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Running API Firewall on Docker for GraphQL API

This guide walks through downloading, installing, and starting Wallarm API Firewall on Docker for GraphQL API request validation. In GraphQL mode, the API Firewall acts as a proxy, forwarding GraphQL requests from users to the backend server using either HTTP or the WebSocket (graphql-ws) protocols. Before the backend execution, the firewall checks the query complexity, depth, and node count of the GraphQL query.

The API Firewall does not validate GraphQL query responses.


Methods to run API Firewall on Docker

The fastest method to deploy API Firewall on Docker is Docker Compose. The steps below rely on using this method.

If required, you can also use docker run. We have provided proper docker run commands to deploy the same environment in this section.

Step 1. Create the docker-compose.yml file

To deploy API Firewall and proper environment using Docker Compose, create the docker-compose.yml with the following content first. In the further steps, you will change this template.

version: '3.8'

    name: api-firewall-network

    container_name: api-firewall
    image: wallarm/api-firewall:v0.7.3
    restart: on-failure
      APIFW_MODE: graphql
      - "8088:8088"
    stop_grace_period: 1s
      - api-firewall-network
    container_name: api-firewall-backend
    restart: on-failure
    stop_grace_period: 1s
      - api-firewall-network

Step 2. Configure the Docker network

If required, change the Docker network configuration defined in docker-compose.ymlnetworks.

The provided docker-compose.yml instructs Docker to create the network api-firewall-network and link the application and API Firewall containers to it.

It is recommended to use a separate Docker network for protected contanerized application and API Firewall to allow their communication without manual linking.

Step 3. Configure the application to be protected with API Firewall

Change the configuration of the containerized application to be protected with API Firewall. This configuration is defined in docker-compose.ymlservices.backend.

The template instructs Docker to boot the specified application Docker container, connecting it to the api-firewall-network and designating the backend network alias. You can define the port as per your requirements.

When setting up your application, include only the necessary settings for a successful container launch. No special API Firewall configuration is required.

Step 4. Configure API Firewall

Pass API Firewall configuration in docker-compose.ymlservices.api-firewall as follows:

With services.api-firewall.volumes, mount the GraphQL specification to the API Firewall container directory:

  • <HOST_PATH_TO_SPEC>: the path to the GraphQL specification for your API located on the host machine. The file format does not matter but usually it is .graphql or gql. For example: /opt/my-api/graphql/schema.graphql.

  • <CONTAINER_PATH_TO_SPEC>: the path to the container directory to mount the GraphQL specification to. For example: /api-firewall/resources/schema.graphql.

With services.api-firewall.environment, please set the general API Firewall configuration through the following environment variables:

Environment variable Description Required?
APIFW_MODE Sets the general API Firewall mode. Possible values are PROXY (default), graphql and API. No
APIFW_GRAPHQL_SCHEMA Path to the GraphQL specification file mounted to the container, for example: /api-firewall/resources/schema.graphql. Yes
APIFW_URL URL for API Firewall. For example: The port value should correspond to the container port published to the host.

If API Firewall listens to the HTTPS protocol, please mount the generated SSL/TLS certificate and private key to the container, and pass to the container the API Firewall SSL/TLS settings described below.
APIFW_SERVER_URL URL of the application described in the mounted specification that should be protected with API Firewall. For example: http://backend:80. Yes
APIFW_GRAPHQL_REQUEST_VALIDATION API Firewall mode when validating requests sent to the application URL:
  • BLOCK blocks and logs requests not matching the mounted GraphQL schema, returning a 403 Forbidden. Logs are sent to the STDOUT and STDERR Docker services.
  • LOG_ONLY logs (but does not block) mismatched requests.
  • DISABLE turns off request validation.
This variable impacts all other parameters, except APIFW_GRAPHQL_WS_CHECK_ORIGIN. For instance, if APIFW_GRAPHQL_INTROSPECTION is false and the mode is LOG_ONLY, introspection requests reach the backend server, but API Firewall generates a corresponding error log.
APIFW_GRAPHQL_MAX_QUERY_COMPLEXITY Defines the maximum number of Node requests that might be needed to execute the query. Setting it to 0 disables the complexity check. The default value is 0. Yes
APIFW_GRAPHQL_MAX_QUERY_DEPTH Specifies the maximum permitted depth of a GraphQL query. A value of 0 means the query depth check is skipped. Yes
APIFW_GRAPHQL_NODE_COUNT_LIMIT Sets the upper limit for the node count in a query. When set to 0, the node count limit check is skipped. Yes
APIFW_GRAPHQL_MAX_ALIASES_NUM Sets a limit on the number of aliases that can be used in a GraphQL document. If this variable is set to 0, it implies that there is no limit on the number of aliases that can be used. Yes
APIFW_GRAPHQL_INTROSPECTION Allows introspection queries, which disclose the layout of your GraphQL schema. When set to true, these queries are permitted. Yes
APIFW_GRAPHQL_FIELD_DUPLICATION Defines whether to allow or prevent the duplication of fields in a GraphQL document. The default value is false (prevent). No
APIFW_GRAPHQL_BATCH_QUERY_LIMIT Sets a limit on the number of queries that can be batched together in a single GraphQL request. If this variable is set to 0, it implies that there is no limit on the number of batched queries. No
APIFW_LOG_LEVEL API Firewall logging level. Possible values:
  • DEBUG to log events of any type (INFO, ERROR, WARNING, and DEBUG).
  • INFO to log events of the INFO, WARNING, and ERROR types.
  • WARNING to log events of the WARNING and ERROR types.
  • ERROR to log events of only the ERROR type.
  • TRACE to log incoming requests and API Firewall responses, including their content.
The default value is DEBUG. Logs on requests and responses that do not match the provided schema have the ERROR type.
APIFW_SERVER_DELETE_ACCEPT_ENCODING If it is set to true, the Accept-Encoding header is deleted from proxied requests. The default value is false. No
APIFW_LOG_FORMAT The format of API Firewall logs. The value can be TEXT or JSON. The default value is TEXT. No
APIFW_SERVER_REQUEST_HOST_HEADER Sets a custom Host header for requests forwarded to your backend after API Firewall validation. No

With services.api-firewall.ports and services.api-firewall.networks, set the API Firewall container port and connect the container to the created network.

Step 5. Deploy the configured environment

To build and start the configured environment, run the following command:

docker-compose up -d --force-recreate

To check the log output:

docker-compose logs -f

Step 6. Test API Firewall operation

To test API Firewall operation, send the request that does not match the mounted GraphQL specification to the API Firewall Docker container address.

With APIFW_GRAPHQL_REQUEST_VALIDATION set to BLOCK, the firewall works as follows:

  • If the API Firewall allows the request, it proxies the request to the backend server.

  • If the API Firewall cannot parse the request, it responds with the GraphQL error with a 500 status code.

  • If the validation fails by the API Firewall, it does not proxy the request to the backend server but responds to the client with 200 status code and GraphQL error in response.

If the request does not match the provided API schema:

  • The API Firewall returns the following response:

      "errors": [
          "message":"invalid query"
  • The appropriate ERROR message is added to the API Firewall Docker container logs, e.g. in the JSON format:

      "errors": [
          "message": "field: name not defined on type: Query",
          "path": [

In scenarios where multiple fields in the request are invalid, only a singular error message will be generated.

Step 7. Enable traffic on API Firewall

To finalize the API Firewall configuration, please enable incoming traffic on API Firewall by updating your application deployment scheme configuration. For example, this would require updating the Ingress, NGINX, or load balancer settings.

Stopping the deployed environment

To stop the environment deployed using Docker Compose, run the following command:

docker-compose down

Using docker run to start API Firewall

To start API Firewall on Docker, you can also use regular Docker commands as in the examples below:

  1. To create a separate Docker network to allow the containerized application and API Firewall communication without manual linking:

    docker network create api-firewall-network
  2. Start the containerized application to be protected with API Firewall:

    docker run --rm -it --network api-firewall-network \
        --network-alias backend -p <HOST_PORT>:<CONTAINER_PORT> <IMAGE_WITH_GRAPHQL_APP>
  3. To start API Firewall:

    docker run --rm -it --network api-firewall-network --network-alias api-firewall \
        -p 8088:8088 wallarm/api-firewall:v0.7.3
  4. When the environment is started, test it and enable traffic on API Firewall following steps 6 and 7.