Web Application Firewall (WAFs) – What you need to know

Jul 21,2021 by Manoj Yadav

Web Application Firewall (WAFs) protect web applications as well as websites from a wide array of intrusions and attacks. WAFs generally come into play when the network firewall of a system cannot successfully stop certain intrusions or attacks.

Depending on the Web Application Firewall that your security team chooses, you get protection against a wide range of attacks such as-

  • Buffer overflows
  • Session hijacking
  • SQL injection
  • XSS attacks

WAFs become a necessity when your business website/app processes payments. This is a necessary standard for complying with PCI-DSS. Even if your website or app doesn’t process payments, a Web Application Firewall can come in handy. This is because it protects against fraud. It also prevents malicious entities from tampering with an app or website, no matter whether it has a payment processor or not.

How does a Web Application Firewall work?

A web application firewall is almost akin to a fence that shields your application from any kind of malicious activity. A WAF keeps a track of the HTTP traffic and filters out malicious activity, preventing it from reaching your servers. These firewalls come with a set of policies that identify the traffic behavior and vulnerabilities and decide if a kind of traffic is malicious or not. 

Web application firewalls can be categorized into 3 general models: Whitelisting, Blacklisting, and Hybrid. In the whitelisting model, the WAF only allows the traffic that fulfils certain criteria and is pre-approved. In blacklisting, all known vulnerabilities and malicious signatures are blocked while any other kind of traffic is allowed in. The hybrid model coalesces both the whitelisting and blacklisting models to meet the specific needs of a web application. You can ask your IT team to configure the model that works the best for your application. 

How many types of Web Application Firewalls are there?

There are 3 kinds of WAFs available in the marketplace and they all accomplish the same goal but are deployed in different locations. As a result, the three differ in pricing, maintenance, and speed. You can choose any of these depending on the specific needs of your organization.  

Hardware-based WAF

A hardware-based WAF is installed locally within the local area network (LAN) and deployed on physical hardware. As it is costly to buy and maintain physical equipment, this kind of firewall is the most expensive among the three. But because it is in close proximity to the server, it delivers high speed and performance. Hardware-based WAFs are great for websites that receive heavy traffic on a regular basis. 

Software-based WAF

This kind of WAF is installed on a virtual machine (VM). While it delivers the same functions as its hardware-based counterpart, it allows for enhanced usage flexibility since it can be used either on-premises or in the cloud. Plus, it is a cost-effective option as it does away with the need for hardware. 

This kind of WAF, however, takes more time to track and filter traffic, and this can slow down your application. So, this solution is best suited for small-to-medium-sized organizations that need WAF protection within a budget.  

Cloud-based WAF

A cloud-based WAF is offered as a SaaS solution. Here, the firewall is located completely on the cloud. Such a kind of solution offers a convenient way for companies to use a WAF as everything is maintained by the service provider; so the provider can optimize the solution as required. Cloud-based WAFs are apt for businesses that have limited IT staff to maintain and manage their infrastructure. 

How to implement a Web Application Firewall on your site?

There are several ways in which you can get a WAF implemented on your website, and none of these involve setting up a hardware solution. So, here are two easy methods you can consider for your WordPress site:

1) Install a WordPress Security Plugin

WordPress security plugins are host-level solutions that you will require to set up on your server to monitor and filter your website’s traffic. 

In this method, you will need to use your server resources, and this will certainly slow down your website. This method is comparatively cost-effective; it is also quite easy to set up, so a good fit for those who lack technical expertise. Word fence Security is a great beginner-friendly security plugin. 

2) Choose a Web Host that offers WAF

Many web hosting providers offer network-level WAFs built into their plan or as a third-party solution.

Go4hosting, for instance, integrates third-party WAFs into your web hosting plan at an additional cost. Cloud hosting providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) also allow you to deploy a WAF. When deploying a web application firewall in AWS, you will be charged depending on the rules you set up and the number of requests you receive. 

Seeking a robust web application firewall for your website? Connect with go4hosting’s IT experts and get a solution tailored to your needs. 

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