Java Security Wasn’t Built in a Day — But It Can Be
Protecting your Java apps from cyber threats requires investments in both security products as well as human expertise. However, with so many options available, it can be difficult to determine which products are worth the investment. Many companies approach the problem of application security by layering expensive Web Application Firewalls (WAFs) on top of each other.
For companies running their systems in java, application security can be particularly deceptive, since the upfront cost of products like WAFs often pale in comparison to the amount you’ll need to spend on upkeep if you want them to stay effective. Java is already incredibly memory-hungry. When you put a WAF or RASP in front of it, you’re going to increase your memory usage significantly, which will add a massive performance impact to the already impacted memory usage, and drive costs sky-high.
Optimization is an ongoing process. It takes continuous revs over time to optimize a system, and trial and error in order to know what’s working. In this piece, we’ll be looking specifically at security for your java applications, which are notoriously difficult to protect.
If you haven’t seen it yet, a good place to start is checking out our ROI calculator for security products, where you can determine if your system could be more efficient. In order to achieve this goal, we’re going to take a look at how such companies deal with application security and how the process can be streamlined from a high-maintenance hassle into a set-it-and-forget-it model with application layer java security.
Here’s the Thing About WAFs…
Flawed as they may be, WAFs have their place in application security, particularly because they are required to achieve SOC2 compliance. They also do a great job of accomplishing tasks like bot mitigation and DDoS prevention, because those are essentially just brute forces on the network layer specifically trying to break through and gain access to the application layer.
However, WAFs carry significant costs, both financially and in labor hours particularly when used with java applications. They require constant fine tuning to keep them up to date with the application they are protecting, whose code changes frequently along with the threat landscape. Many security teams spend hundreds of hours per month tuning their WAFs to keep them from developing gaps for attackers to exploit. Meanwhile, even in the best of circumstances, WAFs can be bypassed without much effort on the part of the attacker and if they are, there is rarely any other security measure operating at the application layer.
Waratek’s java security platform not only directly protects an application from the development phase, but also keeps the conditions of the application stable. This makes the WAF far more effective, while requiring next to zero hours from the team to maintain. With hundreds of hours given back to the security team per month, they can stop chasing down vulnerabilities and focus on building out further security protections uninterrupted.
Why Are WAFs So Expensive?
And most people are so afraid of tuning the WAF because it appears in regex (regular expression) — it’s this great big string of code that doesn’t look human readable. Most people have no clue what any of it says, and so they are hesitant to mess with it. Any alterations you make to the code can lead to breaking the application behavior. Most security pros don’t want to risk breaking the functionality of a product and spending an unknown amount of time troubleshooting the reason and potential fixes. Making a decision that leads to too much downtime could be a fireable offense.
This is where things get really hairy. Hoping to avoid setting up an application security program that breaks an application, many security pros will turn off the WAFs primary capability and just leave it in detect mode. This means that it is no longer catching potentially harmful traffic in a net. Instead, every request gets let through to the application layer and logged in a giant list instead.
This is particularly difficult in java applications, where average security appliances don’t understand the nuances of the language. This leads to Java-specific vulnerabilities like Insecure Deserialization slipping through, which require rebuilding your business logic. In the long run, this will cost significantly more to patch than a normal application.
Organizations like yours are then met with two major problems:
- When the WAF is only used for logging, the work on the part of the humans in charge of application security increases greatly, as does the cost to the organization.
- When all traffic is let past the only real protection an application has, bad actors can easily gain free reign of the application and its traffic without any resistance at all. By the time this event is flagged and seen by a human, the attacker could have already exfiltrated data or used the foothold to gain further access.
How Can We Help?
With Waratek, you can leave your WAF and protect mode to focus solely on DDoS and bot mitigation. Meanwhile, your immutable security rules layer can automatically scan for and snuff out risks like SQL injections, process forking and insecure deserialization, among others. Waratek’s product does this with 100 percent accuracy. This way, the folks in charge of monitoring the WAF logs will have far fewer alerts to comb through, and they never have to worry about breaking the application behavior.
To learn more about automatically protecting your java applications with Waratek, click here.