Why does a Legacy WAF Fail to “Catch” Sophisticated Attacks?

By   ISBuzz Team
Writer , Information Security Buzz | Sep 27, 2022 10:28 am PST

A buyer dilemma is happening now with security solutions as business owners and CISOs realize that legacy rules-based WAF is not enough for web application and API protection. 

Legacy WAF was considered at the time when businesses were starting to build internet-facing applications. However, in this era of cloud-native apps, where modern apps feature far more APIs, legacy WAF by itself is not enough to effectively protect your web application and ensure it is available round-the-clock.

Read on to find out why legacy WAF fails to provide adequate security and how a next-gen WAF offers an effective alternative.

Reasons Why WAF is Not Enough to Protect Your Web Application

Legacy WAF Only Adds Extra Layers of Protection 

The traditional WAF monitors incoming requests/ traffic for anomalous behaviors, filtering bad requests and deciding on a case-to-case basis if the request should be allowed, blocked, challenged, or flagged. But they need to leverage behavioral and pattern analysis, intelligent automation, self-learning AI, and so on to proactively detect and stop illegitimate human and bot traffic from wreaking havoc on the application. 

The advanced web app firewalls also virtually patch vulnerabilities as soon as they are found until developers fix them. But they need to be equipped with an advanced scanning tool, pen-testing, and security audits that proactively identify vulnerabilities to be secured. 

Apps aren’t monolithic; apps today have several moving parts, third-party components, APIs, and headless architectures. Apps are dynamic, with new parts added daily while several other parts are becoming outdated. It keeps widening the attack surface. Intelligent scanning tools keep updating the asset inventory, automatically adding new areas to crawl. This is why a modern WAF is equipped with an intelligent scanner. 

Web Application Firewall Needs Contextual Awareness and Real-Time Insights 

The threat landscape is evolving rapidly, with attackers finding new, innovative ways to exploit vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and misconfigurations in the IT architecture. Even known threats such as DDoS, malware, and bot attacks are constantly mutating and becoming more sophisticated and evasive. 

To remain effective amid the dynamism of the threat landscape, web application firewalls need context and real-time insights. Contextual awareness helps identify and prevent threats unique to the business, such as exploitation of business logic flaws, threats from geographies that the business does not operate in, and so on. 

Real-time insights into the security posture and global threat intelligence enable advanced WAFs to engage in continuous risk detection and mitigation. 

It is Ineffective Against Logical and Unknown Risks

Like all other technology, it is well-known that WAF has limitations – they are equipped to protect all known vulnerabilities automatically. Unless they are fully managed WAF solutions backed by certified security experts, they are ineffective against logical flaws, zero-day threats, and unknown vulnerabilities. 

In the case of a fully managed solution, the security experts perform regular pen-testing, security audits, and other tests to identify unknown vulnerabilities proactively and zero-day and logical flaws, test the strength of security defenses and help you remediate. 

Security experts custom-build rules with surgical accuracy for the context of your business, unique needs, and threats to help you keep your risks within tolerance levels. They help in the management of false positives and false negatives. They also test the WAF to unearth the vulnerabilities and take the necessary steps to fix them. 

WAF Solutions Do Not Offer Encryption 

Encryption of data in transit and at rest is crucial for its security, integrity, and confidentiality. WAF solutions do not offer encryption. You require SSL certificates and encrypted data storage solutions for robust encryption. Comprehensive application security solutions offers SSL certificate feature alongside continuous threat hunting and 0-day attack protection.

It May Slow Down the Website 

The WAF needs to be backed by the right infrastructure to ensure agility, scalability, and flexibility to ensure it does not interfere with the website’s performance. The best solutions are backed by a cloud-based, scalable infrastructure with built-in redundancies and globally dispersed content delivery networks (CDNs) to ensure minimal trade-offs between security and website performance. 

Configurations May Quickly Become Outdated 

Traditional WAFs need to be continuously tuned and configured to ensure ongoing protection. This is critical as configurations become outdated quickly and risk posture keeps changing in the digitally transforming world with a fast-paced threat landscape. 

The Way Forward

You may think traditional firewalls and web app firewalls that use signature-based detection methods are ineffective, unlike intelligent, next-gen WAFs that leverage modern technology. You are not wrong.

Web app firewalls are better equipped to stop known and emerging threats, including DDoS attacks, malware attacks, SQL injection, etc. However, they are ineffective and need to be part of a comprehensive, intelligent, and fully managed security solution to match the demand of business growth. 

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