Articles Tagged ‘App-ID’

Introduction to Palo Alto Next-Generation Network Firewalls

palo-alto-firewalls-introduction-features-technical-specifications-1aDuring the past decade, we’ve seen the global IT security market flooded with new network security and firewall security appliances. New vendors emerging into the market while existing well-known vendors introduce new smarter and complex firewalls that aim to keep enterprise organizations as safe as possible. Palo Alto Networks is one of the new-generation security vendors who have managed to break into a saturated market and make their stand.

It’s no coincidence that Palo Alto Networks is considered to be a leader and pioneer when it comes to Next Generation Firewall appliances and Gartner seems to agree with this statement based on their Magic Quadrant report in the Next Generation Firewall Segment:

Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Network Firewalls

Figure 1. Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Network Firewalls

Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewalls unique way of processing a packet using the Single ­­­Pass Parallel Processing (SP3) engine makes them a clear leader.

Note: Read all our technical articles covering Palo Alto Firewalls by visiting our Palo Alto Firewall Section.

Basically, the SP3 engine utilizes the same stream-based signature format to process the protection features like Anti-Virus, Spyware, Vulnerability Protection and Data Filtering. By doing so the firewall saves valuable processing power, unlike other Unified Threat Management (UTM) appliances which serially process each security feature offered, this often introduces latency to the network traffic.

The advanced security features like App-ID, User-ID, Content-ID along with Security profiles, comprising feature like Antivirus, Anti-Spyware, Vulnerability protection, URL Filtering, DoS Protection and Data Filtering makes Palo Alto the leader. Most importantly its malware analysis solution WildFire offers advanced protection from unknown threats.

Palo Alto Networks offers its firewalls as Hardware Platforms and Virtual Platforms. Its Hardware Platforms comes in different flavors.

palo-alto-firewalls-introduction-features-technical-specifications-2

Figure 2. The Palo Alto Firewall family

PA-200 and PA-500 Series Firewalls are meant for Small Businesses and come with very limited throughput and do not support Virtual Systems. Virtual Systems, also known as VSYS, is used to create virtual firewall instances in a single-pair of Palo Alto Firewalls, in other words, Virtual Systems can be compared to contexts in Cisco ASA Firewalls or vdom in Fortinet firewalls. The PA-200, PA-500 Series Firewalls offer a very limited number of security policies like security rules, NAT rules, policy based forwarding rules and a few more.

Datasheets on Palo Alto Firewall appliances and Virtual Servers are available at our Palo Alto Datasheets and Guides download area

The table below provides a clear comparison of features and technical specifications of both PA-500 and PA-200 firewall models:

Palo Alto Firewall Application-based Policy Enforcement (App-ID), User Identification (User-ID) and Application Control Centre (ACC) Features for Enterprise Networks

Our previous article examined the benefits of Palo Alto Networks Firewall Single Pass Parallel Processing (SP3) architecture and how its combine with the separate Data and Control planes to boost firewall performance and handle large amounts of traffic without and performance impact. This article focuses on the traffic flow logic inside the Palo Alto Firewall and two unique features that separate it from the competition: Application-based policy enforcement (App-ID) & User Identification (User-ID).

For more Technical articles on Palo Alto Networks Firewalls, visit our Palo Alto Networks Firewall Section

Flow Logic of the Next-Generation Firewall

The diagram below is a simplified version of the flow logic of a packet travelling through a Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewall and this can be always used a reference to study the packet processing sequence:

palo-alto-firewall-app-id-user-id-application-control-centre-1

Figure 1. Flow Logic of a packet inside the Palo Alto Networks Next Generation Firewall

Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewalls works with the concepts of zones not interfaces, once a packet enters the firewall, the Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewalls identifies from which zone the packet came and where it is destined to go. This is similar to Cisco IOS Routers Zone-based Firewalls and Cisco ASA Firewalls.

Users interested can also download for free the Palo Alto Networks document “Day in the Life of a Packet” found in our Palo Alto Networks Download section which explains in great detail the packet flow sequence inside the Palo Alto Networks Firewall.

App-ID & User-ID – Features That Set Palo Alto Apart from the Competition

App-ID and User-ID are two really interesting features not found on most competitors’ firewalls and really help set Palo Alto Networks apart from the competition. Let’s take a look at what App-ID and User-ID are and how they help protect the enterprise network.

App-ID: Application-based Policy Enforcement

App-ID is the biggest asset of Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewalls. Traditional firewalls block traffic based on protocol and/or ports, which years ago seemed to be the best way of securing the network perimeter, however this approach today is inadequate as applications (including SSL VPNs) can easily bypass a port-based firewall by hopping between ports or using well-known open ports such as tcp-http (80) or tcp/udp-dns (53) normally found open.

A traditional firewall that allows the usage of TCP/UDP port 53 for DNS lookups, will allow any application using that port to pass through without asking second questions. This means that any application can use port 53 to send/receive traffic, including evasive applications like BitTorrent for P2P file sharing, which is quite dangerous:

Palo Alto Network’s App-ID effectively blocks unwanted BitTorrent traffic

Figure 2. Palo Alto Network’s App-ID effectively blocks unwanted BitTorrent traffic

With App-ID, Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewalls uses multiple identification mechanisms to determine the exact identity of applications traversing the network. Following is the order in which traffic is examined and classified:

Palo Alto Firewall Configuration Options. Tap Mode, Virtual Wire, Layer 2 & Layer 3 Deployment modes

Our previous article explained how Palo Alto Firewalls make use of Security Zones to process and enforce security policies. This article will explain the different configuration options for physical Ethernet and logical interfaces available on the Palo Alto Firewall.

It’s easy to mix and match the interface types and deployment options in real world deployments and this seems to be the strongest selling point of Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewalls. Network segmentation becomes easier due to the flexibility offered by a single pair of Palo Alto appliances.

Below is a list of the configuration options available for Ethernet (physical) interfaces:

  • Tap Mode
  • Virtual Wire
  • Layer 2
  • Layer 3
  • Aggregate Interfaces
  • HA

Following are the Logical interface options available:

  • VLAN
  • Loopback
  • Tunnel
  • Decrypt Mirror

The various interface types offered by Palo Alto Networks Next-Generation Firewalls provide flexible deployment options.

Tap Mode Deployment Option

TAP Mode deployment allows passive monitoring of the traffic flow across a network by using the SPAN feature (also known as mirroring).

A typical deployment would involve the configuration of SPAN on Cisco Catalyst switches where the destination SPAN port is the switch port to which our Palo Alto Firewall connects, as shown in the diagram below:

 Palo Alto Next Generation Firewall deployed in TAP mode

Figure 1. Palo Alto Next Generation Firewall deployed in TAP mode

The advantage of this deployment model is that it allows organizations to closely monitor traffic to their servers or network without requiring any changes to the network infrastructure.

During the configuration of SPAN it is important to ensure the correct SPAN source and SPAN Destination ports are configured while also enabling Tap mode at the Firewall.

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