F5 SSL Orchestrator and McAfee Web Gateway Solution for SSL Visibility and Management

Data transiting between clients (e.g. PCs, tablets, phones, etc.) and servers are predominantly encrypted with Secure Socket Layer (SSL) or the newer Transport Layer Security (TLS). Pervasive encryption results in threats being hidden and invisible to security inspection unless traffic is decrypted. This creates serious risks, leaving organizations vulnerable to costly data breaches and loss of intellectual property (For reference, see the TLS Telemetry Report Summary from F5 Labs).

An integrated F5 SSL Orchestrator and McAfee Web Gateway (MWG) solution provide visibility and management of SSL/TLS traffic to expose the hidden malware, data exfiltration, and command and control threats. F5 SSL Orchestrator with its ability to address HTTP proxy devices inside its decrypted inspection zone allows the MWG to provide optimal security functionality while offloading SSL and complex orchestration to the F5 system.

Bill of Materials

  • F5 SSL Orchestrator 

Optional functional add-ons include URL filtering subscription, IP Intelligence subscription, network hardware security module (HSM), and F5 Access Manager (APM).

  • McAfee Web Gateway


  • F5 SSL Orchestrator is licensed and set up with internal and external VLANs, and self-IP addresses.
  •  An SSL certificate—preferably a subordinate certificate authority (CA)—and private key are imported into SSL Orchestrator.
  • The CA certificate chain with the root certificate is imported into the client browser.
  • SSL orchestration generally presents a new paradigm in the typical network architecture. Integrated with SSL Orchestrator, the traffic to the MWG is decrypted – including usernames, passwords, social security, and credit card numbers, etc. It is therefore highly recommended that security services be isolated within a private, protected enclave defined by the SSL Orchestrator.

Solution Deployment

In this example deployment setup, the SSL Orchestrator is configured to send decrypted traffic to an inline MWG. SSL Orchestrator handles both decryption and re-encryption of HTTPS traffic, with an inspection zone installed between the ingress and egress. Decrypted traffic is steered to a service pool of MWG devices. You can also deploy the F5 system as a device sync/failover device group (including an HA pair) with a floating IP address for high availability.

Configure the Web Proxy Service

Before the MWG can receive traffic from the SSL Orchestrator, there are a few basic configurations that must be completed. Any and all licenses should be applied, and the basic system setup should be completed. Along with many other settings, the system setup will include the configuration of the hostname and Domain Name Servers (DNS). The system hostname should be configured as well as the IP address, subnet mask, and hostname for the management interface. 

The following settings will detail how to configure MWG as an explicit proxy. Please refer to the appropriate MWG documentation for more detailed information on configuring MWG. In the MWG UI under Appliances -> (this appliance) -> Proxies (HTTP(S), FTP, SOCKS, ICAP…):

Deploy SSL Orchestrator using Guided Configuration

The SSL Orchestrator guided configuration presents a completely new and streamlined user experience. This workflow-based architecture provides guided configuration steps tailored to a selected topology.

Step 1: Topology Properties

SSL Orchestrator creates discreet configurations based on the selected topology. Select L3 Outbound (transparent proxy) or L3 Explicit Proxy to support decrypted forward proxy traffic flows through the MWG.

Step 2: SSL Configuration

Select the previously imported subordinate CA certificate (see Prerequisites, above) for signing and issuing certificates to the end-host for client-requested HTTPS websites that are intercepted by SSL Orchestrator.

Step 3: Create the McAfee Web Gateway Service

The services list section defines the security services that interact with SSL Orchestrator. The guided configuration includes a services catalog that contains common product integrations.

In the service catalog, double click the 'McAfee Secure Web Gateway HTTP Proxy' service and configure the service settings: McAfee Web Gateway IP address, port, and connected VLANs.

In the MWG Web UI, create these routes to route from the MWG appliance back to SSL Orchestrator.

  • A gateway route to SSL Orchestrator 'from-service' self-IP ( in the above example).
  • A static return route to define the path back to the SSL Orchestrator 'to-service' self-IP ( in the above example) on the inbound side of the MWG.

Using the SSL Orchestrator service catalog, create additional security services as required before proceeding to the next step.

Step 4: Service Chains

Create a service chain, which is an ordered list of security devices. The service chain determines which services receive decrypted traffic.

Step 5: Security Policy

SSL Orchestrator’s guided configuration presents an intuitive rule-based, drag-and-drop user interface for the definition of security policies. In the background, SSL Orchestrator maintains these security policies as visual per-request policies. If traffic processing is required that exceeds the capabilities of the rule-based user interface, the underlying per-request policy can be managed directly. Use this section to create custom rules as required.

Step 6: Intercept Rule

Interception rules are based on the selected topology and define the listeners (analogous to BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager virtual servers) that accept and process different types of traffic, such as TCP, UDP, or other. The resulting listeners will bind the SSL settings, VLANs, IPs, and security policies created in the topology workflow.

Step 7: Egress Settings

The egress settings section defines topology-specific egress characteristics like NAT and outbound route.

Step 8: Summary

Review the setting and click deploy SSL Orchestrator.

Testing the Solution

Use one of the following ways to observe the decrypted traffic

Server certificate test

To test an explicit forward proxy topology, configure a client’s browser proxy settings to point this listening IP and port. Ensure that the client trusts the local issuing CA certificate. Open a browser from the client and attempt to access an external HTTPS resource. Once the page is loaded, observe the server certificate of that site and take note of the certificate issuer, which should be the local issuing CA. If you have access to the client’s command-line shell and the cURL or wget utilities, you can simulate browser access using one of the following commands:

curl -vk --proxy [proxy IP:port] https://www.example.com

wget --no-check-certificate -e use_proxy=yes -e https_proxy=[proxy IP:port] -dO – https://www.example.com

Both of these commands will display both the HTML server response and the issuer of the server’s certificate.

Decrypted traffic analysis on the SSL Orchestrator

Perform a tcpdump on the SSL Orchestrator to observe the decrypted clear text traffic. This confirms the SSL interception by the F5 system.

tcpdump –lnni [interface or VLAN name] -Xs0

The security service VLANs and their corresponding application services are all visible from the SSL Orchestrator GUI: Network -> VLANs.

Decrypted traffic analysis on the McAfee Web Gateway

From the MWG UI, use the Packet Tracing feature to capture traffic on all interfaces. Analyze the tcpdump to observe the decrypted clear text traffic.

Additional Resources

Learn more about SSL Orchestrator on f5.com

Recommended best practices guide: F5 SSL Orchestrator and McAfee Web Gateway Solution

Published Feb 16, 2021
Version 1.0

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