We have come a long way since the time of applications that run only upon installation on local devices. With the rise of cloud computing, network penetration and advancement in internet speeds, accessing modern web applications has become as easy as entering a web address on a browser.
What this means is that it has become easier for businesses to deploy applications that serve their customers. At the same time, there has also been a rise in security threats that target such applications. In fact, the State of Web Security 2021 study from CDNetworks reported an increase of 141.3% in the number of web application attacks in 2021 compared to the previous year.
What is Web Application and API Protection (WAAP)?
Web applications are programs that can be accessed through a web browser. They may also include application programming interfaces (APIs), which allow browsers and other software to access the application through a set of definitions and protocols.
WAAP or Web Application and API Protection refers to cloud-based services that aim to protect these APIs and applications. The term was coined by Adam Hils and Jeremy D’Hoinne of Gartner to describe cloud-based services created to safeguard vulnerable APIs and web apps. These services normally include bot mitigation, API security protection and defense against DDoS attacks.
The Importance of WAAP
As modern web apps have evolved, so have the techniques used by malicious actors to compromise application security. With new functionalities and features, attackers have more surface area to try and target. The adoption of agile methodologies and DevOps practices has also resulted in a rapid increase in the pace of development, software updates and new feature releases.
These trends in development have also resulted in traditional web application firewalls (WAFs) being unable to keep up with the security needs. WAF generally rely on manual tuning and constant maintenance and generally only monitors for the top 10 most critical threats listed by the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP Top 10). All of this means today’s developers, application security teams and DevOps need a better solution that can provide security that scales with their web application deployment.
This is where WAAP services become essential. Any business that operates by giving customers access to their applications and API will need to consider WAAP solutions.
How Can Web Application and API Protection Keep Your Business Safe?
WAAP services have an edge over traditional application security solutions because the latter often fails when it comes to protecting web applications and API. Here are some of the ways in which WAAP solutions protect your business.
They do better than signature-based detection
Since threats against web applications are constantly evolving, trying to detect these using signature-based solutions is not effective. What works today may not work next month, and even if it does, it is not easy to scale across the organization. WAAP solutions are capable of continuous self-learning and help you stay ahead of the threat environment.
They work where port-based detection fails
Traditional solutions like firewalls generally work by filtering out or blocking traffic based on ports in use or protocols. These may not work against attacks targeting web applications and web APIs since the attackers take advantage of the same web ports and protocols as users. This means selectively filtering out malicious traffic becomes very difficult and you will need more advanced inspection capabilities provided by WAAP solutions.
They can detect malicious content hidden in HTTP traffic
Web applications use HTTP traffic, which can be used to conceal malicious content by cybercriminals. Intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDS/IPS)may offer some level of application security but it will not be enough to discover these threats and protect the web applications. By contrast, WAAP solutions are capable of identifying malware and malicious content hidden in traffic since they inspect TLS connections. This is critical for a business since more than half of all web traffic today uses TLS encryption because of the privacy benefits it provides.
How Does WAAP Differ From Other Security Measures?
WAAP solutions possess certain features that allow them to be better than traditional security measures such as the WAF. Here are some of the common ones to look out for.
Next-Generation Web Application Firewall (Next-Gen WAF)
Next-Gen WAF provides better protection than traditional WAF solutions because of their unique capabilities such as behavioral analysis and artificial intelligence (AI). Since these don’t depend on known attack patterns and manual tuning with set security rules, they allow for protection against a broad spectrum of attacks.
Protection against malicious bots and traffic
While traditional security solutions are often incapable of distinguishing between legitimate and malicious traffic, WAAP solutions are capable of isolating suspicious traffic and offering bot protection while allowing safe traffic to go through to reach the applications as intended.
Protection against Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS)
DDoS attacks are one of the most common threats targeted at applications. WAAP solutions protect your applications, APIs and microservices against DDoS attacks at the application layers. This type of protection is also capable of scaling up to match the volume of the attacks.
Advanced rate limiting
Rate limiting is one technique to limit abusive activity at the application level. It essentially puts a cap on how often someone can repeat an action within a certain time period, such as the number of times a bot attempts brute-force logins to an application. By limiting such activity, the advanced rate limiting feature in WAAP solutions protects applications and APIs, maintaining their performance.
Protection for microservices and APIs
APIs, microservices and web applications have distinct security requirements and need individual protection. WAAP solutions accomplish this by placing the security within each and by using data and context-aware perimeters as required in each case.
Account takeover protection
One way in which cybercriminals access sensitive data is by using compromised credentials from previously obtained data dumps and password lists. Account takeover protection tools prevent this by detecting unauthorized access using authentication APIs or an application’s customer-facing authentication process.
Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)
Some WAAP solutions comprise Content Delivery Networks which also enhance the protection of the applications. CDNs help reduce the server’s load in the event of a spike in malicious traffic, such as during a DDoS attack, by distributing the load to a network of globally distributed servers. This way, it can help in content caching, load balancing and failover, to ensure that your applications keep performing and being accessible to your users across the globe.
Partnering With CDNetworks For WAAP Security
The core features of CDNetworks WAAP Capabilities center around bot mitigation, WAF, API protection, and protection from DDoS attacks. These cloud WAAP services consist of security modules from the CDNetworks Cloud Security Solution that empower organizations to deploy cloud infrastructures across disparate digital infrastructures.
CDNetworks’ Cloud Security solution combines the robust performance of a Content Delivery Network (CDN) with enhanced security to deliver website content quickly and securely. It comes with multi-layered security technologies for websites, applications, and APIs, and helps businesses secure their business operations in a flexible and economical way
CDNetworks also offers Application Shield, Bot Shield and API Shield, which are solutions that together protect web applications and API. Application Shield integrates Web Application Firewall (WAF), DDoS protection and CDN acceleration to protect against a variety of threats including trojans, credential stuffing and web application attacks. Bot Shield is a cloud-based bot management solution that helps businesses distinguish between legitimate human traffic and bot traffic easily, between good bots and malicious ones. API Shield is a full-cycle management that secure organizations’ API Resources, and which also offers API protection against repeated requests.