Today’s world has gone beyond seeing the internet as a research tool or a bank of limitless information. We now conduct business online thanks to programs (web applications) and their APIs. As we use these web applications, they collect sensitive data to improve our user experience and personalize their services. With more demand for web apps and APIs comes an increased need for strict cybersecurity measures because hackers are on the prowl, looking for systems to infiltrate and wreak havoc.
According to Statista’s research, internet users have experienced 52 million data breaches between April and June this year. And in Verizon’s 2022 Data Breach Investigation Report (DBIR), web attacks were implicated in 26% of data breaches. These numbers are scary, and they highlight why businesses who run apps on the web need WAAP.
For those now wondering what is application security, what is Web Application and API Protection (WAAP), it refers to cloud based services that protect web applications and application program interfaces (APIs). In this piece, we’re going to be discussing WAAP (a term put together by Gartner’s Adam Hils and Jeremy D’Hoinne). We will be exploring in detail: what WAAP is and why traditional solutions don’t hold a candle to it. Let’s dive in together.
Benefits of Web Application And API Protection Service
Like we stated earlier, cybercriminals, hackers, and identity thieves are fascinated by Web Applications and APIs because they store lots of sensitive data, and are accessed publicly online. This means that penetrating a web app puts you in front of millions of people’s data. It’s horrifying to think of how much damage this can cause. Thankfully, WAAP helps to answer the question of what is application security supposed to look like and mitigates these risks and nips security threats in the bud by offering valuable cybersecurity benefits including:
- Web Application Firewall: Most WAAP service providers offer a more intelligent Web Application Firewall which prevents attacks through closed-loop analytics of web traffic to your applications. This coupled with a WAF learning mode that covers Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) CRS Protection, Signature based detection and support for compliance regulations including PCI, DCS, HIPAA and GDPR.
- Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP): With WAAP you can stop external attacks and injections happening in real time. The real time attack detection and prevention from the application runtime environment helps you prevent further damage.
- API Security: WAAP services shield your applications from exploitation by ensuring your API endpoints are protected as soon as they are published.
- Advanced Bot Protection: With WAAP services you can prevent logic attacks from all access points including websites, mobile apps and APIs. These services offer a great deal of visibility over bot traffic. This visibility and control over bot traffic stops online fraud through account takeover or competitive price scraping.
- Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Protection: DDoS attacks can cause significant business disruption, and WAAP protects against such attacks ensuring business continuity, uptime, and minimal performance impact.
- Cloud Data and Database Security: WAAP services secure cloud databases to keep up with DevOps, enabling cloud-managed services users to gain visibility and control of cloud data. Most WAAP services offer protection and analytics even for on-premise data assets alongside cloud data. This results in an automated detection of non-compliant, malicious or risky data access behavior enterprise-wide. Which in turn speeds up the process of remediation.
- Load Balancing: Most WAAP services deliver a dedicated load balancing for your website or application. This ensures traffic is distributed across multiple servers.
Traditional Security Solutions vs WAAP
The evolving threat landscape creates critical gaps within traditional security frameworks. In comparing Traditional Security solutions with Web Application and API protection we can easily observe the limitations of the once effective traditional security solutions including:
- Port Based Blocking is Ineffective: Traditional firewalls filter traffic based on ports and protocols. Online apps and web APIs are attacked using legitimate web ports and protocols, such as HTTP(S), making it impossible to filter out malicious traffic. So, you need WAAP to inspect more closely to separate authorized traffic from potential threats.
- Modern Applications Change Frequently: DevOps are rapidly changing online apps and APIs. Traditional WAFs that require human tinkering and rule drafting can’t keep up with this rate of change, demanding automation and hands-free administration that WAAP provides.
- Complexity of HTTP Traffic: Web attackers use complex HTTP traffic to conceal malicious content. Traditional security solutions are not enough to identify and protect against these threats. That’s why you require WAAP. They are designed with these complexities in mind and can uncover any type of web app threats.
- Need for Encrypted Traffic Inspection: Most web traffic is encrypted with Transport Layer Security (TLS), which is good for privacy but bad for detecting malware and other dangers. So, traditional security solutions can’t detect malicious content as a result. Thankfully, WAAP can terminate TLS connections to recognize fraudulent connections.
- Signature-based matching is ineffective for application security: Web apps are constantly attacked many times every day, and these attacks vary. With signature-based defenses that traditional solutions provide, you can’t keep up with forestalling the attacks. That’s why continuous self-learning WAAP systems are far superior and help businesses stay many steps ahead of these web app security threats.
- Multi-Cloud Strategy: Today, many businesses work with multiple cloud providers, each of which offers slightly different features and is built somewhat differently. Traditional security solutions are not built to adapt to these kinds of changes and complexity. This means that organizations using various cloud based services must rely on WAAP: a sophisticated cross-provider capabilities matrix in order to deploy appropriate security measures. One might even suggest that WAAP works best in a multi-cloud setting because of how adaptable, scalable and easily tailored the services are.
Core Features of WAAP
The core features of WAAP include the following:
- DDoS Protection: At the application and network layers, protection against DDoS attacks that target apps, APIs, and microservices capable of expanding to counter massive threats.
- Next-Gen Web Application Firewall: Protecting and monitoring online applications at the application layer, where they are most vulnerable, is the goal of next-generation web application firewalls. Instead of relying simply on known attack patterns and human security rules, a next-gen WAF combines behavioral analysis and artificial intelligence (AI) to thwart attacks.
- Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP): This provides real-time assault defense for application programming interfaces (APIs) and web applications and is embedded into the application runtime domain.
- Advanced rate limiting: Provides protection against application-level abuse that negatively impacts website and API performance.
- Malicious bot protection: This offers real-time assault defense for APIs and web applications, as it is incorporated in the application runtime domain.
- Account takeover protection: prevention measures for fraudsters, cybercriminals, and hackers who try to log in using stolen credentials found in data dumps and password lists It monitors the authentication process between an application and its users to identify any attempts to access a user’s account without their knowledge.
- Protection for microservices and APIs: creates a micro-perimeter around each service that is aware of its context and data by placing security within the microservice, application, or serverless function.
Choosing The Right WAAP Security Service
After recognizing the advantages of Web Application and API Protection services, many enterprises face the challenge of selecting the optimal WAAP security provider.
When deciding which WAAP service is best for your company, there are a few crucial factors to keep in mind.
- Regulatory and Cultural Constraints: Legal concerns may provoke more organizational resistance than ineffective regulatory limits. This may hinder the adoption of cloud-based security services, such as cloud WAAP services. Some of these concerns include; allowing a third-party cloud service to decode TLS connections, handle application secret keys, and log sensitive client data; integrating the cloud WAAP service into the standard operating procedure for handling incidents, and adapting the organization’s budget to the platform’s pricing model and deliverables.
- Solution Maturity: URL and form protection, cookie signing, and cross-site request forgery (CSRF) tokens are absent from a number of Cloud WAAP services. This delays adoption among enterprises currently using traditional security methods and seeking a lift-and-shift approach to cloud application security.
- Technical Architecture: WAAP services that are not based on proven WAF solutions are typically unable to integrate with the enterprise ecosystem, which includes application security testing (AST) and SIEM. In addition, they may offer limited log retention and setup possibilities. Cloud WAAP service monitoring consoles may not provide logs in real-time.