What Is A WAF, And What Do You Need To Know About It?

March 25, 2021 in Web Application Firewall

As a website owner, you may have come across a certain three-letter term and wondered to yourself, “what is a WAF” or “what does WAF mean?” Think of it this way: if your website infrastructure is a house, the web application firewall (WAF) acts like a fence, helping to deter unwanted visitors. WAFs monitor two-way HTTP or web traffic and defend an application against harmful cyber-attacks threatening the very fabric of a website’s existence.

A WAF is a filter that protects your web application against a plethora of different attacks. These attacks may attempt to pull sensitive data from your site—which is an issue if you routinely work with customers or exchange details such as credit card information. What is a WAF’s advantage compared to other types of cybersecurity measures? WAFs typically work within a fraction of a second, examining incoming traffic and filtering out traffic or files that may be harmful, using a series of rules that are also called “policies.”

So what is a WAF needed for? Well, an average website faces over 50 attacks per day. (Simply put, in the time it takes you to ask, “what is a WAF?”, your website’s security could be utterly compromised.) All it takes is one successful attempt to completely bypass your security measures completely and thoroughly corrupt your site. However, all of this can be easily avoided by employing a WAF, along with other cybersecurity measures, to automatically defend your site from attacks.

Types Of WAFs

What does WAF mean in the context of its different types? There are three types of web application firewalls: hardware-based, software-based, and cloud-based. Every type will protect your site infrastructure, though they may do so differently. The main differences among them entail the implementation and storage procedures.

  • Hardware-based: A hardware-based WAF is installed locally on the computer’s hardware. This type of WAF is quick, agile, and effective, but may cost slightly more to install. It also takes up storage space on the hosting device, so you’ll need to factor computer memory into consideration.
  • Software-based: This type of WAF is fully integrated into an application’s software, allowing you greater customization. This option sits at the middle price point out of the options. Implementation can be tricky depending on the application you’re working with, but once it’s installed, all that’s left to do is routine maintenance.
  • Cloud-based: Cloud-based WAFs are the quickest type to install and come in at the lowest price point. One of the main advantages cloud-based WAFs provide is that they are easy to tune up and update. This option is user-friendly, though users may be less familiar with specific features and controls given they are not running the program.

When it comes to each different type, what is a WAF’s biggest upside—and consequently, the downside? There are pros and cons accompanying every type of WAF depending on the kind of web user you are—and how much time and money you want to dedicate to maintenance. But the fact remains that no matter which option you choose, your website will benefit from greater protection against automated attacks.

In future posts, we will explore what does WAF mean? in further expanded topics such as: what a web application firewall does, what the benefits are, and how to turn a WAF off should you so choose.

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