What is a web application firewall?

A web application firewall (WAF) helps protect a company’s web applications by inspecting and filtering traffic between each web application and the internet. A WAF can help defend web applications from attacks such as cross-site request forgery (CSRF), cross-site-scripting (XSS), file inclusion, and SQL injection

A WAF can be especially beneficial to a company that provides an e-commerce site, online financial services, or any other type of web-based product or service involving interactions with customers or business partners. In these cases, WAFs can be especially useful in preventing fraud and data theft. However, since a WAF is not designed to ward off all types of attacks, it works best as part of a suite of tools that support a comprehensive application security program

Key benefits of a WAF

A WAF can provide critical protection for any online business that must securely handle private customer data. Businesses typically deploy a WAF to shield their web applications from sophisticated and targeted attacks, like cross-site scripting XSS and SQL injection that might result in fraud or data theft. When successful, these types of incursions can severely compromise customer confidence and even result in regulatory penalties. The added protection that a WAF provides can help safeguard a company’s reputation and position in the market.

A WAF also lightens the administrative burden of ensuring proper web application security testing on a continual basis. By helping to proactively set guidelines and rules, application security teams are able to monitor for what should and shouldn’t be allowed through a WAF. From there, teams can receive timely notification of an attack in progress so they can respond much more rapidly to potential security incidents.

Because a WAF provides security administrators with the application visibility necessary to demonstrate compliance with regulatory standards like PCI, HIPAA, and GDPR, it can be valuable from a compliance perspective as well. Combined, all of these advantages can help a company strengthen its web application security and better safeguard customer data from evolving threats.