Imagine your company is hacked. A visitor to your site, rather than entering his email to create an account, has just injected malicious code into the entry field.
That code bypasses the web application layer and enters your SQL database. The attacker has just made an SQL injection attack–he now has access to critical company data.
These attacks and others are any company’s worst nightmare. But how do you prevent them? That’s where a web application firewall comes in.
Advantages of a web application firewall
A web application firewall(WAF) safeguards company data by protecting your servers from hackers. By inspecting all incoming requests, web application firewalls block malicious traffic before it reaches the server, filtering out bad traffic and preventing attacks.
Here are some of the advantages of using a WAF:
Protecting your data from common attacks
While IPS, IDS, and standard firewalls can help protect web applications, they don’t prevent all attacks. SQL injections–the kind of attack described above–can only be prevented with the use of a web application firewall.
WAFs can also prevent other common attacks. These include cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks, or the injection of code into a web application, as well as cross-site request forgery (CSRF), a type of attack that forces the end-user to take actions like transferring funds or clicking on a harmful link. They also help prevent against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, in which hackers generate requests from thousands of IP addresses to flood a site with traffic and make it impossible for the server to respond.
Affordable cyber security
WAFs offer high-level security without requiring a great deal of company resources, attention, or time. Even businesses that aren’t able to invest in an entire security team can keep a WAF running in the background to prevent malicious traffic and alert them to security incidents.
Building customer trust
Data confidentiality is an important part of doing business and succeeding as a company. If your company doesn’t have a good reputation for privacy and security, you’ll have a hard time finding clients who will trust you to handle their data.
The bottom line is that building customer trust is essential to making your company competitive. You need to convince users that your site will keep their data secure if they create an account or enter sensitive personal or financial information on your site. When you use a WAF and implement other cyber security best practices, you’re showing customers that their data is in good hands.
WAF best practices
You’ve now learned what a WAF is and why it’s such a critical part of your cyber security strategy. But once you implement a WAF, the work isn’t over; you also need to make the most out of your WAF by managing it as effectively as possible.
Some of the best practices for using a WAF include:
Adjusting monitoring and blocking options to best suit your company
You can adjust your WAF settings to choose how much you want to block or allow web traffic. Before you deploy the WAF, determine the best monitoring and blocking settings by assessing your company’s risk tolerance. Is it worth potentially blocking legitimate traffic in order to minimize risk? Consider whether the revenue you get from allowing a large flood of traffic is worth risking successful attack.
Logging your data
A technical best practice when using a WAF is to log the data in your WAF environment. Keep a log of system activity, WAF activity, and security events. At the same time, you can mask less important details like user credit card numbers and passwords. By keeping an organized log of important data, you can better determine whether system errors are caused by attacks.
Monitoring web traffic daily
Use traffic information provided in your WAF or other company sources to check your web traffic on a daily basis. By monitoring your web traffic each day, you’ll become familiar with how much traffic your company typically receives and when. This way, you’ll be better equipped to notice variations from normal web traffic, and to check whether those variations point toward vulnerabilities.
A WAF is an important component of your security strategy, protecting your company against common attacks while giving your company the trustworthiness and credibility it needs to stay competitive in the field. Make the most of your WAF by adjusting the blocking settings to best suit your company, keeping an organized log of WAF activity, and monitoring your web traffic on a daily basis. By deploying a WAF and implementing these best practices, you’re taking a critical step in bolstering your company’s cyber security.