Archive for ssl vpn

Lightboard Lessons: BIG-IP in Hybrid Environments

Posted in security, f5, big-ip, ssl vpn, cloud, silva, application delivery, lightboard, devcentral, remote access, saml, aws, azure, saas by psilva on October 12th, 2016

A hybrid infrastructure allows organizations to distribute their applications when it makes sense and provide global fault tolerance to the system overall. Depending on how an organization’s disaster recovery infrastructure is designed, this can be an active site, a hot-standby, some leased hosting space, a cloud provider or some other contained compute location. As soon as that server, application, or even location starts to have trouble, organizations can seamlessly maneuver around the issue and continue to deliver their applications.

Driven by applications and workloads, a hybrid environment is a technology strategy to integrate the mix of on premise and off-premise data compute resources. In this Lightboard Lesson, I explain how BIG-IP can help facilitate hybrid infrastructures.




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F5 Access for Your Chromebook

Posted in security, f5, big-ip, ssl vpn, cloud, silva, application delivery, mobile, devcentral by psilva on October 12th, 2016

My 5th grader has a Chromebook for school. She loves it and it allows her access to school applications and educational tools where she can complete her assignments and check her grades. But if 5th grade is a tiny dot in your rear-view and you’re looking to deploy Chromebooks in the enterprise, BIG-IP v12 can secure and encrypt ChromeOS device access to enterprise networks and applications. With network access, Chromebook users can run applications such as RDP, SSH, Citrix, VMware View, and other enterprise applications on their Chrome OS devices.

From an employee’s perspective, it is very easy to get the SSLVPN configured. Log on to a Chromebook, open Chrome Web Store, search for ‘F5 Access’ and press the +ADD TO CHROME button. Add app when the dialogue box pops and F5 Access will appear in your ‘All Apps’ window.


Next, when launched, you’ll need to accept the license agreement and then add a server from the Configuration tab:


Next, give it a unique name, enter the BIG-IP APM server URL and optionally add your username and password. Your password will not be cached unless that’s allowed by the APM Access Policy. You can also select a client certificate if required. Once configured, it’ll appear in the list. You can also have multiple server configurations if needed:


To connect, click the bottom tray bar and select the tile that says, ‘VPN Disconnected.’


And select the server configured when setting up the app. Depending on the configuration, you’ll either get the native login window or the WebTop version:


Once connected, there won’t be any indication in the tray but if you click it, you’ll see the connection status in the same VPN area as above and it’ll show ‘connected’ within the F5 Access app:


As you can see in the above image, you can also check Statistics and Diagnostics if those are of interest. To end the connection, click the tray again, select the VPN tile and click Disconnect.

For administrators, it’s as simple as adding a ‘ChromeOS’ branch off the ClientOS VPE action:


Then add a Connectivity Profile to BIG-IP:


In addition to generic session variables, client session variables are also available. Check out the release notes and BIG-IP Access Policy Manager and F5 Access for Chrome OS v1.0.0 manual for more info.



BIG-IP Edge Client v1.0.6 for iOS 7

Posted in security, f5, big-ip, ssl vpn, silva, AAA, control, apple, iPhone, iPad, byod by psilva on September 19th, 2013

With all your other iOS 7 updates (if you've made the plunge), if you are running the BIG-IP Edge Client on your iPhone, iPod or iPad, you may have gotten an AppStore alert for an update.  If not, I just wanted to let you know that version 1.0.6 of the iOS Edge Client is available at the AppStore with iOS 7 support. 

Customers who use UDID in their access policies should have users update to this version.

The BIG-IP Edge Client application from F5 Networks secures and accelerates mobile device access to enterprise networks and applications using SSL VPN and optimization technologies. Access is provided as part of an enterprise deployment of F5 BIG-IP Access Policy Manager, Edge Gateway, or FirePass SSL-VPN solutions.  BIG-IP Edge Client for iOS Features:

    • Provides accelerated mobile access when used with F5 BIG-IP Edge Gateway.
    • Automatically roams between networks to stay connected on the go.
    • Full Layer 3 network access to all your enterprise applications and files.

iPhone Screenshot 1iPhone Screenshot 2






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Pulse2013 – IBM Maximo Optimization & SSO with BIG-IP APM

Posted in security, f5, big-ip, acceleration, ssl vpn, silva, video, AAA by psilva on March 6th, 2013

It’s an all Nojan week at the Pulse2013 conference at the MGM Grand! This time, he shows Peter Silva how to deploy Maximo Asset Management with the new Maximo iApp from F5 found on DevCentral along with how to configure acceleration and SSO for Maximo users. Increased performance for remote users along with the ease of deployment for administrators. Got Maximo? Get BIG-IP APM.




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Solving Substantiation with SAML

Posted in security, f5, big-ip, ssl vpn, cloud, cloud computing, silva, application delivery, authentication, AAA, control by psilva on January 29th, 2013

Organizations are deploying distributed, hybrid architectures that can span multiple security domains. At any moment, a user could be accessing the corporate data center, the organization’s cloud infrastructure, or even a third party, #SaaS web application. #SAML can provide the identity information necessary to implement an enterprise-wide single sign-on solution.

Proving or asserting one’s identity in the physical world is often as simple as showing a driver’s license or state ID card. As long as the photo matches the face, that’s typically all that is needed to verify identity. This substantiation of identity is a physical form of authentication, and depending on the situation, the individual is then authorized either to receive something or to do something, for instance, enter a bar, complete a purchase, etc.

In the digital world, identity verification is not as easy as showing the computer monitor a driver’s license. To gain entry, you must provide information like a name, password, randomly generated token number—something you have, something you know, or something you are—to prove you are who you say you are.

Gaining access to corporate assets is no different. Many organizations have multiple different resource portals, however, each requiring digital proof of identity. Their users may also need to access partner portals, cloud based Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, or distributed, hybrid infrastructures that span multiple data centers, each requiring a unique user name and password. In addition, the average employee must maintain about 15 different passwords for both her private and corporate identities, with many of those passwords also being used for social media and other risky entities. Statistics show that 35 to 50 percent of help desk calls are related to password problems, with each call costing a company between $25 and $50 per request.

Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) is an XML-based standard that allows secure web domains to exchange user authentication and authorization data. It directly addresses the problem of how to provide the users of web browsers with single sign-on (SSO) convenience. With SAML, an online service provider can contact a separate online identity provider to authenticate users who are attempting to access secure content. For example, a user might need to log in to, but Salesforce (the service provider) has no mechanism to validate the user. Salesforce would then send a request to an identity provider, such as F5 BIG-IP Access Policy Manager (APM), to validate the requesting user’s identity. BIG-IP APM version 11.3 supports SAML federation, acting as either a service provider or an identity provider, enhancing the employee’s online experience and potentially reducing password-related tickets at the help desk.

BIG-IP APM version 11.3 can act as either a SAML service provider or a SAML identity provider, enabling both federation and SSO within an enterprise.

BIG-IP APM as a Service Provider

When a user initiates a request from a SAML IdP and the resources, such as an internal SharePoint site, are protected by BIG-IP APM, BIG-IP APM consumes that SAML assertion (claim) and validates its trustworthiness. This ultimately allows the user access to the resource. If the user goes directly to BIG-IP APM (as an SP) to access a resource (like SharePoint), then the user will be directed to the IdP to authenticate and get an assertion. Once a user is authenticated with a SAML IdP and accesses a resource behind BIG-IP APM, he or she will not need to authenticate again.

BIG-IP APM as an Identity Provider

Provided there is an SP that accepts assertions, a user can authenticate with BIG-IP APM to create an assertion. BIG-IP APM authenticates the user and displays resources. When the user clicks on an application, BIG-IP APM generates an assertion. That assertion can be passed on to the SP, which allows access to the resource without further authentication. When the user visits the SP first, the process is SP initiated; when the user goes directly to the IdP (in this case, BIG-IP APM) first to authenticate, the process is IdP initiated.

BIG-IP APM in a SAML Federation

SAML can be used to federate autonomous BIG-IP APM systems. This allows a user to connect to one BIG-IP device, authenticate, and transparently move to other participating BIG-IPs devices. Session replication is not part of SAML, but administrators can populate session information on participating systems. This means that BIG-IP device federation does not enable the use of a single session within the federation; it only enables information exchange among multiple members of the federation.  Each participating BIG-IP device maintains its own independent session with the client, and each has its own access policy that executes separately and independently.

Participating federation members can exchange information with any other federation members outside of sessions where needed. A common configuration is to have a dedicated BIG-IP device as a primary member to which users are authenticated and that provides information to other members. This allows a number of other BIG-IP devices to work in conjunction with that primary member.  The primary member is dedicated as an IdP, while the other participating members operate as SPs


The benefits of deploying BIG-IP APM as a SAML solution certainly include better password management, fewer help desk calls, and an improved user experience, but BIG-IP APM can also add additional context to requests. For instance, it can include endpoint inspection results as attributes to inform the application of the client’s security posture. In addition, IT administrators do not need to retrofit applications (e.g., .NET apps do not need a Kerberos claims plug-in). Another advantage is extensive session variable support, which allows organizations to

customize each user session. BIG-IP APM can bring SAML to resources and applications with minimal back-end changes—or none. These benefits all complement the values of BIG-IP APM to the overall traffic management of an organization’s IT infrastructure.

IT infrastructure has changed dramatically over the past few years, with many applications moving to cloud-based services. Corporate employees have also morphed into a mobile workforce that requires secure access to that infrastructure any time, from anywhere, and with any device. Bridging the identity gap between physically and logically separated services allows organizations to stay agile in this ever-changing environment and gives users the secure access they need around the clock.

BIG-IP APM version 11.3, in addition to delivering high availability and protecting organizations’ critical assets, provides a SAML 2.0 solution that offers the identity bridge needed to manage access across systems.



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BYOD Policies – More than an IT Issue Part 5: Trust Model

#BYOD or Bring Your Own Device has moved from trend to an permanent fixture in today's corporate IT infrastructure. It is not strictly an IT issue however. Many groups within an organization need to be involved as they grapple with the risk of mixing personal devices with sensitive information.  In my opinion, BYOD follows the classic Freedom vs. Control dilemma. The freedom for user to choose and use their desired device of choice verses an organization's responsibility to protect and control access to sensitive resources. While not having all the answers, this mini-series tries to ask many the questions that any organization needs to answer before embarking on a BYOD journey.

Enterprises should plan for rather than inherit BYOD. BYOD policies must span the entire organization but serve two purposes - IT and the employees. The policy must serve IT to secure the corporate data and minimize the cost of implementation and enforcement. At the same time, the policy must serve the employees to preserve the native user experience, keep pace with innovation and respect the user's privacy.  A sustainable policy should include a clear BOYD plan to employees including standards on the acceptable types and mobile operating systems along with a support policy showing the process of how the device is managed and operated.

Some key policy issue areas include: Liability, Device Choice, Economics, User Experience & Privacy and a Trust Model.  Today we look at Trust Model.

Trust Model

Organizations will either have a BYOD policy or forbid the use all together. Two things can happen if not: if personal devices are being blocked, organizations are losing productivity OR the personal devices are accessing the network (with or without an organization's consent) and nothing is being done pertaining to security or compliance.

Ensure employees understand what can and cannot be accessed with personal devices along with understanding the risks (both users and IT) associated with such access. While having a written policy is great, it still must be enforced.  Define what is ‘Acceptable use.’ According to a recent Ponemon Institute and Websense survey, while 45% do have a corporate use policy, less than half of those actually enforce it.

And a recent SANS Mobility BYOD Security Survey, less than 20% are using end point security tools, and out of those, more are using agent-based tools rather than agent-less.  According to the survey, 17% say they have stand-alone BYOD security and usage policies; 24% say they have BYOD policies added to their existing policies; 26% say they "sort of" have policies; 3% don't know; and 31% say they do not have any BYOD policies.  Over 50% say employee education is one way they secure the devices, and 73% include user education with other security policies.

Organizations should ensure procedures are in place (and understood) in cases of an employee leaving the company; what happens when a device is lost or stolen (ramifications of remote wiping a personal device); what types/strength of passwords are required; record retention and destruction; the allowed types of devices; what types of encryption is used.  Organizations need to balance the acceptance of consumer-focused Smartphone/tablets with control of those devices to protect their networks.  Organizations need to have a complete inventory of employee's personal devices - at least the one’s requesting access.  Organizations need the ability to enforce mobile policies and secure the devices.  Organizations need to balance the company's security with the employee's privacy like, off-hours browsing activity on a personal device.

Whether an organization is prepared or not, BYOD is here. It can potentially be a significant cost savings and productivity boost for organizations but it is not without risk. To reduce the business risk, enterprises need to have a solid BYOD policy that encompasses the entire organization. And it must be enforced.

Companies need to understand:

• The trust level of a mobile device is dynamic

• Identify and assess the risk of personal devices

• Assess the value of apps and data

• Define remediation options

• Notifications

• Access control

• Quarantine

• Selective wipe

• Set a tiered policy

Part of me feels we’ve been through all this before with personal computer access to the corporate network during the early days of SSL-VPN, and many of the same concepts/controls/methods are still in place today supporting all types of personal devices.  Obviously, there are a bunch new risks, threats and challenges with mobile devices but some of the same concepts apply – enforce policy and manage/mitigate risk  As organizations move to the BYOD, F5 has the Unified Secure Access Solutions to help.




Technorati Tags: F5, data breach report, threats, Pete Silva, security, malware, technology, smartphone, cyber-threat, social engineering, attacks, virus, vulnerability,web,internet, cybercrime, identity theft, scam, data breach

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In 5 Minutes or Less - FirePass SSL VPN XML Configuration Export

Posted in f5, big-ip, application security, ssl vpn, silva, video, management by psilva on April 3rd, 2012

I show you how to export your FirePass SSL VPN configuration into an easy to read XML file, In 5 Minutes or Less.  If you like the ‘In 5 Minutes or Less’ series, check out the playlist on F5’s YouTube channel along with the rest of our videos.

In 5 Minutes or Less - FirePass SSL VPN XML Configuration Export




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Pulse2012 Partner Spotlight - PhoneFactor

Posted in security, f5, big-ip, application security, ssl vpn, silva, video, AAA by psilva on March 7th, 2012

I catch up with Brian Pfeffer, Director of Business Development for PhoneFactor.  PhoneFactor's phone-based two-factor authentication solutions integrate with BIG-IP APM and BIG-IP Edge Gateway and Brian shows how it works along with some of the new PhoneFactor mobile apps.



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Ode to FirePass

Posted in security, f5, big-ip, application security, ssl vpn, silva, optimization, application delivery, AAA by psilva on February 20th, 2012

A decade ago, remote VPN access was a relatively new concept for businesses; it was available only to a select few who truly needed it, and it was usually over a dial-up connection. Vendors like Cisco, Check Point, and Microsoft started to develop VPN solutions using IPsec, one of the first transport layer security protocols, and RADIUS Server. At first organizations had to launch the modem and enter the pertinent information, but soon client software was offered as a package. This client software had to be installed, configured, and managed on the user’s computer. As high-speed broadband became a household norm and SSL/TLS matured, the SSL VPN arrived, allowing secure connections via a browser-based environment. Client pre-installation and management hassles were eliminated; rather the masses now had secure access to corporate resources with just a few browser components and an appliance in the data center.

These early SSL VPNs, like the first release of F5’s FirePass, offered endpoint checks and multiple modes of access depending on user needs. At the time, most SSL VPNs were limited in areas like overall performance, logins per second, concurrent sessions/users, and in some cases, throughput. Organizations that offered VPN extended it to executives, frequent travelers, and IT staff, and it was designed to provide separated access for corporate employees, partners, and contractors over the web portal. But these organizations were beginning to explore company-wide access since most employees still worked on-site.

Today, almost all employees have multiple devices, including smartphones, and most companies offer some sort of corporate VPN access. By 2015, 37.2 percent of the worldwide workforce will be remote and therefore mobile—that’s 1.3 billion people. Content is richer, phones are faster, and bandwidth is available—at least via broadband to the home. Devices need to be authenticated and securely connected to corporate assets, making a high-performance Application Delivery Controller (ADC) with unified secure access a necessity. As FirePass is retired, organizations will have two ADC options with which to replace it: F5 BIG-IP Edge Gateway, a standalone appliance, and BIG-IP Access Policy Manager (APM), a module that can be added to BIG-IP LTM devices. Both products are more than just SSL VPNs—they’re the central policy control points that are critical to managing dynamic data center environments.

A Little History

F5’s first foray into the SSL VPN realm was with its 2003 purchase of uRoam and its flagship product, FirePass. Although still small, Infonetics Research predicted that the SSL VPN market will swell from around $25 million [in 2002] to $1 billion by 2005/6 and the old meta Group forecasted that SSL-based technology would be the dominant method for remote access, with 80 percent of users utilizing SSL by 2005/6. They were right—SSL VPN did take off.

Using technology already present in web browsers, SSL VPNs allowed any user from any browser to type in a URL and gain secure remote access to corporate resources. There was no full client to install—just a few browser control components or add-on to facilitate host checks and often, SSL-tunnel creation. Administrators could inspect the requesting computer to ensure it achieved certain levels of security, such as antivirus software, a firewall, and client certificates. Like today, there were multiple methods to gain encrypted access. There was (and still is) the full layer-3 network access connection; a port forwarding or application tunnel–type connection; or simply portal web access through a reverse proxy.

SSL VPNs Mature

With more enterprises deploying SSL VPNs, the market grew and FirePass proved to be an outstanding solution. Over the years, FirePass has lead the market with industry firsts like the Visual Policy Editor, VMware View support, group policy support, an SSL client that supported QoS (quality of service) and acceleration, and integrated support with third-party security solutions. Every year from 2007 through 2010, FirePass was an SC Magazine Reader Trust finalist for Best SSL VPN.

As predicted, SSL VPN took off in businesses; but few could have imagined how connected the world would really become. There are new types of tablet devices and powerful mobile devices, all growing at accelerated rates. And today, it’s not just corporate laptops that request access, but personal smartphones, tablets, home computers, televisions, and many other new devices that will have an operating system and IP address.

As the market has grown, the need for scalability, flexibility, and access speed became more apparent. In response, F5 began including the FirePass SSL VPN functionality in the BIG-IP system of Application Delivery Controllers, specifically, BIG-IP Edge Gateway and BIG-IP Access Policy Manager (APM). Each a unified access solution, BIG-IP Edge Gateway and BIG-IP APM are scalable, secure, and agile controllers that can handle all access needs, whether remote, wireless, mobile, or LAN.

The secure access reigns of FirePass have been passed to the BIG-IP system; by the end of 2012, FirePass will no longer be available for sale. For organizations that have a FirePass SSL VPN, F5 will still offer support for it for several years. However those organizations are encouraged to test BIG-IP Edge Gateway or BIG-IP APM.

Unified Access Today

The accelerated advancement of the mobile and remote workforce is driving the need to support tens of thousands concurrent users. The bursting growth of Internet traffic and the demand for new services and rich media content can place extensive stress on networks, resulting in access latency and packet loss. With this demand, the ability of infrastructure to scale with the influx of traffic is essential. As business policies change over time, flexibility within the infrastructure gives IT the agility needed to keep pace with access demands while the security threats and application requirements are constantly evolving.  Organizations need a high-performance ADC to be the strategic point of control between users and applications. This ADC must understand both the applications it delivers and the contextual nature of the users it serves.

BIG-IP Access Policy Manager

BIG-IP APM is a flexible, high-performance access and security add-on module for either the physical or virtual edition of BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM). BIG-IP APM can help organizations consolidate remote access infrastructure by providing unified global access to business-critical applications and networks. By converging and consolidating remote access, LAN access, and wireless connections within a single management interface, and providing easy-to-manage access policies, BIG-IP APM can help free up valuable IT resources and scale cost-effectively. BIG-IP APM protects public-facing applications by providing policy-based, context-aware access to users while consolidating access infrastructure.

BIG-IP Edge Gateway

BIG-IP Edge Gateway is a standalone appliance that provides all the benefits of BIG-IP APM—SSL VPN remote access security—plus application acceleration and WAN optimization services at the edge of the network—all in one efficient, scalable, and cost-effective solution.

BIG-IP Edge Gateway is designed to meet current and future IT demands, and can scale up to 60,000 concurrent users on a single box. It can accommodate all converged access needs, and on a single platform, organizations can manage remote access, LAN access, and wireless access by creating unique policies for each. BIG-IP Edge Gateway is the only ADC with remote access, acceleration, and optimization services built in. To address high latency links, technologies like intelligent caching, WAN optimization, compression, data deduplication, and application-specific optimization ensure the user is experiencing the best possible performance, 2 to 10 times faster than legacy SSL VPNs.  BIG-IP Edge Gateway gives organizations unprecedented flexibility and agility to consolidate all their secure access methods on a single device.

FirePass SSL VPN Migration

A typical F5 customer might have deployed FirePass a few years ago to support RDP virtual desktops, endpoint host checks, and employee home computers, and to begin the transition from legacy IPsec VPNs. As a global workforce evolved with their smartphones and tablets, so did IT's desire to consolidate their secure access solutions. Many organizations have upgraded their FirePass controller functionality to a single BIG-IP appliance.

Migrating any system can be a challenge, especially when it is a critical piece of the infrastructure that global users rely on. Migrating security devices, particularly remote access solutions, can be even more daunting since policies and settings are often based on an identity and access management framework. Intranet web applications, network access settings, basic device configurations, certificates, logs, statistics, and many other settings often need to be configured on the new controller.

FirePass can make migrating to BIG-IP Edge Gateway or BIG-IP APM a smooth, fast process. The FirePass Configuration Export Tool, available as a hotfix (HF-359012-1) for FirePass v6.1 and v7, exports configurations into XML files. Device management, network access, portal access, and user information can also all be exported to an XML file. Special settings like master groups, IP address pools, packet filter rules, VLANS, DNS, hosts, drive mappings, policy checks, and caching and compression are saved so an administrator can properly configure the new security device.  It’s critical that important configuration settings are mapped properly to the new controller, and with the FirePass Configuration Export Tool, administrators can deploy the existing FirePass configurations to a new BIG-IP Edge Gateway device or BIG-IP APM module.  A migration guide will be available shortly.

SSL VPNs like FirePass have helped pave the way for easy, ubiquitous remote access to sensitive corporate resources. As the needs of the corporate enterprise change, so must the surrounding technology tasked with facilitating IT initiates. The massive growth of the mobile workforce and their devices, along with the need to secure and optimize the delivery of rich content, requires a controller that is specifically developed for application delivery.  Both BIG-IP Edge Gateway and BIG-IP APM offer all the SSL VPN functionality found in FirePass, but on the BIG-IP platform.



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New iOS Edge Client

If you are running the BIG-IP Edge Client on your iPhone, iPod or iPad, you may have gotten an AppStore alert for an update.  If not, I just wanted to let you know that version 1.0.3 of the iOS Edge Client is available at the AppStore.

The main updates in v1.0.3:

  • URI scheme enhancement allows passing configuration data to the client upon access.  For example, you could have a link on the WebTop that invokes the client and forces web logon mode.
  • Other Bug fixes.

The BIG-IP Edge Client application from F5 Networks secures and accelerates mobile device access to enterprise networks and applications using SSL VPN and optimization technologies. Access is provided as part of an enterprise deployment of F5 BIG-IP Access Policy Manager, Edge Gateway, or FirePass SSL-VPN solutions.  BIG-IP Edge Client for iOS Features:

  • Provides accelerated mobile access when used with F5 BIG-IP Edge Gateway.
  • Automatically roams between networks to stay connected on the go.
  • Full Layer 3 network access to all your enterprise applications and files.

I loaded it yesterday on my devices without a hitch.



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