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Application Firewalling – Key to Cloud Security

by Atharva Shah | March 11, 2024

This article provides an overview of the types, benefits, and capabilities of Web Application Firewalls along with its role in safeguarding cloud infrastructure.

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Web applications are the lifeblood of today’s digital landscape. They drive businesses and interactions with users. But, they also attract malicious actors seeking to exploit vulnerabilities. This is where Web Application Firewalls (WAFs) come into play. They enable DevSecOps teams to defend against a range of application layer attacks. The global WAF market is projected to reach USD 13.8 billion by 2027, at a CAGR of 18.9%. Security teams can effectively thwart cross-site scripting (XSS), SQL injection, cookie poisoning and so much more.


  • The complexity of multi-cloud architectures and the need to safeguard against online threats have put the spotlight on cloud security.
  • CSPM tooling features include discovery, visibility, misconfiguration management, continuous threat detection, asset inventory, and testing cloud settings against best practices and compliance requirements.
  • These solutions are suitable to deal with security issues in cloud infrastructures. Enterprises looking to enhance their cloud security procedures will benefit from adopting the CSPM toolset since it provides ready-made security solutions.
  • 4 Steps to Improve Cloud Security Posture: Gain central access to all cloud assets, Locate information in context, understand the total cost of ownership (TCO), and focus only on cloud-native tools.

Why do WAFs Matter?

Web application attacks are the leading cause of breaches. They put both user and stakeholder data at risk. By deploying an effective WAF, enterprises foil an array of attacks that attempt to compromise systems. It is the top choice to evade the exfiltration of sensitive information. A WAF acts as a guardian between the Internet and your web application. It intercepts and scrutinizes incoming and outgoing traffic.WAF blocks sophisticated attacks with 99.99 percent accuracy.

Benefits of a Cloud-based WAF

Embracing a cloud-based WAF offers a slew of advantages tailored to the modern DevSecOps landscape.

  1. Enhanced Security. Identifies and blocks malicious HTTP/S traffic.
  2. Performance Boost. Offloading security processing from your app server.
  3. Streamlined Management. Cloud-based WAFs handle complex security tasks. Straightforward management for both technical and non-technical users.
  4. Cost Savings. The cloud-based approach eliminates the need for hardware and software maintenance. It is a budget-friendly option compared to on-premises solutions.

Making the Right Choice

When considering a cloud WAF solution, ponder on these points.

  • Determine whether you need to safeguard incoming or outgoing traffic. The solution must align with the application’s requirements.
  • Gauge whether basic, intermediate, or advanced protection suits the application’s risk profile.
  • Features needed for application’s security. Think about the DevSecOps strategy.

The Inner Workings

Besides the above-discussed points, it also prevents unauthorized data from leaving the app. This is achieved through crafted policies that distinguish between malicious and safe traffic. Think of a WAF as a reverse proxy—it acts as an intermediary safeguarding your web app server from harmful clients. WAFs manifest as software, appliances, or as-a-service offerings. Policies are usually tailored to app specifications. While many WAFs need manual policy updates to address evolving vulnerabilities, machine learning advancements are enabling some WAFs to adapt automatically. Markets&Markets predicts AI/ML-based auto-remediation policies to be the #1 feature given the ever-evolving threat landscape.

Differentiating WAFs, IPS, and NGFWs

Before moving on to recommendations, let us understand the distinction between these.

  1. Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) focuses on security and vulnerability identification. It gathers an exhaustive list of attack vectors based on a signature database and policies. It operates across protocol types and OSI layers 3 and 4.
  2. Web Application Firewall (WAF) is tailored to application layer protection. Each HTTP/S request is analyzed, factoring in user sessions and application context. It is the intermediary between users and applications. Defends against OWASP Top 10 vulnerabilities.
  3. Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW): An NGFW safeguards users by enforcing user-based policies. Additional context to security policies is provided by it. This consists of URL filtering, anti-virus/anti-malware, and intrusion prevention systems.

WAFs focus on securing the application layer. IPS tackles broader security concerns. NGFWs are user-centric protection tools. DevSecOps security requires a strong WAF in order to protect sensitive data, provide cloud-based options and streamline management while fending off threats at the application layer.

Emerging Trends

The adoption of cloud-based application firewall solutions is escalating as companies shift to cloud solutions. The demand for scalable and adaptable security solutions that work in dynamic cloud settings is driving this development. Application firewalls provide protection for these connected devices. They ensure that cloud-native apps are not exposed to cyber risks in response to the rise of Internet of Things (IoT) devices. 

The following are some up-and-coming market trends for application firewalling:

  • Services for WAF based in the cloud
  • AI and machine intelligence will be used more and more in WAF solutions.
  • Integration with other security products (DDoS protection, endpoint security)
  • APIs to automate the deployment and management of WAFS
  • Creating zero-trust security concepts 

Cloud WAF Controls and Capabilities

A Cloud Web Application Firewall (WAF) provides a suite of security controls and capabilities. They are designed to safeguard your web applications. Whether you’re neck-deep in DevSecOps or navigating the security landscape, some awareness of these features is important. Let’s dive in:

Traffic Filtering

Install traffic filtering systems to protect your web application. Incoming traffic is examined by a cloud WAF using the source IP addresses, URLs, and HTTP headers. Block traffic from dubious IPs or URLs connected to well-known attack vectors, for instance. This procedure makes sure that only authorized users use your app. Traffic should be filtered by source IP in business settings. Unauthorized access attempts are frequently terminated at the source. These users may be using the program from a location in the world where cybercrime is prevalent.

Security Rules

It is recommended to have security rules to control incoming traffic. Define rules that permit or deny access. These should include user agents, geolocation, or specific patterns in HTTP requests. Suppose, a website tailored its security rules to detect and block requests containing SQL injection attempts. It thwarts logic bombs aimed to compromise its backend database.

Rate Limiting

Rate limiting prevents DoS and DDoS attacks. Limit the number of requests a user can make in a given timeframe. It protects apps from excessive traffic spikes. Rate limiting assists genuine users in receiving uninterrupted service. Even when faced with volumetric attacks. It maintains responsiveness during a traffic surge during a flash sale. Cloud WAF provides several rate-limiting algorithms. Managers can tailor this to their specific use cases in order to reduce server overload.

Bot Management

Combat spam threats using sophisticated bot management techniques. Distinguish between legitimate human traffic and automated bots or web crawlers. Behavior analysis, CAPTCHAs, and device fingerprinting all aid against fraudulent activities. WAF has inbuilt capabilities that preserve server resources.

A financial institution may defend against a credential-stuffing attack by identifying and blocking automated login attempts. An e-commerce platform will safeguard against any XSS attacks aimed to inject malicious scripts into product pages with a WAF.

DDoS Protection

Detects abnormal traffic patterns in both volume and behavior. Modern solutions divert or mitigate traffic from potential attackers to guarantee uninterrupted service for actual users. A gaming website averts a massive DDoS attack during a high-profile event by diverting traffic from many botnets.

SSL/TLS Encryption

Sensitive data transfer is protected both at rest and in transit. In order to prevent data interception and eavesdropping, encrypt the data that users and your app share. This is essential for safeguarding user passwords, financial data, and other private information. SSL/TLS encryption is used by online banking platforms to protect user login information and financial transactions. Man-in-the-middle attacks and any other attempts at data theft are all defeated.

Use WAF’s capabilities to protect against a variety of web application vulnerabilities. Your app’s digital defenders are the ModSecurity Rules and the OWASP Core Rule Set. They recognize and stop identity-based attacks such as SQL injections, cross-site scripting (XSS), and others. Despite its excellent array of benefits, installing a WAF won’t solve all your problems. There are still zero day attacks to worry about. Take for instance, the BFPBackdoor Hijack. You should opt for strict zero trust policies to fall back in dire circumstances where even a web application/network firewall does not suffice.  

Types of WAF and Suitability Matrix

There are 3 major types of WAF – Hardware, Software, and Cloud. The infographic below conveys the suitability and the tradeoffs with each of the categories.

AccuKnox Offering

Introducing AccuKnox Zero Trust CNAPP, a leading cloud security offering renowned for its exceptional capabilities. With a distinctive DevSecOps approach and open-source framework, it bolsters infrastructure and applications, ensuring comprehensive protection throughout the software development lifecycle. Our support encompasses public clouds, private clouds, Kubernetes, VMs, bare metals, IoT Edge, and 5G security.

Examples from the real world demonstrate how application firewalling is beneficial. It prevents –

  • SQL injection attacks in e-commerce, safeguarding consumer data. 
  • Illegal access to patient records in the healthcare industry.
  • Students and employees from gaining access to administrators in universities, offices, etc. 

Regulations governing privacy are now simple to comply with. The AccuKnox CNAPP solution comes with a complete application firewalling solution. Our approach includes behavioral analysis, intelligent traffic analysis, and filtering. You can identify dangers, manage access, and prevent unwanted entry using AccuKnox.

Book a free demo to find out more about our application firewalling strategy. Application firewalling should be included in your security plan. Start by reducing risks and protecting sensitive data.

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