IronBee: Creating an open source web application firewall

Qualys announced IronBee, a new open source project to provide the next-generation of web application firewall (WAF) technology.

Led by the team who designed and built ModSecurity, the new project aims to produce a web application firewall sensor that is secure, high-performing, portable, and freely available – even for commercial use.

A WAF is typically an appliance, server plug-in, or software-based filter that applies a set of rules to an HTTP conversation in order to monitor and control the movement of data, thus keeping it secure from possible attacks. By customizing the rules of a WAF, many attacks can be identified and blocked.

The increasing use of web applications and the transition to cloud computing makes it necessary to deploy WAF technology to protect data and meet regulations such as payment card industry (PCI) compliance. With the launch of IronBee, Qualys is creating a sustainable community for commercial and open source contributors that will ensure that companies of all sizes are able to use next-generation WAF technology to protect their data and IT assets.

IronBee will provide:

  • State-of-the-art application security inspection engine that provides new processing tools and analysis for HTTP traffic.
  • Apache Software License v2, a non-viral open source license that allows individuals and commercial organizations alike to participate, creating a community of users as well as a community of developers.
  • Portability, built from the ground up to work in multiple deployment modes, such as passive, embedded, out of process, and reverse proxy.
  • Modular architecture, enabling contributors to easily implement their own modules without requiring deep understanding of the IronBee architecture, as well as allowing straightforward packaging of configuration information and modules appropriate to user needs.
  • Community collaboration effort in order to capture, centralize and share the information needed to defend web applications.

“It’s increasingly clear that no matter how good we are at secure programming (SDLC), and no matter how effective our code scanning and vulnerability analysis tools are, neither approach can ‘solve’ our web application security problem…The key mantra is shield and patch. When we discover a new vulnerability, we (if possible) shield ourselves through firewalls and other perimeter techniques to buy us time to fix (patch) the underlying problem. No, it doesn’t always work and we still have a heck of a lot of progress to make, but it is a fundamentally sound approach,” said Rich Mogull, founder of Securosis.

“Due to the proliferation of cloud computing and web applications, it is quite obvious that no single company alone can fight the sophistication of attacks we are now facing,” said Philippe Courtot, chairman and CEO for Qualys. “We are now enthused to introduce IronBee as an open source project so we can leverage the collective intelligence of the community to develop a cloud-based WAF with a diverse rule set that can help protect us all against cyber attacks.”

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