These days, we don’t go online. We are online. All the time. Especially with a majority of the population working from home and being “always-on”. Traffic to websites has grown exponentially. Be it work, entertainment, information, or reading articles lazily because you are bored… Add to that the fact that most of our activities like shopping, banking, and ordering food can now happen over the internet. However, the surprising fact is, despite the gigantic volume of online traffic, the traffic generated by bots actually forms a bigger percentage of the overall traffic. This calls for a mechanism for blocking bots, which in turn makes an advanced WAF (web application firewall) highly relevant.
The Nuisance and Dangers of Bots
Gone are the times when bots were just used for spamming. These days, because of the advancements in web and scripting technologies, hackers can achieve a high level of automation. With this automation, bots can be deployed to perform all manner of malicious activities.
Bots can deliver malware, steal credentials by harvesting fake login forms, force login to a protected system through brute force attacks, inject code into function calls and data requests that a software makes, and mine competitor web pages for sensitive business information.
But because bots were earlier thought of as just web engines’ means to crawl and search for web pages on the world wide web, they aren’t taken all that seriously. Organizations aren’t doing nearly enough for blocking bots. [AP1] If your networks and web servers aren’t properly protected, bots can misuse your web presence to attack your customers whose trust you’ve worked very hard to gain.
Blocking bots keeps all your web activity safe and protect both your organization and your customers safe.
Traditional methods of blocking bots are a lesson in failure
A majority of the businesses aren’t aware of the gravity of blocking bots. Those that are are still implementing the traditional methods of keeping bots at bay.
But do these methods of bot mitigation work? Not as well as one you’d hope. Let’s take a look at some reasons why and also how an advanced WAF can do wonders on blocking bots.
Businesses opt for code-level security
Businesses implement strict security with the technologies they use for their web presence. However, this code-level security is pretty preliminary. They are designed to block out bot activity that seems like bot activity. Today’s advanced bots can easily surpass such security on account of their ability to mimic a human user. Things like blocking a form submission because repeated form submissions seem like a bot won’t cut it in this day and age.
IP Blocking – Shaky at Best
By some snooping around, companies are able to identify a segment of IP addresses that are causing spam activity on their web applications. In such cases, implementing IP blocks for a range of addresses works out fine.
But with VPNs and IP bouncing mechanisms, not all fraudulent bot activity can be blocked. Moreover, bots can piggy-back on valid requests too. If, while blocking bots, you block out a range of IP addresses, you make some errors, you may end up blocking valid users too.
A web application firewall is designed to block malicious requests to your web resources. Both incoming and outgoing. But the problem with WAFs is that they work on a rule-based system. If a web request doesn’t follow a security check / rule, such a request is blocked.
While this is very powerful against SQL injections, DDoS attacks, and cross-site scripting attacks, these mechanisms fail while blocking advanced bots. This is because advanced bots are programmed to keep continuously changing and changing their profiles.
Traditional WAFs are evolving, but they more or less still depend on filtering rules and mechanisms to block bots. They run the risk of not detecting automated malicious payloads because the bots used to deliver them were able to mirror a human user’s actions.
If you were to setup a firewall such that it blocked bots but left the right requests open for your applications, it would be an operational nightmare. Therefore, some businesses keep all the requests and accesses open, which nothing but serving your web apps to hackers on a silver platter.
The need for Advanced WAF
For blocking bots effectively, a web application firewall needs to evolve and fine-tune itself to keep up with the most advanced and latest bot activities and trends. An Advanced WAF can deploy threat intelligence and maintain traces of past bot activity as a parameter to test each web request.
Moreover, integrated with behavior analysis, modern, advanced WAFs can learn from patterns and trends and better itself, without the additional overheads of setting up complex filtering rules, IP blocks and frequent manual intervention. A good and effective Advanced WAF will give you almost no false positives, thus ensuring that your valid traffic will pass through.
These WAFs look beyond just basic data like IP address but also take into account user activity, user’s patterns, and the type of requests the user is making. They can also go past the rules you have set to formulate their own rules for blocking bots.
Traditional WAFs VS Advanced WAFs
|Security Capabilities||Traditional WAFs||Advanced WAF|
|Protection from OWASP Top 10 Vulnerabilities||Yes||Yes|
|Protection from Simple bots||Yes||Yes|
|Collective bot intelligence (behavioral patterns, fingerprints, & IP)||No||Yes|
|Risk of false positives||High||None|
|Detection of sophisticated bot attacks||No||Yes|
|Mitigation of dynamic IP||Limited||Yes|
|Fingerprinting of malicious devices||Yes||Yes|
|HTTP Traffic Inspection||Yes||Yes|
If you have realized the necessity of blocking bots and are convinced Advanced WAFs are way better than traditional WAFs when it comes to bot mitigation, take a look at our WAF service.