Seven Questions You Should Ask Before Choosing a WAF

Uncover key aspects and determining factors for choosing a Web Application Firewall (WAF) for your company.

Paulo Moura - Technical Researcher
Seven Questions You Should Ask Before Choosing a WAF

“When you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” This adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s famous quotes illustrates what many companies do when it comes to implementing a Web Application Firewall (WAF). But they shouldn’t, considering it’s a crucial decision for the security of web applications and, consequently, the business itself.

Establishing criteria to identify the best solution can feel like being lost in the dark. After all, there are so many security vendors and similarities that it really becomes challenging to decide which one to choose. If this is the challenge you’re facing, we’ve compiled seven questions (and answers!) to help you find the right path.

1. What Capabilities and Functionalities Does the WAF Offer?

The way a WAF is developed varies from one vendor to another, and this has a significant impact on the solution’s capabilities and functionalities. Therefore, it’s important to pay attention to details that are actually strong indicators that the WAF can help address challenges of modern cybersecurity by:

  • accurately distinguishing between bad bots and legitimate traffic or human users;
  • applying programmable security features to respond to more accurately targeted threats;
  • detecting and blocking zero-day attacks regardless of the exploited environment, system, or component.

Understanding what your team values most in a WAF is also crucial. You might find yourself considering a more expensive solution with additional features that, for various reasons, may be irrelevant or unnecessary for the daily user.

2. Does the WAF Offer Automation Features?

Automating as many security tasks as possible allows the expert team to be more efficient and effective in handling complex and critical operations. This includes mitigating DDoS attacks, controlling access, and analyzing application vulnerabilities.

Besides that, integrating WAF rules into the CI/CD pipeline offers substantial benefits to the IT department. It automatically confirms whether each deployment complies with set security requirements. Aside from speeding up the delivery of secure software, this integration streamlines tasks requiring cross-departmental interaction, in addition to enhancing the developer experience and promoting a DevSecOps culture.

3. Does the WAF Integrate with APIs and Third-Party Systems?

It’s crucial that you have absolute confidence that deploying WAF within your applications won’t lead to any complications. As such, it would be prudent to establish if the solution in question is interoperable and can be seamlessly integrated without the need for any modifications.

For example, consider WAF solutions that are compatible with various computing models (cloud computing, on-premise, or data center), existing systems, and the IT architecture used in your application. Besides that, given that an API can connect and utilize other resources, implementing programmable security is crucial to fully benefit from the proposed solutions.

When a company takes these precautions, it not only reduces implementation costs but also provides scalability. This ensures that the WAF advances in line with the evolution of the applications.

4. Does the WAF Provide Observability Features?

It’s also beneficial for the WAF to be integrable with analytical platforms—such as SIEM and Big Data—so that your experts can gain essential insights to enhance intelligence against cyber threats.

Among other advantages, observability enables threat tracking based on data, automation of incident responses, and more in-depth security audits, in addition to reducing costs associated with investigations.

5. What Threat Detection Method Does the WAF Employ?

Another crucial point is the security method used for threat detection. A signature-based WAF (also called vaccine-based) may present obstacles in identifying zero-day threats. 

Conversely, scoring-based solutions are immune to the element of time, as they identify attack vectors based on anomalies in traffic and behaviors that expose untrustworthy users. 

To learn more about the differences between existing blocking methods and how this factor is crucial for effectiveness in protection, we recommend reading this post.

6. Does the WAF Assist with Compliance?

Setting up custom-made, highly specific rules is vital for regulatory compliance. For instance, financial institutions consistently work to ensure adherence to applicable laws, standards, and regulations. They rely on adaptable security solutions that can adapt to legislative changes.

Aside from the functionalities of the WAF itself, you should also consider internationally recognized security standards like PCI DSS and SOC. For businesses that store, process, and transmit payment card data—such as e-commerce platforms—a WAF certified with PCI DSS would be the ideal choice to help meet the regulatory requirements associated with these activities.

7. How Does the WAF Perform Against Zero-Day Attacks?

In December 2022, the security research team at Claroty presented a generic way to bypass the WAF solutions of several global vendors. According to Noam Moshe, one of the researchers involved in the project, criminals could access a backend database and exploit vulnerabilities to extract information.

Solutions bypassed by the WAF Bypass proved to be unprepared to prevent zero-day attacks or threats that exploit recently discovered vulnerabilities. This means that if your company was using any of those solutions, attacks based on the same method would succeed.

We hope the points discussed so far have offered valuable insights for choosing the best WAF solution. But before taking the next steps, why not explore the benefits of Azion’s WAF? If you’re interested in understanding how our WAF could fit your project, click to talk to one of our experts!

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