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Manual Chapter: Tracking Application Security Sessions with APM
Manual Chapter
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Overview: Tracking application security sessions using APM

You can track sessions using login pages configured from within Application Security Manager (ASM), or have the policy retrieve the user names from Access Policy Manager(APM). This implementation describes how to set up session tracking for a security policy using APM to verify user credentials. Then, you can set up session awareness from within ASM to identify the user, session, or IP address that instigated an attack.

If you configure session tracking, you can view the user and session information in the application security charts.

Prerequisites for setting up session tracking with APM

In order to set up session tracking from within Application Security Manager (ASM) so that the security policy retrieves the user names from Access Policy Manager (APM), you need to perform basic these system configuration tasks according to the needs of your networking configuration:

  • Run the setup utility and create a management IP address.
  • License and provision ASM, APM, and Local Traffic Manager (LTM).
  • Configure a DNS address (System > Configuration > Device > DNS).
  • Configure an NTP server (System > Configuration > Device > NTP).
  • Restart ASM (at the command line, type tmsh restart /sys service asm).

Task summary

Use the following tasks to set up application security session tracking with APM authentication integrated.

Creating a VLAN

VLANs represent a logical collection of hosts that can share network resources, regardless of their physical location on the network. You create a VLAN to associate physical interfaces with that VLAN.
  1. On the Main tab, click Network > VLANs. The VLAN List screen opens.
  2. Click Create. The New VLAN screen opens.
  3. In the Name field, type a unique name for the VLAN.
  4. In the Tag field, type a numeric tag, from 1-4094, for the VLAN, or leave the field blank if you want the BIG-IP system to automatically assign a VLAN tag. The VLAN tag identifies the traffic from hosts in the associated VLAN.
  5. From the Customer Tag list:
    1. Retain the default value of None or select Specify.
    2. If you chose Specify in the previous step, type a numeric tag, from 1-4094, for the VLAN.
    The customer tag specifies the inner tag of any frame passing through the VLAN.
  6. For the Interfaces setting,
    1. From the Interface list, select an interface number.
    2. From the Tagging list, select Untagged.
    3. Click Add.
  7. Click Finished. The screen refreshes, and displays the new VLAN in the list.

Creating a self IP address for a VLAN

Ensure that you have at least one VLAN configured before you create a self IP address.
Self IP addresses enable the BIG-IP system, and other devices on the network, to route application traffic through the associated VLAN.
  1. On the Main tab, click Network > Self IPs.
  2. Click Create. The New Self IP screen opens.
  3. In the Name field, type a unique name for the self IP address.
  4. In the IP Address field, type an IPv4 or IPv6 address. This IP address should represent the address space of the VLAN that you specify with the VLAN/Tunnel setting.
  5. In the Netmask field, type the full network mask for the specified IP address.

    For example, you can type ffff:ffff:ffff:ffff:0000:0000:0000:0000 or ffff:ffff:ffff:ffff::.

  6. From the VLAN/Tunnel list, select the VLAN to associate with this self IP address.
    • On the internal network, select the internal or high availability VLAN that is associated with an internal interface or trunk.
    • On the external network, select the external VLAN that is associated with an external interface or trunk.
  7. Use the default values for all remaining settings.
  8. Click Finished. The screen refreshes, and displays the new self IP address.
The BIG-IP system can now send and receive TCP/IP traffic through the specified VLAN.

Creating a local traffic pool for application security

You can use a local traffic pool with Application Security Manager system to forward traffic to the appropriate resources.
Note: You can optionally create a pool as part of creating a security policy using the Deployment wizard.
  1. On the Main tab, click Local Traffic > Pools. The Pool List screen opens.
  2. Click Create. The New Pool screen opens.
  3. In the Name field, type a unique name for the pool.
  4. In the Resources area, for the New Members setting, add to the pool the application servers that host the web application:
    1. Type an IP address in the Address field.
    2. In the Service Port field, type a port number (for example, type 80 for the HTTP service), or select a service name from the list.
    3. Click Add.
  5. Click Finished.
The BIG-IP system configuration now includes a local traffic pool containing the resources that you want to protect using Application Security Manager.

Creating a virtual server to manage HTTPS traffic

You can create a virtual server to manage HTTPS traffic.
  1. On the Main tab, click Local Traffic > Virtual Servers. The Virtual Server List screen opens.
  2. Click the Create button. The New Virtual Server screen opens.
  3. In the Name field, type a unique name for the virtual server.
  4. In the Service Port field, type 443 or select HTTPS from the list.
  5. From the Configuration list, select Advanced.
  6. From the HTTP Profile list, select http.
  7. For the SSL Profile (Client) setting, from the Available list, select clientssl, and using the Move button, move the name to the Selected list.
  8. Optional: From the SSL Profile (Server) list, select serverssl.
    Note: This setting ensures that there is an SSL connection between the HTTP virtual server and the external HTTPS server.
  9. From the Source Address Translation list, select Auto Map.
  10. From the Default Pool list, select the pool that is configured for application security.
  11. Click Finished.
The HTTPS virtual server appears in the Virtual Server List screen.

Creating a security policy automatically

Before you can create a security policy, you must perform the minimal system configuration tasks including defining a VLAN, a self IP address, and other tasks required according to the needs of your networking environment.
Application Security Manager can automatically create a security policy that is tailored to secure your web application.
  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 adding a virtual server, configure the new or existing virtual server, and click Next.
    • If creating a new virtual server, specify the protocol, name, virtual server destination address and port, and pool member 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 virtual server becomes the name of the security policy. The Select Deployment Scenario screen opens.
  5. For Deployment Scenario, select Create a policy automatically and click Next. The Configure Security Policy Properties screen opens.
  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, or select Auto detect and let the system detect the language.
    Important: You cannot change this setting after you have created the security policy.
  8. If the application is not case-sensitive, clear the Security Policy is case sensitive check box. Otherwise, leave it selected.
    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 Configure Attack Signatures screen opens.
  11. To configure attack signatures, move the systems used by your web application from the Available Systems list into the Assigned Systems list. The system adds the attack signatures needed to protect the selected systems.
  12. For the Signature Staging setting, verify that the default option Enabled is selected.
    Note: Because the Real Traffic Policy Builder begins building the security policy in Blocking mode, you can keep signature staging enabled so you can check whether legitimate traffic is being stopped to reduce the chance of false positives.
    New and updated attack signatures remain in staging for 7 days, and are recorded but not enforced (according to the learn, alarm, and block flags in the attack signatures configuration) during that time.
  13. Click Next. The Configure Automatic Policy Building screen opens.
  14. For Policy Type, select an option to determine the security features to include in the policy.
    Option Description
    Fundamental Creates a security policy enforcing HTTP protocol compliance, evasion techniques, explicit file types (including length checks), explicit parameters in selective mode at the global level, attack signatures, the violation Request Length Exceeds Defined Buffer Size, host names, header lengths, cookie lengths, the violation Failed to Convert Character, and learn explicit redirection domains.
    Enhanced Creates a security policy with all the elements of the Fundamental policy type; also checks for explicit URLs in selective mode plus meta characters, explicit parameter length checks in selective mode at the global level, methods, explicit cookies, and content profiles.
    Comprehensive Creates a security policy with all the elements of the Enhanced policy type; also checks for explicit URLs and meta characters, explicit parameters and lengths at the URL level, parameter meta characters, and dynamic parameters.
    A bulleted list on the screen describes which security features are included in each type.
  15. For Rules, move the slider to set the Policy Builder learning speed.
    Option Description
    Fast Use if your application supports a small number of requests from a small number of sessions; for example, useful for web sites with less traffic. However, choosing this option may present a greater chance of adding false entities to the security policy.
    Medium Use if your application supports a medium number of requests, or if you are not sure about the amount of traffic on the application web site. This is the default setting.
    Slow Use if your application supports a large number of requests from many sessions; for example, useful for web sites with lots of traffic. This option creates the most accurate security policy, but takes Policy Builder longer to collect the statistics.
    Based on the option you select, the system sets greater or lesser values for the number of different user sessions, different IP addresses, and length of time before it adds to the security policy and enforces the elements.
  16. For Trusted IP Addresses, select which IP addresses to consider safe:
    Option Description
    All Specifies that the policy trusts all IP addresses. For example, if the traffic is in a corporate lab or preproduction environment where all of the traffic is trusted, the policy is created faster when you select this option.
    Address List Specifies networks to consider safe. Fill in the IP Address and Netmask fields, then click Add. This option is typically used in a production environment where traffic could come from untrusted sources. The IP Address can be either an IPv4 or an IPv6 address.
    If you leave the trusted IP address list empty, the system treats all traffic as untrusted. In general, it takes more untrusted traffic, from different IP addresses, over a longer period of time to build a security policy.
  17. If you want the security policy to automatically detect JSON and XML protocols, select the JSON/XML payload detection check box. If requests contain legitimate XML or JSON data, the Policy Builder creates content profiles in the security policy according to the data it detects.
  18. If you want to display a response page when an AJAX request does not adhere to the security policy, select the AJAX blocking response behavior check box.
  19. Click Next. The Security Policy Configuration Summary opens where you can review the settings to be sure they are correct.
  20. Click Finish to create the security policy. The Automatic Policy Building Status screen opens where you can view the current state of the security policy.
ASM creates the virtual server with an HTTP profile, and on the Security tab, Application Security Policy is enabled and associated with the security policy you created. A local traffic policy is also created and by default sends all traffic for the virtual server to ASM. The Policy Builder automatically begins examining the traffic to the web application and building the security policy (unless you did not associate a virtual server). The system sets the enforcement mode of the security policy to Blocking, but it does not block requests until the Policy Builder processes sufficient traffic, adds elements to the security policy, and enforces the elements.
Tip: This is a good point at which to test that you can access the application being protected by the security policy and check that traffic is being processed by the BIG-IP system.

Creating an access profile

You create an access profile to provide the access policy configuration for a virtual server that establishes a secured session.
  1. On the Main tab, click Access Policy > Access Profiles. The Access Profiles List screen opens.
  2. Click Create. The New Profile screen opens.
  3. In the Name field, type a name for the access profile.
    Note: An access profile name must be unique among all access profile and any per-request policy names.
  4. From the Profile Type list, select SSL-VPN. Additional settings display.
  5. To configure timeout and session settings, select the Custom check box.
  6. In the Inactivity Timeout field, type the number of seconds that should pass before the access policy times out. Type 0 to set no timeout. If there is no activity (defined by the Session Update Threshold and Session Update Window settings in the Network Access configuration) between the client and server within the specified threshold time, the system closes the current session.
  7. In the Access Policy Timeout field, type the number of seconds that should pass before the access profile times out because of inactivity. Type 0 to set no timeout.
  8. In the Maximum Session Timeout field, type the maximum number of seconds the session can exist. Type 0 to set no timeout.
  9. In the Max Concurrent Users field, type the maximum number of users that can use this access profile at the same time. Type 0 to set no maximum.
  10. In the Max Sessions Per User field, type the maximum number of concurrent sessions that one user can start. Type 0 to set no maximum.
  11. In the Max In Progress Sessions Per Client IP field, type the maximum number of concurrent sessions that one client IP address can support. Type 0 to set no maximum.
  12. Select the Restrict to Single Client IP check box to restrict the current session to a single IP address. This setting associates the session ID with the IP address. Upon a request to the session, if the IP address has changed the request is redirected to a logout page, the session ID is deleted, and a log entry is written to indicate that a session hijacking attempt was detected. If such a redirect is not possible, the request is denied and the same events occur.
  13. To configure logout URIs, in the Configurations area, type each logout URI in the URI field, and then click Add.
  14. In the Logout URI Timeout field, type the delay in seconds before logout occurs for the customized logout URIs defined in the Logout URI Include list.
  15. To configure SSO:
    • For users to log in to multiple domains using one SSO configuration, skip the settings in the SSO Across Authentication Domains (Single Domain mode) area. You can configure SSO for multiple domains only after you finish the initial access profile configuration.
    • For users to log in to a single domain using an SSO configuration, configure settings in the SSO Across Authentication Domains (Single Domain mode) area, or you can configure SSO settings after you finish the initial access profile configuration.
  16. In the Domain Cookie field, specify a domain cookie, if the application access control connection uses a cookie.
  17. In the Cookie Options setting, specify whether to use a secure cookie.
    • If the policy requires a secure cookie, select the Secure check box to add the secure keyword to the session cookie.
    • If you are configuring an LTM access scenario that uses an HTTPS virtual server to authenticate the user and then sends the user to an existing HTTP virtual server to use applications, clear this check box.
  18. If the access policy requires a persistent cookie, in the Cookie Options setting, select the Persistent check box. This sets cookies if the session does not have a webtop. When the session is first established, session cookies are not marked as persistent; but when the first response is sent to the client after the access policy completes successfully, the cookies are marked persistent. Persistent cookies are updated for the expiration timeout every 60 seconds. The timeout is equal to session inactivity timeout. If the session inactivity timeout is overwritten in the access policy, the overwritten value will be used to set the persistent cookie expiration.
  19. From the SSO Configurations list, select an SSO configuration.
  20. In the Language Settings area, add and remove accepted languages, and set the default language. A browser uses the highest priority accepted language. If no browser language matches the accepted languages list, the browser uses the default language.
  21. Click Finished.
The access profile appears in the Access Profiles List.
To add an SSO configuration for multiple domains, click SSO / Auth Domains on the menu bar. To provide functionality with an access profile, you must configure the access policy. The default access policy for a profile denies all traffic and contains no actions. Click Edit in the Access Policy column to edit the access policy.

Configuring an access policy

You configure an access policy to provide authentication, endpoint checks, and resources for an access profile. This procedure configures a simple access policy that adds a logon page, gets user credentials, submits them to an authentication type of your choice, then allows authenticated users, and denies others.
  1. On the Main tab, click Access Policy > Access Profiles. The Access Profiles List screen opens.
  2. Click the name of the access profile you want to edit.
  3. On the menu bar, click Access Policy.
  4. For the Visual Policy Editor setting, click the Edit access policy for Profile policy_name link. The visual policy editor opens the access policy in a separate window or tab.
  5. Click the (+) icon anywhere in the access policy to add a new action item.
    Note: Only an applicable subset of access policy items is available for selection in the visual policy editor for any access profile type.
    A popup screen opens, listing predefined actions on tabs such as General Purpose, Authentication, and so on.
  6. On the Logon tab, select Logon Page and click the Add Item button. The Logon Page Agent properties screen opens.
  7. Click Save. The Access Policy screen reopens.
  8. On the rule branch, click the plus sign (+) between Logon Page and Deny.
  9. Set up the appropriate authentication and client-side checks required for application access at your company, and click Add Item.
  10. Change the Successful rule branch from Deny to Allow and click the Save button.
  11. If needed, configure further actions on the successful and fallback rule branches of this access policy item, and save the changes.
  12. At the top of the screen, click the Apply Access Policy link to apply and activate your changes to this access policy.
  13. Click the Close button to close the visual policy editor.

Adding the access profile to the virtual server

Before you can perform this task, you need to create an access profile using Access Policy Manager.

You associate the access profile with the virtual server created for the web application that Application Security Manager is protecting.

  1. On the Main tab, click Local Traffic > Virtual Servers. The Virtual Server List screen opens.
  2. Click the name of the virtual server that manages the network resources for the web application you are securing.
  3. In the Access Policy area, from the Access Profile list, select the access profile that you configured earlier.
  4. Click Update.
Your access policy is now associated with the virtual server.

Setting up ASM session tracking with APM

You can use session tracking to track, enforce, and report on user sessions and IP addresses. To perform tracking, you enable session awareness and indicate how to associate the application user name with the session.
  1. On the Main tab, click Security > Application Security > Sessions and Logins > Session Tracking. The Session Tracking screen opens.
  2. In the Session Tracking Configuration area, for Session Awareness, select the Enabled check box.
  3. From the Application Username list, select Use APM Usernames and Session ID.
  4. In the Violation Detection Actions area, select the Track Violations and Perform Actions, check box.
  5. In the Violation Detection Period field, type the number of seconds that indicates the sliding time period to count violations for violation thresholds. The default is 900 seconds.
  6. If you want the system to block all activity for a user, session, or IP address when the number of violations exceeds the threshold, specify one or more of the following settings on the Block All tab.
    Note: For the system to block requests, the security policy Enforcement Mode must be set to blocking (see Security > Application Security > Blocking > Settings) and some violations must be set to block.
    Option Description
    Blocked URLs Specify which URLs to block after the number of violations exceeds the enabled thresholds. To block all URLs, select Block all URLs. To block authenticated URLs protected by login pages, select Block Authenticated URLs.
    Username Threshold Select Enable and specify the number of violations allowed before the system starts to block this user's activity.
    Session Threshold Select Enable and specify the number of violations allowed before the system starts to block activity for this HTTP session.
    IP Address Threshold Select Enable and specify the number of violations allowed before the system starts to block the activity of this IP address.
    Block All Period Specify how long to block users, sessions, or IP addresses if the number of violations exceeds the threshold. To block the user, session, or IP address indefinitely, click Infinite. Otherwise, click User-defined and type the number of seconds to block the traffic. The default is 600 seconds.
  7. If you want the system to log activity when the number of user, session, or IP address violations exceeds the threshold during the violation detection period, specify one or more of the following settings on the Log All Requests tab.
    Option Description
    Username Threshold Select Enable and specify the number of violations allowed before the system starts logging this user's activity for the log all requests period.
    Session Threshold Select Enable and specify the number of violations allowed before the system starts logging activity for this HTTP session for the log all requests period.
    IP Address Threshold Select Enable and specify the number of violations allowed before the system starts logging the activity of this IP address for the log all requests period.
    Log All Requests Period Specify how long the system should log all requests when any of the enabled thresholds is reached. Type the number of seconds in the field.
  8. If you want more tolerant blocking for selected violations, such as those prone to false positives, specify one or more of the following settings on the Delay Blocking tab.
    Note: For the system to block requests, the security policy Enforcement Mode must be set to blocking (see Security > Application Security > Blocking > Settings) and the specified violations must be set to block.
    Option Description
    Username Threshold Select Enable and specify the number of violations a user must cause before the system begins blocking this user for the delay blocking period.
    Session Threshold Select Enable and specify the number of violations users must cause (during the violation detection period) before the system begins blocking this HTTP session for the delay blocking period.
    IP Address Threshold Select Enable and specify the number of violations allowed before the system begins blocking this IP address for the delay blocking period.
    Delay Blocking Period Type the number of seconds that the system should block the user, session, or IP address when any of the enabled thresholds is reached.
    Associated Violations Move the violations for which you want delay blocking from the Available list into the Selected list. If the selected violations occur, the system does not block traffic until one of the enabled thresholds is reached. At that point, the system blocks traffic causing those violations for the user, session, or IP address, but allows other transactions to pass.
  9. Click Save to save your settings.
After you set up session tracking, if any enabled threshold exceeds the number of violations during the detection period, the system starts the configured actions for block all, log all requests, and delay blocking.
Test that you can log in to the web application through the Access Policy Manager logon page. You can also test that the security policy works by generating violations and reviewing the application security logs.

Monitoring user and session information

To monitor user and session information, you first need to set up session tracking for the security policy.
You can use the reporting tools in Application Security Manager to monitor user and session details, especially when you need to investigate suspicious activity that is occurring with certain users, sessions, or IP addresses.
  1. On the Main tab, click SecurityReporting ApplicationSession Tracking Status. The Session Tracking Status screen opens and shows the users, sessions, and IP addresses that the system is currently tracking for this security policy.
  2. From the Action list, select the action by which to filter the data.
    Action Description
    All Specifies that the screen displays all entries. This is the default value.
    Block All Specifies that the system displays sessions whose requests the system blocks after the configured threshold was reached.
    Log All Requests Specifies that the system displays sessions whose requests the system logs after the configured threshold was reached.
    Delay Blocking Specifies that the system displays sessions whose requests the system delayed blocking until the configured threshold was reached.
  3. From the Scope list, specify the scope (username, session, or IP address) by which to filter the data.
    Option Description
    Alt Specifies that the screen displays all entries. This is the default value.
    Username Specifies that the system displays usernames whose illegal requests exceeded the security policy’s threshold values.
    Session Specifies that the system displays identification numbers of illegal sessions that exceeded the security policy’s threshold values.
    IP Address Specifies that the system displays IP addresses where illegal requests from these IP addresses exceeded the security policy’s threshold values.
  4. If you want to filter the information by value, in the Value field, type the username, session identification number, IP address, or string. If empty, the screen displays all entries.
  5. When you finish specifying the filter details, click Go. The Session Tracking Status list now shows the information specified in the Filter setting.
After you set up session tracking, you can monitor the specific requests that cause violations by examining each request and reviewing graphical charts.
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