Hyperguarding your Web Applications

Jeremiah’s Right about Scalability

Posted by hyperguard on September 1, 2009

I recently read Web security is about scalability, a very interesting post by Jeremiah Grossman of White Hat Security. He discusses the importance of scalability in overcoming today’s Web security challenges. I would like to add some of my thoughts.

It has taken the industry over 10 years to realize that when dealing with Web application vulnerabilities, they must also deal with the scalability issues these applications face. This needs to happen in parallel with normal security testing. As Jeremiah highlights the incredible scaling needed today:

“Consider that there are 240+ million websites, millions more added every month, an unknown number of Intranet Web applications, 17+ million developers, and over one billion people on the Web. Any solution capable of making a real difference must be valued by its potential worldwide impact.”

Testing a web application on a single system (how most are tested before being sent out into the world) without taking into account scalability is costly. Once that application hits it’s performance limit it usually means a redesign and rewrite of core elements to make it more scalable, changing how and what is important to test. Think of the OWASP top 10 on Jeremiah’s scale!

Cluster computing, or cloud computing, presents a remedy to developing, testing and scaling web applications in a much more practical sense.

Flip the coin to protecting the applications once they’re live and in action, and Jeremiah’s scalability point becomes painfully apparent. Web application firewall’s (WAF) are the industry standard for this purpose, however they are predominantly hardware. Hardware doesn’t scale – you have to buy another box. More boxes, more resource drain, less virtualized resources and on and on.

The article Jeremiah references in his post (check here for the white paper), outlines my view of what the market needs from a WAF.

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