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#EngineersUnplugged S2|Ep9: IPv6 or 1970s Math

April 10, 2013 at 12:13 pm PST

The Internet of Everything fuels our daily lives, but leads to some new challenges in the networking space. Join us for this week’s episode of Engineers Unplugged as Damian Karlson (@sixfootdad) and Tom Hollingsworth (@networkingnerd) discuss the pros and cons of IPv6, firewalls, and the failure of 1970′s math. Watch and see:

Welcome to Engineers Unplugged, where technologists talk to each other the way they know best, with a whiteboard. The rules are simple:

  1. Episodes will publish weekly (or as close to it as we can manage)
  2. Subscribe to the podcast here: engineersunplugged.com
  3. Follow the #engineersunplugged conversation on Twitter
  4. Submit ideas for episodes or volunteer to appear by Tweeting to @CommsNinja
  5. Practice drawing unicorns

Follow us on Facebook.com/EngineersUnplugged for inside information, extra pictures, and to volunteer episode ideas. What’s your take on IPv6?

Damian Karlson, Tom Hollingsworth, a unicorn, and a whole lot of zeroes

Damian Karlson, Tom Hollingsworth, a unicorn, and a whole lot of zeroes

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Cisco Still Number One for Data Center Security

We were excited to read the Infonetics Data Center Security Strategies and Vendor Leadership: North American Enterprise Survey, which was released yesterday. It revealed Cisco’s continued leadership in a market that spans a multitude of vendors – application/database, client, data center integration and network. The report indicates that leaders need to offer the right mix of products across the data center security and cloud arenas as well as demonstrate security efficacy and integration into adjacent markets. Cisco has continued to execute on a unified security portfolio spanning firewallsIntrusion Prevention System (IPS), gateways, and integrated threat intelligence further complemented by strategic partnerships. Seamless integration and shared security intelligence with routing and switching (Nexus and Catalyst) and converged infrastructure (Cisco UCS) enables our customers to benefit from optimized traffic links, the highest levels of security resilience, increased availability and scalability as well as lower costs of ownership. Per the report, “to say you’re the leader in the data center/cloud security is to say you are an innovator who can tackle the biggest problems in IT security for the biggest and most demanding customers.”

We’d like to highlight two areas that Cisco has continued to demonstrate an outright lead over other vendors. In the area of perception as the top data center security supplier, Cisco leads with 47 percent of votes compared to IBM with 38 percent and McAfee with 28 percent, who ranked second and third. Cisco scored between 40 to 60 percent of respondents’ votes (covering 10 criteria) for being the leading data center security supplier with McAfee scoring 15 points below Cisco, HP received around 20 percent of votes, and Juniper and Trend with 15 percent.  Read More »

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Firewall Network Threat Defense, Countermeasures, and Controls @ Cisco Live 2012 – San Diego!

The advent of social networking, BYOD implementations, and web interactions has transcended the Internet traffic flows of yesterday. Adversely, the security risks and threat landscape have not only evolved, but become an ever increasing factor in protecting today’s information systems. This continued movement has led to the introduction of a new security topic for the upcoming Cisco Live 2012 conference. This topic and subsequent lab session, “Firewall Network Threat Defense, Countermeasures, and Controls” is part of the “Cyber Aikido” security suite of sessions being offered at Cisco Live 2012, and has been developed around threat defense solutions applicable to Cisco Firewalls. The course is largely based on the upcoming “Cisco Firewall Best Practices Guide“.

The “Firewall Network Threat Defense, Countermeasures, and Controls” instructor-led lab will provide administrators and engineers of Cisco Firewalls the knowledge and understanding to protect their networks against threats and attacks leveraging industry standard and Cisco Firewall Best Practices. This includes understanding control plane, management plane, and data plane architectures, and applying security features and constructs to secure the traffic traversing and interfacing with your devices or hosts.

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Ask Cisco: How do I improve collaboration among multiple offices and remote users?

Q: My company has been trying to figure out how we can do better at connecting our remote users to our main site, as well as making our other location seem like it’s right next door. Any advice?

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Cisco Investigation for TCP Split-Handshake Issue Reported by NSS

Updated May 9th: After a thorough investigation of the TCP Split Handshake issue raised by NSS Labs, Cisco has confirmed that the Cisco ASA firewall is not susceptible to this issue. In all test cases examined, the ASA operates as expected, providing protection in its default configuration against the Split-Handshake as defined in the original TCP Split Handshake paper. As a result, the Cisco PSIRT closed this investigation on May 4th.

Cisco appreciates the extended engagement and data provided by NSS Labs as we’ve worked through these scenarios. During two recent visits to NSS Labs, Cisco was presented with a number of scenarios, including new test cases that deviated from the original Split-Handshake scenario. The Cisco PSIRT collected traces and provided feedback to NSS Labs on all scenarios. In each case, Cisco demonstrated successful network protection through the default ASA configuration or the implementation of firewall policies that are fully supported, documented and used pervasively in enterprise deployments.

As always vulnerability reports should continue to be reported to the PSIRT organization (psirt@cisco.com). Cisco customers are encouraged to contact their account manager with any questions.


Recently there’s been some activity in the press regarding an NSS Labs report on potential vulnerabilities in Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFW). The Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA) was one of the products mentioned as vulnerable to these attacks. Based on the investigation of this issue to date, the data indicates that Cisco customers are not exposed to this issue. As always, should the vulnerability be confirmed the Cisco Product Security Incident Response Team (PSIRT) will investigate, drive remediation and disclose per our normal communication channels. (PSIRT Vulnerability Policy)

On April 12th, NSS Labs published a report regarding vulnerabilities on a number of firewalls, including Cisco’s ASA product line. The full report has a hefty $3500 price tag, but NSS does provide a free (with registration) “Remediation Guide,” for users of these firewalls.

The NSS Labs Remediation Guide incorrectly lists the Cisco ASA as vulnerable to the TCP Split Handshake attack, and also mentions that there are no steps available to customers to mitigate or remediate this attack.

Following an investigation over the course of several months, involving well over a dozen Cisco engineers from various teams and working in conjunction with NSS Labs, no vulnerability of this nature has been observed on Cisco products. The following products have been investigated:

  • Cisco ASA
  • Cisco IOS Firewall
  • Cisco Intrusion Protection (IPS) Appliances

It’s important to note that the NSS Labs report focuses only on one attack called the TCP Split Handshake, which is a third means to initiate TCP sessions that combines features of both the three-way handshake and the simultaneous-open connection.

However, the goal of this post isn’t to discuss the technical details of TCP handshakes, but rather to present what Cisco has done and is doing to investigate the impact to our products and protect our customers.

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