The Ultimate Guide to Understanding WAF Vs Firewall Manager

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Understanding WAF Vs Firewall Manager

WAFs protect web-based attacks, such as cross-site scripting (XSS), cross-site request forgery (CSRF), and SQL injection. They can be deployed on-premises through hardware appliances or cloud software.

They are designed to inspect traffic destined for web applications at the application layer. This inspection can cause latency, which negatively impacts end-user experience.

Table of Contents

Cost

A WAF is a hardware appliance, virtual appliance, or cloud service that resides before web-facing applications to detect and protect against malicious attacks. It protects against attacks at OSI model layer 7, including the protocol layers browsers and servers use to connect users to web-based software applications.

Unlike network firewalls operating on higher levels, WAFs are designed to block web application traffic that can compromise systems. For this reason, WAFs are a crucial component of any application security program.

Traditional WAFs use a negative security model that identifies known signatures to block malicious traffic. In contrast, more advanced WAF solutions can identify and mitigate threats at the application level by using positive security models based on allow lists populated by machine learning algorithms or behavioral analysis.

It can help reduce false positives and save time for IT departments that regularly create new rules to fight off the latest threats and vulnerabilities.

Because WAFs are in-line between users and web applications, they introduce some latency into the user experience due to the compute-intensive process of analyzing traffic before sending it to an application server.

It can make it challenging for organizations to balance the need to ensure safety and avoid performance impact with the need to set effective security policies.

When choosing a WAF, consider how much the solution will cost and what in-house resources are required to manage it.

The cost of a WAF can vary widely depending on the complexity of its rules, the number of web requests it blocks per second, and the types of attacks it protects against.

It’s also important to factor in additional costs for monitoring and maintenance. For example, the AWS WAF charges $0.60 per 1 million requests.

Scalability

WAFs analyze all HTTP communication between users and web applications to detect and block malicious requests.

These protections prevent hackers from accessing web servers and business data. WAF rules and policies are customized to address specific vulnerabilities. It helps to reduce false positives and protect against zero-day threats.

WAFs can greatly enhance web application security by leveraging the list of frequently occurring vulnerabilities maintained by the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) and actively managing them.

Unlike traditional firewalls, WAFs offer application-level protections distinguishing between legitimate and malformed traffic. They filter traffic and identify attacks such as SQL injection, SQL flood, webhooks, and others.

The type of WAF your organization selects depends on your needs and budget. For example, a hardware WAF appliance may require expensive licensing and maintenance.

While software-based WAFs may require less upfront investment, they can be challenging to scale.

For many businesses, a managed WAF service from a provider like Fortra is the best option for scalability. 

When evaluating your WAF, consider the size of your infrastructure and how much you anticipate your traffic to grow over time. A cloud-based WAF deployed in a VPC can integrate with your other security tools, such as cloud virtual networking and load balancers, to filter traffic for web applications hosted in the exact location.

A cloud-based WAF that resides in a VPC is also more easily scaled with the addition of new resources. A cloud-based web application firewall (WAF) can be set to count or block mode.

You can also associate rule groups with web ACLs and WAF vs firewall manager policies.

Flexibility

A WAF can be managed in-house on a hardware appliance or software platform deployed as a virtual machine (VM). This approach requires more legwork for IT teams to procure and install hardware appliances or VMs and perform maintenance, configuration, and updates.

Alternatively, businesses can use a cloud-based WAF solution to reduce the complexity of their deployments and focus on service development and delivery. In contrast, a managed security service provider handles all security system management and monitoring.

A managed WAF service provides a set of preconfigured rules that protect your business from common web application attacks like SQL injection and cross-site scripting.

It lessens the time and chance of downtime and data breaches while enabling your team to concentrate on creating and implementing services.

Many WAF solutions also feature a learning mode that allows legitimate traffic to pass through during the initial setup stage.

It can help prevent false positives, which can occur if too many security rules are implemented at once. Additionally, a WAF can learn from attackers’ behavior to identify new attack patterns and adjust its power sets accordingly.

As a result, you can easily update your configurations and ensure that all systems are protected from the most common threats to web applications. OWASP provides a comprehensive list of common vulnerabilities that can be addressed through WAF policies, making it easier to strengthen web application security.

A cloud-based web application firewall can simplify your deployments and make maintaining a consistent baseline security configuration easier across multiple accounts or locations. 

Security

Web application firewalls are designed to inspect traffic on the application layer and block malicious attempts to exploit flaws in a web application.

WAFs can detect and prevent the most common security breaches, including SQL injection attacks, cross-site scripting (XSS), and other common threats.

Unlike firewalls limiting traffic between internal and external networks, WAFs monitor HTTP traffic between the web server and its clients.

As a result, the WAF can detect traffic patterns that indicate potential attacks and respond in real-time to avoid damage to the application or the underlying network.

For example, if a WAF detects a suspicious request, it can use a customized rule to block the offending IP address or send the proposal back with an error code that warns the client of a possible attack.

It allows teams to continue working safely and efficiently without worrying about attackers taking down their applications.

Additionally, a WAF can be configured to log all requests and responses. This logging can be helpful for troubleshooting, ensuring that the WAF is operating correctly, and assessing the success of an attack.

For example, if the WAF incorrectly blocks a legitimate request, the logs can provide valuable information about why this occurred.

As you consider your options for protecting web applications, remember that the security measures implemented by a WAF are customizable and complex, requiring specialized administrators to manage.

To ensure maximum security, your teams must create and deploy a comprehensive security procedure that includes defining policy updates, configuring the WAF, deploying it in different accounts, troubleshooting problems, and responding to incidents.

To make this easier, you can also opt for a fully managed WAF solution, which eliminates the burden of deployment and configuration while providing the security you need to protect your apps.

Monitoring

A web application firewall monitors the traffic between your users and your business-critical Web applications and APIs, protecting them from attacks that traditional network firewalls don’t detect.

WAFs protect against attacks at the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) layer, which makes them an appealing target for hackers and a vital component of any digital business strategy.

With these services, you can create and deploy rules to block undesired patterns in parts of an HTTP/HTTPS request, like headers, method, query string, URI, body, IP address, and so on.

The AWS WAF allows you to prevent many kinds of attacks, such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting, remote file inclusion, and DDoS attacks at OSI model Layer 7, and it can prevent bad bots by identifying the behavior that they are trying to imitate and blocking their access.

It provides several types of filtering, including rate-based rules and ip/geographical, and you can also configure actions on the HTTP/HTTPS traffic (allow/block) and use regex and string match support to customize the rules.

AWS WAF can be used in conjunction with other services. Gateway for your REST APIs and AWS AppSync for your GraphQL APIs to protect those resources from web requests. 

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