Microsoft Thwarts Cyber-Attacks with Azure Web Application Firewall

The Azure Web Application Firewall is now generally available, allowing customers to deflect cyber-attacks aimed at application hosted on Microsoft's cloud.

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Microsoft is making it harder for cyber-attackers to target web applications hosted on its Azure cloud computing platform.

Azure Web Application Firewall (WAF), a component of the company's Azure Application Gateway offering, is now generally available in all public Azure data center regions. Azure Application Gateway is a cloud-based HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) load-balancing and SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) offloading system that enables businesses to build and deliver scalable and secure web applications.

With the addition of the Web Application Firewall, customers can now fortify their applications, making them less susceptible to cross-site scripting attacks, SQL injection and other methods of exploiting or disrupting web applications. The firewall provides protection for up to 20 websites per gateway.

In its analysis of web security landscape for the fourth quarter of 2016, Akamai found that SQL injection was responsible for 51 percent of all web application attacks. As the term suggests, SQL injection involves inserting or "injecting" code into database-driven applications for the purposes of tampering with data, extracting information and other activities that pose a risk to sensitive or critical business data.

In addition to blocking SQL injection and cross-site scripting attempts, Azure Web Application Firewall can stop other common attack methods like remote file inclusion, command injection and HTTP request smuggling and response splitting, explained Yousef Khalidi, corporate vice president of Azure Networking at Microsoft, in a March 30 blog post.

It can also thwart attacks that depend on HTTP protocol anomalies and violations, along with misconfigured Apache and Internet Information Services (IIS) deployments, among other servers and applications involved in delivering a web application.

Automated tools like bots and crawlers are similarly blocked. Finally, the firewall helps customers stand up to debilitating HTTP denial-of-service attacks, added Khalidi.

Packing a big punch, courtesy of vast armies of compromised PCs and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, denial-of-service attacks have emerged into one of the leading threats affecting today's web-facing businesses.

Last September, a website belonging to renowned security blogger Brian Krebs was hit with a massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that overwhelmed his site with 665 Gbps of disruptive traffic.

 The scale of the attack forced Akamai, the content delivery network who provided DDoS protection to the blog, to drop its support Krebs. Around the same time, French cloud computing company OVH reported a DDoS attack approaching 1 Tbps.

For watchful administrators, Khalidi added that the new firewall "provides the ability to monitor web applications against attacks using a real-time WAF log that is integrated with Azure Monitor to track WAF alerts and easily monitor trends. The JSON [JavaScript Object Notation] formatted log goes directly to the customer's storage account."

Azure Web Application Firewall logs can also be used with Operations Management Suite, Microsoft's cloud-based IT management product, for advanced analytics. An integration with Azure Security Center is in the works enabling unified security management, added Khalidi.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...