The ins and outs of RASP

RASP is the abbreviation for Runtime Application Self Protection. It is a modern technology for the security of applications. RASP ensures the protection of web applications during runtime. It thwarts malicious activities that are aimed at compromising Internet applications and APIs (Application Programming Interface) which have coding vulnerabilities. The most efficient RASPs ensure protection against flaws that have to do with design, which are also known as business logic flaws. As a security technology, Runtime Application Self Protection, uses runtime instrumentation for detecting as well as blocking computer attacks. This is attained by utilizing the information that is inside a running software. RASP is an effective solution for systems where security is of paramount importance as it significantly reduces the probability of security breaches. RASP ensures the protection of web-based and non-web-based apps and its features with regard to protection and detection function on the server on which the app is running.

RASP’s technology is different from the technology that is used in a perimeter-based protection which detects and blocks attacks through the use of network information without any contextual awareness. The technology of RASP is aimed at improving the security of software. This is done by monitoring the inputs into a particular software and by blocking those that are vulnerable to attacks along with ensuring the protection of the runtime environment by keeping it safe from unwanted changes. Applications that are protected by Runtime Application Self Protection depend less on external devices, such as firewalls, for delivering runtime security protection. In the event that a threat is detected, RASP prevents exploitation by taking actions that include shutting down the application, ending a user’s session, issuing a warning to the user etc. A RASP system has different modes of operation, such as the block mode and the monitor mode. The block mode stops requests that are malicious whereas the monitor mode records and notifies attacks but it doesn’t block requests. Moreover, it intercepts every call from an app to a system and ensures security. Data requests are validated by it inside an app.

The technology of RASP runs on a server and starts working whenever an application runs. It is meant to detect attacks on applications in real time and ensure the security of running applications. When an application runs, a Runtime Application Self Protection tool protects it against harmful inputs by analysing the app’s functioning as well as the context. This continuous monitoring makes it possible for attacks to be identified and mitigated instantly without the need for any human intervention.

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Implementation and Deployment of RASP

The integration of RASP can be as a framework or module which functions along with the codes, libraries and system calls of a program. The technology of RASP can be implemented in a virtualized form.

The deployment of RASP solutions can happen in two ways. These are monitoring mode and self-protection mode. In the monitoring mode, RASP solutions report attacks on applications but do not block the attacks. In the self-protection mode, RASP solutions report as well as block attacks on applications.

Why is RASP needed?

The need for RASP becomes essential as software vulnerabilities, such as zero-day, keep increasing. Moreover, certain applications cannot be secured adequately pre-release. There are situations where applications either can’t or won’t gain any benefit by undergoing testing for pre-release application security. Examples of such scenarios include codes developed by third parties, applications that are expensive to fix, applications that are not under active development etc.

Entities that are Benefitted by RASP Solutions

RASP’s benefits are reaped majorly by developers, application security stakeholders and security leaders. RASP tools provide information with regard to where vulnerabilities exist in a codebase. Such data help developers to redress existing vulnerabilities. Additionally, it makes them aware of what needs to be done in order to avoid encountering such vulnerabilities again.

Application security stakeholders benefit from RASP because RASP tools track attempts to exploit vulnerabilities in applications. The data related to it help stakeholders when it comes to training developers with regard to coding securely. Moreover, it enables them to report defects to third party software vendors.

Security leaders benefit from RASP as the analysis provided by it is not only accurate but also aids in understanding vulnerabilities as well as attack techniques. This helps security leaders to make the necessary changes in their technical controls and policies accordingly.

The most Important Attributes of RASP

Any versatile and efficient RASP solution should have certain attributes. These are mentioned below.

  • Visibility into the application- RASP tools provide code level visibility. This enables RASP solutions to identify attacks accurately.

  • Presence of active and passive incident response features– A RASP tool should have monitoring and blocking modes, so that its users have the ability to configure it for logging, alerting and blocking identified attacks.

  • Support for multiple platforms and languages- Any efficient RASP tool should be able to provide support for the most common languages, such as .NET, Java and for new languages along with their associated frameworks.

  • Coverage for an extensive range of vulnerabilities- There should be coveragefor web application vulnerabilities that are common as well as for request validation that is general along with analysis.

Advantages of RASP

Function-level code visibility into an application enables a RASP solution to gain insight into data event flows, application logic, configuration, underlying code libraries etc. This helps it to distinguish attacks and genuine requests extremely accurately. A RASP tool’s total cost of ownership is lower than that of other monitoring and protection tools. Another benefit of a RASP tool is that it can protect a system post an attack on WAFs (Web Application Firewalls). It is capable of self-protecting data.

Another advantage of a RASP is that it enables security teams to understand vulnerabilities by providing an in-depth analysis. It not only ensures real-time protection of applications but also intercepts every type of traffic that can cause harm. By monitoring application behaviour and because of it being built directly into an application, RASP is able to thwart attacks with high accuracy. Moreover, RASP delivers an enhanced level of protection against a zero-day attack. A short-term fix is provided by a RASP tool in the event that an application’s patch is not available for a long duration.

Limitations of RASP

RASPs cannot ensure protection against different types of vulnerabilities single-handedly. These need to be used along with other security tools to ensure the implementation of a comprehensive application security strategy. Moreover, by residing inside an application, RASP solutions can impact performance. This impact is usually not significant and it depends on the RASP tool. Any RASP tool needs to be compatible with its application’s language. If that is not the case then it will not serve any purpose.

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