What is Runtime Application Self Protection (RASP)

An increasing number of organizations are using DevOps to improve enterprise applications’ development, deployment, and maintenance. DevOps is a positive step, but it can introduce security risks.

The new approach, called DevSecOps, helps identify and mitigate these issues early in the development lifecycle by incorporating security into the DevOps process. However, several impediments remain between the security and development teams.

See Also: Cloud Application Security Guide with Best Practices

Because of the competitive nature of software development, organizations require lightning-fast delivery speeds to remain competitive. Fast delivery times can cause DevOps and SecOps teams to split up. Some developers are solely concerned with application development and do not consider security one of their primary responsibilities.

It mostly leaves the SecOps teams to scan for vulnerabilities in the production environment later. But it is everyone’s responsibility to shift the mindset to security to move security to the forefront of the building process.

One way to protect applications from attacks is to protect themselves by detecting and blocking attacks in real-time. Real-time blocking is precisely what technology called Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP) does.

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Runtime implementation self-protection (RASP) is a relatively new approach. However, it can help close the gap, providing runtime-level protection, peace of mind, and information to developers about vulnerable lines of code.

This article provides an overview of Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP) and what it is all about.

What is Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP)?

Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP) is a technology that runs on a server and kicks in when an application is running. RASP is designed to detect attacks against an application in real-time.

Once an application is running, RASP can protect it from malicious input or behavior by analyzing the application’s behavior and the context of that behavior. By using the application to monitor its behavior constantly, attacks can be instantly identified and mitigated without human intervention.

Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP) incorporates security into a running application wherever it resides on a server. It intercepts all calls from the application to a system, ensuring they are secure and verifying data requests directly within the application.

Both web and non-web applications can be protected by RASP. Because the detection and protection features of RASP run on the server where the application is running, the technology does not affect the application’s design.

How Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP) Works

When a security event occurs in an application, RASP takes control of the application and fixes the problem. RASP will only generate an alarm that something is wrong in diagnostic mode. In protection mode, it will attempt to resolve the issue. For example, it can prevent the execution of instructions to the database, which looks like a SQL injection attack.

Other actions that RASP can take include ending a user’s session, stopping the execution of an application, or alerting the user or security personnel.

Software developers can access RASP technology through function calls in an application’s source code or take a completed application and put RASP in a wrapper that enables the application to be secured with the push of a button.

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The first approach is more accurate because developers can specify which parts of the application they want to protect, such as logins, database queries, and administrative functions.

Whatever method is used with RASP, the result is like equipping a web application firewall with the application’s runtime context. This close connection to the application means that RASP can be more fine-tuned to the application’s security needs.

The primary capabilities of Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP) are:

  • Application protection: Accurately stop the exploitation of application vulnerabilities without interrupting legitimate application usage.
  • Application threat intelligence: Providing security teams with down-to-code visibility into who is attacking, the techniques they use, and the applications they target.

Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP) analyzes the behavior and context of a web or non-web application when it is integrated, protecting the software from malicious input. RASP assists in identifying and mitigating attacks in real-time without the need for human intervention by constantly monitoring its behavior through the application.

Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP) software integrates with the runtime environment of the application and works with it wherever it is located or created, such as a server, virtual machine, container, or serverless function.

Also, the detection and protection features of RASP do not affect the architecture, design, and implementation of the application. RASP ensures that vulnerabilities are not exploited by examining all requests at a specific, strategic stack location in the application. It also validates data requests directly within the application. As a result, it is easy to provide runtime protection inside the application that protects it from threats.

Traditional security tools, such as virtual private networks (VPNs), web application firewalls, and network access controls (NACs), can be time-consuming to configure, and developers are frequently excluded from these configurations. RASP is a straightforward way for developers to participate in the security process and protect the applications they create at runtime.

This means that authenticated users have extensive network access, increasing the scope of the compromised area and enabling wide-ranging breaches. RASP can help protect the application even when malicious people infiltrate firewalls and other perimeter software.

RASP blocks attacks as they happen, but you can configure it to flag attacks. Flagging and generating alarms rather than preventing attacks is especially important when usability is a significant concern. It works by defining rules or policies that determine what to block or allow. That’s why you need to define these policies to avoid blocking legitimate traffic properly.

What Are the Benefits of Runtime Application Self Protection (RASP)?

Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP) is unique because it runs from within the software, not as a network device. This enables RASP to take advantage of all contextual information available within the running application or API, such as the code, framework configuration, application server configuration, libraries and frameworks, runtime data flow, backend connections, and more. More context means more protection and better accuracy. More context indicates more excellent security and better accuracy.

Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP) distinguishes itself from other cybersecurity solutions by focusing on a single application. Because of this focus, it can provide several security benefits:

  • Contextual Awareness: When a RASP solution detects a potential threat, it has additional contextual information about the current state of the application, including which data and code are affected. This context helps investigate, prioritize, and fix potential vulnerabilities because it shows where the exposure is in the code and how it can be fully exploited.
  • Visibility in Application Layer Attacks: RASP has extensive visibility at the application layer as it integrates with a specific application. This application-layer visibility, insight, and knowledge can aid in the detection of a broader range of potential threats and vulnerabilities.
  • Zero-Day Protection: While RASP can detect attacks using signatures, it is not limited to this method. RASP can detect and prevent zero-day attacks by detecting and responding to anomalous behaviors within the protected application.
  • Low False Positives: RASP has in-depth knowledge of an application’s internals, including the ability to see how a potential attack affects application execution. This significantly increases RASP’s ability to distinguish actual attacks from false positives. This reduction in false positives reduces the burden on security teams and allows them to focus on real threats.
  • Easy Maintenance: RASP operates based on application insight rather than traffic rules, learning, or blacklists. SOC teams appreciate dependability and CISOs value resource savings. Furthermore, apps are self-protecting and secure wherever they go.
  • Flexible Deployment: RASP is usually based on HTML standards, but its API is easily adaptable to work with other standards and application architectures. This enables it to protect non-web applications by utilizing standards such as XML and RPC.
  • Cloud Support: RASP is designed to be integrated and deployed as part of its protection application. This enables the deployment of protected applications anywhere they can run, including the cloud.
  • DevSecOps Support: RASP solutions are intended for use as part of a DevOps continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) pipeline. This simplifies the deployment of RASP and supports DevSecOps operations.

Reasons to Use Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP) Solution

  • RASP technology enhances application security by monitoring inputs and blocking those that could allow attacks. It also safeguards the runtime environment against unauthorized changes and tampering.
  • RASP protects against exploitation and can block any traffic displaying malicious behavior, such as SQL injection, vulnerabilities, and bots. In addition, it can log out the user when it detects a threat. It can also alert security personnel.
  • RASP can be embedded directly into the application. Therefore, it is easy for developers to deploy and can naturally monitor application behavior and protect itself. In addition, it blocks attacks with high accuracy, distinguishes attacks from legitimate requests, and reduces false positives.
  • When RASP is used correctly, the application is already designed to protect itself. This is beneficial to the security team because it allows security engineers to focus solely on issues that have been reported.
  • RASP offers better protection from zero-day exploits (cyberattacks that occur on the day a software vulnerability is discovered), as well as a short-term fix when an application’s patch is unavailable for an extended period.
  • RASP offers lower CapEx and OpEx. This is because RASP solutions quickly and effectively block attacks until the underlying vulnerabilities are fixed. As a result, it is much less expensive to deploy and operate than a Web Application Firewall (WAF). In addition, RASP technology observes what the application is doing and therefore does not require the same tuning, model building, validation, or human resources.
  • RASP is cloud and DevOps ready. RASP is well-suited to agile development, cloud applications, and web services. It speeds up agile development by protecting without requiring rework, unlike WAF solutions, which require constant tuning. In addition, RASP solutions observe actual application behavior, so they do not need to recalibrate statistical and other models.
  • RASP provides unprecedented application monitoring. By controlling the entire application, RASP simplifies application security monitoring. When relevant parts of the application are accessed or other conditions are met, RASP policies can generate log events.
  • With RASP, all this application logging is possible without modifying or redeploying the application source code. In addition, policies can be added and removed as needed, for example, as part of case studies.
  • RASP excels at providing visibility into application-layer attacks. RASP constantly includes information about who attacked you, what techniques they used, and which of your applications or data assets were being targeted.
  • RASP provides implementation details, including complete lines of code associated with a vulnerability, full backend connection details, transaction information, and the currently logged-in user, in addition to full HTTP request details.
  • Using RASP gives software development teams immediate visibility, helping to prioritize work and take coordinated action on security defenses.
  • Because RASP is not a hardware box, it can be easily deployed in all environments, including development and testing. RASP provides instant visibility into application attacks and stops attacks quickly.

How RASP and WAF Complement Each Other to Increase Security?

Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP) and Web Application Firewall (WAF) are complementary application security solutions. WAF provides the first line of defense by filtering many threats to web applications before they reach the target application.

See Also: An In-Depth Look at Cloud Workload Protection Platforms (CWPP)

RASP uses the context of profound visibility into these applications to identify and block swarming attacks by the Web Application Firewall. This combination protects against more sophisticated threats while minimizing the impact of easily detectable attacks.

Runtime Application Self-Protection (RASP) has some similarities to traditional firewalls. For example, it examines traffic and content and can terminate sessions. However, firewalls are a perimeter technology, and they cannot see what is going on inside the perimeter.

See Also: Details You Need to Know About the Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB)

WAF has no idea what’s going on inside apps. Also, with the rise of cloud computing and the proliferation of mobile devices, the environment has become more permeable. This has reduced the effectiveness of both general-purpose firewalls and web application firewalls (WAFs).

But protecting web applications against modern threats requires going beyond using RASP with WAF and replacing them with a modern solution.

See Also: What is Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM)

The next generation of WAF has automated Web Application and API Protection (WAAP). WAAP solutions acknowledge that companies are increasingly exposing their web application programming interfaces (APIs) to the internet. WAAP solutions provide comprehensive protection for both web applications and APIs.

Surkay Baykara
Surkay Baykarahttps://www.pcidssguide.com
A passionate Senior Information Security Consultant working at Cyberwise. Over the past 15+ years my professional career has included several positions beginning as a developer and IT administrator, working my way up to a senior Technical Performance Consultant before joining Biznet back in 2015. I had several different roles at Cyberwise, including Penetration Tester and PCI DSS QSA. In my job as a QSA, I found my passion and worked closely with the Audit and Compliance team. I've been working inside InfoSec for over 15 years, coming from a highly technical background. I have earned several certifications during my professional career including; CEH, CISA, CISSP, and PCI QSA.

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