripting, SQL injection, denial of service, and other application-layer attacks.

A WAF can be deployed as a server plug-in, an appliance, or a filter to protect a single Web application or a group of applications within your network.

It is also possible to deploy a WAF as a virtual appliance in the cloud or via network function virtualization, which reduces capital expenses and maintenance. The most common deployment model for a WAF is a hardware firewall in front of the application servers.

However, using a pre-configured machine image, the latest generation of WAFs can be deployed as a software-based service running in your private data center, public cloud, or through network function virtualization.

WAFs use various techniques to determine whether incoming traffic is malicious, including anomaly detection algorithms and signature-based approaches. They also run a series of heuristic and machine-learning algorithms to determine whether an activity is dangerous and should be blocked.

While traditional firewalls provide some protection at the network layer, they are less effective at protecting the application layer. That is why organizations need a solution like a WAF to complement their existing firewall and improve security.

For example, a WAF can examine HTTP headers, query strings, and body content to look for patterns that might indicate an attack and block suspicious activity. It can help prevent attacks from being launched from a Web app, prevent attackers from accessing sensitive information, and help meet compliance requirements.

A WAF is a critical component of a complete security strategy for many businesses, from mobile app developers to social media providers and digital bankers.

To maximize the benefit of your investment in a WAF, consider integrating it with other security tools to create a robust defense strategy. For instance, a next-generation firewall (NGFW) combines the functionality of a WAF with network and host security in one platform to detect and prevent today’s most sophisticated attacks and emerging threats.

Traffic Layer

WAFs sift through network traffic, specifically HTTP communication, to monitor and filter data to thwart web application attacks. These threats exploit a web application or API and can be as simple as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), or DDOS attacks.

WAFs work at the network layer (OSI model Layer 7) to protect against these attacks and act as a reverse proxy to intercept and block malicious requests.

Firewalls, on the other hand, offer a more comprehensive protection solution. Located at the network perimeter, firewalls act as a security boundary between networks considered trusted and untrusted by default.

They can block unauthorized access to networks and deny incoming and outgoing connections from or to them.

They operate at network layers 3 and 4, preventing ingress and egress of data between networks, validating addresses, and analyzing packets to identify potential threats.

In addition to their essential function of blocking unauthorized network connections, some modern firewalls offer advanced tools and capabilities like threat intelligence integration and TLS inspection and termination, which can improve the effectiveness of their defenses.

They can be configured to automatically reconfigure rules based on new threat intelligence and inspect SSL-encrypted traffic to prevent attacks such as phishing and data leaks.

A standard firewall may be deployed as a hardware appliance, software running on a server, or as a cloud-based service.

The type of WAF you choose will depend on the level of protection you need. Network WAFs are an excellent choice for a large deployment and can be installed as close to field applications as possible to reduce latency.

They can be configured to apply organization or web application-specific security rules and use active inspection mode to scan and identify threats continuously.

Host-based WAFs, installed on a specific host or server, can be configured to apply application-specific rules to analyze and modify traffic. They can also be deployed in multiple locations to reduce website latency and load times.

A common feature of these types of WAFs is a content delivery network, which helps speed website load times by caching and serving content from the nearest point of presence (PoP). Unlike network-based WAFs, host-based WAFs cannot be configured to apply security rules based on source IP addresses.

Threat Layer

A WAF acts like a proxy between the web application and the Internet, inspecting traffic to protect against threats. It can use a safelist model to let in legitimate traffic or a denylist model to block malicious traffic based on security rules and attack patterns.

WAFs also protect against common attacks such as session hijacking, buffer overflow, cross-site scripting (XSS), command and control communication, and denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

WAFs can be deployed in two ways, either on-premises as a hardware or virtual appliance installed on-site or in the cloud as Software-as-a-Service. Cloud WAF solutions are often subscription-based and require no upfront investment or complex deployment.

They can be combined with on-premises WAF appliances to provide a comprehensive security solution. On-premises WAFs can be deployed as a physical or virtual appliance, with options to support multiple network environments.

Some offer a combination of on-premises and cloud-based deployment options, with the opportunity to add a hardware or virtual WAF to a data center environment.

With a focus on the application layer, WAFs are ideal for protecting web applications, APIs, and Webhooks from vulnerabilities. Meeting compliance requirements, such as PCI DSS, can also be achieved with their assistance.

As hackers develop new attack vectors, combining a WAF with other tools, such as an intrusion detection system or an advanced malware protection solution, provides a layered defense strategy.

Firewalls are generally placed on the network’s edge, acting as a boundary between trusted networks and untrusted or unknown ones. They operate at OSI layers 3 and 4, concentrating on transferring network packets, validating addresses, and checking data integrity.

As cyberattacks evolve, businesses must protect against growing threats that can impact their applications. To address this need, many organizations are turning to next-generation firewalls (NGFW) to combine the capabilities of a traditional network firewall with additional capabilities such as TLS inspection and termination, threat intelligence, URL filtering, and application layer protection.

NGFWs provide more context to security policies, enabling them to stop sophisticated attacks that are difficult for other network layers to detect and respond to.

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I'm Akshara Singh, from Tamil Nadu (India) I have been Running this Blog since 2016 with my full effort to Help users in the Tech field and clear doubt, and provide advanced guides in simple methods.


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