[fw-wiz] Coding a custom firewall manager for multiple firewall brands. Feasible?

david at lang.hm david at lang.hm
Wed Jul 1 00:06:09 EDT 2009

On Tue, 30 Jun 2009, plopz wrote:

> Hi everyone,
> I'd just recently got an extra job role as a firewall administrator and I'm
> faced with a network that consists of multitudes of firewall brands (nokia,
> sidewinder etc. ) bulging with almost 3000+ rules. The networks are also
> segmented and structured in such a way that adding a new path from one host
> to another services requires multiple entries into various firewalls that
> are in the path. As the requests for new connectivity come in hundreds or
> more per week, I feel that the current implementation is not really
> scalable. (manual data entries into firewalls and fight-fire
> trouble-shooting :(
> I'd look at existing firewall managment tools such as solsoft, algosoft etc.
> but they don't seems to cover some of the brands that we have. There are
> also budget issues, red tapes, securities, stability etc etc issues from
> third party vendor...
> I'm contemplating on trying to code a custom firewall manager that is able
> to handle the daily change request and push down the different rules into
> the different brand of firewalls in our network. Do you guys think it's
> worth the effort or acquiring a third party firewall manger is better?

one thing to note is that some of the brands that you have are not very 
receptive to remote administration.

Sidewinder actually has an extensive command line environment, but it's 
not well documented in their manuals, but the help functions and some 
examination of the output (cf <section> help and cf <section> query) make 
it fairly easy to figure out. note that for many cases you will need to 
execute many commands to set everything up. one gotcha to watch out for is 
that sidewinder has selinux-like permissions, so you have an extra file 
type to worry about for your scripts.

the one thing I haven't taken the time to look up is if there is a way 
short of expect to ssh in to a sidewinder, srole (change to the admin) and 
continue to have a script run)

I don't know if there is any way to script rules in and out of checkpoint 
firewalls (your nokias), if anyone can point me at things I would 
defiantly be interested.

I would start by trying to categorize the rule change requests that you 
are getting. if there are significant patterns, than automating it 
shouldn't be too hard, if ther eare no strong patterns I suspect that you 
will spend as much time manipulating your automatin tool as you would the 

for this sort of thing I am a big believer in home-grown tools. the 
one-size-fits-none nature of the do-everything tools doesn't attract me.

another thing to keep in mind is that by centralizing the management 
like this, you are working to save time and eliminate simple mistakes that 
keep things from working, but you will make it _much_ easier to make 
mistakes the other way and open up too much access. the management tool is 
also a _very_ poerful thing for any attacker to get control of.

having lots of segments with multiple firewall technologies is probably a 
sign of one of two things.

1. the business grew by aquisition and each company that was purchased 
used a different firewall and the result is just pasted togeather

2. someone made a deliberate choice to provide defense in depth with 
diversity so that a failure/exploit in one technology (or user error 
in rule entry) would be limited in how much damage it could do.

if you are in case #2 you should think a little bit before you throw away 
the advantages to get the time savings. if you have clueful management 
ask them about it (and in any case, make sure they know about what 
tradeoff you are making)

if you are in case #1 decide if you want to take advantage of the 
diversity or not. if you don't, seriously start a campaign to standardize 
the firewalls on one technology that you can automate (ideally something 
that you can script, think of the advantages of being able to have a web 
page for _some_ _standard_ requests that authenticates the requester and 
implements the rule without you getting involved) you don't have to 
replace them rapidly, just start replacing them as you get the chance.

you may also want to talk to management about eliminating some of the 
firewalls. if you are getting hundreds of requests a week, your current 
set of 3000 rules is only about half a year's worth of requests. either 
you are turning off a lot of requests, are combining many requests into 
a single rule, or your numbers aren't adding up.

at my place we have 60 or so firewall locations (each with a HA pair of 
firewalls), we just did a report from our ticketing systems and find that 
we are getting ~10 requests/day for the last year, and have 30,000 or so 
rules around the network. it's not fun, but I'm not convinced that a 
central management is a magic wand to make the pain go away although some 
of my co-workers are)

David Lang

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