Web Application Firewall (WAF) is the first line of defense between the web application/ website/ web server and internet traffic. Internet traffic comprises good and malicious traffic and requests. So, employing a WAF helps protect the web application/ website/ web server against different types of cyber-attacks that bad traffic and malicious actors try to orchestrate.

WAF forms a critical and indispensable part of web application security and cybersecurity strategies as it is capable of identifying and immediately patching vulnerabilities in applications and servers, instantaneously blocking all malicious actors from finding these gaps and loopholes and thereby, providing buffer time for developers to fix them.

8 Types of Cyberattacks a WAF is Designed to stop

1.DDoS Attacks:

DDoS attacks seek to overwhelm a target web application/ website/ server with fake traffic, depleting network bandwidth and making it unavailable to legitimate users. DDoS attacks happen in several different ways including amplification, flooding, protocol-based and reflection. Some common yet dangerous types of DDoS attacks include DNS amplification, Ping of death, Smurf attacks, HTTP flood, SYN flood, etc.

These attacks are prevented by WAFs through everyday scanning of application, round-the-clock monitoring, Global Threat Intelligence, and Machine Learning to identify pretender bots, malicious requests, etc. and blocking them. With managed WAFs like AppTrana, regular pen-testing and security audits by certified security professionals help thwart DDoS attacks.

2. SQL Injection Attacks:

In these attacks, the perpetrator injects malicious SQL code in the form of requests or queries in user input fields on web applications such as submission forms, contact forms, etc. Doing so, they get access to application’s backend database where they sneak in to extract sensitive and confidential information of the customers or the business itself, get unauthorized administrative access, modify or delete data, etc. or even gain full control of the web application. SQL Injection attacks are caused mainly due to the user input fields and submission forms not being secured against the entry of code and other un-sanitized inputs.

3. Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Attacks:

XSS attacks are aimed at users of vulnerable web applications/ websites in order to gain access to and control their browsers. Here, the attackers use vulnerabilities and gaps in the application to inject malicious scripts/ codes that get executed when the unsuspecting user loads the application/ website. In reflected XSS attacks, the malicious codes get executed only if the user clicks the link while in stored XSS attacks, the malicious payload gets stored in the web browser and executed every time the user visits the website/ application (whether they viewed/ downloaded/ clicked the link does not matter). XSS attacks leave the users personal and confidential information compromised and often lead to identity thefts, session hijacking, etc. These attacks happen either because the user input fields such as the comment sections, user posts, feedback, etc. are un-sanitized and allow unencoded/ invalid inputs or because legacy/ redundant VBScript, Active X, JavaScript, etc. are used in the application.

4. Zero-day Attacks:

Zero-day attacks are those where the organization knows about the existence of vulnerabilities in the hardware/ software only when the attack happens. These are unexpected and therefore, very damaging for businesses as they do not have quick fixes or patches to protect their application. The cyber-attackers, on the other hand, may have been snooping around the application way before and exploited the vulnerabilities as soon they found them.

Managed, intelligent WAFs equipped with Machine Learning abilities such as AppTrana are designed to not only block bad requests and analyze attack patterns but whitelist users, challenge requests and continuously manage policies and rules based on learning.

5. Business Logic Attacks:

Business logic is the critical element connecting and passing information between the UI and databases and software systems, enabling users to effectively use the web application/ website. When there are gaps, errors or overlaps in the business logic, it creates vulnerabilities that are often exploited by cyber-attackers for monetary and other advantages. Attackers do not use malformed requests and malicious payload to orchestrate business logic attacks. They use legitimate values and legal requests to exploit the circumstantial vulnerabilities in the application. Business Logic Bots are often used for these attacks.

Managed WAFs are best equipped to tackle these attacks as they combine the scalability, speed, and accuracy of machines with the expertise, intelligence and creative-thinking abilities of certified security professionals who understand the business.

6. Man-in-the-middle attacks:

These attacks happen when the perpetrators position themselves in between the application and legitimate users to extract confidential details such as passwords, login credentials, credit card details, etc. by impersonating one of the two parties. The attack can be orchestrated through simple means like providing free, malicious hotspots in public locations that are not password protected. When victims connect to these hotspots, they give the full visibility of their online data exchange to the attacker. Sophisticated means such as DNS cache poisoning, IP spoofing, ARP spoofing, etc. are used for interception of the connection and HTTPS spoofing, SSL hijacking, SSL beast, etc. are used for decryption of the two-way SSL traffic without alerting the user or the application.

7. Malware:

Malware attacks are orchestrated by leveraging application vulnerabilities or through social engineering methods like Phishing to inject malware such as Trojan, ransomware, spyware, rootkits, etc. into the website/ web application/ server. By doing so, the attacker gets access to confidential information, sensitive parts of the application, system configuration changes, etc.

8. Defacements:

In defacement attacks, the simplest of all cyber-attacks, the perpetrators change the website content and replace it with their own content to reflect a political ideology/ agenda, shock the users with controversial messages or imagery and so on. Until the defacement is fixed, the web application may become unavailable to users.

As mentioned earlier, Web Application Firewalls that are managed, intelligent and equipped with Global Threat Intelligence and ML abilities can effectively and efficiently tackle each of these 8 types of cyber-attacks. AppTrana offers one such WAF that allows custom rules, prevents business logic flaws, assures zero false-positives and maintains the highest standards of web security.

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