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Incapsula WAF vs. Cloudflare WAF: A Side-by-Side Comparison



Introduction

In the world of web security, a Web Application Firewall (WAF) is an essential tool for protecting your online assets. With so many WAF options available in the market, choosing the right one can be a daunting task. This article reviews the Cloudflare WAF and the Incapsula (Imperva) WAF, including their features, benefits, differences, similarities, and pros and cons.


We also added a bonus review of the open-appsec open-source WAF – so stick to the end of this article to read it.



Comparison Table: Incapsula WAF vs. Cloudflare WAF vs. open-appsec WAF

Factors

Incapsula WAF

Cloudflare WAF

open-appsec WAF

Free version

No free version.

Has a free monthly plan.

It has a free version and a paid premium version.

Type of system configuration used

Not available.

Not available.

Declarative configuration.

open-source

It is not open-source.

It is not open-source.

It is open-sourced with a source code that a third party independently verified.

Maintenance complexity

Complex maintenance procedure.

Complex maintenance procedure.

Offers simplified maintenance due to the absence of threat signatures, rules, and exception handling.

Shared threat intelligence

It doesn’t offer shared threat intelligence.

It offers shared threat intelligence to all Cloudflare users to help curb zero-day attacks.

It doesn’t offer shared threat intelligence but uses its offline machine learning model to gather insight about web attacks and zero-days.

Rulesets and policies

It offers brief rulesets called policies.

Has more detailed rulesets that are divided into managed, customized, and OWASP ModSecurity core rulesets.

Doesn’t offer rules and exceptions instead, it uses machine learning WAF to protect your web application against attacks.

Zero-day detection

Not available

Uses shared threat intelligence to detect zero-day attacks.

Uses machine learning-based threat prevention to detect and prevent zero-day attacks.

False positives

Medium-High

Medium-High

Low

Web latency

Few cases of increased web latency.

Many cases of high web latency, especially when integrating with some hosting services.

Zero cases of increased web latency.

WAF community and customer service

It has a large community, and so it could take days before an admin helps you resolve your problems.

It also has a large community.

Has a small community, so it doesn’t take time before an admin replies to your message and helps you solve any problem you encounter while using open-appsec.


Incapsula WAF vs Cloudflare WAF: What Are Their Similarities?

Here are some similarities between the Incapsula and the Cloudflare Web Application Firewall Software.

  • They allow their users to set and block requests from specific countries, URLs, and IDs to help mitigate attacks.

  • Both of them offer cloud-based WAF security services.

  • They both offer virtual patching services to help update your app in the event of an attack.

  • For their enterprise customers, they offer an around-the-clock hotline and a 100% uptime guarantee with financial penalties if these conditions are not met.

  • They make use of machine learning to track malicious traffic.

  • Both are not open-source software.

  • They protect website applications from threats such as SQL injections, cross-site scripting, DDOS attacks, etc.



What is Incapsula WAF?



The Incapsula WAF is one of the few web application firewalls that offer both a cloud-based service and an on-premises service called the Imperva WAF Gateway. It has unique and innovative features that make it different from other web application firewalls. Some of them include


Incapsula WAF Features



Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP)


Incapsula’s most peculiar feature is this security software module that monitors unknown payloads and insider or partner threats in real-time.


Virtual Patch Management Module


The Incapsula WAF has added this virtual patch management module to roll out and release ALL software and OS patches to prevent a breach caused by negligence or other human factors.


Policy Management


This feature is mostly for enterprise customers who manage multiple sites from a central site. With this feature, you can block access requests from specific countries, URLs, and IDs and even add exceptions.


Incapsula WAF Gateway (Incapsula’s On-premises WAF)


The on-premises (network-based WAF) feature offers automated security against web attacks and OWASP top 10 attacks. It is best for achieving PCI compliance for businesses that manage branded credit cards.


Cloud WAF security


The Incapsula cloud WAF security offers protection against DDOS attacks and bot mitigation and uses dynamic application profiling to take note of unauthorized URLs.


Pros and Cons of Incapsula WAF

Pros of Incapsula WAF

Cons of Incapsula WAF

Offers both cloud and on-premises WAF services

Needs more data tracking columns in the reporting and analytics section

Easy to navigate UI

The character limit in the traffick query flags off legitimate long URL web requests

Fast and reliable customer services and a 24/7 hotline availability for when you’re under attack

Some custom rules have complex syntax, which makes them challenging for customers

Very effective bot mitigation service

​No zero-day protection as it based on signatures

Low false positives

You need to provide your private keys to Imperva


Cloudflare WAF



Cloudflare WAF is a cloud-based web application service. It provides an effective content distribution network, bot mitigation services, and low web latency.


Apart from its well-equipped free version, its rulesets and policies are two of its most popular features.


Cloudflare WAF Features



Rulesets

In simple terms, they are a set of pre-configured or customizable rules that protect your web apps from zero-day vulnerabilities, sensitive data extraction, OWASP top 10 attacks, etc.


Cloud-based WAF security

Cloudflare takes note of all assigned threat scores from all user data and shares these scores as threat intelligence with all Cloudflare WAF users. This, in turn, gives their users a heads up on newly discovered zero-days, thereby allowing them time to quickly patch their software before they are breached.


Analytics and Reporting

Cloudflare WAF has inbuilt tools for analytics and reporting, so you don’t need to use 3rd party tools for reporting. They offer a vast analytics time range filter from 30 mins to 72 hours to give you a detailed view of your apps’ security.


Other Cloudflare WAF features that are worth mentioning include the following:

  • Virtual patching to fix app vulnerabilities before it becomes too late

  • IP address blacklisting and whitelisting to monitor traffic

  • Full CDN service integration to prevent high web latency


The Pros and Cons of Cloudflare WAF

Pros

Cons

Easy to set-up and use

No zero day protection as it based on signatures

Offers a lot of web application security features in a single place

Integration with some hosting platforms increases web latency

Very good at mitigating attacks

Maximum file upload in the free version is only 100mb

It offers reliable security in its free version

Deep learning curve for beginners

Has customizable rulesets that allow a company to create a tailored web app security

There are some limitations with 3rd party integrations

Seamless integration of SSL encryption without additional hardware components

​You need to provide your private keys to Imperva


Bonus Review: open-appsec

Are you looking for a way to block attacks on your web application before they happen? open-appsec uses machine learning to continuously detect and preemptively block threats before they can do any damage. Our code has also been published on GitHub, and the effectiveness of our WAF has been successfully proven in numerous tests by third parties. Try open-appsec in the Playground today.



open-appsec was founded in 2022 and uses machine learning to protect against web app attacks (like most WAFs). However, open-appsec is one of the few open-source WAFs that can be used as an add-on to Envoy, NGINX, API gateways, etc.


Unlike other WAFs, it offers simplified maintenance because it doesn’t use threat signatures, rules, or exception handling -a feature that makes other WAFs more complex and buggy. It is also open-source (with an independently verified source code), is completely free, and uses the snort engine to prevent intruders from accessing your network.


open-appsec is a relatively new WAF with a small community, which means that you’ll get immediate help if you encounter any issues with the software.


This web-based security management SaaS tool uses declarative configuration to save users the time needed to declare the exact steps leading to a desired system action/outcome. If you want to get a feel for how it works, try the product in our playground.


Main Features of open-appsec WAF

Here are three of the most important features that make the open-appsec WAF peculiar:


1. Machine-level-based web application firewall


Most traditional web application firewalls use signatures to identify web attacks and application-based attacks. While this feature effectively protects web apps against known attacks, it doesn’t do a good job of protecting them against unknown attacks and zero days.


Because of this problem, open-appsec has substituted signatures with a machine learning-based WAF to prevent OWASP-10 attacks and zero-day threats automatically. This is done by monitoring user behaviour, crowd behaviour, content risk, etc. With this feature, open-appsec can stop attacks with minimal tuning, no need for software updates, and very few cases of false positives.


2. API Discovery and security


According to research carried out in 2018 by Akamai, API calls represent 83% of web traffic. These incessant attacks on APIs led the open-appsec team to build this feature into their WAF. This feature helps you find, and create an inventory of your API’s endpoints, narrow your API attack surface, and understand allowed values, types, and ranges, to keep your API activity within safe limits.


The open-appsec WAF helps you understand your API's efficiency and real-time functionalities. It then uses its ML-based WAF and Open API schema validator to block malicious content from accessing your web apps through your APIs.


3. Intrusion Prevention


The open-appsec offers the intrusion prevention feature to monitor and analyze your network traffic and block the advancement of malicious patterns and packets. This WAF prevents intruders in your app by using the snort 3.0 engine, a feature that fends off over 2500 common web vulnerabilities and exposures like SQLi, Cross-site scripting, Insecure Cryptographic storage, etc.


Pros and Cons of open-appsec WAF

Pros

Cons

It uses declarative system configuration to declare actions and outcomes

It is a fairly new WAF

It offers preemptive protection against attacks

It has a small community

It simplifies system maintenance due to the absence of threat signatures, rules, and exception handling

It is open-sourced

It has a free version

It has multiple integrations


Our Verdict

Cloudflare WAF offers detailed WAF features and has a free plan that provides you with just enough web app security. Incapsula WAF’s policy management feature makes it most suited for enterprise clients that manage multiple accounts. And open-appsec’s open-source machine learning WAF approach provides more pre-emptive protection against web attacks.


FAQs


Is Imperva The Same As Incapsula?


Yes, Imperva is the same as Incapsula. The Incapsula WAF was created and recently managed by Imperva.


What Does Imperva Do Better Than Cloudflare?


It offers a policy management feature that allows enterprise clients to easily and effectively make security changes to individual and multiple sites from one central control point.


What Does Cloudflare Do Better Than Imperva?


It offers comprehensive analytics and reporting data on your web apps’ security.


What Does open-appsec Do Better Than Other WAF?


It uses machine-learning algorithms to protect web applications from attacks and offers swift maintenance due to the absence of threat signatures and exception handling.




Experiment with open-appsec for Linux, Kubernetes or Kong using a free virtual lab

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