The market for web application firewalls (WAFs) is growing. According to TechWorm, WAFs are now a necessity for any business that's moving to the cloud, especially since a Web Application Security Consortium study found that over 13 percent of websites can be compromised automatically, while 99 percent of web applications do not comply with PCI DSS standards.
What's a WAF?
According to TechTarget, a WAF is a firewall that manages a web application's HTTP traffic. This process involves monitoring, filtering and blocking the application's input and output functions. WAFs analyze the behavior and logic of all requested and returned data to determine if malicious actors are trying to hijack a browser session or download a piece of malware.
WAFs can help protect against a number of high-risk threats, including cross-site scripting (XSS). This particular threat comes to fruition when attackers inject malicious code from one site into another "trusted" site that users often visit. As users have marked the latter site as legitimate, browsers do not analyze the associated lines of code. Instead, they allow the malicious actors to execute their plan.
When completed successfully, the XSS process allows attackers to gain access to all of your cookies, session tokens and secure login data. It's also possible for attackers to perform what's known as an SQL injection, in which an SQL query is added to input data from the user to the application. In effect, SQL attacks let hackers issue commands as if they were users, potentially compromising files or operating systems.
The World of WAFs
Web application firewalls are divided into two major categories: Appliance- and cloud-based. The former applies to cases in which companies deploy a physical WAF device on their network. This device can be configured or updated manually by local IT staff. Meanwhile, cloud-based and hybrid solutions can take the form of an infrastructure that's shared by a WAF provider and the business itself, or one that's completely managed by a cloud vendor.
Both formats have their advantages: On-site WAFs provide greater control over security and analysis settings, while opting for a cloud-based solution adds protection from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
The Benefit for Small to Midsize Businesses (SMBs)
WAFs provide a kind of assertive, front-line protection that's quickly becoming a requirement in an always-connected, web-enabled world. Now, consumers expect even small companies to provide agile, responsive service online. After all, hackers don't discriminate based on size.
Both cloud- and appliance-based WAFs offer advantages for SMBs. Device-driven WAFs are ideal for smaller companies that are dealing with a large volume of request content, such as that produced by PDFs, while cloud alternatives are ideal for smaller companies that don't have the dedicated IT staff necessary to manage a WAF deployment.
If you're looking for better web protection for your SMB, you should consider incorporating an appliance- or cloud-based WAF into your arsenal of security tools.
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