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Though I’ll admit to a bit of skepticism about Runtime Application Self Protection (RASP), I was nevertheless impressed with a recent look at Prevoty. The two-year-old company’s product, which currently has support for Java and .NET Web applications and services, can be dropped into production systems without recoding being required, uses a separate server (either on premise or in the cloud) to do the heavy compute parts, and seems to have a smarter-than-average approach to determining the application context in which requests (such as SQL queries) are made within the running application.
Getting the context right is important in RASP, because otherwise you’re more or less just melding the brains of a web application firewall (WAF) to each of your applications—to no particular advantage over just using a real WAF. Nor is context all that easy to get. It’s not simply a matter of scanning the code or scanning user input on the fly, and Prevoty does no static scanning or signature hunting, according to Prevoty CTO Kunal Anand, who started his career working on Mars rovers at NASA, moved on to build and run the security team at MySpace, then graduated to be the technology head for BBC Worldwide.
Like some other RASP products (Arxan’s, for instance), Prevoty can either be used in a completely automatic fashion, where programmers don’t have to change a single line of code. “They’re simply including the Prevoty JAR files and adding it to the XML file for execution,” Anand explains.
There’s also an SDK approach where developers directly call Prevoty functions at appropriate moments in the control flow of their applications.
The automatic approach offers both a passive learning mode and a mode that will take action when problems are detected. The passive mode, being asynchronous, does not impact the normal performance of the application. The active mode’s performance impact depends on whether the deployment is using an on-premise engine or the cloud engine. If it’s on premise, Anand says customers are seeing round-trip times between app and engine in the range of one to two milliseconds. Cloud users see round trips of 20 to 40 milliseconds. Processing at the engine takes seven milliseconds.