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Firewalls on End Hosts

blog » series » Firewalls on End Hosts

In September 2020, Matthias Luft wrote an introductory article describing host-based firewalls (traffic filtering functionality deployed on end-hosts). His article triggered numerous questions including:

  • Why don’t we have dynamic firewall policies where the end-hosts could specify which TCP/UDP ports they need?
  • Can we use traffic flow analysis to reverse-engineer firewall rules?
  • Is there any chance of fixing this problem?

Considerations for Host-based Firewalls (Part 1)

This is a guest blog post by Matthias Luft, Principal Platform Security Engineer @ Salesforce, and a regular guest speaker.

Having spent my career in various roles in IT security, Ivan and I always bounced thoughts on the overlap between networking and security (and, more recently, Cloud/Container) around. One of the hot challenges on that boundary that regularly comes up in network/security discussions is the topic of this blog post: microsegmentation and host-based firewalls (HBFs).

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Why Don't We Have Dynamic Firewall Policies

One of the readers of the Considerations for Host-Based Firewalls blog post wrote this interesting comment:

Perhaps a paradigm shift is due for firewalls in general? I’m thinking quickly here but wondering if we perhaps just had a protocol by which a host could request upstream firewall(s) to open access inbound on their behalf dynamically, the hosts themselves would then automatically inform the security device what ports they need/want opened upstream.

Well, we have at least two protocols that could fit the bill: Universal Plug and Play and Port Control Protocol (RFC 6887).

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Using Flow Tracking to Build Firewall Rulesets... and Halting Problem

Peter Welcher identified the biggest network security hurdle faced by most enterprise IT environments in his comment to Considerations for Host-based Firewalls (Part 1) blog post:

I have NEVER found a customer application team that can tell me all the servers they are using, their IP addresses, let alone the ports they use.

His proposed solution: use software like Tetration (or any other flow collecting tool) to figure out what’s really going on:

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Fixing Firewall Ruleset Problem For Good

Before we start: if you’re new to my blog (or stumbled upon this blog post by incident) you might want to read the Considerations for Host-Based Firewalls for a brief overview of the challenge, and my explanation why flow-tracking tools cannot be used to auto-generate firewall policies.

As expected, the “you cannot do it” post on LinkedIn generated numerous comments, ranging from good ideas to borderline ridiculous attempts to fix a problem that has been proven to be unfixable (see also: perpetual motion).

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Considerations for Host-based Firewalls (Part 2)

This is a guest blog post by Matthias Luft, Principal Platform Security Engineer @ Salesforce, and a regular guest speaker.

A couple of months ago I had the pleasure to publish my first guest post here and, as to be expected from, it triggered some great discussion.

With this input and some open thoughts from the last post, I want to dive into a few more topics.

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