WAAP stands for web application and API protection. As you can notice that this WAAP term is made of two different terms Web Application and API protection. A Web application and API are the most critical components of every device connected to the internet. So Let’s understand both of these terms one by one.
A web Application is a program that users access via web browsers, or simply; we can say that an application running on the web is called a web application. We can think of a website as a web application because the website runs on the internet and can be accessed by users via web browsers like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Safari. That is why it can be considered a web application.
API stands for Application Programming interfaces. The API allows programmatic access to a web application over the internet. In WAAP, the API term is a programming interface or software that provides communication and data exchange between two or more devices connected over the internet. Nowadays, most modern web apps use APIs to serve their customers. Facebook also uses their built API in their web application to exchange data or communication whenever you send any message on Facebook to anyone; it is done with the help of Facebook’s APIs.
During web application penetration tests, we encounter the presence of WAAP and WAF’s that are sometimes not utilised to their maximum capabilities. These are important, however, more important is to know that it won’t replace server-side routines responsible for stricter input validation or other security basics. Think of this as a layered approach towards maximising security for web apps and APIs.
Now let’s move toward our topic and let’s discuss WAAP advantages for businesses.
Why are traditional security solutions not in use?
Because of following the agile methodology, modern web apps and web APIs are continuously changing according to the need of the organisation or their users. They are not efficient for the data dumps on the cloud data centre. One more thing is that the positive security model is also lacking. Because of all these reasons, traditional security tools are no longer in use.
What’s Web Application and API Protection (WAAP) or API security?
Adam Hils and Jeremy D’Hoinne coined the term WAAP. This term was given for cloud-based services or a cloud web application so that the vulnerable web application and API can be saved.
In today’s era, everything is getting shifted online, like e-commerce businesses, online healthcare, Internet Of Things devices, finance and many more. Because of this increase, the attackers prefer a web application and API as their first attack vector to get inside any system or to gather sensitive data.
Nowadays, web applications and APIs are the top attack vectors for attackers. Due to this, it is getting more challenging to implement reasonable security measures to protect web applications and APIs.
If we talk about cloud-based security services, the cloud WAAP solution also provides different security modules. They provide these security modules based on auto-scaling and the cloud infrastructure, which serves multiple tenants. API protection services, web application firewall, malicious bot protection and protection against distributed Denial of service attacks are some of the most important features of the cloud WAAP services.
Why is WAAP security important for businesses?
As we have discussed, web application and APIs are most targeted by attackers. This is because the modern web applications and APIs used in them provide a way of accessing the sensitive client data of businesses and much more sensitive information available on the public internet. Traditional security solutions could not provide comprehensive protection for modern or enterprise web applications and APIs.
WAAP solutions are introduced to achieve adequate security controls over modern applications. Let’s see some drawbacks of traditional security solutions in comprehensive web application security.
Ineffective Port-based blocking
In traditional firewalls, the traffic is filtered based on protocol and ports through which that traffic is coming. So to make this port-based blocking ineffective, the attackers started sending the malicious traffic along with the web traffic against the web applications and APIs using the same HTTPS protocol and web ports.
Because of this, the traditional solutions get confused between legitimate traffic and malicious attack against web applications and APIs. The task is challenging because the web traffic is already so much, and identifying malicious content within those is not feasible for traditional firewalls.
This way, port-based blocking becomes ineffective for traditional firewalls.
Critical encrypted traffic inspection
Nowadays, most websites use TLS encryption to keep their data encrypted and secure. This enhances the security of web applications and increases the chances of getting infected by malware because it is tough to inspect encrypted traffic for malicious content.
Here the WAAP plays a vital role because they also have the features to inspect the TLS traffic. They can identify malicious content, payloads, and malware encrypted along with the TLS traffic.
Complex HTTP traffic
Cyber attackers use the complexity of the web traffic of the web applications to hide their malicious payloads with the traffic. The conventional intrusion detection or prevention system does not provide the proper tools or features that protect web applications or isolate them from such attacks.
Ineffective signature-based detection solutions
Previously, the firewalls were configured by signature-based detection. But nowadays, the attacks are constantly changing, which is why signature-based detection solutions are not that efficient in today’s era.
WAAP solutions keep themselves updated using self-learning techniques to support the organisation’s safe from new attacks.
What do WAAP solutions offer?
Let’s discuss the key features of WAAP solutions, which provide API security and web applications security. All the requests must be adequately checked before they are sent to the API endpoint.
Next-Generation Web Application Firewall
This is also called Next-Gen WAF; as its name suggests, it is the next-generation firewall. It means it has more advanced features than the previous firewalls. It provides the quality of a web application and API protection against significant variations of attacks. We can also create manual security rules according to our needs.
It is deployed in the application layer. It uses behavioural analysis, artificial intelligence and machine learning, making it a different and enhanced version of traditional firewalls. This firewall stores the attack pattern and performs an analysis of that pattern to block all the attacks, even if the attack is performed after slightly changing the way. They also prevent business logic attacks.
Malicious bots protection
WAAP solution identifies the suspicious bots and blocks them before reaching the application. WAAP only allows the safe bots to get the application by identifying and securing the malicious bots. This way, the WAAP safeguards the web applications and APIs against malicious bots.
Distributed Denial Of Service (DDoS) Protection
Distributed Denial of service attacks targeted at application and network layers can be prevented using WAAP. This protects web applications, APIs, and microservices against such DDoS attacks.
Account Takeover Protection
Attackers are using compromised credentials and password dumps or password lists to perform account takeovers. Using such dumps, attackers can search for the passwords of a respective account, and with that login credentials, they can take over the victim’s performance even without letting him know.
WAAP protects against such attacks by using API authentications. It can detect unauthorised access to resources for any customer account.
Sometimes attacker performs attacks like rate-limiting in which the attacker sends the same request repeatedly, affecting the performance of web applications and APIs, making the website’s response time more significant than usual. This can be understood more efficiently with an example.
Suppose an attacker is sending a request to view the orders path of an eCommerce website; he is doing so to harm that e-commerce site. Here the rate-limiting mechanism will check whether the number of requests the attacker is sending is greater than the number of requests sent; if it is, then the rate-limiting agent will block the attacker’s IP address.
WAAP provides the feature of protection against such advance rate-limiting attacks and abusive attacks.
Runtime application self-protection
The WAAP provides runtime application continuous self-learning and self-protection integrated at the application level, which allows the web applications and APIs to protect themselves at run-time from different attacks. This way, it protects the runtime application environment.
How to implement WAAP?
To implement WAAP, we must face several challenges regarding the protection strategies and tools required for the implementation of WAAP.
Concerns about legal liability, cultural and regulatory limits and old-school organisational resistance can all stymie cloud WAAP and other cloud-based security services adoption. Another main challenge is finding the best pricing model and the SLA provider according to your budget.
Here is the third-party cloud solution needed to handle the application’s secret keys, log sensitive client data or decrypt TLS connections. Allowing such sensitive data to be handled by a third-party cloud solution is risky, which is also challenging while implementing a WAAP solution.
To work the WAAP solution efficiently, the WAAP solution needs to be integrated with the current incident response workflow. The security information and event management tool, which is already placed, decided whether there is a possibility of integrating the WAAP solution with the current incident response workflow. Is it easy to implement or challenging if there is a possibility?
Together with these lines, Technical construction commences a supplementary confrontation intended for the services that are not based upon installed WAF solutions which are bespoke WAAp services. Accompanied by the enterprise ecosystem integration, SIEM and AST (application security testing) can be overlooked by these WAAP solutions.
Cloud comfort for WAAP monitoring shall fail to provide real-time entry to logs. Also, other assortments and log retention choices are finite. Eventually, to find how valuable cloud WAAP services are, solution maturity stands as a factor. Certain primary features WAF appliances impart include form security, CSRF (cross-site requests forgery) and cookie signing. Because they are already utilising these other strategies, this hinders acceptance for enterprises looking for a lift-and-shift solution to their cloud application security strategy concerns.
How does WAF protect API?
WAF’s are designed to detect and help prevent application layer specific attacks. Examples include Cloudflare, AWS WAF, Imperva, etc. To protect the web application and APIs from different types of cyberattacks, we can use Amazon’s created AWS WAF, which is a web application firewall. AWS WAF constructs a set of steps named WEB ACL (web access control list) and renders you to enable, disable and sum up programmable web security rules and circumstances rooted in web requests which you may describe. Here is some further information to understand the working of AWS WAF.
AWS WAF protects your API Gateway API from common web exploits, for instance, SQL injection and cross-site scripting (XSS) attacks. It may influence API accessibility and performance, consume excessive resources or compromises security.
For example, i.e. can set up instructions to allow or block requests through specific IP address ranges, requests which hold malicious script, through a specified country or region-derived requests and requests using CIDR blocks.
In this article, we discussed WAAP. WAAP is a term combination of two words WA which means web applications, and AP, which means API protection. Web applications can run on the internet, such as websites. API stands for an application programming interface. API is used for communication and data exchange purposes. WAAP is a solution that protects web applications and APIs from different kinds of attacks.
Next, we discussed the importance of WAAP. There were many limitations of traditional protection methods like port-based blocking, signature-based detection and many more. To overcome the difficulties, the WAAP was introduced.
After that, we looked over the core features of the WAAP. It provides next-generation firewalls to protect the web application and API from various attacks. It protects against advanced rate-limiting attacks and distributed denial attacks.
Shahrukh, is a passionate cyber security analyst and researcher who loves to write technical blogs on different cyber security topics. He holds a Masters degree in Information Security, an OSCP and has a strong technical skillset in offensive security.