Due to the high potential for security flaws and code vulnerabilities, web applications are one of the most vulnerable parts of an organization’s network. The inherent vulnerabilities that are common in the development of web applications make them heavily targeted by cybercriminals. Investing in Web Application and API protection (WAAP) solutions can help ensure your applications perform securely.
WAAP tools can provide 24/7 controls that support the highest security standards for application protection. By administering and managing WAAP solutions with Security Control Management (SCM) teams and processes, you can further improve the security of your applications. This integration streamlines security management, enhances the visibility of your app’s security stance, and simplifies incident response.

What is Web Application and API Protection (WAAP)

Web Application and API Protection are a group of security controls for securing web applications, software tools, and application programming interface (API) integrations against malicious attackers. The core features of WAAP tools detect and protect from software and web-based attacks. This includes a wide range of attacks, like code injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), malicious bot activity, and denial of service (DoS).

WAAP is vital to providing a layered security system at the application level. WAAP security tools ensure that software systems remain available to users, function as intended, and are secure from malicious code. WAAP tool implementation is also commonly required for industry and regulatory compliance. It’s one of many defensive security solutions you can utilize for a comprehensive cybersecurity program that safeguards the entire IT network.

Protecting Web Applications and APIs

Web applications and APIs power the essential functions of businesses, from customer service to team communication and financial transactions. From providing customer support tickets to integrating e-commerce platforms with ERP systems, businesses count on reliable applications and integrations to keep running.

With such importance on application functionality comes opportunity for threat actors. Web applications and API endpoints commonly have security vulnerabilities. In fact, 17% of all cyber attacks focus specifically on exploiting security flaws in web apps. That includes exploitation of code misconfigurations, user authentication failures, or broken access controls that enable cybercriminals to deliver successful attacks.

The most common type of attack, for example, is structured query language (SQL) injection. These attacks are based on the insertion of malicious SQL code to access stored information — representing 33% of all application vulnerabilities. Without a dependable WAAP solution to monitor and stop these threats in their tracks, these attacks can compromise your customers’ privacy. That could result in financial loss to your organization, expose company trade secrets, and jeopardize your brand reputation.

Core Features of WAAP Solutions

A complete WAAP solution has robust features that prevent unauthorized access to your web apps and API systems, provide visibility to detect potential threats and offer attack remediation capabilities. Some of the critical WAAP features include:

Web Application Firewall (WAF)

Similar to traditional firewalls that manage traffic for an organization’s network and prevent unauthorized access, a Web Application Firewall (WAF) serves as a type of software shield, brokering traffic between the internet and web applications.

Deployed in front of the application or web server, WAF tracks and analyzes packet data coming into a web application or API. A WAF filters out any traffic deemed threatening or capable of exploiting a known vulnerability based on attack signatures, security settings, and custom rules implemented by the administrator. For example, you might block Internet Protocol (IP) addresses from specific locations or any traffic that triggers SQL injection signatures.

By adding WAF to your security stack, you can mitigate application attacks and significantly reduce risk across your organization. Additionally, WAF tools allow for the collection and review of real-time application traffic data, providing insight into potential threats and allowing for application hardening.

API Security Controls

APIs provide an efficient way for applications to communicate and exchange data. Therefore, WAAP solutions often include security controls specifically for APIs to ensure that hackers cannot exploit system flaws to access sensitive data or launch attacks on integrated applications. Some of these controls include:

  • Authentication mechanisms to ensure only authorized users have API access
  • Encryption that protects data while moving between different applications
  • User input validation controls that maintain code integrity by only allowing safe and “expected” data inputs
  • Data logging and event monitoring of API endpoints to track malicious activity

Bot Mitigation

Bot mitigation is achieved by implementing specific policies in web applications and APIs to protect against malicious bot traffic. More specifically, web bots are automated programs that perform tasks without manual human actions. While bots have plenty of non-malicious, productive use cases, threat actors often use them to scrape backend data or deliver attacks such as credential stuffing, brute force password attacks, and denial of service (DoS).

The main bot controls are detection-based, using behavioral analysis or CAPTCHA techniques, such as requiring the user to successfully complete a challenge on a website to determine if the request is a bot or human. Another mitigation strategy is using rate limiting policies, which limit the number of requests allowed per specific time interval to an application or API — helping prevent DoS attacks by stopping a large volume of bots from overwhelming the system.

DoS (Denial of Service) Protection

As mentioned, DoS attacks are attempts to shut down a system, such as a web application, by flooding the server with an overwhelming amount of requests. A threat actor usually deploys automated bots to deliver a DoS attack and make the web application unavailable to legitimate users — causing a wave of unhappy customers and operations disruptions.

Layered DoS safeguards have their own priority for WAAP implementations. A good place to start is implementing WAF policies that use behavioral analysis and threat detection tools to filter out requests indicating malicious bot activity related to DoS attacks. As previously mentioned, using rate limiting policies, which caps the maximum number of requests allowed to a web application during a set period, can mitigate risk of DoS attacks.

WAAP and an Integrated Security Control Management System

WAAP is just one of many defensive security controls you can deploy for a solid cybersecurity strategy that protects your network and IT assets. It’s best used as a layer of security for applications in conjunction with other vital controls like endpoint detection and response (EDR) software, network firewalls, a vulnerability management system, threat-hunting tools, and user awareness training.

To optimize your defensive security controls, consider investing in a Security Control Management (SCM) process or provider that offers outsourced SCM services, which provides you end-to-end visibility on a WAAP solution. This ensures that the tool is deployed and managed in a way that meets compliance and security policy requirements, performs as intended, and maintains 24/7 operational status, providing your organization with the peace of mind that web applications and API endpoints are always protected.

Secure Your Web Applications with CyberMaxx

With the increasing reliance on web applications and APIs, businesses must stay ahead of threat actors by adopting a modern WAAP solution that protects them from a wide spectrum of web-based and application layer attacks.

As cyber threats continuously evolve, partner with a Security Control Management (SCM) expert like CyberMaxx, who can administer and manage your WAAP solutions and ensure they operate 24/7 for non-stop application security. Schedule a call today to learn how our “Offense Fuels Defense” mentality gets you end-to-end defensive security that never stops improving.