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Five Essentials for Best of Breed Next Gen Firewalls

Beyond basic network firewall testing scenarios, the specialized firewall testing tools needed to accurately assess next-generation firewall (NGFW) security effective remain out of reach to any but the largest IT department budgets. Therefore, most organizations look to independent hands-on test results from respected research laboratories such as NSS Labs. NSS Labs uses a very specific testing methodology that is run on each of the NGFWs being tested. Their Next-Generation Firewall Product Analysis Report provides detailed information on how a specific firewall scored when tested in these key essential areas:

  • Security Effectiveness
  • Performance
  • Stability and Reliability
  • Management and Configuration
  • Total Cost of Ownership

Security Effectiveness

Security effectiveness verifies that the firewall being tested is capable of enforcing the security policy effectively. Security effectiveness tests include:

Firewall Policy enforcement

Incremental tests that build configuration from simple to complex real world policy consisting of many addresses, policies, applications, inspection engines, protection from DoS attacks, IP spoofing.

Application Control

Firewall is tested to see if it can correctly determine application regardless of ports/protocols used and enforce appropriate application policy granularity.

User/Group ID aware policies

Correctly determine user/group from deep packet inspection and enforce policy with user awareness.

Intrusion Prevention

Correctly block malicious traffic “out of the box” using the default policy (for this test no IPS tuning is allowed).
Evasion Decode/Block basic obfuscated exploits and provide accurate alert based on the actual attack not be fooled by the evasion technique itself.

How did SonicWall next-generation firewalls do? Passed all criteria. Noteworthy SonicWall results included a 97.9 percent exploit block rate. No NGFW tested achieved 100 percent exploit block rate due to constantly changing NSS Labs test suite. However, over the last three years SonicWall has consistently been rated in the leaders quadrant and has demonstrated consistent improved block rate year over year.

Performance

Measures how well a given NGFW performs when subjected to various traffic conditions. No two networks will have the exact same characteristics but this test does provide metrics to gauge if a given NGFW is appropriate in a given environment.

Raw Packet Processing Performance (UDP packets of various sizes are tested) Measures raw packet processing capability of each of the NGFWs in-line port pairs, packet forwarding rate is measured for highest performance /lowest latency.
Latency (packet loss/average latency) Determine the effect the NGFW has on traffic passing through it under various loads. Traffic passes through all port pairs simultaneously.
Maximum Capacity ( generates TCP session based connections and HTTP transactions) Stress the inspection engine with Multi-Gigabit “Real World” traffic generated to determine expected user response times, max connections per second, concurrent open connections, application transaction per second on a backdrop of a heavily utilized network.
HTTP Capacity ““ No Transaction Delay (uses HTTP GET request) How much HTTP traffic can be passed of varying packet sizes and various connection per second loads.
Application average response time ““ HTTP (across all in-line port pairs simultaneously) Measures average HTTP latency using various packet sizes at 90 percent of max load.
HTTP Capacity with Transaction Delay Same as above except introduces 5 second server response delay, forces a high number of open connections.
Real World Traffic (generates protocol mix usually seen by industry verticals, i.e. Financial, education, Data Center, Mobile Carrier, etc”¦ ) Same as previous test, excepts adds additional protocols and real content.

Stability and Reliability

These tests measure how well a next-generation firewall passes legitimate traffic while under attack. To pass, the NGFW must be able to block and alert on 100 percent of the attacks previously blocked while remaining operational.

Blocking under Extended Attack Measures consistency of Blocking. Sends continuous policy violations at 100Mbps over 8 hours.
Passing Legitimate Traffic Under Extended Attack Same as previous test except legitimate traffic is sent in addition. NGFW must pass all legitimate traffic.
Behavior of State Engine Under Load ( Can the NGFW preserve state across large number of connections over extended time. Must not exhaust resources allocated to state tables or “˜leak’ connections through after theoretical max concurrent connection is reached.
Protocol Fuzzing and Mutation Sends random, unexpected, or invalid data to the NGFW, verifies NGFW remains operational and detects/blocks exploit throughout the test.
Power Fail Power is turned off while passing traffic, NGFW should fail closed after power is cut.
Persistence of Data Measures if NGFW retains policy, configuration, log data when restored from power failure.

Total Cost of Ownership and Value

Measures overall costs over of deployment, maintenance and upkeep over the useful life of the product.

Product Purchase Cost of acquisition
Product Maintenance Fees paid to vendor (hardware maintenance, subscription services, etc”¦)
Installation Time required to make the NGFW operational out of the box.
Upkeep Time required to apply vendor supplied firmware, updates, patches.

5 Key Performance Indicators to measure

The SonicWall Security Threat Research team sifts through hundreds of thousands of unique malware samples daily. In their latest threat report, they’ve documented that businesses continue to be under attack in ways that are increasingly difficult to defend against. We often see threat actors using combinations of evasion techniques and modifying their attacks vectors to circumvent firewalls and intrusion detection systems. The multitude of published security breaches proves that many existing network security controls are not working effectively against today’s modern threats. For companies that have been fortunate thus far, it’s time to face some tough questions about your security risks.

  • Are the company’s network security controls doing an effective job?
  • Are we testing and measuring its effectiveness thoroughly? What are the key quantifiable performance metrics?
  • Where do we need to improve to gain a better security posture?

Understandably there are many other important risk-related inquiries concerning different security controls that also require our attention. However, we’ll narrow the focus of this discussion primarily on next-generation firewalls (NGFWs) given their principal role in facilitating secure business communications and data exchanges over the Internet. Thus, the stability, reliability and most importantly, security effectiveness of the NGFW device is imperative when it comes to protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of an information system and its information.

Picture of SonicWall's SuperMassive E10000 Series model

The concept of a “security effectiveness” score is generally recognized today as a decisive network security metric used by IT organizations across all industries. The computed rating helps decision makers establish a reference level in assessing the quality and efficacy of an NGFW based upon “5 performance indicators” identified by NSS Labs, a well-trusted independent information security research firm that supports its product analysis through exhaustive laboratory testing. NGFW devices are tested and rated for their effectiveness, performance, manageability and cost of ownership to provide answers to tough questions faced by IT professionals when selecting and implementing security products. So when NSS documents these scores and makes its recommendations in its published reports, it is solely based upon empirical test data. Testing is performed starting with a baseline configuration to more complex, real-world configurations that simulate varying use cases. The firewall ranking is heavily weighted on 5 key performance indicators that determine the effectiveness score verifying that the firewall is capable of the following:

  1. Intrusion Prevention – correctly blocking malicious traffic based on a comparison of packet/session contents against signatures/filters/protocol decoders without false positives.
  2. Evasion – accurately detecting and blocking known exploits when subjected to varying evasion techniques.
  3. Application Control – accurately executing outbound and inbound policies consisting of many rules, objects, and applications and identifying the correct application, and taking the appropriate control action.
  4. Firewall Policy Enforcement – correctly enforcing firewall rules that permit or deny access from one network resource to another based on identifying criteria such as source, destination, and service.
  5. Stability and Reliability – maintaining security effectiveness while passing malicious traffic under normal or heavy conditions.

The NSS security effectiveness report is the ultimate validation of NGFW quality and performance. The report contains a full range of tests results that have direct relevance towards the evaluation and selection of a capable NGFW to protect and secure your organization. Some of the interesting findings include exploit block rate, coverage by attack vector, impact type and popular applications and resistance to various combination of advanced evasive attacks. As an IT security leader responsible for information and network security in your organization, I’d like to share with you a copy of the NSS Labs report that is packed with important information to serve as a guide when measuring the security effectiveness of your current firewall.

Why Digital Currencies Like Bitcoin Should Be on Your (security) Radar

What’s the equivalent of cash on the Internet? PayPal? Western Union? Bank transfers? No, no and no ““ along with many other obvious choices. Each of these online payment methods first requires some sort of identity verification, whether through government issued ID cards, ties to existing bank accounts or to other resources that are directly linked to your identity. The closest equivalent to cash on the Internet is a collection of decentralized, peer-to-peer digital crypto currencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin and other derivatives. These currencies allow instant online transactions that are completely anonymous, which is exactly what turns them into cash-equivalent payment instruments online. Digital currencies have become increasingly popular over the past several years, with established companies starting to accept them as payments. For example, SonicWall became the largest company in the world to accept Bitcoin as payments with its announcement in 2014. Just a few days ago, Michael SonicWall (@MichaelDell) tweeted that SonicWall received an 85 bitcoin order for servers, which is roughly $50K USD.

Bitcoins and other digital currencies are also called “crypto” currencies because they are generated through “mining”, a process in which banks of computers or specialized processors are set up to “mine” bitcoins by performing complex cryptographic operations of increasing difficulty. The more bitcoins are in circulation, the more difficult the mining becomes. For those who wish to bypass the mining, bitcoins can also be purchased through online exchanges. The value of bitcoins and other digital currencies is not set through any central authority, but is rather a reflection of several variables such as the number of bitcoins in circulation, popularity of a particular currency and very importantly, just like with real cash, trust in the system and people’s expectations of future value of a single unit of currency. Therefore, the decision to accept payments in bitcoin and other digital currencies carries an additional risk due to the volatility of the bitcoin value. On the day of publication of this blog, the value of a single bitcoin hovers around $228 USD, although was as high as $979 USD a little over a year ago. Interestingly, anyone can create their own crypto currency if that they can get others to use it, so the value of a currency can also fall should a competing currency become more popular or perceived as more secure.

The anonymity inherent in crypto currencies also makes the digital currency “wallets” into extremely lucrative targets for hackers. These wallets can exist on personal computers or in the cloud on wallet hosting providers’ websites. Once a wallet with digital currency is stolen, there is no way to trace the identity of the original owner ““ just like real world cash. Over the past few years, there’ve been several types of attacks on crypto currency users. Attacks that steal bitcoins can range from indirect and invisible to blatant and direct break-ins that steal the equivalent of the bank vault. The invisible and indirect attacks use botnets to harness victims’ computer power to mine currency for the botnet operator, effectively stealing electricity from thousands of individuals in amounts that may not be noticeable. More direct attacks steal individual’s unencrypted “wallets” from their PCs. The most brazen attacks target online exchanges, or bank equivalents, with poorly implemented security. Our recently published 2015 SonicWall Security Annual Threat Report outlines some attacks on online Bitcoin exchanges that put a few of those exchanges out of business or seriously dented their operations.

As crypto currencies continue to become increasingly accepted by the general public, businesses and retailers will have to adapt and start accepting digital currencies alongside credit cards, PayPal and other online payment methods. This will save some money for these businesses through not having to pay credit card processing fees. However digital currencies are no free ride. Such businesses must ensure that they carefully manage both the economic and technical risks of such currencies. The economic risks lie in managing the volatility of the value of the digital currencies, while the technical risks are all about security. Losing online “cash” is the same as losing physical cash ““ it becomes nearly impossible to prove what’s yours once it’s in circulation.

To read more about attacks on digital currencies and other security trends tracked by our threat research team, download the 2015 SonicWall Security Annual Threat Report.

Six Steps to Securing WiFi in a Small Business

In my job at SonicWall, I talk to a lot of people about IT security. One thing I hear a lot of the time from small business owners is something along the lines of “Why would anybody target me? I am just a small company. They would much rather go after big companies.” While this is very true for highly targeted attacks, where a highly motivated and funded attacker is going after a well-known entity, it is simply not true for the majority of attacks which are much more opportunistic in nature.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you own a local insurance agency in a retail complex. You rely heavily on your computer system to connect to the insurance company and share information about the policies that you need to write. In the business, we call that “private customer information” and it is what you need to protect. Now, let’s assume you have a broadband connection and a consultant who has helped install and maintain your network including the security component. So far, so good.

Next, you decide you would like to add WiFi to your network so you and clients can connect more easily. You decide to go down to the local box store and purchase an off the shelf consumer class wireless access point and connect it to an open port in your office. You skip quickly through the startup menu choosing “quick start” and are up and running in a few minutes. Great, right? Not so fast. Most likely some of the steps you skipped over had to do with securing the wireless traffic, but that is difficult and requires some thought so you decided to do it later, which never happened.

At this point, you have a very secure wired network and an unsecured wireless network. Now, next door is a fast food restaurant with a lot of teenage kids who rotate in and out based on the season. One of them happens to be a wanna-be hacker, who notices a wide open wireless network and decides to investigate. She finds that she can connect to the wireless network and not only get wireless access, but also see the files on your computer, because you allow file sharing! And worse, she can see the private customer information that is so important to not only your local agency but also the nationwide company. And in a fit of teenage rebellion or altruism, she decides to download the customer data and then sends it to the nationwide agency to show them that one of their agents is not being responsible with their customer’s data. That is known as white hat hacking, and she is actually doing your insurance company a favor. Imagine if a neighbor with less noble intentions had been able to extract the data.

This is just an example, illustrating why wireless security is so important. Here are some tips to help you keep this fictional scenario from becoming a reality.

  1. Utilize a firewall with integrated wireless security that simplifies the implementation of wireless network security.
  2. Leverage deep packet inspection on the firewall to scan all traffic to and from the wireless users’ computers for viruses, malware and intrusions that may have been brought in from the outside.
  3. Since many websites are now leveraging SSL encryption to protect user data, make sure that your wireless network security solution can decrypt and scan encrypted traffic.
  4. Look for wireless network security solutions with wireless intrusion detection and prevention to block rogue access points and minimize the disruption from denial of service attacks.
  5. Apply application control to block unauthorized applications from being used on the wireless network.
  6. Set up a secure wireless guest network with encryption for your guests if you want to allow your customers to use WiFi in the lobby or conference rooms.

This is just one hypothetical example of what can happen if you don’t take security seriously. To learn more about wireless security, here is a quick and easy infographic with more information on this important topic.

Follow me on Twitter: @johngord

Is Your IT Security Strategy Aligned with Your Business Requirements

Triple-A ratings are normally associated with chief financial officers keeping a tab on John Moody’s bond credit rating. In the world of IT however, how can a chief information officer or information technology decision maker (ITDM) rate the efficiency of an IT security implementation?

IT security is one of the main concerns for ITDMs with attacks such as Venom, Shellshock or Heartbleed and others affecting organizations globally. Therefore ITDMs are taking steps to protect the corporate network from threats of all sizes. However, as it stands security is still at risk from internal and external stand point.

How can ITDMs know when they have reached a level of security that will protect from cyber-attacks while still empowering employees to do their job better? A comprehensive security approach should encompass three factors, it should be adaptive to threats, business requirements and also the ever evolving use of the internet within the corporate network, have adapted to meet the specific requirements of an organization and have been adopted fully by end users.

These factors can be summarized as a Triple A security approach, that could help you with your overall security posture and grant your organization a Triple A security rating.

Adaptive:

IT infrastructures are constantly changing. In the past we had static IT infrastructures, however, we are moving towards a world of convergence. Therefore, security infrastructures need to adapt in order to be effective. An adaptive security architecture should be preventative, detective, retrospective and predictive. In addition, a rounded security approach should be context-aware.

Gartner has outlined the top six trends driving the need for adaptive, context-aware security infrastructures: mobilization, externalization and collaboration, virtualization, cloud computing, consumerization and the industrialization of hackers.

The premise of the argument for adaptive, context-aware security is that all security decisions should be based on information from multiple sources.

Adapted:

No two organizations are the same, so why should security implementations be? Security solutions need flexibility to meet the specific business requirements of an organization. Yet despite spending more than ever to protect our systems and comply with internal and regulatory requirements, something is always falling through the cracks. There are dozens of “best-of-breed” solutions addressing narrow aspects of security. Each solution requires a single specialist to manage and leaves gaping holes between them. Patchwork solutions that combine products from multiple vendors inevitably lead to the blame game.

There are monolithic security frameworks that attempt to address every aspect of security in one single solution, but they are inflexible and extremely expensive to administer and organizations often find that they become too costly to run. They are also completely divorced from the business objectives of the organizations they’re designed to support.

Instead organizations should approach security based on simplicity, efficiency, and connectivity as these principals tie together the splintered aspects of IT security into one, integrated solution, capable of sharing insights across the organization.

This type of security solution ensures that the security approach has adapted to meet the specific requirements and business objectives of an organization, rather than taking a one size fits all approach.

Adopted:

Another essential aspect to any security approach is ensuring that employees understand and adopt security policies. IT and security infrastructure are there to support business growth, a great example of this is how IT enables employees to be mobile, therefore increasing productivity. However, at the same time it is vital that employees adhere to security policies and access data and business applications in the correct manner or else mobility and other policies designed to support business growth, in fact become a security risk and could actually damage the business.

All too often people think security tools hamper employee productivity and impact business processes. In the real world, if users don’t like the way a system works and they perceive it as getting in the way of productivity, they will not use it and hence the business value of having the system is gone, not to mention the security protection. We have solutions that allow for productivity and security.

“We have tight control over the network nowadays and can manage bandwidth per application using the firewall. The beauty of our SonicWall solution is that we can use it to create better store environments for our customers.” Joan Taribó, Operations and IT Manager, Benetton Spain.

By providing employees with training and guides around cyber security, this should lead to them being fully adopted and the IT department should notice a drop in the number of security risks from employee activity.

Triple A

If your overall security policy is able to tick all of the three A’s, then you have a very high level of security, however, the checks are not something that you can do just once. To protect against threats, it is advisable to run through this quick checklist on a regular basis to ensure that a maximum security level is achieved and maintained at all times. It is also important to ensure that any security solutions implemented allows your organization to grow on demand; as SonicWall says: Better Security, Better Business.

New SonicWall TZ Series Firewall

GROW BY LEVERAGING THE WEB is today’s small and medium business rally call. But, it is the echo to the call that you need to pay attention to: as you open the internet door wider, you are also opening the door for more cyber-attacks. Protection does not have to break the bank or leave you up at night. With the new SonicWall TZ Series Firewalls, you can get a better firewall that performs at faster broadband speeds at a low total cost of ownership.

The new SonicWall TZ is better.

There is no reason why your firewall does not have the same protections that big business demand. The thinking behind all our network security products is to not cut corners when it comes to inspecting traffic. We inspect the whole file, no limits on file size, the port or protocols being used. The new TZ offers 1 GbE network interfaces and gives you the type of protection that big businesses, large universities and government agencies enjoy. Now, you can impress your big business partners with enterprise grade protection with anti-malware, intrusion prevention, content and URL filtering, application control and secure mobile access.

The new SonicWall TZ is faster.

Faster broadband is the starting point, then, you want faster wireless. To accomplish this, your firewall needs lots of horsepower. The SonicWall TZ has plenty. Designed with the knowledge of the exploding growth in SSL use, the new series has the horsepower to identify malware lurking in encrypted SSL traffic. With an integrated wireless controller, the business does not require additional costs to offer their customers and employees that extreme speeds that 802.11ac can deliver.

Product image of the SonicWall TZ Firewall series

The new SonicWall TZ is affordable.

In the past, to meet high speed broadband requirements, business owners would have to pay a hefty price. The new SonicWall TZ300 can deliver full Deep Packet Protection at 100 Mbps broadband speeds for less than a thousand dollars (this TotalSecure bundle includes the Appliance, content filtering, application control, intrusion protection, SSL inspection and antivirus).

The new SonicWall TZ is the new solution for small and medium businesses

Don’t let cybercriminals compromise your organization. The new SonicWall TZ can solve your performance and security requirements at a price that does not break the bank. For more information, take a look at the SonicWall TZ Series Data Sheet that gives you the details on this great new product.

Ten Tips for Protecting POS Systems from Memory Scraping Malware

In the recently published 2015 SonicWall Security Threat Report, one of the observations on the evolution of attacks on POS systems is the rise in popularity of malware that uses memory scraping to steal sensitive data. No matter how many layers of encryption are applied to sensitive payment data and how carefully this encryption is deployed, at some point the primary account number and other sensitive information must exist in an unencrypted form in order to be useful. The moment that payment data is decrypted for processing, it ends up in the memory of the POS machine, creating a perfect window of opportunity for an attacker to snag this data. Advanced malware can use multiple techniques to access and scan contents of this temporary storage and look for patterns that resemble raw payment data. This data can then be used, for example, to clone cards for fraudulent purchases. This is exactly what happened in some of the high profile retail breaches of 2013 and 2014.

The ultimate goal of RAM scraping malware is exfiltration of the unencrypted data stolen from memory of the infected machine. Therefore, this malware will be very well hidden and it will attempt to remain as invisible as possible in order to access as much data as possible. Mitigating the risks of being hit with such malware falls into two categories: Pre-infection best practices to avoid infection and post-infection best practices to detect and control the attack.

Pre-infection best practices

Protecting yourself from new advanced attacks must always be done on top of executing on the basics which serve to reduce the risk of getting critical systems such as POS systems infected by any malware.

  1. Keep the OS and applications on POS systems fully patched. Most patches are security related, so ignoring them only opens up a larger window of opportunity for attackers.
  2. Firewall off the POS network from the rest of the network with strong (i.e. bare minimum access) access policies as well as with Intrusion Prevention and Anti-Malware.
  3. Use strong, non-default and not shared, passwords.
  4. Deploy and enforce endpoint anti-virus as a last measure of defense.
  5. Encrypt traffic VPN tunnels.
  6. Enable protection against MAC spoofing within the POS network and for critical systems with which the POS terminals communicate.
  7. Lock down remote access to pin-point level of access. Do not allow full L3 tunnels into sensitive networks and use remote access tools that allow verification of remote host integrity before granting access.

Post-infection best practices

A good to approach in evaluating your network security stance is to assume that you will be infected at some point in the future and design processes to allow you to detect and control the infection. In the context of memory scraping malware, the ultimate observable behavior will be communication with non-trusted hosts on the internet. It may not be immediate and it may not be in bulk, as the attacker may want to put time between the act of infection and the act of data theft. However, sooner or later, the attacker will need to get the stolen data from the POS systems into his or her possession. This may happen naively via direct communication, or via more sophisticated methods such as using another compromised system outside the POS network, but with a connection to the POS network, as a gateway. That system may reside in a network that is less strictly observed than the POS network on which may not raise alarms at communication with random servers on the internet.

There are several key technologies that can help you detect or neutralize this data exfiltration:

  • Don’t allow direct communication with the internet from the POS network. This will lock down allowable communications and will block and detect naïve approaches at data exfiltration. For processing purposes, payment data can be sent via an encrypted tunnel to another trusted server(s) on the network (outside the POS network) and then via another encrypted tunnel to the processing server. Communication between these systems should be whitelisted by the firewall via ACLs, with all other traffic (besides perhaps management and updates) blacklisted.
  • Deploy Geo-IP and Botnet filtering detection on all networks. Lock down communication from sensitive systems only to locales that they need to communicate with (if your processor is in the US, why would your POS data need to have access to and from Europe, Asia, LATAM, etc.?)
  • Configure DLP and SSL Decryption to detect Credit Card type data leaving the network in plaintext or inside of SSL tunnels to internet hosts that are unknown. In other words, only allow such data to flow to CC processing servers known to you. Communication of such data to any other system on the internet should be intercepted, logged and investigated. Deny any SSL communication from sensitive networks that does not lend itself to inspection by not accepting your NGFW SSL inspection certificate.

Firewalls occupy an extremely valuable piece of real estate on any network since all Internet bound traffic must go through them. When properly deployed, next-generation firewalls play an important role in reducing the risk of advanced malware infection and data theft in POS networks. To find out more about the capabilities of state of the art NGFWs from SonicWall, read the eBook “Types of Cyber-Attacks and How to Prevent Them.” Follow me on Twitter: @threadstate.