Hyperguarding your Web Applications

A Virtual Certainty for PCI?

Posted by hyperguard on September 25, 2009

This week in Las Vegas, the PCI Virtualization Special Interest Group (PCI SIG) is meeting to figure out how to handle the growing use of this computing market. Long overdue, the group still is neglecting important aspects for web application firewall (WAF) specifics. There have been countless discussions, articles and commentary about PCI in general, yet the WAF guidelines remain simple: get one, use it and make sure it integrates with other measures. Technically, this is the web application protection requirement 6.6 option 2.

What’s missing is ruleset flexibility and control, which also happen to be the biggest points of contention with WAF technology today. A little variety in deployment is also handy in a virtualized setting for ease of deployment – a distributed WAF if you will, or dWAF. Specifically:

Detection and Protection

Foundational security using black, white and grey listings for application requests and responses must be possible. To make sure pre-set policy enforcements are not activated or deactivated without approval from an administrator, deployment and policy refinement through establishing rulesets must be possible in a shadow monitoring or detection only mode. Once the shadow monitoring ruleset is stable, only then should it be allowed to deploy in an enforcement mode on the dWAF. This allows complete transparency for the administrator into the real-world effect of this ruleset, while at the same time allowing layered rulesets to be tested without compromising existing policy enforcement. Avoiding false positives and relaxed established defenses are essential for a real-world, usable dWAF in a cloud.

Automated learning and ruleset suggestions based on intelligent algorithms or recommendations from a static source code analyzer or web vulnerability scanner are also desirable from a manageability view. Again, this only holds true if the administrator retains full control over activation / deactivation of each ruleset. Without this control, wanted traffic may become blocked and policy settings would become compromised.

Application Shielding

Pro-active security functions are highly recommended to reinforce any application in a cloud. Detection is simply not enough for today’s web application security. Features like transparent secure session management, URL encryption and form-field virtualization will provide strong deterrence to attack, while saving application development and deployment time. These features are effective because session management, URL encryption and form-field virtualization is done at the dWAF level and not in the application itself.

An authentication framework support that enables businesses to consolidate their applications under one management schema is also desirable for a dWAF. This enables users to handle the authentication in front of their applications rather than behind, which adds another perimeter of security. A consolidation of all applications with dedicated rights-management ability is also a strong usability function that will make an administrator’s life easier.

More info here: http://www.artofdefence.com

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