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NGINX App Protect, ModSecurity WAF, and open-appsec Compared

As web applications play a critical role in modern businesses, ensuring they’re secure is of utmost importance. And so, to defend against cyber threats, many organizations rely on Web Application Firewalls (WAFs) to provide an extra layer of security.

In this article, we will compare three WAF solutions – NGINX App Protect, ModSecurity WAF, and open-appsec WAF.

We will explore their similarities and differences in features, performance, ease of use, and more, to help you decide which WAF solution is right for your organization.

Whether you're a seasoned security professional or just starting your research, this article will provide valuable insights into these three WAF solutions.

Difference Between NGINX App Protect, ModSecurity WAF, and open-appsec WAF


NGINX App Protect WAF

ModSecurity WAF

open-appsec WAF


It is not an open-source application security solution.

It is an open-source solution.

It is an open-source solution, and a third party has independently verified its source code.

Ease of configuration

Relatively simple to configure but requires on-going tuning.

A beginner might find it difficult to configure.

It is easy to configure.

False positives




WAF community and customer service

It has a medium-sized community.

It has a large community of users and developers.

open-appsec WAF is a relatively new solution and has a smaller community. However, the small community size means it's easy to get help from an administrator if you encounter any issues when using the solution.

Machine-learning WAF approach

Doesn’t use machine learning to protect web applications.

Does not rely on machine learning for web application security.

It uses machine learning to offer more effective protection for your web app.

Zero-day protection




Similarities between NGINX App Protect, ModSecurity WAF, and open-appsec WAF

  1. All three solutions protect against web application security threats, such as SQL injection, cross-site scripting (XSS), and malicious file uploads.

  2. All three solutions can integrate with the NGINX web server to provide enhanced security for web applications.

  3. They provide real-time protection against security threats, preventing attackers from compromising web applications.

  4. All three solutions can be easily configured and customized to meet specific security needs.

  5. They provide scalable protection for web applications, regardless of size or complexity.

  6. All three solutions are designed to have minimal impact on performance, allowing web applications to operate efficiently.

NGINX APP Protect Web Application Firewall

NGINX App Protect is a WAF that helps keep your web application firewall safe from malicious attacks. It uses policies to defend your web apps from SQLi, XSS, DDoS, and other web attacks.

Additionally, the NGINX App Protect acts as a load balancer, content cache, web server, and API gateway to create a strong protective barrier for your applications. It works seamlessly in all DevOps environments as a WAF or an app-level DoS defense for your web apps.

Below are two of its most outstanding features.

Features of the NGINX App Protect WAF

  • Large request blocking

Since a large request can exhaust your web app's CPU time, memory, and disk space and make it susceptible to brute-force attacks, the NGINX App Protect blocks web requests that are more than 10MB, including file uploads. It automatically disallows the access of 30+ notoriously malicious file types like .wmz, .p7b, .bak, etc., and also allows you to customize this default setting to help reduce the chances of false positives.

  • XML, gRPC, and JSON content monitoring and parsing

XML, gRPC, and JSON all share the common functionality of transmitting data and communicating between different (client and server) applications and devices. Now, because of their crucial role, the presence of malicious software in them can be catastrophic to your web app.

To prevent this, the NGINX App Protect uses the XML, JSON, and gRPC content profile to detect and remove malicious content and signatures in their respective element values. It also enforces size restrictions and prohibits access to unknown fields, although it does allow you to customize the maximum size and structure depths.

Pros and Cons of NGINX App Protect



It is flexible and can be integrated into all DevOps environments.

It takes time to be deployed and has a complex setup procedure.

It acts as an effective reverse proxy.

Its policies are created and handled manually, and this process takes time.

It is not expensive and offers a free 30-day trial.

It doesn’t increase web latency.

ModSecurity Web Application Firewall

The ModSecurity WAF is an open-source web application security solution that uses core and commercial rules to protect your web apps from malicious attacks. It monitors web traffic requests and prevents unauthorized access to your web applications by checking all income requests against the security rules you set in the WAF.

In addition, It works as a web server module for different web servers like NGINX, Microsoft IIS, and Apache. It was initially built to be Apache-independent, but since the release of its 3.0 version, it now has a central library that can easily connect it to different servers – including a dynamic support module that allows you to customize a third-party module of your choice.

Here are two of its basic features.

Two Main Features of ModSecurity Web Application Firewall