Three Firewalls Flunk Stability Tests, NSS Labs Reports

Three of six leading firewalls crashed during stability tests, and five of six failed to stop an attack that allows an intruder to gain access as a trusted internal user, according to results released by NSS Labs. Fortinet, Juniper Networks and SonicWall appliances all failed under stress tests, while CheckPoint Software Technologies, Cisco Systems and Palo Alto Software firewalls continued to operate and received passing grades.

April 12, 2011

3 Min Read
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Three of six leading firewalls crashed during stability tests, and five of six failed to stop an attack that allows an intruder to gain access as a trusted internal user, according to results released by NSS Labs. Fortinet, Juniper Networks and SonicWall appliances all failed under stress tests, while CheckPoint Software Technologies, Cisco Systems and Palo Alto Software firewalls continued to operate and received passing grades.

The stability tests subjected the firewalls to traffic from several protocol randomizer and mutation tools at a maximum of 350Mbps and 60,000 packets per second, NSS reported in "Network Firewall 2011 Comparative Test Results." Appliances that received failing grades crashed and no longer allowed traffic through. The Fortinet appliance rebooted after it failed; Fortinet supplied a  patch upgrade, but the box crashed again in subsequent testing and needed to be manually restarted.

"These are conditions that should be tested for," says Rick Moy, NSS president and CEO. "They weren't very stable when exposed to attacks."  (The report recommends that users running FortiOS 4.0 MR2 Patch 1, Build 279, upgrade.)

The firewall appliances tested were the CheckPoint Power-1 11065; Cisco ASA 5585-40; Fortinet Fortigate 3950B; Juniper SRX 5800; Palo Alto Networks PA-4020; and SonicWall NSA E8500. All the firewalls passed two other stability tests: blocking and alerting under a constant stream of attacks over an extended period of time and continuing to pass most or all legitimate traffic under those conditions.

Only the CheckPoint system thwarted the TCP Split Handshake Spoof, which targets a client machine, sending an extra crafted packet and instructing the target to initiate a session with the attacker, which gains what appears to be normal access as a trusted internal device."It's basic establishing communication, down at the TCP layer; it's not the type of thing that gets logged by ISP," says Moy. "It's the type of thing for an organization to detect." The issue is well documented, he says, and attack code is available with Metasploit.

Since being notified of the issue, Juniper, Palo Alto and SonicWall have provided remediation steps available free to registered users on the NSS Labs site. NSS is working with Cisco on a fix, and Fortinet says it will have a fix for later release, according to the report.

The six firewalls all passed other security tests, including configuring basic and complex policies; static and dynamic network address translation (NAT); SYN flood protection and detecting; and IP address spoofing.

The report also rated the firewall appliances for three-year total cost of ownership (TCO) based on price per protected megabit per second, the cost of installation and upkeep, and throughput figures (based upon the average of three traffic types: 21KByte HTTP response traffic, a mix of perimeter traffic common in enterprises and a mix of internal "core" traffic common in enterprises). Palo Alto had the lowest TCO ($10 per megabit per second) and SonicWall the highest ($39 per megabit per second).

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