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Manual Chapter: Using Vulnerability Assessment Tools for a Security Policy
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Using Vulnerability Assessment Tools for a Security Policy

Overview: Vulnerability assessment policy building

Application Security Manager™ (ASM) integrates with current version of services, such as IBM® AppScan®, Trustwave ® App Scanner, Qualys, Quotium Seeker®, 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 can set the Learning Mode to automatic or manual, which enables the Real Traffic Policy Builder®. In this case, the Policy Builder makes suggestions for what to add to the policy based on what it learns from your web application traffic, and uses logic to prevent false positives. The suggestions are either automatically learned by the system or they must be manually learned by an administrator depending on the learning mode you selected.

In addition, you select an external scanning tool such as WhiteHat Sentinel, Qualys Web Application Scanning, IBM AppScan, Trustwave App Scanner (Cenzic), Quotium Seeker, or others to build your policy to protect against the vulnerabilities they have found. You import the vulnerabilities detected by the scanner, and 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.

You can also select disabled for the Learning Mode, which disables the Policy Builder so that it does not make learning suggestions. In this case, you can manually build the security policy or just use scanner output to build it. You can adjust the Learning Mode after creating the policy on the Policy Building Learning and Blocking Settings screen.

About exporting results from scanners

Application Security Manager™ (ASM) integrates with the current version of many vulnerability assessment tools (also called scanners). ASM uses the exported results from the scanners to address potential vulnerabilities or security risks concerning your application web site. Using a scanner external to ASM, you perform a vulnerability assessment of the web site, then export the results in standard XML format. Then later, using ASM, you import the results into the security policy being developed to protect the application.

Here are brief instructions on how to export the scan results from several of the vulnerability assessment tools.

Tool To export scan results from the tool
Trustwave App Scanner Right click Assessment Run > Export Assessment Run To > Standard XML .
HP WebInspect Click File > Export > Scan Details . Export the Full details in XML format.
IBM AppScan Click File > Export > Scan results as XML .
Qualys Click Web Applications > View Report > Download > XML .
Quotium Seeker Click Project > Export Results , select F5 BIG-IP ASM format. In ASM, use Generic Scanner to configure.
WhiteHat Sentinel Retrieves reports by connecting directly to ASM using a web service.

You can use additional vulnerability assessment tools as long as you have the results in standard XML output.

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 Trustwave 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 if you are adding a virtual server. Otherwise, the Select Deployment Scenario screen opens.
  4. If you are adding a virtual server, configure the new or existing virtual server, and click Next.
    • If creating a new virtual server, specify the protocol, virtual server name, virtual server destination address and port, pool member IP address and port, and the logging profile.
    • If using an existing virtual server, it must have an HTTP profile and cannot be associated with a local traffic policy. Specify the protocol and virtual server.
    • 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 Select Deployment Scenario screen opens.
  5. For Deployment Scenario, select Create a security policy using third party vulnerability assessment tool output and click Next.
  6. If not associating a virtual server, in the Security Policy Name field, type a name for the policy.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. Click Next.
    The Vulnerability Assessments Settings screen opens.
  12. 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.
  13. 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 vulnerability assessment tool), and how to deal with them.
    1. Type the IP address and netmask of the vulnerability 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.
  14. For Learning Mode, select how you want the Policy Builder to build the security policy.
    • If you want the Policy Builder to automatically build the security policy, select Automatic.
    • If you want the Policy Builder to make suggestions and manually decide what to include, select Manual.
    • If you do not want the system to suggest policy changes, select Disabled.
    Note: In some cases, running the 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 you select Automatic or Manual, the system examines traffic and makes suggestions about how to tighten the security policy. If you are using automatic learning, the system enforces the suggestions when it is reasonable to do so. If you are using manual learning, you need to examine the changes and accept, delete, or ignore them on the Traffic Learning screen. If you disabled this option, the system does not do any learning for this policy, it makes no suggestions, and the Learn flag for all violations becomes inactive.
  15. Click Next.
    The Security Policy Configuration Summary screen opens.
  16. 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.
  17. If using the 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.
  18. 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 a standard 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: After you import vulnerabilities, you cannot change the vulnerability assessment tool you are using for a security policy.
    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.

Importing vulnerability assessment tool output

In order to import vulnerability assessment tool output into a security policy, you need to have configured the policy to use a vulnerability assessment tool. You also need recent scanner output (in standard XML format) for the web application you want to protect.
You can import vulnerability assessment tool output into a 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.
    Some vulnerability assessment tools (such as WhiteHat) provide 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 discovered by a scanner, the security policy protects against them. Application Security Manager™ (ASM) can resolve some vulnerabilities automatically. Others require some manual intervention on your part, and ASM™ provides guidance on what to do.
  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.
  2. In the Vulnerabilities Found and Verified area, you can filter the vulnerabilities that are displayed using the View and Vulnerabilities with lists.
    View option Description
    All Displays all vulnerabilities found by the scanner.
    Resolvable Displays all vulnerabilities that are resolvable either automatically or manually.
    Resolvable (Automatically) Displays vulnerabilities that ASM can resolve.
    Resolvable (Manually) Displays vulnerabilities that can be resolved with some manual intervention.
    Not Resolvable Displays vulnerabilities that are not resolvable in any straightforward way.
    Vulnerabilities with option Description
    Any Displays vulnerabilities in any state.
    Ignored Displays vulnerabilities that you decided to ignore by selecting and clicking Ignore.
    Mitigated Displays vulnerabilities that ASM has mitigated, or those which have been fixed and marked as mitigated..
    Pending Displays vulnerabilities that need to be dealt with.
    Mitigated (In Staging) Displays vulnerabilities that were resolved by adding a parameter or cookie (in staging) to the security policy.
  3. Review the vulnerabilities that the assessment tool has detected and verified.
    1. Click a row in the table to display details about the vulnerability.
      Below the Vulnerabilities Found table, a list of the specific vulnerabilities is displayed.
    2. To add notes about the vulnerability, click the pencil icon in the ASM Status column.
      The Vulnerability Notes popup opens where you can add notes.
  4. For the vulnerabilities that are shown as Resolvable (Automatically), 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. For the vulnerabilities that are shown as Resolvable (Manually), select the vulnerability you want to work on, and click the appropriate button.
    Option Description
    Show Resolution Opens a popup that describes the vulnerability and its possible impact, shows the steps required to manually fix the vulnerability, and describes any risks that might result from making the changes..
    Change ASM Status to Mitigated Changes the status of the vulnerability to say Mitigated. Recommended after you manually fix vulnerabilities.
    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.
  7. Click Apply Policy to save the changes to the security policy.
    The system updates the security policy to prevent the handled vulnerabilities from reoccurring.
  8. 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 manually or automatically. The ASM Status of vulnerabilities that have been dealt with is set to Mitigated.
You can periodically rescan your system to check for additional vulnerabilities that need to be resolved.

Reviewing learning suggestions

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: This task is primarily for building a security policy manually. If you are using the automatic learning mode, this task applies to resolving suggestions that require manual intervention, or for speeding up the enforcement of policy elements.
  1. On the Main tab, click Security > Application Security > Policy Building > Traffic Learning .
    The Traffic Learning screen opens, and lists suggestions based on traffic patterns and violations that the system has detected.
  2. If you want to change the order in which the suggestions are listed, or refine what is included in the list, use the filters at the top of the column.
    You can also list the suggestions by average violation rating of all matching requests, first occurrence, last occurrence, matched entity name, or use the search filter to display specific types of suggestions that you are interested in.
    By default, the suggestions that have the highest learning score (those closest to being ready to be enforced) are listed first. Suggestions have higher learning scores if that traffic has met the conditions in the policy, if it originates from many sources, if it is unlikely to be a violation, or if the traffic comes from a trusted IP address. They may also be suggestions to add an entity the system learns, for example, a new file type, URL, or parameter.
  3. On the Traffic Learning screen, review each learning suggestion.
    1. Select a learning suggestion.
      Information is displayed about the action the system will take if you accept the suggestion, and what caused the suggestion.
    2. You can learn more about the suggestion by looking at the action, the number of samples it is based on, the violations caused and their violation ratings, and if needed, by examining samples of the requests that caused the suggestion.
    3. With a request selected on the left, you can view data about the request on the right, including any violations it generated, the contents of the request itself, and the response (if any). Note that some requests may contain violations related to different suggestions.
      By examining the requests that caused a suggestion, you can determine whether it should be accepted.
    4. To add comments about the suggestion and the cause, click the Add Comment icon and type the comments.
  4. Decide how to respond to the suggestion. You can start with the suggestions with the highest learning scores, or those which you know to be valid for the application. These are the options.
    Option What happens
    Accept Suggestion The system modifies the policy by taking the suggested action, such as adding an entity that is legitimate. If the entity that triggered the suggestion can be placed in staging (file types, URLs, parameters, cookies, or redirection domains), clicking Accept Suggestion displays a second option, Accept suggestion and enable staging on Matched <<entity>>. Click this option to accept the suggestion and place the matched entity in staging.
    Delete Suggestion The system removes the learning suggestion, but the suggestion reoccurs if new requests cause it. The learning score of the suggestion starts over from zero in that case.
    Ignore Suggestion The system does not change the policy and stops showing this suggestion on the Traffic Learning screen now and in the future. You can view ignored suggestions by filtering by status ignored.
    Leave the suggestion You can read the suggestions and wait to handle them until more traffic has passed through, or until you get more information. The suggestion remains in the list and no changes are made to the policy.
    Note: If you are working in automatic learning mode, when the learning score reaches 100%, the system accepts most of the suggestions, or you can accept suggestions manually at any time. If you are using manual learning, when the learning score reaches 100% (or before that if you know the suggestions are valid), you need to accept the suggestions manually.

    If you know that a suggestion is valid, you can accept it at any time even before the learning score reaches 100%. The ones that reach 100% have met all the conditions so that they are probably legitimate entities.

  5. To put the security policy changes into effect immediately, click Apply Policy.
By default, a security policy is put into an enforcement readiness period for seven days. During that time, you can examine learning suggestions and adjust the security policy without blocking traffic. The security policy then includes elements unique to your web application.
It is a good idea to periodically review the learning suggestions on the Traffic Learning screen to determine whether the violations are legitimate and caused by an attack, or if they are false positives that indicate a need to update the security policy. Typically, a wide recurrence of violations at some place in the policy (with a low violation rating and a high learning score) indicates that they might be false positives, and hence the policy should be changed so that they will not be triggered anymore. If the violations seem to indicate true attacks (for example, they have a high violation rating), the policy should stay as is, and you can review the violations that it triggered.

Learning suggestions you must handle manually

Some learning suggestions must be resolved manually even if you are using the Automatic Learning Mode to create a security policy. Suggestions typically require manual intervention if they involve changing an attribute that was manually and deliberately set in the policy, such as a disallowed geolocation or a session ID in a URL. The system does not change the policy unless you accept the suggestion manually.

You can easily see the suggestions that you need to resolve manually because they are marked with an icon on the Traffic Learning screen as shown in the figure. You can also use the advanced filter to view the suggestions the have Learning Mode set to Manual, and this would list the suggestions you need to resolve.

Manually resolvable suggestions

Suggestions that must be resolved manually

If you are using the Manual Learning Mode, you must resolve all of the suggestions manually.

Enforcing a security policy

You only need to enforce a security policy if it was created manually (not using automatic learning), and if 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 > Policy Building > Learning and Blocking Settings .
    The Learning and Blocking 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. Review each of the policy building settings so you understand how the security policy handles requests that cause the associated violations, and adjust if necessary. You need to expand most of the settings to see the violations.
    Tip: To the right of Policy Building Settings, click Blocking Settings to see and adjust all of the violations at once.
    Option What happens when selected
    Learn The system generates learning suggestions for requests that trigger the violation (except learning suggestions are not generated for requests that return HTTP responses with 400 or 404 status codes).
    Alarm When selected, the system marks requests that trigger the violation as illegal. The system also records illegal requests 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 The system blocks requests that trigger the violation when (1) the security policy is in the blocking enforcement mode, (2) a violation occurs, and (3) the entity is enforced. The system sends the blocking response page (containing a Support ID to identify the request) to the client.
  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 Policy Properties screen opens.
  8. To change the number of days that the security policy entities and attack signatures remain 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 immediately block traffic that causes violations, you need to enforce entities that are ready to be enforced. This is one way to do this quickly:
    1. Set the Enforcement Readiness Period to 0. (Not generally recommended. Use only if you want to speed up the process.)
    2. Click Save.
    3. On the Main tab, click Security > Application Security > Policy Building > Enforcement Readiness .
    4. Click Enforce Ready.
    In most cases, it is better to use a longer Enforcement Readiness Period, such as the default of 7 days. The entities become ready to be enforced after that.
  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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