Cyberattacks are continually growing more sophisticated and diverse, so as a managed services provider (MSP), you need to respond by putting the proper defenses in place to protect your clients. One type of solution designed to protect your clients and their businesses is a web application firewall (WAF). But do all of your clients need one? Most likely, the answer is yes.
The Key Differences Between a Firewall and WAF
To understand why a business needs a web application firewall, you first need to acknowledge that different types of cyberattacks occur at varying communication levels between two endpoints. Using the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model, you can see that communication can be categorized into seven different layers:
- Layer 1, Physical: The physical and electrical requirements to operate the system
- Layer 2, Data link: Handles node-to-node data transfer and error correction from the physical layer
- Layer 3, Network: Where packet forwarding through routers takes place
- Layer 4, Transport: Where decisions occur, such as how much data to transmit, at what rate and where it goes
- Layer 5, Session: Where communication between computers is set up, coordinated and terminated
- Layer 6, Presentation: Where application format is translated to network format or vice versa — one example of activity at the presentation layer is encryption and decryption of data
- Layer 7: Application: The layer where users interact with applications
The main difference between a firewall and a web application firewall is that a firewall is usually only associated with protection for the network and transport layers (layers 3 and 4). On the other hand, a web application firewall offers protection from layers 3 through 7 – including network, transport, session, presentation, and application layers – so it can provide a better defense against types of cyberattacks executed in those layers.
Suppose your client has a firewall but not a web application firewall. In that case, they can become victims of cyberattacks such as distributed denial of service (DDoS), SQL injection, or other OWASP Top Ten Most Critical Web Application Security Risks.
Other Valuable Features of a WAF
In addition to protection from attacks executed at OSI layers 3 through 7, a WAF can do more than control web traffic – it can analyze it. WAFs also can stop known threats or use machine learning or artificial intelligence (AI) to spot and flag malicious behaviors.
Also, a WAF can function as a reverse proxy. A reverse proxy sits in front of web servers, intercepting client requests. When client machines send requests to a website, the reverse proxy intercepts them, sends requests to the web server, and receives responses – no client ever communicates directly with the origin server. Concerning security, cybercriminals wouldn’t have direct access to the server – they’d have to go through the web application firewall, which makes executing an attack much more difficult.
WAF: A Solution for Our Time
With more and more of your clients conducting business or offering services online, you need to implement the right solutions to protect them. Unfortunately, overlooking the need for any vital part of a comprehensive security solution can leave your clients vulnerable to attacks that can disrupt operations, cause downtime, lead to data breaches — and maybe even the downfall of their businesses. A web application firewall solution is crucial to your clients’ total security solution.