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WAF vs SDLC where should you start with your Application Security?

Updated: Apr 28


Application security. A seriously hot topic in today’s digitized world. Application security is essential for protecting the code and data stored in applications from cyberattack. These days it seems as though life functions via application after application. As such it’s imperative that applications are more secure than ever before.


App developers need to prioritize risk reduction, brand protection, customer confidentiality and data security to continue functioning safely and retain the trust of their all-important investors and users. According to Verizon’s 2020 Mobile Security Index, those developers who sacrifice mobile security for time-to-market speed, are twice as likely to experience a security compromise.


Apps are making us more connected than ever before but they’re also making us vulnerable to attack. Industry-wide, security is now top of the agenda. In this article we’re going to be talking about WAF and SDLC. What are they? Which is better? And where should we be putting our initial efforts when approaching business application security challenges going forward?

Ready to go?



The key elements when it comes to application security


There are so many factors that go into creating secure applications, from the developers themselves to authentication and authorizations. Let’s look at some of the most important elements.


1. Two-factor authentication – users must provide two authentication factors.

2. Active sponsorship – obtain an advocate or management sponsor.

3. Security-oriented SDLC – build security into the development process.

4. Developer training – developers must follow secure code principles.

5. Threat modeling – understand your potential attacks.

6. Robust automated testing – to pick up on any missed security vulnerabilities.

7. Attack blocking – using WAFs to fix problems automatically and block web attacks.



Quick fire: WAF vs SDLC - what’s the difference?


Before we talk about each of these terms in detail, here’s a lowdown on the basics. SDLC stands for Software Development Life Cycle. SDLC refers to the process followed for any software project. It usually comprises a development plan, methodology, modelling, building, testing, and deployment.


WAF, on the other hand stands for Web Application Firewall. WAF is a firewall for HTTP applications and protects these apps by detecting, filtering, monitoring, and blocking malware. Whilst developing secure code is part of the SDLC process, WAF is often still necessary to achieve adequate app security.

But why is that?



Cracks in the SDLC process


Software development lifecycles are robust processes, part of which involves developing secure code and rectifying and security gaps. But sadly, that’s not always enough to prevent cyberattacks. Oftentimes, development teams need to get apps to market quickly, and security gets compromised.


And that’s because developing secure code and plugging security breaches is expensive, time-consuming, and unpredictable. So, what can we do about it? That’s where WAF comes into play.



All about WAF


Web application firewalls are now a super important part of any development process. Unlike traditional firewalls, WAFs can recognize and combat application-specific cyber threats. And that’s more important than ever since modern malware is becoming increasingly sophisticated. WAFs help companies monitor their applications closely, offering insight into the main attacks threatening their software and superior visibility when compared to less sophisticated coverage.


That means, even if you’ve put your new application through a traditional SDLC process, it might still not be adequately secure. WAFs are specifically designed to offer multiple layers of protection against attack, protocol violation, abnormal application usage, and data leaks. What’s more, they can even detect and stop attacks before they’ve even been launched.



Combining SDLC WITH WAF


Combining a web application firewall as part of your SDLC process is the way to go for optimal application security. And here’s why.


1. Instead of searching out vulnerability spots manually, development teams can mobilize the WAF to immediately detect and patch the breach – freeing up developer time.

2. WAFs analyze and gather intelligence on attack traffic. This can then be used to generate models that can be applied to future project’s testing phases.

3. WAFs can store up data and report security progress reports to management teams by overviewing stats on current attacks and their associated trends (e.g. top targeted URLs).



The DevSecOps approach


The days when security responsibilities were the responsibility of an isolated team are well and truly over. It’s time to adopt a DevOps approach. In other words, IT security needs to take precedent in your application development lifecycle.


The DevOps approach is a collaborative framework that requires shorter, more frequent, application development cycles, with security integrated from end. This way, every member, of every part of the development team must be security-oriented from the very start of a project.



The final verdict – where to start with your application security?


When it comes to robust application security, the key ingredient is no corners cut. Covering as many bases as possible will ensure optimal security coverage and reduce the threat of malware. Even though most software development lifecycles do include security, provisions, this sometimes isn’t quite enough. Human error exists. And even the best developers may not be able to identify every single security vulnerability in a new application.


That’s where WAF (web application firewalls) come in. These HTTP application firewalls immediately detect and patch security breaches, whilst constantly gathering detailed intelligence on attack traffic to produce security reports and detect problems before they hit. Integrating web application firewalls into your application development process is a smart move that will help you establish targeted protection and establish total security for web and mobile APIs.

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