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5/8/2006
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Web App Security

A Web application firewall can be an important component of a multifaceted approach to Web app security.

Web applications are a prime target for criminals and vandals due to the relative ease of attack and the size of the prize. A successful attack on a Web app may result in access to sensitive customer data, enable the attacker to elevate privileges in the database, or even allow the attacker access to the underlying operating system. Victims are subject to public relations problems, possible regulatory sanctions, angry customers, and loss of business. All an attacker needs is time, a Web browser, and a network connection. Poor coding and application design do the rest.

Our inaugural issue of Dark Reading's Security Insider focuses on one of the primary tools that enterprises can use to fend off attacks on Web apps: the Web application firewall. Web app firewalls process HTTP requests and responses, looking for attacks that manipulate submitted form fields, inject malicious text such as SQL or cross-site scripting commands, overflow input strings, manipulate cookies, and exploit other app-level vulnerabilities. Web App Firewalls: Who's Doing What delivers a complete accounting of the products and solutions now available in this critical sector of the security market.

Ideally, a Web app firewall is one component of a multifaceted approach to Web app security. Application security problems should be fixed in the app itself, because that is where the problem lies – not in the network. But apps aren't always fixable: They may be closed-source or compiled-executable, and modifying the app may void support contracts. In such cases, a properly configured Web app firewall offers some measure of protection.

While Web app firewalls clearly have value as a security tool, the reasons for their deployment can be questionable. Organizations might turn to Web app firewalls in response to a break-in, to pass an audit, or, as in the case of an independent software vendor, as a stopgap measure to pass a customer's quality assurance process prior to that customer's accepting the app. None of these reasons are particularly sound, because the Web app firewall potentially covers up underlying issues such as poor coding practices and poor or ineffective security processes.

Whatever your reason for turning to a Web app firewall, there are plenty of options available. Our report provides a complete accounting of the offerings now on the market, including a complete vendor and product matrix that provides point-by-point comparisons for dozens of specific features and functions in an easy-to-navigate spreadsheet. Beyond product comparisons, the report provides insight into how best to deploy these products to protect enterprise resources.

- Mike Fratto, Editor at Large, Dark Reading


The report, Web App Firewalls: Who's Doing What, is available as part of an annual subscription (6 bimonthly issues) to Dark Reading's Security Insider, priced at $1,295. Individual reports are available for $900. For more information, or to subscribe, please visit: www.darkreading.com/insider.

Mike Fratto is a principal analyst at Current Analysis, covering the Enterprise Networking and Data Center Technology markets. Prior to that, Mike was with UBM Tech for 15 years, and served as editor of Network Computing. He was also lead analyst for InformationWeek Analytics ... View Full Bio

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