Why vulnerable code should be fixed even after WAF mitigation

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Originally Posted by Jeremiah Grossman here:
http://jeremiahgrossman.blogspot.com/feeds/1258786829927282222/comments/default


Websites have vulnerabilities, vulnerabilities that are found by vulnerability assessment solutions, which are then communicated to Web Application Firewalls (WAF) for virtual patch mitigation. Given the extremely heightened activity of our adversaries, compliance requirements, volume of existing vulnerabilities, and money/time/human resource constraints this approach is becoming more common every day. What also becomes common is the question management and development groups ask of IT Security, “If the vulnerability is patched by a WAF, then why do we need to fix the code?” A reasonable question and one we need to be prepared to answer with something better than proclaiming, “Because it is the right thing to do!” Obviously this is unconvincing as it provides no reasonable business justification. Here are some ideas:

  1. Developers really like to copy code, even insecure code, which may eventually lead to new vulnerable Web applications launched outside deployed WAF protection.
  2. WAFs, like code, are not perfect and cannot always compensate for complex encoding/decoding application interactions, which could open the door to bypassing security rules.
  3. A vulnerable Web application feature may be delivered now or in the future via XML APIs, Flash, iPhone application, etc. and by extension live beyond WAF protection.
  4. WAFs tend to fail open, and when they do, it would be preferable not to have vulnerabilities as an active risk of exposure indefinitely.
  5. A WAF may not be positioned to protect against the insider threat.
  6. WAF rules are often exploit and not vulnerability focused, so may protect against some specific attack variants, but miss others. For the same reason, non-exploitable vulnerabilities may continue to be reported by vulnerability assessment solutions.
  7. Fixing a vulnerability in the code *right* will often systematically resolve an entire class of issues both now and take them off the table in the future.
  8. Compliance or customer security standards may require an application be tested without the WAF protection.
8804
Webappsec->General
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