Web App Firewalls: How to Evaluate, Buy, Implement

Application-layer attacks bypass standard perimeter defenses. Here's how to evaluate firewalls that screen web app traffic.

A Web application firewall (WAF) is designed to protect Web applications against common attacks such as cross-site scripting and SQL injection. Whereas network firewalls defend the perimeter of the network, WAFs sit between the Web client and Web server, analysing application-layer traffic for violations in the programmed security policy, says Michael Cobb, founder of Cobweb Applications, a security consultancy.

While some traditional firewalls provide a degree of application awareness, it's not with the granularity and specificity that WAFs provide, says Diana Kelley, founder of consultancy Security Curve. For instance, the WAF can detect whether an application is not behaving the way it was designed to, and it enables you to write specific rules to prevent that kind of attack from reoccurring.

WAFs also differ from intrusion prevention systems. "It's a very different technology--it's not signature-based, it's behavioral, and it protects against vulnerabilities you [inadvertently] create yourself," says Greg Young, an analyst at Gartner.

One of the primary drivers for WAFs today is the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), which identifies two ways of being in compliance: WAFs and code review. (See Source Code Analysis Tools: How to Choose and Use Them.) But another driver is simply the growing recognition that attacks are moving from the network to applications. In a study by WhiteHat Security, which assessed 877 websites from January 2006 to December 2008, 82 percent had at least one issue of high, critical or urgent severity.

Main WAF Attributes

The web application firewall market is still undefined, with many dissimilar products falling under the WAF umbrella. "Many products provide functionality above and beyond what one would consider a firewall," says Ramon Krikken, research analyst at Burton Group. "This makes products hard to evaluate and compare." In addition, new vendors are entering the market, by expanding existing non-WAF products into the integrated segment.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags web applicationssecurityfirewallWeb application firewall

More about Breach SecurityBurton GroupCheck Point Software TechnologiesCheck Point Software TechnologiesCheck Point Software TechnologiesCiscoCiscoetworkGartnerPoint Software Technologies

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Mary Brandel

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts