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Threat-Focused NG-Firewall – Who Cares? Part 2

This is Part 2 of our blog series about NG-Firewalls. See Part 1 here.

Part 2: Enter Threat-Focused NG-Firewall

What does a Threat-focused NG-Firewall do differently? Just about everything. Let’s compare the most popular NGFW systems on the market (typical NGFW) with the Cisco Firepower NG-Firewall system, (a Threat-Focused NG-Firewall).

If you consider the typical NGFW available from your choice of vendors, you are staring at a system that was designed for, and normally sold to, Network-focused Admins that need more visibility into their policy and desire some additional depth of what they can choose to allow or deny. Typical policy has been circumvented by the ever-present danger of threats, and thus policy management that actually has any effect on protection has become extremely difficult. The limiting factor with the standard NGFW is that it can only accurately enforce permit or deny on what it understands. The classic example is the firewall that employs IDS/IPS signatures in the packet path to ‘detect’ what it understands and take an action – with an output event that something was seen and some basic information about who and what, along with the action taken.

A Threat-focused NG-Firewall system by contrast, looks at the world differently – with its foundation a set of detection engines that leverage both signature-based and signature-less technologies to hand out verdicts on data flows, files and other bits of information. How well this is done depends on the intelligence built into the verdict engines – not only allowing detection and dispositions of point-in-time events, like many other vendors do, but also detection beyond the event horizon, which is the Cisco Firepower NG-Firewall’s most obvious differentiator. The event horizon is the point-in-time where a system first sees something good, bad or unknown and issues a verdict or disposition.

Point-in-time analysis, used by every NGFW that you can buy today

Figure 1a – Point-in-time analysis, used by every NGFW that you can buy today

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Threat-Focused NG-Firewall – Who Cares? Part 1

Part 1: Rude Awakening

Let us begin with some context in the form of a story.

I live in a very bad part of town and I am always worried that my car is going to get stolen or broken into. So, I just invested over a thousand bucks in this awesome vehicle alarm and security system. You know, one of those ultra-advanced systems that connects to an app on your smartphone, includes an ignition kill switch, vehicle tracker, cameras, motion detection, as well as all of the typical features you would expect. If someone enters the vehicle without my key fob, it calls my phone, and even takes pictures of the inside of the vehicle. I now feel so much better about parking my car outside. The company that sold me the alarm made me feel like my car was ‘un-steal-able’ and even if it was, I would have pictures of who did it and would be able to find it easily. Perfect. I feel protected. I can sleep at night.

The other morning, I went outside and strangely, it was gone…the shock sensor and its cut-wires lying on the ground where the car once sat. I think I stood there for a solid minute with my mouth open before I thought to do anything. I checked my phone – no call. I looked at the app – no pictures or interior motion detected. All appeared normal. Darn! (actually other words, but keeping it clean here) How could this happen? That alarm company assured me this was impossible. Heck, they are the most popular system on the market – everyone loves these guys. They have all of the ‘best’ and innovative features and no one makes vehicle security easier than these guys. And, I bought the top-of-the-line model, with all of the bells and whistles, just short of the biometric entry system. Wow! How could this have happened?

I called the police to file a report and see if the tracker could be used to find my stolen car. “Sure we will look for it.” The tracker required a connection, which didn’t exist. The app was useless unless something triggered it and the company that sold it to me, of course, wasn’t much help. “Looks like someone really wanted your car” they said.  Long story short, the vehicle was found 26 days later on a burned-out flatbed in Mexico. What hadn’t been taken off of it was torched; no trace whatsoever.

Security Isn’t Easy

The moral of the story is two-fold. One, there is no such thing as easy security, at any price. As soon as you think you have achieved it, the unthinkable will certainly happen. Two: no amount of prevention or detection will ever overcome human motivation and ingenuity. Knowing that today’s attackers have the technology innovations of the entire industry at their fingertips when they attack us – ingenuity is boundless. Billions of dollars are made each year by attackers stealing our data. What better motivation than money. Considering much of what we are up against today is nation-state sponsored, everything becomes that much more complicated.

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Malware stealing gigabytes of your data as seen by Cognitive Threat Analytics

This post is authored by Gayan de Silva and Martin Pospisil.

Overview

Recently, about 50 users across 20 companies were alarmed by the Cisco Cognitive Threat Analytics (CTA) about a malware that exfiltrates gigabytes of data from their computers. An example of such CTA detection:

CTA Exfiltration Incident

In addition to the usual malware command and control activities, the incident features an upload of 2.3 gigabytes of data to a highly suspicious destination. CTA has classified this incident as a malware with high severity and confidence.

This particular malware is using a custom protocol over TCP port 443, which is assigned for HTTPS. Generally, less than 10% of organizations do any inspection of HTTPS traffic. In addition to relatively low probability of intercept, malware authors also use custom protocol that is not based on HTTPS. A comparison of the stream content of the custom protocol to a stream content of a HTTPS protocol is shown below.

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Introducing the Cisco PSIRT openVuln API

Cisco PSIRT openVuln APIIn October, we announced details about Cisco PSIRT’s new and improved security vulnerability disclosure format. Our Chief Security and Trust Officer, John Stewart, also revealed that Cisco will launch an application programming interface (API) that empowers customers to customize Cisco vulnerability information and publications. Today, we have officially launched the Cisco PSIRT openVuln API and it is available for immediate use.

The Cisco PSIRT openVuln API is a RESTful API that allows customers to obtain Cisco security vulnerability information in different machine-consumable formats. It supports industrywide security standards such as the Common Vulnerability Reporting Framework (CVRF)Open Vulnerability and Assessment Language (OVAL), Common Vulnerability and Exposure (CVE) identifiers, and the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS).

openVulnSupportedStandards

This API allows technical staff and programmers to build tools that help them do their job more effectively. In this case, it enables them to easily keep up with security vulnerability information specific to their network. That frees up more time for them to manage their network and deploy new capabilities in their infrastructure.

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New Cisco Rapid Threat Containment Solution Detects and Automatically Contains Threats

Integration of Cisco FireSIGHT Management Center and Identity Services Engine (ISE) Now Available

As explained in our 2015 Cisco Midyear Security Report, attackers are using innovative tactics like exploit kits, ransomware, and advanced malware to evade detection. Organizations are using as many as 40 to 60+ disparate security solutions that typically don’t – and can’t – work together. These point solutions have limited impact against well-funded cybercriminals and typically generate vast numbers of alerts, many of which may not be relevant. On average, large organizations have to sift through nearly 17,000 alerts each week to find the 19 percent that are considered reliable, and security professionals only have time to investigate 4 percent of warnings.

It’s no wonder that, based on various reports, the current industry average for time to detection is 200 days. That’s far too long. The longer the threat goes undetected, the greater potential for damage. By the time a breach is discovered the damage has been done.

The new Cisco Rapid Threat Containment solution with Cisco FireSIGHT Management Center and Cisco ISE lets you get to the heart of what matters – providing deep network detection and automatic containment of critical threats so you can mitigate your security risk quickly and efficiently without overburdening your security team.

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