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Introducing the Industry’s First Threat-Focused Next-Generation Firewall

Cisco is a strong proponent for shifting the mindset regarding the capabilities a Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW) must provide to stay relevant in a world that is dealing with dynamic threats. While nothing is technically wrong with legacy NGFWs, much is wrong with their approach.

To meet current and future needs, a NGFW must now provide full visibility and contextual awareness across applications, hosts, and the network, address dynamic threats, quickly correlate and identify multi-vector threats and deliver the dynamic controls organizations now require to combat advanced threats. It must do all of this while reducing complexity. These capabilities are crucial for enabling continuous protection across the attack continuum—before, during and after an attack.

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Cisco Live!: Threat-Centric Security from Networks to Data Centers to Clouds

Security has emerged as a leading pain point for CIOs, executives, and even in the boardroom due to changing business models and growing attack surfaces, a threat landscape that is more dynamic by the day and the increasing complexity of IT environments.

With these challenges as a backdrop, attendees of our 25th annual Cisco Live! event last week in San Francisco absorbed over 170 hours of security-focused material, including hands-on labs, seminars, technical breakouts, panel discussions, and keynotes. This overwhelming amount of time and effort is a testament to Cisco’s commitment to protecting our customers against the latest threats across the full attack continuum—before, during, and after an attack.

In case you could not attend or make a session, particular highlights from the week included Chris Young and Bryan Palma’s keynote (must create Cisco Live account to view) examining the security challenges brought about by the Internet of Everything. Chief architect Martin Roesch also led a session exploring threat-centric security, examining the modern threat landscape, and how threat-centric security increases the effectiveness of threat prevention.

From a product perspective, momentum continued as we announced major updates and new products during Cisco Live! to help our customers address their security needs across the attack continuum with protection from the network to the data center to the endpoint to the cloud.

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Cisco Live 2014 San Francisco: Security Technology Track

Cisco Live, May 18-24, 2014, is quickly approaching and registration is open. This is the 25th anniversary of Cisco Live and we return to the Bay Area at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. Educational sessions are organized into technology tracks to make it easy to find the topics that most interest you. With network and data security being top of mind, I’d like to highlight the Security technology track’s exciting content lineup. Read More »

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Taking Complexity Out of Network Security – Simplifying Firewall Rules with TrustSec

Bruce Schneier, the security technologist and author famously said, “Complexity is the worst enemy of security.”

We have been working with some customers who agree strongly with this sentiment because they have been struggling with increasing complexity in their access control lists and firewall rules.

Typical indicators of operational complexity have been:

  • The time that it can take for some organizations to update rules to allow access to new services or applications, because of the risks of misconfiguring rules. For some customers, the number of hours defining and actually configuring changes may be an issue, for other customers the biggest issue may be the number of days that it takes to work through change control processes before a new application is actually in production.
  • The number of people who may need to be involved in rule changes when there are high volumes of trouble tickets requiring rule changes.

Virtualization tends to result in larger numbers of application servers being defined in rule sets. In addition, we are seeing that some customers need to define new policies to distinguish between BYOD and managed endpoint users as part of their data center access controls. At the same time, in many environments, it is rare to find that rules are efficiently removed because administrators find it difficult to ascertain that those rules are no longer required. The end result is that rule tables only increase in size.

TrustSec is a solution developed within Cisco, which describes assets and resources on the network by higher-layer business identifiers, which we refer to as Security Group Tags, instead of describing assets by IP addresses and subnets.

Those of us working at Cisco on our TrustSec technology have been looking at two particular aspects of how this technology may help remove complexity in security operations:

  • Using logical groupings to define protected assets like servers in order to simplify rule bases and make them more manageable.
  • Dynamically updating membership of these logical groups to avoid rule changes being required when assets move or new virtual workloads are provisioned.

While originally conceived as a method to provide role-based access control for user devices or accelerate access control list processing, the technology is proving of much broader benefit, not least for simplifying firewall rule sets.

For example, this is how we can use Security Group Tags to define access policies in our ASA platforms:

KReganCapture

Being able to describe systems by their business role, instead of where they are on the network, means that servers as well as users can move around the network but still retain the same privileges.

In typical rule sets that we have analyzed, we discovered that we can reduce the size of rule tables by as much as 60-80% when we use Security Group Tags to describe protected assets. That alone may be helpful, but further simplification benefits arise from looking at the actual policies themselves and how platforms such as the Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA) can use these security groups.

  • Security policies defined for the ASA can now be written in terms of application server roles, categories of BYOD endpoints, or the business roles of users, becoming much easier to understand.
  • When virtual workloads are added to an existing security group, we may not need any rule changes to be applied to get access to those workloads.
  • When workloads move, even if IP addresses change, the ASA will not require a rule change if the role is being determined by a Security Group Tag.
  • Logs can now indicate the roles of the systems involved, to simplify analysis and troubleshooting.
  • Decisions to apply additional security services like IPS or Cloud Web Security services to flows, can now be made based upon the security group tags.
  • Rules written using group tags instead of IP addresses also may have much less scope for misconfiguration.

In terms of incident response and analysis, customers are also finding value in the ability to administratively change the Security Group Tag assigned to specific hosts, in order to invoke additional security analysis or processing in the network.

By removing the need for complex rule changes to be made when server moves take place or network changes occur, we are hoping that customers can save time and effort and more effectively meet their compliance goals.

For more information please refer to www.cisco.com/go/trustsec.

Follow @CiscoSecurity on Twitter for more security news and announcements.

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Network World’s Top VPN Choice: Cisco ASA and AnyConnect

Network World recently completed a competitive review of the leading Virtual Private Networking (VPN) products and the Cisco® Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA) and AnyConnect™.  With a long history of providing market-leading remote access VPN capabilities and optimal usability, Cisco is honored to receive this recognition from Network World based on their hands-on product testing.  Read More »

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