Many organizations use web applications to store proprietary and sensitive information like IDs, driver’s license numbers, credit card details, or financial information. Malicious actors aim to gain access to this data to steal, ransom, or sell it on the dark web.

A WAF helps protect these applications by analyzing incoming traffic using known attack signatures, application profiling, and artificial intelligence. However, it can be difficult for IT teams to keep up with constantly evolving threats and update their rules.

Detecting Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Attacks

WAFs intercept and analyze data packets, filtering out malicious traffic that bypasses standard firewall protection. They examine the application layer for vulnerabilities such as XSS, cross-site request forgery (CSRF), and SQL injection. Traditionally, they require specialized administrators to place, configure, and administer rules.

Custom WAF rules can effectively detect and block web application attacks and other common threats. Attackers inject client-side scripts into weak apps, forcing them to show malicious material in browsers. This is one of the most typical types of XSS. This can include transmitting private information, including cookies and session data, stealing sensitive user credentials or commercially valuable data, or performing attacks limited only by the attackers’ imagination.

A web application can be protected against these assaults with the aid of a WAF, but a next-generation firewall (NGFW) can provide more security. Unlike a WAF, which operates on the server side, an NGFW monitors all outbound traffic across multiple channels and devices, including web apps, email, SaaS, and social media. This allows it to detect and prevent many more types of malicious activity, including XSS and CSRF.

Identifying Threats

Web application firewalls (WAF) identify threats and prevent attacks by filtering network traffic to web applications. They function like screens, allowing friendly traffic while blocking unfriendly requests. WAFs can help to protect against several common security flaws and vulnerabilities, including cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL injection, and denial-of-service attacks. They work best with other security tools, such as reverse proxy services or RASP, to provide comprehensive protection for web apps.

A WAF uses rules that look for suspicious actions on the HTTP request to detect and prevent XSS attacks. Rules can be set up to allow, block or log the action based on contexts, such as the request method, variables, and headers. Some WAFs use a positive security model, rejecting everything except what is specified in an allow list, while others follow a negative security model by denying all inputs.

Organizations store sensitive data in their backend systems, many accessed through web applications. A WAF can help prevent online fraud and identity theft, especially for organizations that offer e-commerce products or services or any web-based product or service that involves interactions with customers or business partners. In addition, a WAF can be useful for reducing the risk of security breaches that could result in lost revenue or damage to reputation.

Detecting Malicious Code

Malicious code is a common threat to web applications and can result in data theft, fraud, or regulatory penalties. Malicious actors typically seek to steal customer data or proprietary information, which can devastate a business and its reputation in the market. A WAF protects against these types of attacks by analyzing incoming traffic and blocking it if it matches the patterns of a malicious attack.

In addition to traditional rule-based WAFs, newer approaches to protecting web applications are emerging. For example, a cloud-based WAF can be offered as a fully managed service or a self-managed solution where users deploy and configure it themselves. Another option is a host-based WAF that runs on a dedicated machine within the application environment. While these options may require some investment of resources, they provide a level of protection that is not readily available with traditional rules-based security solutions.

To prevent attackers from exploiting vulnerabilities, it is crucial to have a comprehensive set of rules in place. This might be challenging for companies that must manage hundreds of applications. Starting with an exhaustive inventory of your applications can help you complete this procedure more quickly. Details on the number of programs used, how they are used, and when they were most recently updated should be included. After that, rank the apps on your list in order of risk by grouping them into Critical, Serious, and Normal categories.

Detecting Injection Attacks

Injection attacks are among the most common vulnerabilities compromising web application security. They can lead to data leakage and expose company and customer data when not adequately addressed.

One way to avoid these types of vulnerabilities is by ensuring that proper input validation and error handling are implemented in your web application code. Another method is deploying a WAF to filter and monitor your web app traffic. A WAF acts as a proxy between the web application server and the client, protecting the server from malicious attacks.

A WAF’s rules help detect and prevent common injection attacks that can be found by analyzing incoming web application traffic. This is done by evaluating the structure of the application, its typical requests, values, and permitted data types. This is also accomplished through artificial intelligence to learn standard traffic patterns and detect anomalies.

The WAF’s rules determine what actions to take based on the results of their analysis. Each government has four parts: a condition, a movement, a match variable, and a selector. Each state can have multiple match variables and a matching operator, such as or, which compounds the matches from each matching variable. This enables the WAF to prevent attacks that are more sophisticated than what can be detected by using known attack signatures, application profiling, or AI analysis.