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Manual Chapter: Introducing Application Security
Manual Chapter
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F5 Networks BIG-IP® system is a port-based, multilayer switch that supports virtual local area network (VLAN) technology. Because hosts within a VLAN can communicate at the data-link layer (Layer 2), a BIG-IP system reduces the need for routers and IP routing on the network. This in turn reduces equipment costs and boosts overall network performance. At the same time, the BIG-IP systems multilayer capabilities enable the system to process traffic at other OSI layers. The BIG-IP system can perform IP routing at Layer 3, as well as manage and secure TCP, UDP, and other application traffic at Layers 4 through 7. The following software modules provide comprehensive traffic management and security for all traffic types. The modules are fully integrated to provide efficient solutions to meet any network, traffic management, and security needs.
BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager
The BIG-IP system includes local traffic management features that help you make the most of network resources such as web servers. Using the powerful Configuration utility, you can customize the way that the BIG-IP system processes specific types of protocol and application traffic. By using features such as virtual servers, server pools, profiles, and iRulesTM, you ensure that traffic passing through the BIG-IP system is processed quickly and efficiently, while meeting all of your security needs. For more information, see the Configuration Guide for BIG-IP® Local Traffic Management.
BIG-IP Application Security Manager
The Application Security Manager provides web application protection from application-layer attacks. The Application Security Manager protects Web applications from both generalized and targeted application layer attacks including buffer overflow, SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and parameter tampering.
BIG-IP Protocol Security Module
The Protocol Security Module provides security checks for HTTP, FTP, and SMTP traffic. The Protocol Security Module is available as a module for Local Traffic Manager. Additionally, the Protocol Security Module is a component of the Application Security Manager. For more information, see the Configuration Guide for BIG-IP® Protocol Security Module.
The BIG-IP® Application Security Manager is designed to protect mission-critical enterprise Web infrastructure against application-layer attacks, and to monitor the protected web applications. The Application Security Manager can prevent a variety of web application attacks, such as:
Insertions of SQL commands or HTTP structures into user input fields in order to expose confidential information or to deface content.
Malicious exploitations of the application memory buffer to stop services, to get shell access, and to propagate worms.
Integrated platform guaranteeing the delivery of secure application traffic
Built on F5 Networks award-winning TMOS architecture, the ICSA-certified, positive-security Application Security Manager is fully integrated with the BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager.
Full support in the iControl SDK
The iControl SDK includes full support for the application security functionality.
Attack Filters
The Attack Signatures in the Application Security Manager offer protection from generalized and known application attacks such as known worms, vulnerabilities, and requests for restricted files and objects. The Attack Signatures Update feature provides current, up-to-date signatures, so that your applications are always protected from new attacks and threats.
Positive security model
The Application Security Manager creates a robust positive security policy to completely protect web applications from targeted web application layer threats, such as buffer overflows, SQL injection, cross-site scripting, parameter tampering, cookie poisoning, and others, by allowing only valid application transactions. The positive security model is based on a combination of valid user session context and valid user input, as well as a valid application response.
Integrated, simplified management
The browser-based Configuration utility provides network device configuration, centralized visual security policy management, and easy-to-read audit reports. Additional tools provide a highly automated and visual security policy building mechanism, based on a proprietary Policy Builder that automatically builds a map of all the valid application transactions and drastically simplifies the security policy management.
Role-based administration
The BIG-IP system supports role-based administration, which you can use to restrict access to various components of the product. For example, users with the Application Security Policy Editor role can audit and maintain application security policies but have no access to the network or general system administration.
Configurable security levels
The Application Security Manager offers varying levels of security, from general protection of web site elements such as file types and character sets, to tailored, highly granular, application-specific security policies. This flexibility provides enterprises the ability to choose the level of security they need, and reduce management costs based on the level of protection and risks acceptable to their business environment.
The Application Security Manager is the front-line defense for web application resources managed by the BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager. When you configure a security policy using the Application Security Manager, and then configure one or more local traffic virtual servers to use that policy, you exponentially reduce the possibility of your web application and resources becoming victims of application-layer attacks. The Application Security Manager is fully integrated with the Local Traffic Manager, providing easy configuration and management of your web application security throughout the life of the application.
The Configuration Guide for BIG-IP® Application Security Management contains configuration information for the all of the application security components, including:
This configuration guide also contains information on configuring a local traffic virtual server to use an application security class to protect the web application resources. The application security class is the bridge between the local traffic components and the application security components.
Important: For detailed information on configuring the local traffic objects, refer to the Configuration Guide for BIG-IP® Local Traffic Management. For information on the Protocol Security Module objects, refer to the Configuration Guide for BIG-IP® Protocol Security Module. Both of these guides are available in the AskF5SM Knowledge Base,
The Configuration utility is the browser-based graphical user interface for the BIG-IP system. In the Configuration utility, the Main tab provides access to the application security configuration objects, as well as the network, system, and local traffic configuration objects. The Help tab contains context-sensitive online help for each screen.
Figure 1.1 shows the Welcome screen of the Configuration utility.
The identification and messages area
The identification and messages area of the Configuration utility is the screen region that is above the navigation pane, the menu bar, and the body. In this area, you find the system identification, including the host name, and management IP address. This area is also where certain system messages display, for example Activation Successful, which appears after a successful licensing process.
The navigation pane
The navigation pane, on the left side of the screen, contains the Main tab, the Help tab, and, the Search tab. The Main tab provides links to the major configuration objects. The Help tab provides context-sensitive help for each screen in the Configuration utility. The Search tab provides a quick way to locate local traffic objects.
The menu bar
The menu bar, which is below the identification and messages area, and above the body, provides links to the additional configuration objects within each major object.
The body
The body is the screen area where the configuration settings display.
In the Application Security section of the navigation pane, the first time you click an object with the link icon (), the Configuration utility opens a second screen that contains only application security configuration objects. To differentiate between the two instances, next to the F5 logo in the identification and messages area, you see either BIG-IP® or Application Security. In this document, we refer to the navigation pane of the BIG-IP Configuration utility as simply the navigation pane. We refer to the navigation pane for the application security Configuration utility as the Application Security navigation pane.
In the Configuration utility for application security, blue URLs indicate non-referrer objects, while gold URLs indicate referrer objects. Referrers are web pages that can request other objects. For example, an HTML page can request a GIF, JPG, or PNG image file. The HTML page is a referrer, and the GIF, JPG, and PNG files are non-referrers. Figure 1.2 illustrates a referrer object (/login.php) and several non-referrer web objects.
Microsoft® Internet Explorer, version 5.0, 5.5, and 6.0
Note: For the most current list of the supported browsers for the Configuration utility, refer to the current release note on the AskF5SM Knowledge Base web site,
To help you easily identify and understand certain types of information, this documentation uses the following stylistic conventions.
All examples in this documentation use only private IP addresses. When you set up the configurations we describe, you must use IP addresses suitable to your own network in place of our sample IP addresses.
When we first define a new term, the term is shown in bold italic text. For example, a referrer is a web page that calls other web objects, such as image files.
We refer to all products in the BIG-IP product family as BIG-IP systems. We refer to the software modules by their name, for example, we refer to the Local Traffic Manager module as simply the Local Traffic Manager. If configuration information relates to a specific hardware platform, we note the platform.
We apply bold text to a variety of items to help you easily pick them out of a block of text. These items include web addresses, IP addresses, utility names, most controls in the Configuration utility, and portions of commands, such as variables and keywords. For example, click the Apply Policy button to make the security policy active.
We use italic text to denote a reference to another document or section of a document. We use bold, italic text to denote a reference to a book title. For example, you can find information about local traffic virtual servers in the Configuring Virtual Servers chapter, in the Configuration Guide for BIG-IP® Local Traffic Management.
We show actual, complete commands in bold Courier text. Note that we do not include the corresponding screen prompt, unless the command is shown in a figure that depicts an entire command line screen. Table 1.1 explains additional special conventions used in command line syntax.
Online help for Application Security components
The Configuration utility has online help for each screen. The online help contains descriptions of each control and setting on the screen. Click the Help tab in the left navigation pane to view the online help for a screen.
Welcome screen in the Configuration utility
The Welcome screen in the Configuration utility contains links to many useful web sites and resources, including the AskF5SM Knowledge Base, the F5 Solution Center, the F5 DevCentral web site, plug-ins, SNMP MIBs, and SSH clients.
F5 Networks Technical Support web site
The F5 Networks Technical Support web site,, provides the latest documentation for the product, including:
Release notes for the Application Security Manager, Local Traffic Manager, and Protocol Security Module, current and past
BIG-IP® Application Security Manager: Implementations
Configuration Guide for BIG-IP® Local Traffic Management
Configuration Guide for BIG-IP® Protocol Security Module
BIG-IP® Network and System Management Guide
The AskF5SM Knowledge Base
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