The Top Ten Hardcore F5 Security Features in BIG-IP 11.5.0

that went unsung at #RSAC 2014.

There’s lots of new security stuff in BIG-IP that shouldn’t be overlooked amidst all the press releases and hoopla at #RSAC 2014. Don’t get me wrong, hoopla has its place: for example, the banking community is excited about the new anti-fraud thing we bought. And Pete Silva’s video interview of Joel Moses for the new Secure Web Gateway forward proxy is great.

But the features I’m talking about are too low-level to warrant a press release, interview, or media dinner. In a way they’re even more important because platform-level security features are often the basis for the higher-level software-defined applications services that reside upon them.

Just before the RSA 2014 conference, we upgraded the BIG-IP platform to version 11.5.0. The upgrade has hundreds of new features and bug fixes, but these following security features are particularly cool.

The Top 10 Hardcore F5 Security Features in BIG-IP 11.5.0

  1. UDP Flood protection in AFM –The new UDP flood protection in the Advanced Firewall Manager (AFM) module automatically detects and mitigates UDP floods. It even categorizes incoming UDP packets so that you don’t end up rate-limiting legitimate DNS requests.
  2. Full ECC and DSA Support for client SSL profiles -- on the same virtual server with RSA profiles! A single client SSL profile can now have up to three certificate/key pairs associated with it to support the full range of cipher suites now available! This is huge; people have been asking for it since before germs.
  3. Heavy URL DDoS Protection in ASM. Smart attackers may attempt to slow a website by repeatedly requesting heavy URLs such as large media objects or slow database queries. The new Heavy URL DDoS feature of ASM identifies your vulnerable URLs and then defends them.
  4. AES-GCM mode for TLS1.2! The crypto community has been waiting for GCM to become prevalent enough to start switching away from simple block and streaming ciphers. This is a big step toward enabling the whole world to be ready for GCM, and what we hope is a future reduction in TLS protocol weaknesses.
  5. Improved whitelist and blacklist support in AFM. IP addresses that are blacklisted or whitelisted can be assigned to pre-existing or user-defined blacklist classes (called categories in tmsh), and firewall actions can be applied based on those categories. AFM can be configured to query dynamic lists of blacklist or whitelist addresses, called feeds, and update the configuration accordingly.
  6. SafeNet Luna SA HSM integration. For the last few years we’ve been getting requests to integrate with Networked Hardware Security Modules (HSM). We’ve been supporting nCipher (née Thales) HSMs, and now with 11.5.0 we’re announcing our integration with Thales (née SafeNet). Hook your virtual BIG-IPs up to this and you have a pretty compelling security story.
    F5 HSM Feature Comparision 11.5.0
    FeaturesBIG-IP FIPSnCipher (née Thales)Thales (née SafeNet)
    Virtual Edition 
    AWS CloudHSM  
    FIPS 140-2 Level 2
    FIPS 140-2 Level 3 
    Perfect Forward Secrecy
    Performance9000 TPS3000 TPS1500 TPS
  7. 45 Hardware-level DDoS protections in AFM. The firewall team has added and refactored the network DDoS code to make the hardware vectors exactly match the software vectors. See the complete list of pathological packets that will be dropped before the CPU even sees them.
  8. Full PKCS#12 support for key import. The paranoid among us point to the Edward Snowden files and say they’ve never had more reason to be paranoid. For them, we’re making it possible to import SSL keys directly to BIG-IP without them ever being available in the clear.
  9. Appliance Mode for vCMP guests. Appliance mode disables the root account and prevents access to the bash system shell. Appliance mode can now be configured on a guest-by-guest basis in multi-tenant environments where a particular guest virtual instance may be less trusted than others.
  10. BER-encoding iRule commands. When I was a lazy software developer, one of my goals was to get through life without ever having to write an ASN1 decoder. Guess what, someone has done just that for iRules! Check out the BER/DER iRule command reference. Honestly, this is kind of amazing.

These were just the top 10 - there are a ton more features in 11.5.0 (release notes). You can play with them all in your cloud with the virtual edition of BIG-IP – download it here and have fun!

Published Mar 07, 2014
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  • Quick comment on the Thales information. These are networked HSMs, they can be shared across F5 devices AND be clustered. In theory they scale way past 3000 TPS, I have seen them into the 10K+ TPS.