What is Web Application & API Protection (WAAP)?

Web applications are programs that are accessible to users via a web browser, and are part of an organization’s web presence. This presence can also incorporate application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow programmatic access to an organization’s web applications.

Unsurprisingly, these web applications and web APIs are a common target of cybercriminals, and the threat is growing. Gartner analysts Jeremy D’Hoinne and Adam Hils have coined the term Web Application and API Protection (WAAP) to describe cloud-based services designed to protect these vulnerable web applications and APIs.

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What is Web Application & API Protection (WAAP)?

What is Web Application & API Protection (WAAP)

According to Gartner, Cloud web application and API protection services are the evolution of cloud web application firewall services, expanding scope and security depth. Unlike a traditional firewall, a WAAP is a highly specialized security tool specifically designed to protect web applications and APIs.

A WAAP actually resides at the outer edge of a network in front of the public side of a web application and analyzes incoming traffic. While this is all it does, it does it very well. A WAAP focuses only on the application layer (layer 7) of the OSI model.

Why WAAP Security Is Important

Web applications and APIs are exposed to the public Internet and have access to a great deal of sensitive data, making them a prime target for cybercriminals. However, traditional security solutions are not effective at protecting these applications, making WAAP a necessity. Some examples of challenges that traditional solutions struggle to solve:

  • Signature matching doesn’t work for application security: Web applications are constantly under attack, and these threats change regularly. Attempting to protect against them with traditional, signature-based detection solutions is an unscalable approach. WAAP solutions, with continuous self-learning, can help an organization to stay abreast of the rapidly evolving application security threat landscape.
  • Modern Applications Change Frequently: The rise of Agile development methodologies and DevOps means that modern web applications and APIs are in a state of constant flux. This continuous change means that traditional web application firewalls (WAFs) that require manual tuning and rule development can’t keep up, making a solution with built-in automation and hands-off administration a necessity.
  • Port-Based Blocking Doesn’t Work: Traditional firewalls are designed to filter traffic based upon the ports and protocols in use. Attacks against web applications and web APIs use legitimate web ports and protocols like HTTP(S), making it impossible to only filter out malicious attack traffic in this way. A deeper level of inspection is required to differentiate between legitimate traffic and potential attacks.
  • HTTP Traffic Can Be Complex: Web applications can be complicated, and attackers take advantage of this complexity to hide malicious content. The level of security inspection provided by a traditional intrusion detection and prevention system (IDS/IPS) is insufficient for identifying and protecting against threats to web applications.
  • Encrypted Traffic Inspection is Needed: Over half of all web traffic uses TLS encryption now, which is good for privacy but bad for detecting malware and other malicious content. WAAP solutions can terminate TLS connections, enabling them to identify malicious content and sensitive data within web application traffic.

Web Application and API Protection Key Capabilities

A WAAP solution needs to be capable of protecting an organization’s web applications against a wide range of attacks without requiring a great deal of oversight and hands-on management. Some crucial capabilities that a WAAP solution requires to accomplish these goals include:

  • Automation and Intelligence: WAAP solutions need to learn on their own to adapt to the changes in the applications that they protect and the threats that they face. This requires built-in automation and intelligence.
  • Protection for APIs and Microservices: Many web security solutions focus on web application protection, but APIs and microservices are a growing target of attack. A WAAP solution should provide comprehensive protection to an organization’s entire web presence.
  • Next-Generation Web Application Firewall (NGWAF): Traditional, signature-based WAFs are blind to zero-day attacks. A NGWAF integrates additional security capabilities to help protect against a wider range of threats.
  • Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP): RASP provides personalized protection to applications, monitoring their inputs, outputs, and behavior for anomalies. This enables RASP solutions to detect even zero-day attacks against a web application or API.
  • Malicious Bot Protection: Malicious bots execute automated attacks against web applications, at scale, for example  reconnaissance, credential stuffing and scraping. The ability to differentiate between malicious bots and human users is essential to balancing application usability and security.
  • Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) Protection: DDoS attacks are an increased threat as the growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud computing provides cybercriminals with access to cheap computing power. DDoS protection is essential in a WAAP solution to ensure the availability of an organization’s web applications and APIs.
  • Advanced Rate Limiting: Rate limiting is essential to ensure that malicious users do not consume valuable resources. Advanced rate limiting technologies make it possible to crack down effectively on malicious users without impacting legitimate application use.

Achieving WAAP Security with CloudGuard

Check Point’s CloudGuard Appsec analyzes web transactions using a set of AI engines that operate simultaneously to protect against the most sophisticated attacks. CloudGuard Appsec has three key security components: API security, web application protection (WAF), and Bot protection.

CloudGuard provides organizations with all the features that they need to secure their cloud-based web applications, including:

  • Precise Prevention: CloudGuard uses a patent pending contextual AI engine to build a risk score for each application request. Rather than taking a binary decision using threat signature mapping, this contextual approach eliminates false positives and identifies sophisticated threats from OWASP 10 attacks to zero day API attacks.
  • Zero Administration Overheads: CloudGuard eliminates the trade off between level of security and level of maintenance that typifies a  legacy WAF solution. The solution doesn’t rely on rules and its continuous learning of both the application and user behavior means that CloudGuard adjusts to new content with no need for ongoing calibration.
  • Full Automation: CloudGuard offers hands-off admin and integrates intelligence to provide contextual analysis of web application traffic. This provides superior protection compared to the binary, signature matching engines of traditional WAFs.
  • Flexible Deployment: CloudGuard provides a number of deployment options, including as a reverse proxy, proxy servers add on, or an ingress controller on K8s.

CloudGuard AppSec provides WAAP for mission-critical assets in the cloud, you’re welcome to open an account and check it out.

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