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Manual Chapter: Using Vulnerability Assessment Tools for a Security Policy
Manual Chapter
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Overview: Vulnerability assessment policy building

Application Security Manager (ASM) integrates with services, such as IBM Rational AppScan, Cenzic Hailstorm, QualysGuard, HP WebInspect, and WhiteHat Sentinel, that perform vulnerability assessments of web applications. ASM also integrates with other vulnerability assessment tools by means of a generic scanner. Vulnerability assessment services identify, classify, and report potential security holes or weaknesses in the code of your web site.

You can use the vulnerability assessment deployment scenario to create a baseline security policy that is integrated with a vulnerability assessment tool. By using vulnerability assessment tool output, the system suggests updates to the security policy that can protect against the vulnerabilities that the tool found. You can choose which of the vulnerabilities you want the security policy to handle, retest to be sure that the security policy protects against the vulnerabilities, then enforce the security policy when you are ready.

If you have an existing security policy that was created using a different deployment scenario, you can also incorporate use of a vulnerability assessment tool with that policy.

Task summary

About using Policy Builder with scanner policies

When you develop a security policy using third party vulnerability assessment tool or scanner output, you have the option of enabling automatic policy building. If you enable automatic policy building, the system turns on the Real Traffic Policy Builder. The system then automatically builds the policy based on what it learns from your web application traffic, and uses logic to prevent false positives. You also use external scanning tools (WhiteHat Sentinel, QualysGuard, IBM AppScan, Cenzic Hailstorm, and others) to suggest how to build your policy to protect against vulnerabilities. You can then import the vulnerabilities detected by the scanner, then choose whether or not to update the security policy for each problem found.

It is possible that in some cases Policy Builder decisions might conflict with and override the scanner results. Here are some examples:

  • The Policy Builder might remove a URL that the scanner added to the list of CSRF-protected URLs.
  • The Policy Builder might allow file upload of executable files on a parameter after the scanner disallowed it.
  • The Policy Builder might add an allowed method after the scanner disallowed it.
  • The Policy Builder might disable attack signatures on parameters, cookies, and at the policy level after the scanner enabled them.

If you do not enable the Policy Builder when creating the security policy, you can turn it on after you have imported the vulnerabilities. The Real Traffic Policy Builder can be enabled (or disabled) on the Policy Building Settings screen.

Creating a security policy using vulnerability assessment tool output

In order to integrate vulnerability assessment tool output with Application Security Manager (ASM), you need recent scanner output for the web application you want to protect in the form of an XML file (except if using WhiteHat or Cenzic tools which allow you to download output directly).

Before you can create a security policy using ASM, you need to complete the basic BIG-IP system configuration tasks including creating a VLAN, a self IP address, and other tasks, according to the needs of your networking environment.

You can create a baseline security policy to protect against the potential problems that a vulnerability assessment tool scan finds.
  1. On the Main tab, click Security > Application Security > Security Policies. The Active Policies screen opens.
  2. Click the Create button. The Deployment wizard opens to the Select Local Traffic Deployment Scenario screen.
  3. For the Local Traffic Deployment Scenario setting, specify a virtual server to use for the security policy.
    • To secure an existing virtual server that has no security policy associated with it, select Existing Virtual Server and click Next.
    • To create a new virtual server and pool with basic configuration settings, select New Virtual Server and click Next.
    • To create an active but unused security policy, select Do not associate with Virtual Server and click Next. No traffic will go through this security policy until you associate it with a virtual server. The Policy Builder cannot begin automatically creating a policy until traffic is going to ASM through the virtual server.
    The virtual server represents the web application you want to protect. The Configure Local Traffic Settings screen opens.
  4. Configure the new or existing virtual server, and click Next.
    • If creating a new virtual server, specify the protocol, name, IP address and port, pool IP address, and port.
    • If using an existing virtual server, it must have an HTTP profile and cannot be associated with a local traffic policy.
    • If you selected Do not associate with Virtual Server, you will have to manually associate the security policy with a virtual server at a later time. On the policy properties screen, you need to specify a name for the security policy.
    The name of the new or existing virtual server becomes the name of the security policy. The Select Deployment Scenario screen opens.
  5. For Deployment Scenario, select Create a policy using third party vulnerability assessment tool output and click Next.
  6. From the Application Language list, select the language encoding of the application, then click Next.
    Important: You cannot change this setting after you have created the security policy.
  7. For Enforcement Mode specify whether or not the system blocks traffic that violates the security policy.
    • Leave the value set to Transparent, the default value, if you want to review and fine-tune the security policy before placing it in Blocking mode.
    • If you want the system to enforce the security policy immediately, select Blocking.
  8. If the application is case-sensitive, select the Security Policy is case sensitive check box. Otherwise, leave it cleared.
    Important: You cannot change this setting after you have created the security policy.
  9. If you do not want the security policy to distinguish between HTTP and HTTPS URLs, clear the Differentiate between HTTP and HTTPS URLs check box. Otherwise, leave it selected.
  10. Click Next. The Vulnerability Assessments Settings screen opens.
  11. From the Vulnerability Assessment Tool list, select the vulnerability assessment tool that you use to scan your web application for problems.
    Tip: If your tool is not listed, select Generic Scanner.
  12. In the Configure exceptions for the scanner IP Address setting, specify any IP addresses that you want the security policy to allow (for example, the IP address of the vulnerabilities assessment tool), and how to deal with them.
    1. Type the IP address and netmask of the vulnerabilities assessment tool. You can add  %n  after an IP address to specify a route domain, where n  is the route domain identification number.
    2. Select the appropriate check boxes for learning suggestions, logging, and blocking traffic from this IP address.
  13. If you want to use automatic policy building, leave the Real Traffic Policy Builder check box selected.
    Note: In some cases, running the Real Traffic Policy Builder may overwrite some of the security policy changes suggested by the vulnerability assessment tool. For example, to prevent false positives, the Policy Builder might adjust some of the entities in the security policy based on examining the traffic.
    If selected, the system runs the Policy Builder when you finish creating the policy.
  14. Click Next. The Security Policy Configuration Summary screen opens.
  15. Review the settings for the security policy. When you are satisfied with the security policy configuration, click Finish. The system creates the security policy and opens the vulnerability assessment settings screen specific to the tool you are using. For most tools, you can import the results of a vulnerabilities scan in an XML file.
  16. If using the Cenzic Hailstorm or WhiteHat Sentinel, you can connect with these tools on the Vulnerabilities Assessments Settings screen that opens. If you have an account, click Connect. If you do not have an account, you can open a trial account and run a free scan to find and resolve vulnerabilities.
  17. If using the Generic Scanner, click Download Generic Schema to download the generic_scanner.xsd file.
The system creates a baseline security policy for your web application, but it does not yet protect against the vulnerabilities or enforce the policy. The policy type is Vulnerability Assessment.
Next, you need to import, review, and resolve vulnerabilities on the Vulnerabilities screen so that the security policy protects against them.

Associating a vulnerability assessment tool with an existing security policy

In order to integrate vulnerability assessment tool output with Application Security Manager (ASM), you need recent scanner output for the web application you want to protect in the form of an XML file.
If you have already created a security policy that does not use vulnerability assessment, you can import vulnerability assessment tool output into that security policy.
  1. On the Main tab, click Security > Application Security > Vulnerability Assessments > Settings. The Vulnerabilities Assessments: Settings screen opens.
  2. In the Current edited policy list near the top of the screen, verify that the edited security policy is the one you want to work on.
  3. From the Vulnerability Assessment Tool list, select the vulnerability assessment tool that you use to scan your web application for problems, or select Generic Scanner if your tool is not listed.
    Important: You cannot change the vulnerability assessment tool for a security policy after you import vulnerabilities.
    A popup screen informs you that the Policy Type will be changed to Vulnerability Assessment and asks if you want to continue.
  4. To associate the selected vulnerability assessment tool with the security policy, click OK.
  5. If using the Generic Scanner, click Download Generic Schema to download the generic_scanner.xsd file.
  6. In the editing context area, click Apply Policy to immediately put the changes into effect.
The system associates the vulnerability assessment tool with the security policy.
Next, you need to import, review, and resolve vulnerabilities on the Vulnerabilities screen so that the security policy protects against them.

Configuring system-wide Cenzic settings

Before you can connect to Cenzic Hailstorm or Cenzic Cloud, the system needs to have an Internet connection and have DNS configured. If you have an account with Cenzic, you need the user name and password.
If you want to use Cenzic Hailstorm as your vulnerability assessment tool, you can configure system-wide Cenzic settings. This is useful if you want to use a Cenzic account to import vulnerabilities for multiple security policies because you only have to set it up once. If you do not have an account with Cenzic, you can open a trial account and run a free scan to find and resolve vulnerabilities in your web application.
  1. On the Main tab, click Security > Options > Application Security > Integrated Services > Cenzic Settings.
  2. If you have an account with Cenzic Cloud, connect to Cenzic as follows:
    1. For Connection Status, click Connect. The Connect with Cenzic Cloud popup screen opens.
    2. Type the User Name and Password, then click Submit.
    The system sets up a system-wide connection with Cenzic Cloud.
  3. If you want to open a trial account with Cenzic Cloud, connect as follows:
    1. For Connection Status, click the Open Cenzic Cloud Trial Account link. The Open Cenzic Cloud Trial Account popup screen opens.
    2. Register with Cenzic by typing your customer information and setting up an account.
    The system sets up a system-wide connection with Cenzic Cloud.
  4. To establish a connection to a Cenzic ARC Server instead of Cenzic Cloud, in the Cenzic ARC Server address field, type the local Cenzic ARC server IP address or fully qualified domain name.
    Note: If you configure a local Cenzic ARC Server IP address, you will not have the option to share the site mapping with the Cenzic tool.
  5. Click Save to save your settings.
If you have existing security policies that are configured to use the Cenzic vulnerability assessment tool, those security policies will automatically connect to this Cenzic account. The system warns you that configuring system-wide Cenzic account settings replaces existing security policy-specific Cenzic connections. If you create new security policies that use the Cenzic vulnerability assessment tool, they will use the system-wide Cenzic account settings.

If you configure a Cenzic ARC server IP address, you will not have the option to open a trial account in the Cenzic Cloud, and all communications are made with your local Cenzic server.

Importing vulnerability assessment tool output

In order to import vulnerability assessment tool output into a security policy, you need recent scanner output for the web application you want to protect in the form of an XML file.
If you have already created a security policy that is configured to use a vulnerability assessment tool, you can import the vulnerability assessment tool output into that security policy.
  1. On the Main tab, click Security > Application Security > Vulnerability Assessments. The Vulnerabilities screen opens.
  2. In the Current edited policy list near the top of the screen, verify that the edited security policy is the one you want to work on.
  3. To import the recent scanner output from the vulnerabilities tool, click Import.
  4. In the import popup screen, for the Import previously saved vulnerabilities file field, specify the XML file output from the vulnerabilities assessment tool that you associated with the security policy, then click Import. If using the Cenzic or WhiteHat vulnerability assessment tools, additional settings allow you to connect to an existing account, create a trial account, and request a new scan. Refer to the online help for details about the settings. The system verifies the file and if vulnerabilities for more than one domain are discovered, on the popup screen you can select the domain names for which to include the vulnerabilities.
The system imports the vulnerabilities that the vulnerabilities assessment tool found on your web application.
Next, you need to review and resolve vulnerabilities on the Vulnerabilities screen so that the security policy protects against them.

Resolving vulnerabilities

Before you can resolve vulnerabilities for a security policy, the security policy must be associated with a vulnerability assessment tool, and have the vulnerabilities file imported to it.
When you resolve vulnerabilities, Application Security Manager (ASM) configures the security policy to protect against them.
  1. On the Main tab, click Security > Application Security > Vulnerability Assessments. The Vulnerabilities screen opens and lists the vulnerabilities that the vulnerability assessment scan discovered. They are categorized in to those which are resolvable using ASM and those which are not.
  2. In the Vulnerabilities Found and Verified area, review the vulnerabilities that the assessment tool has detected and verified.
    Tip: Click a row in this table to display details about the vulnerability.
  3. From the View and Vulnerabilities with lists, you can filter the vulnerabilities that are displayed. Vulnerabilities that are Resolvable are ones that ASM can mitigate.
  4. For the vulnerabilities that are shown as Resolvable, select the vulnerabilities you want the system to resolve (or ignore), and click the appropriate button.
    Option Description
    Resolve and Stage Updates the security policy to protect against the vulnerability, and puts parameters in staging. Entities in staging do not cause violations, and this allows you to fine-tune their settings without causing false positives.
    Resolve Updates the security policy to protect against the vulnerability.
    Ignore Changes the ASM Status of the selected vulnerability from Pending to Ignore. If later you decide to protect against this vulnerability, you can select it and click Cancel Ignore.
    ASM reviews the prerequisites and then displays a list of the changes it will make to fix the vulnerability.
  5. If you agree with the changes, click Resolve. ASM modifies the security policy to protect against the vulnerabilities for which you clicked Resolve and ignores the rest. In the Vulnerabilities list, the ASM Status column for the vulnerability changes to Mitigated or Mitigated (In Staging), if appropriate.
  6. Click Apply Policy to save the changes to the security policy. The system updates the security policy to prevent the handled vulnerabilities from reoccurring.
  7. If using WhiteHat Sentinel, select all of the vulnerabilities you dealt with and click Retest to have the WhiteHat Sentinel service verify that the vulnerability has been dealt with.
The security policy for your web application protects against the vulnerabilities that the vulnerability assessment tool discovered and which you resolved. The ASM Status of vulnerabilities that have been dealt with changes to Mitigated.
You can also review vulnerabilities that ASM cannot resolve automatically, and update the security policy manually to protect against them.

Fine-tuning a security policy

After you create a security policy, the system provides learning suggestions concerning additions to the security policy based on the traffic that is accessing the application. For example, you can have users or testers browse the web application. By analyzing the traffic to and from the application, Application Security Manager generates learning suggestions or ways to fine-tune the security policy to better suit the traffic and secure the application.

Note: If you are using the Policy Builder to add elements to the security policy, you can skip this task.
  1. On the Main tab, click Security > Application Security > Policy Building > Manual Traffic Learning. The Manual Traffic Learning screen opens, and lists violations and learning suggestions that the system has made based on real traffic.
  2. In the Traffic Learning area, click each violation hyperlink, then review and handle learning suggestions:
    Option Description
    Accept Select a learning suggestion, click Accept, and then click Apply Policy. The system updates the security policy to allow the file type, URL, parameter, or other element.
    Clear Select a learning suggestion, and click Clear. The system removes the learning suggestion and continues to generate suggestions for that violation.
    Cancel Click Cancel to return to the Manual Traffic Learning screen.
    By default, a security policy is put into a staging-tightening period for seven days. During this time, you can examine learning suggestions and adjust the security policy without blocking traffic.
  3. On the Manual Traffic Learning screen, review the violations and consider whether you want to permit any of them (for example, if a violation is causing false positives). Select any violations you do not want the system to trigger, and click Disable Violation. A popup screen opens, and you can verify that you want to disable the violations or cancel the action.
  4. To put the security policy changes into effect immediately, click Apply Policy.
  5. On the Main tab, click Security > Overview > Application > Action Items. The Action Items screen opens.
  6. Examine the Action Items screen for information about recommended actions that you need to complete.
    1. Review the Suggested Action Items area, which lists system tasks and security policy tasks that should be completed.
    2. Click the links in the Suggested Action Items area to go to the screen where you can perform the recommended action.
    3. In the Quick Links area, click any of the links to gain access to common configuration and reporting screens.
The security policy now includes elements unique to your web application.
It is a good idea to periodically review the learning suggestions on the Manual Traffic Learning screen to determine whether the violations are legitimate, or if they are false positives that indicate a need to update the security policy.

Enforcing a security policy

You only need to enforce a security policy if it was created manually (not using the automatic policy builder), and it is operating in transparent mode. Traffic should be moving through Application Security Manager, allowing users to access the web application for which you set up the security policy.
When you enforce a security policy, the system blocks requests that cause violations that are set to block.
  1. On the Main tab, click Security > Application Security > Blocking. The Settings screen opens.
  2. In the Current edited policy list near the top of the screen, verify that the edited security policy is the one you want to work on.
  3. For the Enforcement Mode setting, select Blocking.
  4. For each violation, review the settings so you understand how the security policy handles requests that cause the violation, and adjust if necessary.
    Option Description
    Learn If selected, the system generates learning suggestions for requests that trigger the violation.
    Alarm If selected, the system records requests that trigger the violation in the Charts screen, the system log (/var/log/asm), and possibly in local or remote logs (depending on the settings of the logging profile).
    Block If selected (and the enforcement mode is set to Blocking), the system blocks requests that trigger the violation.
    Tip: Click the information icon preceding a violation for a description of it.
  5. Click Save to save your settings.
  6. On the Main tab, click Security > Application Security > Security Policies. The Active Policies screen opens.
  7. Click the name of the security policy you want to work on. The Properties screen opens.
  8. To change the number of days the security policy remains in staging, change the value in the Enforcement Readiness Period field. The security policy does not block traffic during the Enforcement Readiness Period even if violations occur.
  9. If you want to block traffic that causes violations, you need to enforce violations. One way to do this is:
    1. Set the Enforcement Readiness Period to 0.
    2. Click Save.
    3. On the Main tab, click Security > Application Security > Policy Building > Enforcement Readiness.
    4. Click Enforce Ready.
  10. To put the security policy changes into effect immediately, click Apply Policy.
  11. For a quick summary of system activity, look at the Overview screen (Security > Overview > Application). The Summary screen displays statistical information about Application Security traffic. 
After the enforcement readiness period is over and the enforcement mode is set to blocking, the security policy no longer allows requests that cause violations set to block to reach the back-end resources. Instead, the security policy blocks the request, and sends the blocking response page to the client.
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