Web Admin Blog Real Web Admins. Real World Experience.

2Jun/143

My First Experiences with a Palo Alto Firewall

I've been following Palo Alto as a networking company for a couple of years now.  Their claim is that the days of the port-based firewall are dead and that their application-centric approach is a far better way to enforce your access controls.  Take the HTTP protocol for example.  HTTP typically runs as a service on port 80, but does that mean that everything running on port 80 is HTTP?  As an attacker looking for a way to funnel data out of your organization, why not use the standard HTTP port to send data, since I know you leave it wide open in order for your employees to surf the web.  There's nothing to say that I actually have to be running an HTTP server on the other end and there's nothing on my classic firewall to tell any differently.  At first, I was admittedly a bit skeptical.  I didn't think that you could really tell enough about different applications on the web to be able to separate them out like Palo Alto claims to.  Fortunately, Palo Alto reached out to me and provided me with a brand new PA-200 in an attempt to change my mind.

When the PA-200 arrived, it came with everything that I would need to get it up and running.  That includes the unit itself, a power supply, a D89 to RJ45 console cable, an ethernet cable, and some instructions and warranty information.

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On the front of the unit is four ethernet ports for your devices, a management port, a USB port, a console port, and several status indicator LEDs.

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By default, the appliance is configured with ethernet ports 1 and 2 paired as a WAN to LAN link as this is the configuration that the majority of the people who buy it will likely use it for.  That said, by following the instructions to connect your computer up to the management port, you can quickly access the user interface that allows you to change this assignment.

Ethernet Configuration

This shows the ethernet 1 and 2 interfaces as both being a "virtual wire" and here we can see the virtual wire that connects the two.

Virtual Wire

From here, we can take a look at the "zones" and see that our two interfaces have been defined as an untrusted (ethernet 1) and trusted (ethernet 2) zone.

Zones

To think of this a different way, my cable modem WAN connection (ie. the Internet) goes in my "untrust" zone and my local network (ie. LAN) goes in my "trust" zone.  Now all that's left is to set our policy and for ease of management to start with, I set it to allow everything out with a default deny all inbound.

Security Profile

With this configuration I had done enough to be up and running on the device and I immediately started to see data populate the dashboard on the top applications running on my network.

Top Applications

It's color coded based on risk level and the dashboard also provides me a similar view of Top High Risk Applications.  Any of these boxes can be clicked on in order to provide additional data about the protocol, sources, destinations, countries, and more.

Application Information

Now, let me say that while I'm running this on my home internet connection, this thing is a hoss and can do way more than I can throw at it.  With their App-ID technology enabled you can throw 100 Mbps of throughput at it no problem.  In addition to being an application firewall, it also does standard port-based firewalling, VPN, routing, switching, and so much more.  It's so extremely versatile that this thing could easily be placed in a smaller branch office and replace multiple other devices on their network such as a firewall, router, and VPN concentrator.  More functionality for less money...who wouldn't want that?  In addition to these default capabilities, additional licensing can also be obtained to allow you to do URL filtering, malware detection, and more.  Having just gotten this up and running, I'm still exploring the ins and outs of all of the functionality, but it's pretty exciting to have all of this capability in a box that is smaller than the cable modem my ISP provides me.  More posts to come on this as I get deeper into the guts of running my new Palo Alto PA-200 !

2Jun/140

Rise of the Personal Firewall

The other day I read that Comcast is launching a new plan to turn home internet users into unwilling participants in their new global wifi strategy.  I'm sure that they will soon be touting how insanely awesome it will be to get "full strength" internet access virtually anywhere just by subscribing to this service.  Other than the issues with taking a service that the consumer already pays for and carving out their bandwidth for other people, the security practitioner in me can't help but wonder what the security ramifications of sharing an internet connection like this actually means.  Combine this with the default access to your cable modem that your service provider already has, and it paints a very scary picture of network security for the home user.  It is no longer sufficient (if it ever was) to rely on your cable modem for network access controls.  Thus, I am advocating in favor of placing a personal firewall between your cable modem and your network for all home internet setups.

Now, it's not as bad as you may think.  It doesn't have to be some crazy expensive piece of equipment like you'd purchase for a business.  Even the basic home gateways come with the ability to do Network Address Translation (NAT) which effectively turns your internet connection into a one-way pipe.  All I'm saying is that instead of plugging your network devices directly into the cable modem for Internet access, you should use your own hardware and draw a clear "line in the sand" between your equipment and theirs.  In addition, I would advocate that you should no longer consider the wifi access provided by the cable modem device as safe and should use your own equipment for this access.  In other words, treat anything on the WAN side of your home gateway/personal firewall as untrusted and protect against it accordingly.

16Mar/1383

Getting the Real Administrator Access to Time Warner RoadRunner’s Ubee Cable Modem

This post is going to be short and sweet as it's something I meant to put up here when I found it sometime back in mid-2011.  I'm not even sure if Time Warner is still using these Ubee cable modems for their RoadRunner offering, but I'm sure that there are at least a few people out there who still have them.  When you get the modem installed initially, they give you some default credentials.  Something like user/user or admin/admin.  Using these credentials, you are able to access the device and many of the features that it has to offer you.  What you are not able to do is access the menus where you can change how the router is actually configured for internet access, change the master password, or prevent Time Warner from accessing your modem, and subsequently, your network.  To fix this, you just need to know the following secret...

The real administrator username that comes configured on these modems when you get them from Time Warner is the last eight digits of the unit's MAC address sans the colons separating out the values.  This is unique to your device, but can be found pretty easily by looking at the user interface that you do have access to.  The password for this user is "c0nf1gur3m3".  Use that and you should be in.  Feel free to change the password while you're in there to keep the Time Warner folks out.

One other kinda secret thing to note is that if you do want to change how the router is configured for internet access, you will need to go to http://192.168.0.1/TlModeChange.asp on your router to do so.  Once there, you can change it to Bridge mode, NAT mode, Router mode, or NAT Router mode depending on what you are looking to do with it.  Hope you enjoyed this simple solution for getting the real administrator access to Time Warner RoadRunner's Ubee cable modem.

***Update:  If the above isn't working for you on Time Warner Cable, try one of these suggestions from the comments:

  • Username: admin / Password: cableroot
  • Username: technician / Password: C0nf1gur3Ubee#
  • Username: admin / Password: C0nf1gur3Ubee#
23Jun/080

Next Generation Firewalls

I went to a Lunch n Learn last week sponsored by PaloAlto Networks and Fishnet Security talking about what PaloAlto calls the "next generation firewalls". PaloAlto boasts having Nir Zuk, principal engineer at Check Point and one of the developers of stateful inspection technology, as it's founder and CTO. Their product, the PA-4000, Series Firewall, takes an application centric approach to traffic classification and they claim that this helps it to more accurately identify both traditional and emerging applications. This enables it to facilitate true application access control and broad threat prevention. They claim that it is:

  • The only firewall to classify traffic based on the accurate identification of the application, not just port/protocol information.
  • The only firewall to identify, control and inspect SSL encrypted traffic and applications.
  • The only firewall to provide graphical visualization of applications on the network with detailed user, group, and network-level categorization by sessions, bytes, ports, threats and time.
  • The only firewall with real-time (line-rate, low latency) protection against viruses, spyware and application vulnerabilities based on a stream-based threat prevention engine.
  • The only firewall with line-rate, low latency performance for all services, even under load.
  • The only firewall to offer a true in-line transparent deployment option for seamless integration into an existing network infrastructure.

While the presentation itself tended to focus more on analyzing internal user's connections outbound toward the internet and it seems to do that fairly well, it didn't cover external users connecting inbound to web applications and things like that so I started asking questions about the firewall's ability to act as a WAF (Web Application Firewall). I was told that it will do some things like inspection for XSS and SQL Injection, it does not function as a true WAF. I wasn't even expecting that much so kudos to them.

All-in-all, I tend to believe the hype that this is the next generation of firewalls and while PaloAlto is the first player in the field, I'm sure others will soon follow. The firewall is one of the oldest network security devices out there and PaloAlto has definitely put forth a product that changes the way people will look at them. We think about protecting our networks on an application level and not on a port level so why should our firewalls do things any differently? That said, with this being such a new technology, I'm skeptical of how it works in the real world and am quite certain that it won't be long before hackers find creative ways in and users find even more creative ways out.