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What Is Web Application and API Protection?

Web application and API protection (WAAP) is the evolution of cloud web application firewall services that were designed to protect internet-facing web applications and web APIs (application program interfaces). As application programming evolves, developers are creating modern web applications and interfaces for their organizations. Cloud native architectures are the future of modern application programming. Because web applications and API protocols have access to a great deal of sensitive data, they are prime targets for hackers. Traditional security solutions no longer provide sufficient protection for these applications or protocols, making WAAP a necessity. 

A web application by definition runs on web servers that are exposed to the internet so users can interact with the software interface through their web browsers. They encompass the whole user experience as well as the content that drives that experience. On the other hand, APIs are the backend services or protocols that support the frontend with features like data storage, analytics and integrations with external stand-alone services.

All of this was made possible by cloud computing platforms, which enable developers to write code using software languages such as HTML, JavaScript, CSS SQL, JSON and more to create modern web applications with robust functionality. This explosion of new microservices and functionality has also given rise to new security threats and vulnerabilities that must be addressed.

Why Should Web Applications and APIs Be Secured?

As modern web apps evolve, the techniques used by malicious actors evolve as well. When developers create new functionality, features and services, the attack surface area also increases. Traditional web application firewalls (WAFs) that require manual tuning and maintenance can’t keep up with the constant changes. Developers, DevOps and application security teams require a solution that can scale for their web applications and provide comprehensive security. 

Current security protections that for a WAAP solution include:

  • Cross-Site Scripting (XSS): This is when malicious pieces of code are injected into and executed in otherwise benign web apps.

  • Cross-site Request Forgery (XSRF): This is when external sources execute commands and perform certain actions via authenticated users without their consent.

  • SQL Injection, OS Command Injection: These are common attack vectors that use malicious SQL code for backend database manipulation to access information that was not intended to be displayed.

  • Bad Bots: These are software applications that run automated tasks with malicious intent over the internet, and the worst bots undertake criminal activities, such as fraud and outright theft.

  • Denial-of-Service Attack (DoS): This is an attack that attempts to block web apps or APIs by flooding them with huge amounts of bogus traffic.

  • API Management: This is the process of discovering and protecting web APIs, enforcing their usage policies, and controlling access.

The Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) provides a list of the top 10 most critical security issues found in web applications. This list includes specific details about each vulnerability, such as how to recognize when an application is exploitable, along with sample scenarios and prevention tips. 

Is Web Application and API Protection the Same as a Web Application Firewall?

The short answer is no, because web application and API protection (WAAP) is the evolution of a WAF. A web application firewall (WAF) is a component that complements web application and API protection layers by providing a filter that recognizes attack patterns and prevents access to the target app or API. The rules that determine the filtering capabilities of a WAF are called policies. Modern WAFs adapt their behavior to the app’s execution environment, including cloud native dynamic clusters, serverless functions, virtual machines, hybrid environments and so on.

Finally, web application and API security is an ongoing concern for developers, DevOps and security teams everywhere.  These applications and web APIs must be monitored continuously because any dependency, integration or protocol can be attacked by malicious actors – and you should assume they will be attacked. Remember, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Prisma Cloud’s Web Application and API Security is the industry’s only integrated platform solution to provide comprehensive detection and protection of web applications and APIs for any cloud native architecture. Learn more here.

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