Many people are aware of the need for a firewall on their personal computer, either as a standalone package or as part of an anti-virus or internet security suite.
However, there has been both an increasing need and demand for something similar to protect websites and their users from similar malicious activity. The solution? A cloud-based firewall know as a Web Application Firewall (WAF).
WAFs have become increasingly necessary due to various attacked vectors. These include Cross Site Scripting (XSS) attacked in which a malicious user or bot tries to leverage code executions in your database or scripting software to gain access to the underlying database, and so have a direct way into your server.
Another known threat is Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacked, in which a botnet tries to flood a server or network with too much information for it to be able to handle, thus crashing the server and taking down your network and website presence with it.
There are also other user-based attacks, such as phishing, credential stuffing, and clickjacking, in which malicious software comes into play between your visitor's browser and your website itself, allowing hackers to steal information that should be secure, such as passwords or even credit card information.
These are all issues that Web Application Firewalls aim to prevent and protect against. However, a WAF should be invisible to users, so they will never know it's there.
Usually, WAFs come with dynamic rules that are constantly updated to keep abreast of the latest threats, along with a backend dashboard to provide analytics of how it's working.
There are a number of WAFs on the market, and here we'll look at some of the best available now.
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CloudFlare is a company that provides content delivery services, DDoS mitigation, Internet security and distributed domain name server providers. It was founded in 2009.
The solution monitors the internet on a regular basis for any new updates such as attacks and vulnerabilities. Anything that is considered a threat to the majority of their clients automatically have WAF (Web application Firewalls) rules enabled. These will protect all internet properties. Constant updates ensure that CloudFlare’s protection is in place at all times.
Cloudflare deals with a huge number of requests every hour with the solution identifying and blocking new threats. Due to their large customer base, the platform is able to rely on a collective intelligence when it comes to eradicating threats. This means that when one customer creates a new WAF rule, CloudFlare decides whether it applies to all other domains on their network.
CloudFlare has a free tier. This includes unmetered mitigation of DDoS, global CDN, shared SSL certificate and 3 page rules. Additional rules can be purchased through CloudFlare’s dashboard.
The ‘Pro’ package is $20 per month which includes Web application Firewall (WAF) with CloudFlare rulesets, mobile optimizations with Polish and 20 page rules.
For $200 per month, the ‘Business’ plan comes with WAF with 25 custom rulesets, 50 page rules and custom SSL certificate upload.
The ‘Enterprise’ tier includes 24/7 enterprise grade phone, chat and email support, 100 page rules, named solution and customer success engineers.
Some users have reported delays with analytics and log systems.
Amazon Web Services is part of Amazon.com. It provides on-demand cloud computing platforms to individuals and businesses. As part of this subscription, users have access to AWS WAF.
AWS WAF is a web application firewall which protects web applications from threats which could compromise their security or consume resources. The solution itself is straight forward and easy to use.
Users can create custom made rules designed to block common attack patterns such as cross-site scripting. The solution has a full featured API which allows users to automate the creation, deployment and maintenance of all rules in use.
AWS WAF works by charging you for each new rule you create. You are not charged a set price every month but you do have to be subscribed to Amazon Web Services to access this feature.
Amazon Web Services include a 12 month fully featured free trial.
Sophos is a British security software and hardware company. It develops products for communication endpoint, encryption, network security and unified threat management.
Sophos XG Firewall is a unified threat manager which also acts as a firewall. It also acts as application security and wireless gateway.
Users can manage settings from Sophos’ ‘Control Center’. From here subscribers can access the utilities dashboard. This allows you to view your network, users and applications. You can also add Sophos ‘iView’. This provides centralized reporting across multiple firewalls.
The XG Firewall management interface gives users an overview on features such as traffic insights, system statistics and firewall rules.
Sophos offers users a 30-day free trial. This includes IPS, ATP, Sandboxing, Dual AV, Web and App Control, Anti-phishing and Web Application Firewall. Subscribers need to contact Sophos directly to receive a quote.
Some commentators have complained the UI is not intuitive and cannot be customized.
Akamai Technologies is a content delivery network and cloud service provider. It was founded in 1998.
Akamai Kona Site Defender integrates DDoS protection with its web application firewall. DDoS services identify and neutralize threats from IP addresses by using a scale system from 1 to 10. These scores are based on the IP addresses ability to source suspicious traffic. Scores are then used to allow, alert or block based on the severity of the score. Users can also customize settings so they can choose which IP addresses they want blocked.
The web application firewall inspects individual traffic. Any malicious attacks are eradicated. This tool only works against web-based attacks.
Users can use the management dashboard to access information such as reports and attack rates. The utility requires very little customization.
Subscribers will need to contact Akamai directly in order to start their free trial and to get a quote.
Online commentators have said they regret more information about the product isn’t available on Akamai’s website.
Imperva is a cloud-based Web Application Firewall (WAF). It provides web application security, DDoS mitigation, content caching, application delivery and load balancing through a global content delivery network.
The Imperva Web Application Firewall works as a gateway for all traffic coming to your online services. It filters out malicious visitors and requests such as SQL injections and XSS attacks.
The solution uses several layers of security policies to identify threats. These are maintained by a security team. Imperva uses attack information from their network to provide protection for their users.
Imperva has 25 data centers around the world which ensures 24/7 monitoring.
Signal Sciences was founded five years ago by the security developers at Etsy, and since then the company has grown and developed with a string of high-profile clients.
A key promotional point of the Signal Sciences WAF is that too many existing services don't properly service modern IT infrastructures, especially where there is extensive use of cloud technology, as opposed to being reliant on legacy hardware.
Setting up is so easy and quick it can be done in minutes, as there are no agents to deploy with all traffic being redirected through the Signal Services Cloud Engine, where it can be monitored and filtered as required.
There's a single management console with built-in analytics that provides real-time monitoring, so there's no need to work through multiple interfaces. There are also DevOps integration options available, not least for Slack, PagerDuty, and Jira.
Although built to cater for cloud applications, the Signal Sciences WAF can work with hybrid clouds and server hardware directly. It can also function on premise, in containers, or in the cloud.
In terms of security, it blocks all common OWASP attacks, as well as misbehaving bots, and denial of services attacks. The software is fully PCI 6 compliant.
Overall, the Signal Sciences WAF doesn't just focus on security, but also performance, reliability, as well as overall management operability.