This is the sixth article in a 10-part series on the BIG-IP Application Security Manager (ASM). The first five articles in this series are:

  1. What is the BIG-IP ASM?
  2. Policy Building
  3. The Importance of File Types, Parameters, and URLs
  4. Attack Signatures
  5. XML Security

This article will discuss some really cool ASM features: IP address intelligence and whitelisting. It's hard to defend against all the crazy cyber threats out there today, so wouldn't it be nice to know if the IP address requesting access to your application is trusted or not? And, wouldn't it be convenient to tell certain IP addresses that you explicitly trust them? Well the ASM allows you to do all that! So turn on that ASM and get ready to configure some awesomeness...

 

IP Address Intelligence

 

In·tel·li·gence noun \in-ˈte-lə-jən(t)s\: information concerning an enemy or possible enemy or an area

 

Imagine this...you just launched a fantastic web application, and you want as many visitors as you can possibly get. But, you also want to make sure those visitors are not harmful. These days it's hard to know if the user accessing your application is fraudulent or not. There are so many botnets, proxies, scanners, infected sources, etc running rampant today that it becomes a very daunting task to figure out which ones are good and which ones are bad.

The IP Address Intelligence feature on the BIG-IP ASM identifies IP addresses that are associated with high risk activity. When a client connection is initialized, the ASM monitors information from Layer 3 and determines if a client is already known to have a high risk profile. It's the application-equivalent of the FBI's most wanted list!

The system uses an automated algorithm to gather evidence of threats based on observation, context, and statistical modeling. The bad IP addresses are catalogued and tracked indefinitely. If one of these bad IP addresses attempts to access your application...guess what? Sorry, no dice for the bad IP.

The ASM also enables the use of the HTTP X-Forwarded-For (XFF) header as the source of the client IP identification instead of the Layer 3 address header. If you allow the XFF to be trusted, then this header's inner-most value is used, but if the XFF is not trusted, the source address from the IP header is used.

 

The Database

I'm sure by now you are curious about the size and function of that IP Address Intelligence database. The IP Address Intelligence feature uses the online IP address reputation service that is maintained by Webroot security services. As you can imagine, the list of bad IP addresses grows every day. Currently, the database contains well over 230 million IP addresses...and counting! The IP Address Intelligence feature uses a BIG-IP shared daemon called "iprepd" and a matching database file. The iprepd daemon updates the database file every 5 minutes...that's almost real-time updates! It does this automatically (there's no manual update option), so you can have the peace of mind that comes with knowing your application is protected from the most up-to-date list of known bad IP addresses. When the database is updated, it only downloads the changes from your current database, so the downloads go pretty quick (except the very first one).

Because the IP Address Intelligence feature uses an external service for database maintenance and functionality, it requires a separate add-on license. The database file is not included with the ASM bundled software, but once you activate the license, the BIG-IP will contact the provider site and download the database. Here's another really cool thing about this feature...once it's enabled, you can use it with all your BIG-IP modules...not just the ASM! Also, if your license ever expires (we all know you would never let this happen, but just play along for a second), the local database will still be queried and used...it just won't get the every-5-minute updates any more.

If you ever want to check on the status of the database (how many IPs were added/deleted/changed during updates), you can use the following command (the last row will show you the total number of IP addresses in the database):

tail /var/log/iprepd/iprepd.log

 

One last thing you should know before we dive into the BIG-IP configuration details...IP Address Intelligence is available with BIG-IP version 11.2 and newer. So, get off that 10.x (or 9.x) box and upgrade to these features that are not only really cool but are also extremely important for the protection of your valuable business assets.

 

BIG-IP Configuration

You can find all the IP Address Intelligence goodness by navigating to Security >> Application Security >> IP Addresses >> IP Address Intelligence. The following screenshot provides the details of the configuration options for this feature. You may have noticed that in my lab version of the BIG-IP ASM I don't have IP Address Intelligence licensed, but also notice that if it were licensed, the blue text on the right side of the screen toward the top of the page would show the last time/day the database was updated. This is an easy way to check on the database updates from the GUI rather than the command line if you lean that way (don't worry, we don't judge).

 

IP Addr Intel

 

As you can see, there are several IP Address Intelligence Categories, and each bad IP address will fall into one (or more) of these categories. You have the option of Alarming or Blocking (or both) each category. Here's a quick list of what each category includes:

  • Windows Exploits - includes active IP address offering or distributing malware, shell code, rootkits, worms, and viruses
  • Web Attacks - includes cross site scripting, iFrame injection, SQL injection, cross domain injection, and domain password brute force
  • BotNets - includes Botnet Command and Control channels and an infected zombie machine controlled by a Bot master
  • Scanners - includes all reconnaissance, such as probes, host scan, domain scan, and password brute force
  • Denial of Service - includes DoS, DDoS, anomalous syn flood, and anomalous traffic detection
  • Infected Sources - includes IP addresses currently known to be infected with malware and IP addresses with an average "low" Reputation Index score.
  • Phishing Proxies - includes IP addresses hosting phishing sites and other kind of fraud activities such as Ad Click Fraud and Gaming fraud
  • Anonymous Proxy - includes IP addresses that provide proxy and anonymizing services and IP addresses registered with the Tor anonymity network

 

The last thing I'll mention on the IP Address Intelligence Categories is that you can look up a specific IP address and see what category(ies) it falls into. Type this little beauty into the command line and you'll see the categories (if any) for the given IP address:

iprep_lookup x.x.x.x (where x.x.x.x is the IP address)

 

Don't Forget The Other Block...

After you select the blocking settings for the categories listed above, you need to make one more stop before the ASM will block these bad boys. Head over to Security >> Application Security >> Blocking >> Settings and make sure you check the "Block" setting for the "Access from malicious IP address" setting. The screenshot below gives you all the details...

 

Blocking Settings - Malicious IP

 

 

Is My Name On That List?

Now that we have figured out all the ways to block these bad IP addresses, let's turn our focus on how to let the good guys in. The BIG-IP ASM includes a feature called "IP Address Exceptions" that gives you the ability to explicitly allow certain IP addresses. You can navigate to Security >> Application Security >> IP Addresses >> IP Address Exceptions and you will see the following screen:

 

IP Whitelist

 

As you can see, this one is pretty simple and straightforward. You simply add an IP Address and optional Netmask (255.255.255.255 will be the Netmask if you don't add one), and then you select one or more of the options listed.

  • When the Policy Builder trusted IP option is enabled, the Policy Builder will consider traffic from this specified IP address as being safe. The Policy Builder will automatically add to the security policy any data logged from traffic sent from this IP address. Selecting this option also automatically adds this IP address to the Trusted IP Addresses setting on the Policy Building Configuration screen. If you don't enable this option, the Policy Builder will not consider traffic from this IP address as being any different than traffic from any other IP address.

 

  • When the Ignore in Anomaly Detection option is enabled, the ASM will consider this IP address as legitimate and will not consider it when performing brute force prevention and web scraping detection. Once you enable this option, the system automatically adds this IP address to the IP Address Whitelist setting for Anomaly Detection. If you don't enable this option, the ASM will not consider traffic from this IP address as being any safer than traffic from any other IP address.

 

  • When the Ignore in Learning Suggestions option is enabled, the ASM will not generate learning suggestions from traffic sent from this IP address. If you don't enable this option, the ASM will generate learning suggestions from the IP's traffic.

 

  • When the Never block this IP Address option is enabled, guess what? The ASM will not block requests sent from this IP address...even if your security policy is configured to block all traffic. If you don't enable this option, the ASM will treat this IP address the same as all others.

 

  • When the Never log traffic from this IP Address option is enabled, the system will not log requests or responses sent from this IP address...even if the traffic is illegal and even if your security policy is configured to log all traffic. If you don't enable this option, the ASM will simply continue to log traffic as specified in the settings of your security policy’s Logging Profile. On a related note, this option can be quite helpful when you have approved scanners testing your application on a regular basis. You may want to keep the scanner traffic out of your logs so that you can more easily focus on the user traffic.

 

  • When the Ignore IP Address Intelligence option is enabled, the ASM will consider this IP address as legitimate even if it is found in the IP Address Intelligence database (you know...the one we just talked about). Once you enable this option, the system automatically adds this IP address to the IP Address Whitelist setting for IP Addresses Intelligence (you can check out the screenshot in the section above and see where these IP addresses would be listed). If you don't enable this option, the ASM will not consider traffic from this IP address as being any safer than traffic from any other IP address.

 

Well, that's it for this edition of the BIG-IP ASM series...be sure to check back next time when we dive into some more really cool features!


Update: Now that the article series is complete, I wanted to share the links to each article.  If I add any more in the future, I'll update this list.

  1. What is the BIG-IP ASM?
  2. Policy Building
  3. The Importance of File Types, Parameters, and URLs
  4. Attack Signatures
  5. XML Security
  6. IP Address Intelligence and Whitelisting
  7. Geolocation
  8. Data Guard
  9. Username and Session Awareness Tracking
  10. Event Logging