These days, web-based applications handle everything from customer data to financial transactions. As a result, for cyber criminals, they represent attractive targets.

This is where Web Application Firewalls (or WAFs) come into play. A WAF functions as a private security guard for a web-based application or site; always on-guard, in search of suspicious activity, and capable of blocking potential attacks. But the scope of WAF protection tends to span beyond what most leaders are aware of.

In this article, discover 10 benefits of WAFs that cyber security decision-makers should keep top-of-mind, as to align WAF functions with the overarching cyber security strategy.

1. Protection against OWASP Top 10 threats. A WAF can stop application layer attacks, including the OWASP Top 10 (with minimal tuning and no false positives). WAFs continuously update rule sets to align with the latest OWASP guidelines, reducing the probability of successful attacks.

2. API protection. WAFs offer specialized protection against API-specific threats, ensuring the integrity of data exchanges. WAFs can block threats like parameter tampering and can find abnormal behavioral patterns that could be indicative of API abuse.

Advanced WAFs can understand and validate complex API calls, ensuring that only legitimate requests are processed. They can also enforce rate limiting and access controls specific to different API endpoints.

3. Bot & DDoS protection. WAFs can distinguish between malicious and legitimate bot traffic, preventing DDoS threats, credential stuffing, content scraping and more. This area of WAF capability is taking on increasing importance, as bots are blazing across the web like never before, negatively impacting the bottom line and customer experiences.

4. Real-time intelligence. Modern WAFs leverage machine learning to analyze traffic patterns and to provide up-to-the-minute protection against emerging threats, enabling businesses to mitigate malicious instances before exploitation-at-scale can occur.

5. Compliance adherence. WAFs enable organizations to meet regulatory requirements, as they implement much-needed security controls and can provide detailed audit logs.

The granular logging and reporting capabilities available via WAF allow organizations to demonstrate due diligence in protecting sensitive data.

Many WAFs come with pre-configured rule sets designed to address specific compliance requirements, rendering it easier to maintain a compliant posture as regulations continue to evolve.

6. Reduced burden on development teams. Stopping vulnerabilities at the application layer enables development or IT team to focus on core functionalities, rather than the constant patching of security issues.

This “shift-left” approach to security can significantly accelerate development cycles and improve overall application quality. Additionally, the insights offered by WAFs can help developers understand common attack patterns, informing better security practices as everyone moves forward.

7. Customizable rule sets. Advanced WAFs offer the flexibility to create and fine-tune rules that are specific to an organization’s needs. This customization allows for the adaptation to unique application architecture and traffic patterns, minimizing false positives, while maintaining robust protection.

Organizations can create rules to address specific threats to their business, such as protecting against business logic attacks unique to their application.

And the ability to gradually implement and test new rules in monitoring mode before enforcing them ensures that security measures will not inadvertently disrupt legitimate business operations.

8. Performance optimization. Many WAFs include content delivery network (CDN) capabilities, improving application performance and UX while maintaining security.

Caching content and distributing it globally can significantly reduce latency and improve load times for users worldwide. This dual functionality of security and performance optimization offers a compelling value proposition. Organizations can upgrade both their security posture and user satisfaction via a single cyber security solution.

9. Operational insights. WAFs present actionable operational insights pertaining to traffic patterns, attack trends and application behavior. These insights can drive continuous security posture improvement, inform risk assessments and help cyber security staff better allocate security resources.

10. Cloud-native security. As organizations migrate to the cloud, WAFs intended for cloud environments ensure consistent protection across both hybrid and multi-cloud infrastructure. Cloud-native WAFs can scale automatically with applications, offering uncompromising protection amidst traffic spikes or rapid cloud expansions.

Cloud-native WAFs also offer centralized management. This simplifies administration and ensures consistent policy enforcement. By virtue of the features available, these WAFs can provide enhanced protection against evolving threats.

Further thoughts

WAFs afford organizations comprehensive protection. When viewed not only as a security solution, but also as a business enablement tool, it becomes clear that WAFs are an integral component of an advanced cyber security strategy. To explore WAF products, click here.

For more cloud security insights, click here. Lastly, to receive cyber security thought leadership articles, groundbreaking research and emerging threat analyses each week, subscribe to the CyberTalk.org newsletter.