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  • 03/10/2003
    5:00 PM
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Proxies Add a Protective Shield

Web security proxies--aka, Web application firewalls--can detect and mitigate common attacks, but configuration is crucial. Kavado InterDo and Sanctum AppShield ran neck-and-neck, but AppShield captured the top spot--for now.

After months of testing, we found that adding a Web security proxy will give you a defensive advantage only if the configuration is perfectly tuned. Deciding which security proxy to deploy depends largely on the Web applications you're protecting; in fact, to gain the highest level of security, you should design your Web sites and applications in concert with the nuances of your selected security proxy. Here are a few tips:



Attack LineUp
click to enlarge
• Separate your Web apps. Global configuration limitations mean that accommodating one application may reduce the protection of another. The solution: Separate large, complex Web applications and deploy multiple security proxies, each tuned for the security needs of its application. Global configurations for an online e-commerce site differ widely from those for an intranet running Microsoft Exchange OWA (Outlook Web Access); using a single security proxy to protect both results in one-size-fits-all protection. You could do better.

• Implement client-side form-field filtering. Many security proxies abruptly halt insecure HTML form data submissions, possibly confusing or scaring off users who accidentally include restricted characters. You will need to implement client-side form-field filtering via active scripting to keep users from accidentally triggering malicious character alerts.

• Beware proprietary data formats. There's little help available for applications that tunnel proprietary data formats via HTTP, such as Microsoft RDS (Remote Data Service) or Java RMI (Remote Method Invocation). You may be able to get a security proxy to pass the arbitrary data, but don't expect the proxy to secure it let alone understand it. For example, none of the products we tested could defend against our vulnerable FrontPage Web site because the products didn't understand the proprietary RPC (Remote Procedure Call) mechanism used by FrontPage.

• Check your HTML. Some proxies parse HTML pages as they are sent to the client. Using well-formed HTML and avoiding client-side JavaScript form manipulation helps the proxy understand your application better, and thus protect you better.


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