defined perimeter

Safe-T SDP- Why Rip and Replace your VPN?




Although organizations realize the need to upgrade their approach to user access control, deploying existing technologies is holding back the introduction of Software Defined Perimeter (SDP). A recent Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) report on the “State of Software-Defined Perimeter” states that existing in-place security technologies are the main barrier to adopting SDP. One can understand the reluctance to leap. After all, VPNs have been a cornerstone of secure networking for over two decades.

They do provide what they say; secure remote access. However, they have not evolved to secure our developing environment appropriately. The digital environment has changed considerably in recent times. A big push for the cloud, BYOD, and remote workers puts pressure on existing VPN architectures. As our environment evolves, the existing security tools and architectures must evolve, also to an era of SDP VPN. And to include other zero trust features such as Remote Brower Isolation.

Undoubtedly, there is a common understanding of the benefits of adopting the zero-trust principles that software-defined perimeter provides over traditional VPNs. But the truth that organizations want even safer, less disruptive, and less costly deployment models cannot be ignored. VPNs aren’t a solution that works for every situation. It is not enough to offer solutions that involve ripping the existing architectures completely or even putting software-defined perimeter on certain use cases. The barrier to adopting a software-defined perimeter involves finding a middle ground.


Before you proceed, you may find the following posts helpful:

  1. Zero Trust SASE
  2. SDP Network
  3. Safe-T approach to SDP
  4. Brownfield Network Automation



Key Safe-T SDP Solution points:

  • The need for zero trust and software defined perimter.

  • The different software defined perimter solutions.

  • The challenges of the legacy VPN.

  • SDP vs VPN.

  • Safe-T SDP deployment models.


SDP VPN: Safe-T; Providing the middle ground.

Safe-T is aware of this need for a middle ground. Therefore, in addition to the standard software-defined perimeter offering, Safe-T offers this middle-ground to help the customer on the “journey from VPN to SDP,” resulting in a safe path to SDP VPN.

Now organizations do not need to rip and replace the VPN. Sofware-defined perimeter and VPNs ( SDP VPN ) can work together, yielding a more robust security infrastructure. Having network security that can bounce you between IP address locations can make it very difficult for hackers to break in. Besides, if you already have a VPN solution you are comfortable with, you can continue using it and pair it with Safe-T’s innovative software-defined perimeter approach. By adopting this new technology, you get equipped with a middle-ground that improves your security posture and maintains the advantages of existing VPNs.

Recently, Safe-T has released a new SDP solution called ZoneZero that enhances VPN security by adding SDP capabilities. Adding SDP capabilities allows exposure and access to applications and services. The access is granted only after assessing the trust, based on policies for an authorized user, location, and application. In addition, access is granted to the specific application or service rather than the network, as you would provide with a VPN.

Deploying SDP and single packet authorization on the existing VPN offers a customized and scalable zero-trust solution. It provides all the benefits of SDP while lowering the risks involved in adopting the new technology. Currently, Safe-T’s ZoneZero is the only SDP VPN solution in the market, focusing on enhancing VPN security by adding zero trust capabilities rather than replacing it.


The challenges of just using a traditional VPN


While VPNs have stood the test of time, today, we know that the proper security architecture is based on zero trust access. VPNs operating by themselves are unable to offer optimum security. Now, let’s examine some of the expected shortfalls.

The VPN lacks because they cannot grant access on a granular, case-by-case level. This is a significant problem that SDP addresses. According to the traditional security setup, you had to connect a user to a network to get access to an application. Whereas, for the users not on the network, for example, remote workers, we needed to create a virtual network to place the user on the same network as the application.

To enable external access, organizations started to implement remote access solutions (RAS) to restrict user access and create secure connectivity. An inbound port is exposed to the public internet to provide application access. However, this open port is visible to anyone online, not just remote workers.

From a security standpoint, the idea of network connectivity to access an application will likely bring many challenges. We then moved to the initial layer of zero trust to isolate different layers of security within the network. This provided a way to quarantine the applications not meant to be seen as dark. But this leads to a sprawl of network and security devices.

For example, you could use inspection path control with a hardware stack. This enabled the users to only access what they could, based on the blacklist security approach. Security policies provided broad-level and overly permissive access. The attack surface was too wide. Also, the VPN displays static configurations that have no meaning. For example, a configuration may state that this particular source can reach this destination using this port number and policy.

However, with this configuration, the contextual configuration is not considered. There are just ports and IP addresses, and the configuration offers no visibility into the network to see who, what, when, and how they connect with the device.

More often than, access policy models are coarse-grained, which provides users with more access than is required. This model does not follow the least privilege model. The VPN device provides only the network information, and the static policy does not dynamically change based on the levels of trust.

For example, the user’s anti-virus software is accidentally turned off or by malicious malware. Or maybe you want to re-authenticate when certain user actions are performed. In such cases, a static policy cannot dynamically detect this and change configuration on the fly. They should be able to express and enforce the policy configuration based on the identity, which considers both the user and the device.



The new technology adoption rate can be slow initially. The primary reason could be the lack of understanding that what you have in place today is not the best for your organization in the future. Maybe now is the time to stand back and ask if this is the future that we want.

All the money and time you have spent on the existing technologies are not evolving at pace with today’s digital environment. This indicates the necessity for new capabilities to be added. These get translated into different meanings based on an organization’s CIO and CTO roles. The CTOs are passionate about embracing new technologies and investing in the future. They are always looking to take advantage of new and exciting technological opportunities. However, the CIO looks at things differently. Usually, the CIO wants to stay with the known and is reluctant to change even in case of loss of service. Their sole aim is to keep the lights on.

This shines the torch on the need to find the middle ground. And that middle-ground is to adopt a new technology that has endless benefits for your organization. The technology should be able to satisfy the CTO group while also taking every single precaution and not disrupting the day-to-day operations.


  • The push by the marketers

There is a clash between what is needed and what the market is pushing. The SDP industry standard encourages customers to rip and replace their VPN to deploy their Software Defined Perimeter Solutions. But the customers have invested in a comprehensive VPN and are reluctant to replace it.

The SDP market initially pushed for a rip-and-replace model, which would eliminate the use of traditional security tools and technologies. This should not be the recommended case since the SDP functionality can overlap with the VPNs. Although the existing VPN solutions have their drawbacks, there should be an option to use the SDP in parallel. Thereby offering the best of both worlds.


Software-defined perimeter: How does Safe-T address this?

Safe-T understands there is a need to go down the SDP VPN path, but you may be reluctant to do a full or partial VPN replacement. So let’s take your existing VPN architecture and add the SDP capability.

The solution is placed after your VPN. The existing VPN communicates with Safe-T ZoneZero, which will do the SDP functions after your VPN device. From an end user’s perspective, they will continue to use their existing VPN client. In both cases, the users operate as usual. There are no behavior changes, and the users can continue using their VPN client.

For example, they authenticate with the existing VPN as before. But the VPN communicates with SDP for the actual authentication process instead of communicating with, for example, the Active Directory (AD).

What do you get from this? From an end user’s perspective, their day-to-day process does not change. Also, instead of placing the users on your network as you would with a VPN, they are switched to application-based access. Even though they use a traditional VPN to connect, they are still getting the full benefits of SDP.

This is a perfect stepping stone on the path toward SDP. Significantly, it provides a solid bridge to an SDP deployment. It will lower the risk and cost of the new technology adoption with minimal infrastructure changes. It removes the pain caused by deployment.


The ZoneZero™ deployment models

Safe-T offers two deployment models; ZoneZero Single-Node and Dual-Node.

With the single-node deployment, a ZoneZero virtual machine is located between the external firewall/VPN and the internal firewall. All VPN is routed to the ZoneZero virtual machine, which controls which traffic continues to flow into the organization.

In the dual-node deployment model, the ZoneZero virtual machine is between the external firewall/VPN and the internal firewall. And an access controller is in one of the LAN segments behind the internal firewall.

In both cases, the user opens the IPSEC or SSL VPN client and enters the credentials. The credentials are then retrieved by the existing VPN device and passed over RADIUS or API to ZoneZero for authentication.

SDP is charting the course to a new network and security architecture. But now, a middle ground can reduce the risks associated with the deployment. The only viable option is running the existing VPN architectures parallel with SDP. This way, you get all the benefits of SDP with minimal disruption.




Zero Trust Access

Safe-T; A Progressive Approach to Zero Trust Access



Zero Trust SDP

The foundations that support our systems are built with connectivity, not security, as an essential feature. TCP connects before it authenticates. Security policy and user access based on IP lack context and allow architectures with overly permissive access. This will likely result in a brittle security posture enabling the need for Zero Trust SDP and SDP VPN.

Our environment has changed considerably, leaving traditional network and security architectures vulnerable to attack. The threat landscape is unpredictable. We are getting hit by external threats from all over the world. However, the environment is not just limited to external threats. There are insider threats within a user group and insider threats across user group boundaries.

Therefore, we must find ways to decouple security from the physical network and decouple application access from the network. We must change our mindset and invert the security model to a Zero Trust Security Strategy to do this. Software Defined Perimeter (SDP) is an extension of Zero Trust Network ZTN, which presents a revolutionary development. It provides an updated approach that current security architectures fail to address.

SDP is often referred to as Zero Trust Access (ZTA). Safe-T’s package of the access control software is called: Safe-T Zero+. Safe-T offers a phased deployment model, enabling you to progressively migrate to zero-trust network architecture while lowering the risk of technology adoption. Safe-T’s Zero+ model is flexible to meet today’s diverse hybrid IT requirements. It satisfies the zero-trust principles used to combat today’s network security challenges.


Before you proceed, you may find the following posts helpful:

  1. Zero Trust SASE
  2. Zero Trust Networking
  3. SDP Network


Zero Trust SDP

Key Safe-T Zero Trust Strategy Discussion points:

  • Network challenges.

  • The issues with legacy VPN.

  • Introduction to Zero Trust Access.

  • Safe-T SDP solution.

  • Safe-T SDP and Zero Trust capabilities.


Network Challenges

  • Connect First and Then Authenticate

TCP has a weak security foundation. When clients want to communicate and have access to an application: they first set up a connection. Only after the connect stage has been carried out can the authentication stage be accomplished. Unfortunately, with this model, we have no idea who the client is until they have completed the connect phase. There is a possibility that the requesting client is not trustworthy.


  • The Network Perimeter

We began with static domains, whereby a fixed perimeter separates internal and external segments. Public IP addresses are assigned to the external host, and private addresses are to the internal. If a host is assigned a private IP, it is thought to be more trustworthy than if it has a public IP address. Therefore, trusted hosts operate internally, while untrusted operate externally to the perimeter. The significant factor that needs to be considered is that IP addresses lack user knowledge to assign and validate trust.

Today, IT has become more diverse since it supports hybrid architectures with various user types, humans, applications, and the proliferation of connected devices. Cloud adoption has become the norm since many remote workers access the corporate network from various devices and places.

The perimeter approach no longer accurately reflects the typical topology of users and servers. It was built for a different era where everything was inside the organization’s walls. However, today, organizations are increasingly deploying applications in public clouds located in geographical locations. These locations are remote from an organization’s trusted firewalls and the perimeter network. This certainly stretches the network perimeter.

We have a fluid network perimeter where data and users are located everywhere. Hence, now we operate in a completely new environment. But the security policy controlling user access is built for static corporate-owned devices within the supposed trusted LAN.


  • Lateral Movements

A significant concern with the perimeter approach is that it assumes a trusted internal network. However, 80% of threats are from internal malware or malicious employee that will often go undetected.

Besides, with the rise of phishing emails, an unintentional click will give a bad actor broad-level access. And once on the LAN, the bad actors can move laterally from one segment to another. They are likely to navigate undetected between or within the segments.

Eventually, the bad actor can steal the credentials and use them to capture and exfiltrate valuable assets. Even social media accounts can be targeted for data exfiltration since the firewall does not often inspect them as a file transfer mechanism.


  • Issues with the Virtual Private Network (VPN)

What happens with traditional VPN access is that the tunnel creates an extension between the client’s device and the application’s location. The VPN rules are static and do not dynamically change with the changing levels of trust on a given device. They provide only network information, which is a significant limitation.

Therefore, from a security standpoint, the traditional method of VPN access enables the clients to have broad network-level access. This makes the network susceptible to undetected lateral movements. Also, the remote users are authenticated and authorized but once permitted to the LAN. They have coarse-grained access. This creates a high level of risk as undetected malware on a user’s device can spread to an internal network.

Another significant challenge is that VPNs generate administrative complexity and cannot easily handle cloud or multiple network environments. They require the installation of end-user VPN software clients and knowing where the application they are accessing is located. Users would have to change their VPN client software to access the applications at different locations. In a nutshell, traditional VPNs are complex for administrators to manage and for users to operate.

With public concern over surveillance, privacy, and identity theft growing, many people are turning to VPNs to help keep them safer online. But where should you start when choosing the best VPN for your needs?

Also, poor user experience will likely occur as you need to backhaul the user traffic to a regional data center. This adds latency and bandwidth costs.

In recent years, torrenting has become increasingly popular among computer users who wish to download movies, books, and songs. Without having a VPN, you could risk your privacy and security. It is also important to note that you should be very careful when downloading files to your computer as they could cause more harm than good. 


Can Zero Trust Access be the Solution?

The main principle that Zero Trust Network Design follows is that nothing should be trusted. This is regardless of whether the connection originates inside or outside the network perimeter. Reasonably, today, we have no reason to trust any user, device, or application; some companies may try and decrease accessibility by using programs like office 365 distribution group to allow and disallow users’ and devices’ specific network permissions. You know that you cannot protect what you cannot see, but you also cannot attack what you cannot see also holds. ZTA makes the application and the infrastructure utterly undetectable to unauthorized clients, creating an invisible network.

Preferably, application access should be based on contextual parameters, such as who/where the user is located and the judgment of the security stance of the device. Then a continuous assessment of the session should be performed. This moves us from network-centric to user-centric, providing a connection-based approach to security. Security enforcement should be based on user context and include policies that matter to the business. It should be unlike a policy based on subnets that have no meaning. The authentication workflows should include context-aware data, such as device ID, geographic location, and the time and day when the user requests access.

It’s not good enough to provide network access. We must provide granular application access with a dynamic segment of 1. Here, an application microsegment gets created for every request that comes in. Micro-segmentation creates the ability to control access by subdividing the larger network into small secure application micro perimeter internal to the network. This abstraction layer puts a lockdown on lateral movements. In addition, zero trust access also implements a policy of least privilege by enforcing controls that enable the users to have access only to the resources they need to perform their tasks.


Characteristics of Safe-T

Safe-T has three main pillars to provide a secure application and file access solution:

1) An architecture that implements zero trust access,

2) A proprietary secure channel that enables users to access/share sensitive files remotely and

3) User behavior analytics.

Safe-T’s SDP architecture is designed to substantially implement the essential capabilities delineated by the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) architecture. Safe-T’s Zero+ is built using these main components:

The Safe-T Access Controller is the centralized control and policy enforcement engine that enforces end-user authentication and access. It acts as the control layer, governing the flow between end-users and backend services.

Secondly, the Access Gateway is a front-end for all the backend services published to an untrusted network. The Authentication Gateway presents to the end-user in a clientless web browser. Hence, a pre-configured authentication workflow is provided by the Access Controller. The authentication workflow is a customizable set of authentication steps, such as 3rd party IDPs (Okta, Microsoft, DUO Security, etc.). In addition, it has built-in options, such as a captcha, username/password, No-Post, and OTP.


Safe-T Zero+ Capabilities

The Safe-T Zero+ capabilities are in line with zero trust principles. With Safe-T Zero+, clients requesting access must go through authentication and authorization stages before accessing the resource. Any network resource that has not passed these steps is blackened. Here, URL rewriting is used to hide the backend services.

This reduces the attack surface to an absolute minimum and follows Safe-T’s axiom: If you can’t be seen, you can’t be hacked. In a normal operating environment, for the users to access services behind a firewall, they have to open ports on the firewall. This presents security risks as a bad actor could directly access that service via the open port and exploit any vulnerabilities.

Another paramount capability of Safe-T Zero+ is implementing a patented technology called reverse access to eliminate the need to open incoming ports in the internal firewall. This also eliminates the need to store sensitive data in the demilitarized zone (DMZ). It can extend to on-premise, public, and hybrid cloud, supporting the most diverse hybrid and meeting the IT requirements. Zero+ can be deployed on-premises, as part of Safe-T’s SDP services, or on AWS, Azure, and other cloud infrastructures, thereby protecting both cloud and on-premise resources.

Zero+ provides the capability of user behavior analytics that monitors the actions of protected web applications. This allows the administrator to inspect the details of anomalous behavior. Forensic assessment is more accessible by offering a single source for logging.

Finally, Zero+ provides a unique, native HTTPS-based file access solution for the NTFS file system, replacing the vulnerable SMB protocol. Besides, users can create a standard mapped network drive in their Windows explorer. This provides a secure, encrypted, access-controlled channel to shared backend resources.


Zero Trust Access: Deployment Strategy

Safe-T customers can exclusively select an architecture that meets their on-premise or cloud-based requirements.


There are three options:

i) The customer deploys three VMs: 1) Access Controller, 2) Access Gateway, and 3) Authentication Gateway. The VMs can be deployed on-premises in an organization’s LAN, on Amazon Web Services (AWS) public cloud, or on Microsoft’s Azure public cloud.

ii) The customer deploys the 1) Access Controller VM and 2) Access Gateway VM on-premises in their LAN. The customer deploys the Authentication Gateway VM on a public cloud like AWS or Azure.

iii) The customer deploys the Access Controller VM on-premise in the LAN, and Safe-T deploys and maintains two VMs, 1) Access Gateway and 2) Authentication Gateway, both hosted on Safe-T’s global SDP cloud service.


ZTA Migration Path

Today, organizations recognize the need to move to zero-trust architecture. However, there is a difference between recognition and deployment. Also, new technology brings with it considerable risks. Chiefly, traditional Network Access Control (NAC) and VPN solutions fall short in many ways, but a rip-and-replace model is a very aggressive approach.

To transition from legacy to ZTA and single packet authorization, you should look for a migration path you feel comfortable with. Maybe you want to run a traditional VPN in parallel or in conjunction with your SDP solution and only for a group of users for a set period. A probable example could be: choosing a server used primarily by experienced users, such as DevOps or QA personnel. This ensures minimal risk if any problem occurs during your organization’s phased deployment of SDP access.

A recent survey by the CSA indicates that SDP awareness and adoption are still in an early stage. However, when you go down the path of ZTA, vendor selection that provides an architecture that matches your requirements is the key to successful adoption. For example, look for SDP vendors who allow you to continue using your existing VPN deployment while adding.

SDP/ZTA capabilities on top of your VPN. This could sidestep the risks if you switch to an entirely new technology.



VPN virtual private network conncetion concept. Lan cable and a router with different flags. 3d illustration

Remote Browser Isolation



Remote Browser Isolation

In today’s digital landscape, where cyber threats continue to evolve at an alarming rate, businesses and individuals alike are constantly seeking innovative solutions to safeguard their sensitive information. One such solution that has gained significant attention is Remote Browser Isolation (RBI). In this blog post, we will explore what RBI is, how it works, and its role in enhancing security in the digital era.

Remote Browser Isolation, as the name suggests, is a technology that isolates web browsing activity from the user’s local device. Instead of directly accessing websites and executing code on the user’s computer or mobile device, RBI redirects browsing activity to a remote server, where the web page is rendered and interactions are processed. This isolation prevents any malicious code or potential threats from reaching the user’s device, effectively minimizing the risk of a cyberattack.


Highlights: Remote Browser Isolation

  • Challenging Landscape

Our digital environment has been transformed significantly. Unlike earlier times, we now have different devices, access methods, and types of users accessing applications from various locations. This makes it more challenging to know which communications can be trusted. The perimeter-based approach to security can no longer be limited to just the physical location of the enterprise.

  • A Fluid Perimeter

In this modern world, the perimeter is becoming increasingly difficult to enforce as organizations adopt mobile and cloud technologies. Hence, the need for Remote Browser Isolation (RBI) has become integral to the SASE definition. For example, Cisco Umbrella products have several Zero Trust SASE components, such as the CASB tools, and now RBI is integrated into one solution.

  • Its Just a matter of time

Under these circumstances, the perimeter is more likely to be breached; it’s just a matter of time. A bad actor would then be relatively free to move laterally, potentially accessing the privileged intranet and corporate data on-premises and in the cloud. Therefore, we must assume that users and resources on internal networks are as untrustworthy as those on the public internet and design enterprise application security with this in mind. 


Before you proceed, you may find the following posts helpful for pre-information:

  1. Cisco Umbrella CASB
  2. Ericom Shield
  3. SDP Network
  4. Zero Trust Access


Remote Browser Isolation (RBI)

Key Remote Browser Isolation Discussion points:

  • The perimeter approach can no longer be trusted. 

  • Software Defined Perimeter and security checking.

  • Mico egmentation.

  • Introducing RBI and its capabilities.

  • The RBI components.


Back to basics with remote browser isolation

Remote browser isolation (RBI), also known as web isolation or browser isolation, is a web security solution developed to protect users from Internet-borne threats. So we have on-premise isolation and remote browser isolation.

On-premise browser isolation functions similarly to remote browser isolation. But instead of taking place on a remote server, which could be in the cloud, the browsing occurs on a server inside the organization’s private network, which could be at the DMZ. So why would you choose on-premise isolation as opposed to remote browser isolation?

Firstly, performance. On-premise isolation can reduce latency compared to some types of remote browser isolation that need to be done in a remote location.


The Concept of RBI

The concept of RBI is based on the principle of “trust nothing, verify everything.” By isolating web browsing activity, RBI ensures that any potentially harmful elements, such as malicious scripts, malware, or phishing attempts, are unable to reach the user’s device. This approach significantly reduces the attack surface and provides an added layer of protection against threats that may exploit vulnerabilities in the user’s local environment.

So, how does Remote Browser Isolation work in practice? When a user initiates a web browsing session, instead of directly accessing the website, the RBI solution establishes a secure connection to a remote server. The remote server acts as a virtual browser, rendering the web page, executing potentially dangerous code, and processing user interactions.

Only the harmless visual representation of the webpage is transmitted back to the user’s device, ensuring that any potential threats are confined to the isolated environment.


Key Advantages

One of the key advantages of RBI is its ability to protect against both known and unknown threats. Since the browsing activity is isolated from the user’s device, even if a website contains an undiscovered vulnerability or a zero-day exploit, the user’s device remains protected. This is particularly valuable in today’s dynamic threat landscape, where new vulnerabilities and exploits are constantly being discovered.

Furthermore, RBI offers a seamless user experience, as it allows users to interact with web pages just as they would with a traditional browser. Whether it’s submitting forms, watching videos, or accessing web applications, users can perform their desired actions without compromising security. From an IT perspective, RBI also simplifies security management, as it enables centralized control and monitoring of browsing activity, making it easier to identify and address potential threats.

As organizations increasingly adopt cloud-based infrastructure and embrace remote work, Remote Browser Isolation has emerged as a critical security solution. By isolating web browsing activity, businesses can effectively protect their sensitive data, intellectual property, and customer information from cyber threats. RBI significantly reduces the risk of successful attacks, enhances overall security posture, and provides peace of mind to both organizations and individuals.


What within the perimeter makes us assume it can no longer be trusted?

Security becomes less and less tenable once there are many categories of users, device types, and locations. Users are diverse, so it is impossible, for example, to slot all vendors into one user segment with uniform permissions.

As a result, access to applications should be based on contextual parameters such as who and where the user is. And sessions should be continuously assessed to ensure they’re legit. 

We need to find ways to decouple security from the physical network and, more importantly, to decouple application access from the network. In short, we need a new approach to providing access to the cloud, network, and device-agnostic applications. This is where Software Defined Perimeter (SDP) comes into the picture.


What is a Software-Defined Perimeter (SDP)?

SDP VPN complements zero trust, which considers internal and external networks and actors untrusted. The network topology is divorced from the trust. There is no concept of inside or outside of the network.

This may result in users not automatically being granted broad access to resources, simply under their being inside the perimeter. Primarily, security pros must focus on solutions where they can set and enforce discrete access policies and protections for those requesting to use an application.

SDP lays the foundation and secures the access architecture, which enables an authenticated and trusted connection between the entity and the application. Unlike security based solely on IP, SDP does not grant access to network resources based on a user’s location.

Access policies are based on device, location, state, associated user information, and other contextual elements. The applications are considered in the abstract, so whether they run on-premise or in the cloud is irrelevant to the security policy.


  • Periodic Security Checking

Clients and their interactions are periodically checked to ensure they comply with the security policy. Periodic security checking protects against additional actions or requests not allowed while the connection is open. Let’s say you have a connection open to a financial application, and users access the recording software to record the session.

In this case, the SDP management platform can check whether the software has been started. If so, it employs protective mechanisms to ensure smooth and secure operation.



Front-end authentication and periodic checking are one part of the picture. However, we need to go a layer deeper to secure the front door to the application and the numerous doors within, which can potentially create additional access paths. Primarily, this is the job of microsegmentation.

It’s not sufficient to provide network access. We must enable granular application access for dynamic segments of 1. In this scenario, a microsegment is created for every request. Microsegmentation creates the minimal accessible network required to complete specific tasks smoothly and securely. This is accomplished by subdividing larger networks into small secure, and flexible micro-perimeters.


Introducing Remote Browser Isolation (RBI)

SDP provides mechanisms to prevent lateral movement once users are inside the network. However, we must also address how external resources on the internet and public clouds can be accessed while protecting end-users, their devices, and the networks they connect. This is where remote browser isolation (RBI) and technologies such as Single Packet Authorization come into the picture.

What is Remote Browser Isolation? Initially, we started with browser isolation, which protects the user from external sessions by isolating the interaction. Essentially, it generates complete browsers within a virtual machine on the endpoint, providing a proactive approach to isolate users’ sessions from, for example, malicious websites, emails, and links. But these solutions do not reliably isolate the web content from the end-user’s device on the network.

Remote browser isolation takes local browser isolation to the next level by enabling the rendering process to occur remotely from the user’s device in the cloud. Because only a clean data stream touches the endpoint, users can securely access untrusted websites from within the perimeter of the protected area.


Remote Browser Isolation
Diagram: Remote Brower Isolation.


SDP, along with Remote Browser Isolation (RBI)

In many important ways, remote browser isolation complements the SDP approach. When you access a corporate asset, you operate within the SDP. But when you need to access external assets, RBI is needed to keep you safe.

Zero trust and SDP are about authentication, authorization, and accounting (AAA) for internal resources, but there must be secure ways to access external resources. For this, RBI secures browsing elsewhere on your behalf.

No SDP solution can be complete without including rules to secure external connectivity. RBI takes zero trust to the next level by securing the internet browsing perspective. If access is to an internal corporate asset, we create a dynamic tunnel of one individualized connection. For external access, RBI transfers information without full, risky connectivity.

This is particularly crucial when it comes to email attacks like phishing. Malicious actors use social engineering tactics to convince recipients to trust them enough to click on embedded links.

Quality RBI solutions protect users by “knowing” when to allow user access while preventing malware from entering endpoints, entirely blocking malicious sites, or protecting users from entering confidential credentials by enabling read-only access.


The RBI Components

To understand how RBI works, let’s look under the hood of Ericom Shield. With RBI, for every tab a user opens on their device, the solution spins up a virtual browser in its dedicated Linux container in a remote cloud location. For additional information on containers, in particular Docker Container Security.

For example, if the user is actively browsing 19 open tabs on his Chrome browser, each will have a corresponding browser in its remote container. This sounds like it takes a lot of computing power, but enterprise-class  RBI solutions do a lot of optimizations to ensure that it is not eating up too much of the endpoint resources.

If a tab is unused for some time, the associated container is automatically terminated and destroyed. This frees up computing resources and also eliminates the possibility of persistence.

As a result, whatever malware may have resided on the external site being browsed is destroyed and cannot accidentally infect the endpoint, server, or cloud location. When the user shifts back to the tab, he is reconnected in a fraction of a second to the exact location but with a new container, creating a secure enclave for internet browsing. 


A key point: Website rendering

Website rendering is carried out in real-time from the remote browser. The web page is translated into a media stream, which then gets streamed back to the end-user via HTML5 protocol. In reality, the browsing experience is made out of images. When you look at the source code on the endpoint browser, you will find that the HTML code consists solely of a block of Ericom-generated code. This block manages to send and receiving of images via the media stream.

Whether the user is accessing the Wall Street Journal or YouTube, they will always get the same source code from Ericom Shield. This is ample proof that no local download, drive-by download, or any other contact that may try to hook up into your endpoint will ever get there, as it does not come into contact with the endpoint. It runs only remotely in a container outside the local LAN. The browser farm does all the heavy — and dangerous — lifting via container-bound browsers that read and execute the user’s uniform resource locator (URL) requests. 



SDP vendors have figured out device user authentication and how to secure sessions continuously. However, vendors are now looking for a way to secure the tunnel through to external resource access. 

The session can be hacked or compromised if you use your desktop to access a cloud application. But with RBI, you can maintain one-to-one secure tunneling. With a dedicated container for each specific app, you are assured of an end-to-end zero-trust environment. 

RBI, based on hardened containers and with a rigorous process to eliminate malware through limited persistence, forms a critical component of the SDP story. The power of RBI is that it stops known and unknown threats, making it a natural evolution from the zero-trust perspective.

In conclusion, Remote Browser Isolation plays a crucial role in enhancing security in the digital era. By isolating web browsing activity from the user’s device, RBI provides an effective defense against a wide range of cyber threats. With its ability to protect against both known and unknown threats, RBI offers a proactive approach to cybersecurity, ensuring that organizations and individuals can safely navigate the digital landscape. As the threat landscape continues to evolve, Remote Browser Isolation will undoubtedly remain a key component of a comprehensive security strategy.



Intent-Based Networking



Intent-Based Networking

In today’s fast-paced digital world, networks connect people, devices, and services. However, managing these networks efficiently and effectively has become increasingly complex. This is where Intent-Based Networking (IBN) comes in. This blog post will explore what IBN is, how it differs from traditional network management approaches, and why it revolutionizes how networks are managed.

Intent-Based Networking is a paradigm shift in network management that leverages automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to simplify network operations. Instead of configuring individual devices manually, IBN focuses on defining the desired outcome or intent and allows the network infrastructure to configure and optimize itself accordingly. This intent-driven approach enables organizations to manage their networks more agile, responsive, and scalable.


Highlights: Intent-Based Networking

  • The lack of Agility

Intent-based networking is not just hype; we see many intent-driven networks already with many SD WAN overlay roll-outs. It is a necessary development; from a technology standpoint, it has arrived. However, cultural acceptance will take a little longer. Organizations are looking to modernize their business processes and their networks.

Yet, the traditional vertically integrated monolithic networking solutions prohibit the network from achieving agility. This is why we need intent-based networking systems. So, what is intent-based networking? Intent-based networking is where an end-user describes what the network should do, and the system automatically configures the policy. It uses declarative statements, i.e., what the network should do, instead of imperative statements. 

  • Converts the What into How

You are telling the network what you want to accomplish, not precisely what to do and how to do it, i.e., tell me what you want, not how to do it, all of which gets translated behind the scenes. Essentially, intent-based networking is a piece of open networking software that takes the “what” and converts it into the “how.” The system generates the resulting configuration for design and device implementation.

The system is provided with algorithms that translate business intent into network configurations. Humans can not match the speed of algorithms, and this is key. The system is aware of the network state and can ingest real-time network status from multiple sources in a transport and protocol-agnostic way.

  • The Desired State

It adds the final piece of the puzzle by validating in real time that the intent is being met. The system continuously compares the actual to the desired state of the running network. If the desired state is unmet, corrective actions such as modifying a QoS policy or applying an access control list (ACL) can occur. This allows for a closer alignment between the network infrastructure and business initiatives and maintains the network’s correctness.


Related: Before you proceed, you may find the following posts helpful.

  1. Network Configuration Automation
  2. Distributed Systems Observability
  3. Reliability in Distributed Systems
  4. Container Networking
  5. Overlay Virtual Networking


Kubernetes Attack Vectors

Key Kubernetes Security Best Practice Discussion points:

  • The issues with traditional security constructs.

  • The growing hacker sophistication.

  • Recap on the Kubernetes architecture.

  • Details on the Kubernetes security best practice.

  • Security 101 for containers and Kubernetes.


  • A key point: Video on intent-based networking

In this video, we will discuss the basics of intent-based networking: informing the controller about the end goal and allowing the controller-based network to figure out the low-level device and configuration details. Finally, as a product reference, we discuss Cisco SD-Access.



Back to basics: Intent-Based Networking

To understand what Intent-Based Networking is, learning more about what Intent encompasses is essential. An intent is a brief description of the purpose and a concrete predetermined set of steps that must be executed to (successfully) achieve the Intent. This principle can also be applied to the operation of a network infrastructure. The Intent and its steps precisely describe what needs to be done on the network to accomplish a specific task. 

For example, the application is migrating to the cloud. In this case, the Intent or steps may include the following. First, take the existing access policy for that application from the data center policy, transform the policy into an application policy for Internet access, deploy the procedure on all perimeter firewalls, and change the routing for that application to the cloud.

Intent Based Networking

Main Intent Based Networking Components

Intent Based Networking 

  • Translates high-level business objectives into network policies and configurations

  • Automating routine network tasks, such as provisioning, configuration, and troubleshooting.

  • Continuous monitoring and verification of network behavior against the intended state

Key Principles of Intent-Based Networking:

1. Translation: Intent-based networking automatically translates high-level business objectives into network policies and configurations. By understanding the desired intent, the network infrastructure can autonomously make the necessary adjustments to align with the organization’s goals.

2. Automation: Automation is a fundamental aspect of IBN. By automating routine network tasks, such as provisioning, configuration, and troubleshooting, network administrators can focus on strategic activities that add value to the organization. Automation also reduces the risk of human error, leading to improved network reliability and security.

3. Assurance: IBN provides continuous monitoring and verification of network behavior against the intended state. By constantly comparing the network’s current state with the desired intent, IBN can promptly identify and mitigate any configuration drift or anomalies. This proactive approach enhances network visibility, performance, and compliance.

Data Center

Intent-based Networking

Key Benefits

  • Simplified Network Management

  • Enhanced Agility and Scalability

  • Improved Network Security

  • Optimized Performance

Benefits of Intent-Based Networking:

1. Simplified Network Management: With IBN, network administrators can easily manage complex networks. By abstracting the complexity of individual devices and focusing on business intent, IBN simplifies network operations, reducing the need for manual configuration and troubleshooting.

2. Enhanced Agility and Scalability: IBN enables organizations to respond quickly to changing business requirements and scale their networks effortlessly. By automating network provisioning and configuration, IBN supports rapid deployment and seamless integration of new services and devices.

3. Improved Network Security: Security is a top concern for modern networks. IBN offers enhanced security by continuously monitoring network behavior and enforcing security policies. This proactive approach reduces the risk of security breaches and enables faster threat detection and response.

4. Optimized Performance: IBN leverages real-time analytics and machine learning to optimize network performance. By dynamically adjusting network configurations based on traffic patterns and user behavior, IBN ensures optimal performance and user experience.


Example Solution: Cisco SD-Access

The Cisco SD-Access digital network evolution transforms traditional campus LANs into intent-driven, programmable networks. Campus Fabric and DNA Center are Cisco SD-Access’ two main components. Creating and monitoring the Cisco Campus Fabric is automated and assured through the Cisco DNA Center.

Cisco Campus Fabric Architecture
In Cisco SD-Access, fabric roles and terminology differ from those in traditional three-tier hierarchical networks. To create a logical topology, Cisco SD-Access uses overlay networks running on a physical network (underlay network) to implement fabric technology.

Underlay networks are the traditional physical networks that connect LAN devices such as routers and switches. A primary function of an underlay network is to provide IP connectivity for traffic to travel from one point to another. Due to the IP-based underlay, any interior gateway protocol (IGP) can be utilized.

Overlay and Underlay Networking

Fabrics are overlay networks. Internet Protocol Security (IPsec), Generic Routing Encapsulation (GRE), Dynamic Multipoint Virtual Private Networks (DMVPN), Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), Location Identifier Separation Protocol (LISP), and others are commonly used with overlay networks in the IT world to virtual connect devices. Virtually connecting devices over a topology-independent physical underlay network, an overlay network is a logical topology.

MPLS forwarding
Diagram: MPLS forwarding

Forwarding and control planes are separated in overlay networks, resulting in a flexible, programmable, and scalable network. To simplify the underlay, the control plane and data plane are separated. As the control plane becomes the network’s brain, it allows faster forwarding and optimizes packets and network reliability. As an underlay for the centralized controller, Cisco SD-Access supports building a fabric using an existing network.

Underlay networks can be automated with Cisco DNA Center. As a result, it is helpful for new implementations or infrastructure growth since it eliminates the hassle of setting up the underlay. For differentiation, segmentation, and mobility, overlay networks often use alternate forwarding attributes in an additional header.

Cisco SD AccessNetworking Complexity

Networks continue to get more complex as traffic demands increase. While software-defined networking (SDN) can abstract the underlying complexities, we must consider how we orchestrate the policy and intent across multi-vendor, multi-domain elements.

To overcome complexity, you have to abstract. We have been doing this with tunneling for decades. However, different abstractions are used at the business and infrastructure resource levels.

At a business level, you need to be flexible as rules will change and must be approached differently from how the operating system comes modeling resources. We must make new architecture decisions for this, as it’s not just about configuration management and orchestrations. None of these can look at the network state, which we need to do.

For this, we need network intelligence. How networks are built and managed today uses a manual approach without algorithmic validation. The manual process of networking is not viable in the future.  Let’s face it: humans make mistakes.

There are many reasons for network outages, ranging from software bugs and hardware/power failure to security breaches. All of which comes from a lack of implementing network security. But human error is still the number one cause. We are inhibited by manual configuration. Intent-based networking eliminates this inhibition.


intent-based networking
Diagram: Intent-Driven Network.


The traditional approach to networking

In the traditional network model, there is a gap between the architect’s intent and what’s achieved. Not just for device configuration but also for achieved runtime behavior. Until now, there has not been a way to validate the original intent or to have a continuous verification mechanism.

Once you have achieved this level of assurance, you can focus on business needs and not be constrained by managing a legacy network. For example, Netflix moved its control plane to the cloud and now focuses all its time on its customer base.

We have gone halfway and spent billions of dollars on the compute, storage, and applications, but the network still lags. The architecture and protocols have become more complex, but the management tools have not kept pace. Fortunately, now, this is beginning to change.


Software-defined networking; slow deployments

SDN shows great promise that could release networking, but deployments have been slow. Primarily down to large cloud-scale organizations with ample resources and dollars. But what can the rest of the industry do if we do not have that level of business maturity?  Intent-based networking is a natural successor to SDN, as many intent-based vendors have borrowed the same principles and common architectures.

The systems are built on the divide between the application and the network infrastructure. However, SDN operates at the network architecture level, where the control plane instructs the data plane forwarding node. Intent-based systems work higher at the application level to offer true brownfield network automation.

SDN and SD-WAN have made considerable leaps in network programmability, but intent-based networking is a further leap to zero-touch self-healing networks. For additional information on SD-WAN, including the challenges with existing WANs, such as lack of agility with BGP ( what is BGP protocol in networking ) and the core features of SD-WAN, check out this SDWAN tutorial.


  • A key point: Video on BGP in the data center

In this whiteboard session, we will address the basics of BGP. A network exists specifically to serve the connectivity requirements of applications, and these applications are to serve business needs. So, these applications must run on stable networks and stable networks are built from stable routing protocols.

Routing Protocols are a set of predefined rules used by the routers that interconnect your network to maintain the communication between the source and the destination. These routing protocols help to find the routes between two nodes on the computer network.



Intent-Based Networking Use Case

The wide-area network (WAN) edge consists of several network infrastructure devices, including Layer 3 routers, SD-WAN appliances such as Viptela SD-WAN, and WAN optimization controllers. These devices could send diagnostic information for the intent-based system to ingest. The system can ingest from multiple sources, including a monitoring system and network telemetry.

As a result, the system can keep track of application performance over a variety of links. Suppose there is a performance-related problem, the policies are unmet, and application performance degrades.

In that case, the system can take action, such as to re-route the traffic over a less congested link or notify a network team member. The intent-based system does not have to take corrective action, similar to how IDS/IPS is deployed. These devices can take disciplinary action if necessary, but many use IDS/IPS to alert.

Looking deeper on intent based networking systems

The intent-based architecture combines machine learning (ML), cognitive computing, and deep analytics, providing enhanced levels of automation and programmability through an easy-to-use GUI. Combining these technologies allows you to move from a reactive to a proactive system.

ML, a sub-application of artificial intelligence (AI), allows intent-based systems to analyze and learn from data without explicit programming automatically. Therefore, it enables systems to understand and predict the data for autonomous behavior. Intent-based networking represents a radical new approach to network architecture and takes networking to the next level in intelligence.

It is not a technology that is going to be accepted overnight. Its adoption will be slow as, to some, a fully automated network can sound daunting, placing the faith of your business, which for many organizations is the network.

However, deploying intent-based networking systems offers a new way to build and operate networks, which increases agility, availability, and security compared to traditional networking.

Conclusion: Intent-Based Networking is transforming the way networks are managed. By shifting the focus from device-centric configurations to intent-driven outcomes, IBN simplifies network management, enhances agility and scalability, improves security, and optimizes network performance. As organizations strive to meet the demands of the digital age, embracing this innovative approach can pave the way for a more efficient and intelligent network infrastructure.



kubernetes security best practice

Kubernetes Security Best Practice


kubernetes attack vectors


Kubernetes Security Best Practice

Kubernetes has become the go-to container orchestration platform for organizations worldwide due to its flexibility and scalability. However, as with any technology, ensuring robust security measures is crucial for safeguarding sensitive data and maintaining the integrity of Kubernetes clusters. In this blog post, we will discuss essential Kubernetes security best practices that every organization should implement to protect their infrastructure and applications.


Highlights: Kubernetes Security Best Practice

  • An Orchestration Tool

Kubernetes has quickly become the de facto orchestration tool for deploying Kubernetes microservices and containers to the cloud. It offers a way of running groups of resources as a cluster and provides an entirely different abstraction level to single container deployments, allowing better management. From a developer’s perspective, it allows the rolling out of new features that align with business demands while not worrying about the underlying infrastructure complexities.

  • Security Pitfalls

But there are pitfalls to consider when considering Kubernetes security best practices and Docker container security. Security teams must maintain the required visibility, compliance, and control, which is difficult because they do not control the underlying infrastructure. To help you on your security journey, you should introduce a chaos engineering project, specifically chaos engineering kubernetes.

This will help you find the breaking points and performance-related issues that may indirectly create security gaps in your Kubernetes cluster, making the cluster acceptable to Kubernetes attack vectors.


Before you proceed, you may find the following posts helpful:

  1. OpenShift SDN
  2. Hands On Kubernetes
  3. Kubernetes Network Namespace


Kubernetes Attack Vectors

Key Kubernetes Security Best Practice Discussion points:

  • The issues with traditional security constructs.

  • The growing hacker sophistication.

  • Recap on the Kubernetes architecture.

  • Details on the Kubernetes security best practice.

  • Security 101 for containers and Kubernetes.


  • A key point: Video on Immutable Infrastructure

The following video discusses Immutable Infrastructure. The birth of virtualization gave rise to virtual servers and the ability to instantiate workloads within a shorter period. Similar to how virtualization brings new ways to improve server infrastructure, Immutable server infrastructure takes us one step further. Firstly, mutable server infrastructure is servers that require additional care once they have been deployed.

This may include an upgrade, downgrade, or a tweak configuration file for a specific optimization. Usually, this is done on a server-by-server basis. Secondly, an Immutable server infrastructure is servers that are not tweaked after deployment.

It’s an entirely new paradigm where if a change needs to occur, a new server is built from a standard image along with the required change included in that image.



Back to basics with Kubernetes security best practice

As workloads move to the cloud, Kubernetes is the most common orchestrator for managing them. The reason Kubernetes is popular is its declarative nature: It abstracts infrastructure details and allows users to specify the workloads they want to run and the desired outcomes.

However, securing, observing, and troubleshooting containerized workloads on Kubernetes are challenges. It needs a range of considerations, from infrastructure choices and cluster configuration to deployment controls, runtime, and network security. Keep in mind that Kubernetes is not secure by default.


Regularly Update Kubernetes:

Keeping your Kubernetes environment up to date is one of the fundamental aspects of maintaining a secure cluster. Regularly updating Kubernetes ensures that you have the latest security patches and bug fixes, reducing the risk of potential vulnerabilities.

Enable RBAC (Role-Based Access Control):

Implementing Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) is crucial for controlling and restricting user access within your Kubernetes cluster. By assigning appropriate roles and permissions to users, you can ensure that only authorized personnel can perform specific operations, minimizing the chances of unauthorized access and potential security breaches.

Use Network Policies:

Kubernetes Network Policies allow you to define and enforce rules for network traffic within your cluster. By utilizing network policies effectively, you can isolate workloads, control ingress and egress traffic, and prevent unauthorized communication between pods. This helps in reducing the attack surface and enhancing the overall security posture of your Kubernetes environment.

Employ Pod Security Policies:

Pod Security Policies (PSPs) enable you to define security configurations and restrictions for pods running in your Kubernetes cluster. By defining PSPs, you can enforce policies such as running pods with non-root users, disallowing privileged containers, and restricting host namespace sharing. These policies help prevent malicious activities and reduce the impact of potential security breaches.

Implement Image Security:

Ensuring the security of container images is crucial to protect your Kubernetes environment. Employing image scanning tools and registries that provide vulnerability assessments allows you to identify and address potential security issues within your images. Additionally, only using trusted and verified images from reputable sources reduces the risk of running compromised or malicious containers.

Monitor and Audit Cluster Activity:

Implementing robust monitoring and auditing mechanisms is essential for detecting and responding to security incidents promptly. By leveraging Kubernetes-native monitoring solutions, you can gain visibility into cluster activity, detect anomalies, and generate alerts for suspicious behavior. Furthermore, regularly reviewing audit logs helps in identifying potential security breaches and provides valuable insights for enhancing the security posture of your Kubernetes environment.


Kubernetes Attack Vectors

The hot topic for security teams is how to improve Kubernetes security, implement Kubernetes security best practice within the cluster, and make container networking deployments more secure. Kubernetes is a framework that provides infrastructure and features. But it would be best to think outside the box regarding Kubernetes security best practices.

We are not saying that Kubernetes doesn’t have built-in security features to protect your application architecture! It includes logging and monitoring, debugging and introspection, identity, and authorization. But ask yourself, do these defaults cover all aspects of your security requirements? Remember that much of the complexity with Kubernetes can be abstract with OpenShift networking.


A key point: Video with OpenShift Networking

In the past, the application stack had very few components, maybe just a cache, web server, and database. The most common network service simply allows a source to reach an application endpoint or load balance to a number of endpoints using a load balancing algorithm. The sole purpose of the network was to provide endpoint reachability.

Changes inside the data center are driving networks and network services towards becoming more integrated with the application. Nowadays, the network function exists no longer solely to satisfy endpoint reachability; it is fully integrated and in the case of Red Hat’s Openshift the network is represented as a Software-Defined Networking (SDN) layer.



Traditional Security Constructs  

Traditional security constructs don’t work with containers. And we have seen this with the introduction of Zero Trust Networking. Containers have a different security model as they are short-lived and immutable. For example, securing containers differs from securing a virtual machine (VM).

For one, the attack surface is smaller as containers usually only live for about a week, as opposed to a VM that may stay online forever. As a result, we need to manage vulnerabilities and compliance through the container scheduler lifecycle – from build tools, image registries, and production.

How do you measure security within a Kubernetes environment? No one can ever be 100% secure, but one should follow certain best practices to harden the gates against bad actors. You can have different levels of security within different parts of the Kubernetes domain. However, a general Kubernetes security best practice would be introducing as many layers of security between your Kubernetes environment and the bad actors to secure valuable company assets.


Hacker sophistication

Hackers are growing in sophistication. We started with script kiddies in the 1980s and are now entering a world of artificial intelligence ( AI ) and machine learning (ML) in the hands of bad actors. They have the tools to throw everything and anything at your Kubernetes environment, dynamically changing attack vectors on the fly.

If you haven’t adequately secured the domain, once a bad actor gains access to your environment, they can move laterally throughout the application stack, silently accessing valuable assets.

Kubernetes security best practices

Kubernetes Architecture

Before we delve into some of Kubernetes’ security best practices and the Kubernetes attack vectors, let’s recap Kubernetes networking 101. Within Kubernetes, there will always be four common constructs – pods, services, labels, and replication controllers. All constructs combine to create an entire application stack.

  • Pods
    Pods are the smallest scheduling unit within a Kubernetes environment that holds a set of closely related containers. Containers within a Pod share the same network namespace and must be installed on the same physical host. This enables processing to be performed locally without latency traversing from one physical host to another.
  • Labels
    As I said, containers within a pod share the same network namespaces. As a result, the containers within a pod can reach each other’s ports on localhost. Therefore we need to introduce a tagging mechanism known as labels. Labels offer another level of abstraction by tagging items as a group. They are essentially key-value pairs categorizing constructs. For example, labels distinguish containers as part of an application stack’s web or database tier.
  • Replication Controllers (RC)
    Then we have replication controllers. Their primary purpose is to manage the lifecycle and state of the pods by ensuring the desired state always matches the actual state. The replication controllers ensure the correct numbers are running. Either creating or removing pods at any given time.
  • Services
    Other standard Kubernetes components are services. Services represent groups of pods acting as one, allowing pods to access services in other pods without directing service-destined traffic to the pod IP. Pods are targeted by accessing a service that represents a group of pods. A service can be analogous to a load balancer in front of a pod accepting front-end service-destined traffic.
  • Kubernetes API server
    Finally, the Kubernetes API server validates and configures data for the API objects, which include the construct mentioned above – pods, services, and replication controllers, to name a few.


Also, consider the practice of chaos engineering to understand your Kubernetes environment better and test for resilience and breaking points. Chaos engineering Kubernetes breaks your system to help you better understand your system.

Chaos Engineering
Diagram: Chaos Engineering Kubernetes.


A key point: Video on Chaos Engineering

This educational tutorial will start with guidance on how the application has changed from the monolithic style to the microservices-based approach along with how this has affected failures. I will introduce to you how this can be solved by knowing exactly how your application and infrastructure perform under stress and what are their breaking points



Kubernetes Security Best Practice: Security 101

Now that you understand the most commonly used Kubernetes constructs let us delve into some of the central Kubernetes security best practices and Kubernetes attack vectors.

  • Kubernetes API
    Firstly, a bad actor can attack the Kubernetes API server to attack the cluster further. By design, each pod has a service account associated with it. The service account has full permissions and sufficient privileges to access the Kubernetes API server. A bad actor can get the token mounted in the pod and then use that token to gain access to the API server. Unfortunately, once they can access the Kubernetes API server, they can get information, such as secrets, to further compromise the cluster. For example, a bad actor could access the database server where sensitive and regulatory data is held.
  • Kubernetes API – Mitigate
    Another way to mitigate a Kubernetes API attack is to introduce role-based access control (RBAC). Essentially, RBAC gives rules to service accounts that can be assigned to the entire cluster. RBAC allows you to set permission on individual constructs such as pods and containers and then define rules based on individual use cases. Another Kubernetes best practice would be to introduce an API server firewall. This firewall would work similarly to a standard firewall, where you can allow and block ranges of addresses. Essentially, what this does is that it narrows the attack surface, hardening Kubernetes security.
  • Secure pods with network policy
    Introducing ingress and egress network policies would allow you to block network access to certain pods. Then only certain pods can communicate with each other. For example, network policies can be set up to restrict the web front end from communicating directly to the database tier.


There is also a risk of a user implementing unsecured pods. In this case, you can have network policies in place so that if an unsecured pod does appear in the Kubernetes environment, the Kubernetes API will reject them. Remember, left to its defaults, intra-cluster pod-to-pod communication is open. You may think a bad actor could sniff this traffic, but that’s harder to do than in everyday environments. A better strategy to harden Kubernetes security would be to use a network policy only to allow certain pods to communicate with each other.


  • Container escape: In the past, an unpatched kernel or a bug in the web front-end allows a bad actor to get out of that container and gain access to other containers or even to the Kubelet process itself. Once the bad actor gets access to the Kubelet client, it can access the API server gaining a further foothold in the Kubernetes environment.
  • Sandboxed Pods: One way to mitigate a container escape would be to introduce sandboxed pods inside a lightweight VM. A sandboxed pod provides additional barriers to security as it lies above the kernel itself. Providing layers of security above the kernel brings many Kubernetes security advantages. As the sandboxed pod runs inside a VM, an additional bug is required to break out of the container if there is a kernel exploit.
  • Scanning containers: For adequate Kubernetes security, you should know if there is a vulnerability in your container image. Running containers with vulnerabilities exposes the entire system to attacks. Scanning all container images to discover and remove known vulnerabilities would be best. The scanning function should be integrated with runtime enforcement and remediation capabilities enabling a secure and compliant SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle).
  • Restrict access to Kubectl: Kubectl is a powerful command-line interface for running commands against Kubernetes clusters. It allows you to create and update resources in a Kubernetes environment. Due to its potential, one should restrict access to this tool with firewall rules.
  • Disabling the Kubernetes dashboard: Disabling the Kubernetes Dashboard is a must, as it has been part of some high-profile compromises. Previously, bad actors accessed a publicly unrestricted Kubernetes dashboard and privileged account credentials to access resources and mine cryptocurrency.



As Kubernetes adoption continues to grow, ensuring the security of your cluster becomes increasingly important. By following these Kubernetes security best practices, you can establish a robust security foundation for your infrastructure and applications.

Regularly updating Kubernetes, enabling RBAC, utilizing network policies, employing pod security policies, implementing image security measures, and monitoring cluster activity will significantly enhance your Kubernetes security posture. Embracing these best practices will not only protect your organization’s sensitive data but also provide peace of mind in today’s ever-evolving threat landscape.


kubernetes attack vectors

Cyber security threat. Computer screen with programming code. Internet and network security. Stealing private information. Using technology to steal password and private data. Cyber attack crime

Software defined perimeter (SDP) A disruptive technology


software-defined perimeter


Software Defined Perimeter

In today’s digital landscape, where the security of sensitive data is paramount, traditional security measures are no longer sufficient. The ever-evolving threat landscape demands a more proactive and robust approach to protecting valuable assets. Enter the Software Defined Perimeter (SDP), a revolutionary concept changing how organizations secure their networks. In this blog post, we will delve into the world of SDP and explore its benefits, implementation, and prospects.

Software Defined Perimeter, also known as a Zero Trust Network, is a security framework that provides secure access to applications and resources, regardless of the user’s location or network. Unlike traditional perimeter-based security models, which rely on firewalls and VPNs, SDP takes a more dynamic and adaptive approach.


Highlights: Software Defined Perimeter

  • A Disruptive Technology

There has been tremendous growth in the adoption of software defined perimeter solutions and the zero trust network design over the last few years. This has resulted in SDP VPN becoming a disruptive technology, especially when replacing or working with the existing virtual private network. Why? Because the steps that software-defined perimeter proposes are needed.

  • Challenge With Todays Security

Today’s network security architectures, tools, and platforms are lacking in many ways when trying to combat current security threats. From a bird’s eye view, the stages of zero trust software defined perimeter are relatively simple. SDP requires that endpoints, both internal and external to an organization, must authenticate and then be authorized before being granted network access. Once these steps occur, two-way encrypted connections between the requesting entity and the intended protected resource are created.


For pre-information, you may find the following post helpful:

  1. SDP Network
  2. Software Defined Internet Exchange
  3. SDP VPN


Software-Defined Perimeter.

Key Software Defined Perimeter Discussion points:

  • The issues with traditional security and networking constructs.

  • Identity-driven access.

  • Discussing Cloud Security Alliance (CSA).

  • Highlighting Software Defined Perimeter capabilities.

  • Dynamic Tunnelling. 


Back to basics with Software Defined Perimeter

A software-defined perimeter constructs a virtual boundary around company assets. This separates it from access-based controls restricting user privileges but allowing broad network access. The three fundamental pillars on which a software-defined perimeter is built are Zero Trust:

It leverages micro-segmentation to apply the principle of the least privilege to the network. It ultimately reduces the attack surface. Identity-centric: It’s designed around the user identity and additional contextual parameters, not the IP address.


Benefits of Software-Defined Perimeter:

1. Enhanced Security: SDP employs a Zero Trust approach, ensuring that only authorized users and devices can access the network. This eliminates the risk of unauthorized access and reduces the attack surface.

2. Scalability: SDP allows organizations to scale their networks without compromising security. It seamlessly accommodates new users, devices, and applications, making it ideal for expanding businesses.

3. Simplified Management: With SDP, managing access controls becomes more straightforward. IT administrators can easily assign and revoke permissions, reducing the administrative burden.

4. Improved Performance: By eliminating the need for backhauling traffic through a central gateway, SDP reduces latency and improves network performance, enhancing the overall user experience.


Implementing Software-Defined Perimeter:

Implementing SDP requires a systematic approach and careful consideration of various factors. Here are the key steps involved in deploying SDP:

1. Identify Critical Assets: Determine the applications and resources that require enhanced security measures. This could include sensitive data, intellectual property, or customer information.

2. Define Access Policies: Establish granular access policies based on user roles, device types, and locations. This ensures that only authorized individuals can access specific resources.

3. Implement Authentication Mechanisms: Incorporate strong authentication measures such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) or biometric authentication to verify user identities.

4. Implement Encryption: Encrypt all data in transit to prevent eavesdropping or unauthorized interception.

5. Continuous Monitoring: Regularly monitor network activity and analyze logs to identify suspicious behavior or anomalies.


The Software-Defined Perimeter Proposition

Security policy flexibility is offered with fine-grained access control that dynamically creates and removes inbound and outbound access rules. Therefore, a software-defined perimeter minimizes the attack surface for bad actors to play with—small attack surface results in a small blast radius. So less damage can occur.

A VLAN has a relatively large attack surface, mainly because the VLAN contains different services. SDP eliminates the broad network access that VLANs exhibit. SDP has a separate data and control plane. A control plane sets up the controls necessary for data to pass from one endpoint to another. Separating the control from the data plane renders protected assets “black,” thereby blocking network-based attacks. You cannot attack what you cannot see.


The IP Address; Is Not a Valid Hook

We should know that IP addresses are lost in today’s hybrid environment. SDP provides a connection-based security architecture instead of an IP-based one. This allows for many things. For one, security policies follow the user regardless of location. Let’s say you are doing forensics on an event 12 months ago for a specific IP.

However, that IP address is a component in a test DevOps environment. Do you care? Anything tied to IP is ridiculous, as we don’t have the right hook to hang things on for security policy enforcement.


Software-defined perimeter; Identity-driven access

Identity-driven network access control is more precise in measuring the actual security posture of the endpoint. Access policies tied to IP addresses cannot offer identity-focused security. SDP enables the control of all connections based on pre-vetting who can connect and to what services.

If you do not meet this level of trust, you can’t, for example, access the database server, but you can access public-facing documents. Users are granted access only to authorized assets preventing lateral movements that will probably go unnoticed when traditional security mechanisms are in place.



Information and infrastructure hiding

SDP does a great job of information and infrastructure hiding. The SDP architectural components ( the SDP controller and gateways ) are “dark, ” providing resilience against high and low-volume DDoS attacks. A low bandwidth DDoS attack may often bypass traditional DDoS security controls. However, the SDP components do not respond to connections until the requesting clients are authenticated and authorized, allowing only good packets through.

A suitable security protocol that can be used here is single packet authorization (SPA). Single Packet Authorization, or Single Packet Authentication, gives the SDP components a default “deny-all” security posture.

The “default deny” can be achieved because if an accepting host receives any packet other than a valid SPA packet, it assumes it is malicious. The packet will get dropped, and a notification will not get sent back to the requesting host. This stops reconnaissance at the door by silently detecting and dropping bad packets.


Sniffing a SPA packet

However, SPA can be subject to Man-In-The-Middle (MITM) attacks. If a bad actor can sniff a SPA packet, they can establish the TCP connection to the controller or AH client. But there is another level of defense in that the bad actor cannot complete the mutually encrypted connection (mTLS) without the client’s certificate.

SDP brings in the concept of mutually encrypted connections, also known as two-way encryption. The usual configuration for TLS is that the client authenticates the server, but TLS ensures that both parties are authenticated. Only validated devices and users can become authorized members of the SDP architecture.

We should also remember that the SPA is not a security feature that can be implemented to protect all. It has its benefits but does not take over from existing security technologies. SPA should work alongside them. The main reason for its introduction to the SDP world is to overcome the problems with TCP. TCP connects and then authenticates. With SPA, you authenticate first and only then connect.


SPA Use Case
Diagram: SPA Use Case. Source mrash Github.


The World of TCP & SDP

When clients want to access an application with TCP, they must first set up a connection. There needs to be direct connectivity between the client and the applications. So this requires the application to be reachable and is carried out with IP addresses on each end. Then once the connect stage is done, there is an authentication phase.

Once the authentication stage is done, we can pass data. Therefore, we have the connect, then authenticate, and data pass a stage. SDP reverses this.

zero trust security
Diagram: Zero trust security. The opposite of the TCP: Connect Firsts and then Authenticate



The center of the software-defined perimeter is trust.

In Software-Defined Perimeter, we must establish trust between the client and the application before the client can set up the connection. The trust is bi-directional between the client and the SDP service and the application to the SDP service. Once trust has been established, we move into the next stage, authentication.

Once this has been established, we can connect the user to the application. This flips the entire security model and makes it more robust. The user has no idea of where the applications are located. The protected assets are hidden behind the SDP service, which in most cases is the SDP gateway, or some call this a connector.


  • Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) SDP
    • With the Cloud Security Alliance SDP architecture, we have several components:

Firstly, the IH & AH: are the clients initiating hosts (IH) and the service accepting hosts (AH). The IH devices can be any endpoint device that can run the SDP software, including user-facing laptops and smartphones. Many SDP vendors have remote browser isolation-based solutions without SDP client software. The IH, as you might expect, initiates the connections.

With an SDP browser-based solution, the user uses a web browser to access the applications and only works with applications that can speak across a browser. So it doesn’t give you the full range of TCP and UDP ports, but you can do many things that speak natively across HTML5.

Most browser-based solutions don’t give you the additional security posture checks of assessing the end user device than an endpoint with the client installed.


Software-Defined Perimeter: Browser-based solution

The AHs accept connections from the IHS and provide a set of services protected securely by the SDP service. The AHs are under the administrative control of the enterprise domain. They do not acknowledge communication from any other host and will not respond to non-provisioned requests. This architecture enables the control plane to remain separate from the data plane achieving a scalable security system.

The IH and AH devices connect to an SDP controller that secures access to isolated assets by ensuring that the users and their devices are authenticated and authorized before granting network access. After authenticating an IH, the SDP controller determines the list of AHs to which the IH is authorized to communicate. The AHs are then sent a list of IHs that should accept connections.

Aside from the hosts and the controller, we have the SDP gateway component that provides authorized users and devices access to protected processes and services. The protected assets are located behind the gateway that can be architecturally positioned in multiple locations such as the cloud or on-premise. The gateways can exist in multiple locations in parallel.


Dynamic Tunnelling

A user with multiple tunnels to multiple gateways will be expected in the real world. It’s not a static path or a one-to-one relationship but a user-to-application relationship. The applications can exist everywhere, whereby the tunnel is dynamic and ephemeral.

For a client to connect to the gateway, latency or SYN SYN/ACK RTT testing should be performed to determine the Internet links’ performance. This ensures that the application access path always uses the best gateway, improving application performance.

Remember that the gateway only connects outbound on TCP port 443 (mTLS), and as it acts on behalf of the internal applications, it needs access to the internal apps. As a result, depending on where you position the gateway, either internal to the LAN, private virtual private cloud (VPC) or in the DMZ protected by local firewalls, ports may need to be opened on the existing firewall.


Future of Software-Defined Perimeter:

As the digital landscape evolves, secure network access becomes even more crucial. The future of SDP looks promising, with advancements in technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning enabling more intelligent threat detection and mitigation.

In an era where data breaches are a constant threat, organizations must stay ahead of cybercriminals by adopting advanced security measures. Software Defined Perimeter offers a robust, scalable, and dynamic security framework that ensures secure access to critical resources.

By embracing SDP, organizations can significantly reduce their attack surface, enhance network performance, and protect sensitive data from unauthorized access. The time to leverage the power of Software Defined Perimeter is now.


software-defined perimeter

single packet authorization

Zero Trust: Single Packet Authorization | Passive authorization



Single Packet Authorization

In today’s fast-paced world, where digital security is paramount, traditional authentication methods are often susceptible to malicious attacks. Single Packet Authorization (SPA) emerges as a powerful solution to enhance the security of networked systems. In this blog post, we will delve into the concept of SPA, its benefits, and how it revolutionizes network security.

Single Packet Authorization is a security technique that allows access to a networked system or service by sending a single, unique packet to a server. Unlike traditional authentication methods that rely on usernames and passwords, SPA utilizes cryptographic techniques to verify the legitimacy of the packet.


Highlights: Single Packet Authorization

  • Reverse Security 

Even though we are looking at disruptive technology to replace the virtual private network and offer secure segmentation, one thing to keep in mind with zero trust network design and software defined perimeter (SDP) is that it’s not based on entirely new protocols, such as the use of spa single packet authorization and single packet authentication. So we have reversed the idea of how TCP connects.

It started with authentication and then a connected approach, but traditional networking and protocols still play a large part. For example, we still use encryption to ensure only the receiver can read the data we send. We can, however, use encryption without authentication, which validates the sender.

  • The importance of authenticity

However, the two should go together to stand any chance in today’s world. Attackers can circumvent many firewalls and secure infrastructure. As a result, message authenticity is a must for zero trust, and without an authentication process, a bad actor could change, for example, the ciphertext without the reviewer ever knowing.


Single Packet Authentication.

Key Single Packet Authorization Discussion points:

  • The issues with traditional security and networking constructs. TCP connectivity model.

  • Introducing Zero Trust Networking and MTLS.

  • Discussing SPA and its operations.

  • What can SPA offer?

  • Securitiy benefits of introducing SPA.


Before you proceed, you may find the following post helpful:

  1. Identity Security
  2. Zero Trust Access


Back to Basics: Single Packet Authorization (SPA)

SPA: A Security Protocol

Single Packet Authorization (SPA) is a security protocol that allows a user to access a secure network without the need to enter a password or other credentials. Instead, it is an authentication protocol that uses a single packet – an encrypted packet of data – to convey a user’s identity and request access. This packet can be sent over any network protocol, such as TCP, UDP, or SCTP, and is typically sent as an additional layer of authentication beyond the network and application layers.

SPA works by having the user’s system send a single packet of encrypted data to the authentication server. The authentication server then uses a unique algorithm to decode the packet containing the user’s identity and request for access. If the authentication is successful, the server will send a response packet that grants access to the user.

SPA is a secure and efficient way to authenticate and authorize users, as it eliminates the need for multiple authentication methods and the need to store sensitive data. It is also more secure than traditional authentication methods, as the encryption used in SPA is often more secure than passwords or other credentials.

Additionally, since the packet sent is encrypted, it cannot be intercepted and decoded, making it an even more secure form of authentication.


The Mechanics of SPA:

SPA operates by employing a shared secret between the client and server. When a client wishes to access a service, it generates a packet containing a specific data sequence, including a timestamp, payload, and cryptographic hash. The server, equipped with the shared secret, checks the received packet against its calculations. If the packet is authentic, the server grants access to the requested service.

Benefits of SPA:

1. Enhanced Security: SPA drastically reduces the attack surface by eliminating the need for open ports or exposed services. Since SPA relies on a single packet, it significantly reduces the risk of unauthorized access.

2. Protection against Network Scans: Traditional authentication methods are often vulnerable to network scans that attempt to identify open ports for potential attacks. SPA mitigates this risk by rendering the network invisible to scanning tools.

3. Flexibility and Convenience: SPA allows users to access services from any location, even through firewalls or network address translation (NAT). This flexibility eliminates the need for complex VPN setups or port forwarding configurations.

4. DDoS Mitigation: SPA can effectively mitigate Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks by rejecting packets that do not adhere to the predefined authentication criteria. This helps safeguard the availability of network services.

Implementing SPA:

Implementing SPA requires deploying specialized software or hardware components that support the single packet authorization protocol. Several open-source and commercial solutions are available, making it feasible for organizations of all sizes to adopt this innovative security technique.


Back to Basics: Zero Trust

Perimeter Defense

Perimeter defenses protecting your network are less secure than you might think. Hosts behind the firewall have no protection, so when a host in the “trusted” zone is breached, which is just a matter of time, access to your data center can be breached. The zero trust movement strives to solve the inherent problems in placing our faith in the network.

Instead, it is possible to secure network communication and access so effectively that the physical security of the transport layer can be reasonably disregarded.

Typically, we examine the IP address of the remote system and ask for a password. Unfortunately, these strategies alone are insufficient for a zero-trust network, where attackers can communicate from any IP and insert themselves between themselves and a trusted remote host. Therefore, utilizing strong authentication on every flow in a zero-trust network is vital. The most widely accepted method is a standard named X.509.

zero trust security
Diagram: Zero trust security. Authenticate first and then connect.


A key aspect of zero trust network ZTN and zero trust principles is to authenticate and authorize network traffic: i.e., the flows between the requesting resource and the intended service. Simply securing communications between two endpoints is not enough. Security pros must ensure that each flow is authorized.

This can be done by implementing a combination of security technologies such as Single Packet Authorization (SPA), Mutual Transport Layer Security (MTLS), Internet Key Exchange (IKE), and IP security (IPsec).

IPsec can use a unique security association (SA) per application in which only authorized flows can construct security policies. While IPsec is considered to operate at Layer 3 or 4 in the open systems interconnection (OSI) model, application-level authorization can be carried out with X.509 or an access token.


  • Mutually authenticated TLS (MTLS)

Mutually authenticated TLS (Transport Layer Security) is a system of cryptographic protocols used to establish secure communications over the Internet. It guarantees that the client and the server are who they claim to be, ensuring secure communications between them. This authentication is accomplished through digital certificates and public-private key pairs.

Mutually authenticated TLS is also essential for preventing man-in-the-middle attacks, where a malicious actor can intercept and modify traffic between the client and server. Without mutually authenticated TLS, an attacker could masquerade as the server and thus gain access to sensitive data.

To set up mutually authenticated TLS, the client and server must have digital certificates. The server certificate is used to authenticate the server to the client, while the client certificate is used to authenticate the client to the server. Both certificates are signed by the Certificate Authority (CA) and can be stored in the server and client’s browsers. The client and server then exchange the certificates to authenticate each other.

The client and server can securely communicate once the certificates have been exchanged and verified. Mutually authenticated TLS also provides encryption and integrity checks, ensuring the data is not tampered with in transit.

This enhanced version of TLS, known as mutually authenticated TLS (MTLS) used to validate both ends of the connection. The most common TLS configuration is the validation, which ensures the client is connected to a trusted entity. But the authentication doesn’t happen the other way around, so the remote entity communicates with a trusted client. This is the job of mutual TLS. As I said, mutual TLS goes one step further and authenticates the client.


  • The pre-authentication stage

You can’t attack what you cannot see. The mode that allows pre-authentication is Single Packet Authorization. UDP is the preferred base for pre-authentication because UDP packets, by default, do not receive a response. However, TCP and even ICMP can be used with the SPA. Single Packet Authorization is a next-generation passive authentication technology beyond what we previously had with port knocking, which uses closed ports to identify trusted users. SPA is a step up from port knocking.

The typical port-knocking scenario is for a port-knocking server to configure a packet filter to block all access to a service, for example, the SSH service, until a port-knocking client sends a specific port knock sequence. For example, the server could require the client to send TCP SYN packets to the following ports in order: 23400 1001 2003 65501.

If the server monitors this knock sequence, the packet filter reconfigures to allow a connection from the originating IP address. However, port knocking has its limitations which SPA addresses; SPA retains all of the benefits of port knocking but fixes the rules.

As a next-generation Port Knocking (PK), SPA overcomes many of the limitations exhibited by PK while retaining its core benefits. However, there are several limitations to PK, including difficulty in protecting against replay attacks, inability to support asymmetric ciphers and HMAC schemes reliably, and the fact that it is trivially easy to mount a DoS attack by spoofing an additional packet into a PK sequence while it is traversing the network (thereby convincing the PK server that the client does not know the proper sequence).

SPA solves all of these shortcomings. As part of SPA, services are hidden behind a default-drop firewall policy, SPA data is passively acquired (usually via libpcap), and standard cryptographic operations are implemented for SPA packet authentication and encryption/decryption.


Firewall Knock Operator

Fwknop (short for the “Firewall Knock Operator”) is a single-packet authorization system designed to be a secure and straightforward way to open up services on a host running an iptables- or ipfw-based firewall. It is a free, open-source application that uses the Single Packet Authorization (SPA) protocol to provide secure access to a network.

Fwknop sends a single SPA packet to the firewall containing an encrypted message with authorization information. The message is then decrypted and compared against a set of rules on the firewall. If the message matches the rules, the firewall will open access to the service specified in the packet.

Fwknop is an ideal solution for users who need to access services on a remote host without having to configure the firewall each time manually. It is also a great way to add an extra layer of security to already open services.

To achieve strong concealment, fwknop implements the SPA authorization scheme. SPA requires only a single packet encrypted, non-replayable, and authenticated via an HMAC to communicate desired access to a service hidden behind a firewall in a default-drop filtering stance. The main application of SPA is to use a firewall to drop all attempts to connect to services such as SSH to make exploiting vulnerabilities (both 0-day and unpatched code) more difficult. Because there are no open ports, any service SPA hides cannot be scanned with, for example, NMAP.


  • Supported Firewalls

The fwknop project supports four firewalls: We have support for iptables, firewalld, PF, and ipfw across Linux, OpenBSD, FreeBSD, and Mac OS X. There is also support for custom scripts so that fwknop can be made to support other infrastructure such as ipset or nftables.

fwknop client user interface
Diagram: fwknop client user interface. Source mrash GitHub.


Example use case: SSHD protection

Users of Single Packet Authorization (SPA) or its less secure cousin Port Knocking (PK), usually access SSHD running on the same system as the SPA/PK software. A SPA daemon temporarily permits access to a passively authenticated SPA client through a firewall configured to drop all incoming SSH connections. This is considered the primary SPA usage.

In addition to this primary use, fwknop also makes robust use of NAT (for iptables/firewalld firewalls). A firewall is usually deployed on a single host and acts as a gateway between networks. Firewalls that use NAT (at least for IPv4 communications) commonly provide Internet access to internal networks on RFC 1918 address space and access to internal services by external hosts.

Since fwknop integrates with NAT, users on the external Internet can access internal services through the firewall using SPA. Additionally, it allows fwknop to support cloud computing environments such as Amazon’s AWS, although it has many applications on traditional networks.

SPA Use Case
Diagram: SPA Use Case. Source mrash Github.


Single Packet Authorization and Single Packet Authentication

Single Packet Authorization (SPA) uses proven cryptographic techniques to make internet-facing servers invisible to unauthorized users. Only devices seeded with the cryptographic secret can generate a valid SPA packet and establish a network connection. This is how it reduces the attack surface and becomes invisible to hostile reconnaissance.

SPA Single Packet Authorization was invented over ten years ago and was commonly used for superuser SSH access to servers where it mitigates attacks by unauthorized users. The SPA process happens before the TLS connection, mitigating attacks targeted at the TLS ports.

As mentioned, SDP didn’t invent new protocols; it was more binding existing protocols. SPA used in SDP was based on RFC 4226 HMAC-based One-Time Password “HOTP.” It is another layer of security and is not a replacement for the security technologies mentioned at the start of the post.


Reconnaissance: The firsts step

The first step in an attack is reconnaissance, whereby an attacker is on the prowl to locate a target. This stage is easy and can be automated with tools such as NMAP. However, SPA ( and port knocking ) employs a default-drop stance that provides service only to those IP addresses that can prove their identity via a passive mechanism.

No TCP/IP stack access is required to authenticate remote IP addresses. Therefore, NMAP cannot tell that a server is running when protected with SPA, and whether the attacker has a zero-day exploit is irrelevant.


zero trust security model
Diagram: Zero trust security model.


The idea around SPA and Single Packet Authentication is that a single packet is sent: and based on that packet, an authentication process is carried out. The critical point is that nothing is listening on the service, so you have no open ports. For the SPA service to operate, there is not anything explicitly listening.

When the client sends a SPA packet, the packet will be rejected, but a second service identifies the SPA packet in the IP stack and then authenticates it. If the SPA packet is successfully authenticated, the server will open a port in the server’s firewall, which could be based on Linux iptables, so the client can establish a secure and encrypted connection with the intended service.


A simple Single Packet Authentication process flow

The SDP network gateway protects assets, and this component could be containerized and listened to for SPA packets. In the case of an open-source version of SDP, this could be fwknop, which is a widespread open-source SPA implementation. When a client wants to connect to a web server, it sends a SPA packet. When the requested service receives the SPA packet, it will open the door once the credentials are verified. However, the service still does not respond to the request.

When the fwknop services receive a valid SPA packet, the contents of the packet will be decrypted for further inspection. The inspection will reveal the protocol and port numbers to which the sender requests access. Next, the SDP gateway adds a rule to the firewall to establish a mutual TLS connection to the intended service. Once this mutual TLS connection is established, the SDP gateway removes the firewall rules, making the service invisible to the outside world.

single packet authorization
Diagram: Single Packet Authorization: The process flow.


Fwknop uses this information to open firewall rules, allowing the sender to communicate with that service on those ports. The firewall will only be opened for some time and can be configurable by the administrator. Any attempts to connect to the service must know the SPA packet, and even if the packet can be recreated, the packet’s sequence number needs to be established before the connection. This is next to impossible, considering the sequence numbers are randomly generated.

Once the firewall rules are removed, let’s say after 1 minute, the initial MTLS session will not be affected as it is already established. However, other sessions requesting access to the service on those ports will be blocked. This permits only the sender of the IP address to be tightly coupled with the requested destination ports. It’s also possible for the sender to include a source port, enhancing security even further.


    • What can Single Packet Authorization offer

Let’s face it; robust security is hard to achieve. We all know that you can never be 100% secure. Just have a look at OpenSSH. Some of the most security-conscious developers developed OpenSSH, yet it occasionally contains exploitable vulnerabilities.

Even when you look at some attacks on TLS, we have already discussed the DigiNotar forgery in a previous post on zero-trust networking. Still, one that caused a significant issue was the THC-SSL-DOS attack, where a single host could take down a server by taking advantage of the asymmetry performance required by the TLS protocol.

Single Packet Authorization (SPA) overcomes many existing attacks and, combined with the enhancements of MTLS with pinned certificates, creates a robust security model addition; SPA defeats many a DDoS attack as only a limited amount of server performance is required to operate.


SPA provides the following security benefits to the SPA-protected asset:

    • SPA blackens the gateway and protected assets that sit behind the gateway. The gateway does not respond to connection attempts until they provide an authentic SPA. Essentially, all network resources are dark until security controls are passed.
    • SPA also mitigates DDoS attacks on TLS. More than likely, TLS is publicly reachable online, and running the HTTPS protocol is highly susceptible to DDoS. SPA mitigates these attacks by allowing the SDP gateway to discard the TLS DoS attempt before entering the TLS handshake. As a result, there will be no exhaustion from targeting the TLS port.
    • SPA assists with attack detection. The first packet to an SDP gateway must be a SPA packet. If a gateway receives any other type of packet, it should be viewed and treated as an attack. Therefore, the SPA enables the SDP to identify an attack based on a malicious packet.


Single Packet Authorization offers a robust and efficient alternative to traditional authentication methods. By leveraging cryptographic techniques, SPA enhances security, protects against network scans, and provides flexibility in accessing services. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, adopting SPA can be a vital step in fortifying network security and safeguarding sensitive information. It’s time to embrace the power of Single Packet Authorization and stay one step ahead of potential threats.


single packet authentication

Cyber security threat. Young woman using computer and coding. Internet and network security. Stealing private information. Person using technology to steal password and private data. Cyber attack crime

SDP Network



SDP Network

In today’s interconnected world, where threats to data security are becoming increasingly sophisticated, businesses are constantly searching for ways to protect their sensitive information. Traditional network security measures are no longer sufficient in safeguarding against cyber attacks. Enter the Software Defined Perimeter (SDP), a revolutionary approach to network security that offers enhanced protection and control. In this blog post, we will delve into the concept of SDP and explore its various benefits.

Software Defined Perimeter, also known as a Zero Trust Network, is an architecture that focuses on secure access to resources based on the user’s identity and device. It moves away from the traditional method of relying on a static perimeter defense and instead adopts a dynamic approach that adapts to the ever-changing threat landscape.


Highlights: SDP Network

  • Creating a Zero Trust Environment

Software-Defined Perimeter is a security framework that shifts the focus from traditional perimeter-based network security to a more dynamic and user-centric approach. Instead of relying on a fixed network boundary, SDP creates a “Zero Trust” environment, where users and devices are authenticated and authorized individually before accessing network resources. This approach ensures that only trusted entities gain access to sensitive data, regardless of their location or network connection.

  • Zero trust framework

The zero-trust framework for networking and security is here for a good reason. There are various bad actors: ranging from the opportunistic and targeted to state-level, and all are well prepared to find ways to penetrate a hybrid network. As a result, there is now a compelling reason to implement the zero-trust model for networking and security.

SDP network brings SDP security, also known as software defined perimeter, which is heavily promoted as a replacement for the virtual private network (VPN) and, in some cases, firewalls for ease of use and end-user experience.

  • Dynamic tunnel of 1

It also provides a solid SDP security framework utilizing a dynamic tunnel of 1 per app per user. This offers security at the segmentation of a micro level, providing a secure enclave for entities requesting network resources. These are micro-perimeters and zero trust networks that can be hardened with technology such as SSL security and single packet authorization.


For pre-information, you may find the following useful:

  1. Remote Browser Isolation
  2. Zero Trust Network


SDN Network.

Key SDP Network Discussion points:

  • The role of SDP security. Authentication and Authorization.

  • SDP and the use of Certificates.

  • SDP and Private Key storage.

  • Public Key Infrastructure (PKI).

  • A final note on Certificates.


Back to basics with an SDP network

A software-defined perimeter is a security approach that controls resource access and forms a virtual boundary around networked resources. Think of an SDP network as a 1-to-1 mapping. Unlike a VLAN that can have many hosts within, all of which could be of different security levels.

Also, with an SDP network, we create a security perimeter via software versus hardware; an SDP can hide an organization’s infrastructure from outsiders, regardless of location. Now we have a security architecture that is location agnostic. As a result, employing SDP architectures will decrease the attack surface and mitigate internal and external network bad actors. The SDP framework is based on the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Information Systems Agency’s (DISA) need-to-know model from 2007.


Benefits of Software-Defined Perimeter:

1. Enhanced Security: SDP provides an additional layer of security by ensuring that only authenticated and authorized users can access the network. By implementing granular access controls, SDP reduces the attack surface and minimizes the risk of unauthorized access, making it significantly harder for cybercriminals to breach the system.

2. Improved Flexibility: Traditional network architectures often struggle to accommodate the increasing number of devices and the demand for remote access. SDP enables businesses to scale their network infrastructure effortlessly, allowing seamless connectivity for employees, partners, and customers, regardless of location. This flexibility is particularly valuable in today’s remote work environment.

3. Simplified Network Management: SDP simplifies network management by centralizing access control policies. This centralized approach reduces complexity and streamlines granting and revoking access privileges. Additionally, SDP eliminates the need for VPNs and complex firewall rules, making network management more efficient and cost-effective.

4. Mitigated DDoS Attacks: Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks can cripple an organization’s network infrastructure, leading to significant downtime and financial losses. SDP mitigates the impact of DDoS attacks by dynamically rerouting traffic and preventing the attack from overwhelming the network. This proactive defense mechanism ensures that network resources remain available and accessible to legitimate users.

5. Compliance and Regulatory Requirements: Many industries are bound by strict regulatory requirements, such as healthcare (HIPAA) or finance (PCI-DSS). SDP helps organizations meet these requirements by providing a secure framework that ensures data privacy and protection. Implementing SDP can significantly simplify the compliance process and reduce the risk of non-compliance penalties.


Feature 1: Dynamic Access Control

One of the primary features of SDP is its ability to dynamically control access to network resources. Unlike traditional perimeter-based security models, which grant access based on static rules or IP addresses, SDP employs a more granular approach. It leverages context-awareness and user identity to dynamically allocate access rights, ensuring that only authorized users can access specific resources. This feature eliminates the risk of unauthorized access, making SDP an ideal solution for securing sensitive data and critical infrastructure.

Feature 2: Zero Trust Architecture

SDP embraces the concept of Zero Trust, a security paradigm that assumes no user or device can be trusted by default, regardless of their location within the network. With SDP, every request to access network resources is subject to authentication and authorization, regardless of whether the user is inside or outside the corporate network. By adopting a Zero Trust architecture, SDP eliminates the concept of a network perimeter and provides a more robust defense against both internal and external threats.

Feature 3: Application Layer Protection

Traditional security solutions often focus on securing the network perimeter, leaving application layers vulnerable to targeted attacks. SDP addresses this limitation by incorporating application layer protection as a core feature. By creating micro-segmented access controls at the application level, SDP ensures that only authenticated and authorized users can interact with specific applications or services. This approach significantly reduces the attack surface and enhances the overall security posture.

Feature 4: Scalability and Flexibility

SDP offers scalability and flexibility to accommodate the dynamic nature of modern business environments. Whether an organization needs to provide secure access to a handful of users or thousands of employees, SDP can scale accordingly. Additionally, SDP seamlessly integrates with existing infrastructure, allowing businesses to leverage their current investments without the need for a complete overhaul. This adaptability makes SDP a cost-effective solution with a low barrier to entry.


SDP Security

Authentication and Authorization

So when it comes to creating an SDP network and SDP security, what are the ways to authenticate and authorize?

Well, firstly, trust is the main element within an SDP network. Therefore, mechanisms that can associate themselves with authentication and authorization to trust at a device, user, or application level are necessary for zero-trust environments.

When something presents itself to a zero-trust network, it must go through several SDP security stages before access is granted. Essentially the entire network is dark, meaning that resources drop all incoming traffic by default, providing an extremely secure posture. A more secure, robust, and dynamic network of geographically dispersed services and clients can be created based on this simple premise.


  • A key point: The difference between Authentication and Authorization.

Before we go any further, it’s essential to understand the difference between authentication and authorization. Upon examination of an end host in the zero-trust world, we have a device and a user forming an agent. The device and user authentication are carried out first before agent formation.

Authentication of the device will come first and second for the user. After these steps, authorization is performed against the agent. Authentication means confirming your identity, while authorization means granting access to the system.


The consensus among SDP network vendors

Generally, with most zero-trust and SDP VPN network vendors, the agent is only formed once valid device and user authentication have been carried out. And the authentication methods used to validate the device and user can be separate. A device that needs to identify itself to the network can be authenticated with X.509 certificates.

A user can be authenticated by other means, such as a setting from an LDAP server if the zero trust solution has that as an integration point. The authentication methods between the device and users don’t have to be tightly coupled, providing flexibility.

zero trust networks
Diagram: Zero trust networks. Some of the zero trust components are involved.


SDP Security with SDP Network: X.509 certificates

IP addresses are used for connectivity, not authentication, and don’t have any fields to implement authentication. The authentication must be handled higher up the stack. So we need to use something else to define identity, and that would be the use of certificates. X.509 certificates are a digital certificate standard that allows identity to be verified through a chain of trust and is commonly used to secure device authentication. X.509 certificates can carry a wealth of information within the standard fields that can fulfill the requirements to carry particular metadata.

To provide identity and bootstrap encrypted communications, X.509 certificates use two cryptographic keys, mathematically-related pairs consisting of public and private keys. The most common are RSA (Rivest–Shamir–Adleman) key pairs.

The private key is secret and held by the certificate’s owner, and the public key, as the names suggest, is not secret and distributed. The public key can encrypt the data that the private key can decrypt and vice versa. If the correct private key is not held, it is impossible to decrypt encrypted data using the public key.


SDP Security with SDP Network: Private key storage

Before we start discussing the public key, let us examine how we secure the private key. If bad actors get their hands on the private key, it lights out for device authentication.

Once the device presents a signed certificate, one way to secure the private key would be to configure some access rights to the key. However, if a compromise occurs, we are left in the undesirable world of elevated access, exposing the unprotected key.

The best way to secure and store private device keys is to use crypto processors such as a trusted platform module (TPM). The cryptoprocessor is essentially a chip that is embedded in the device.

The private keys are bound to the hardware without being exposed to the system’s operating system, which is far more vulnerable to compromise than the actual hardware. TPM binds the private software key to the hard creating a very robust device authentication.


SDP Security with SDP Network: Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)

How do we ensure that we have the correct public key? This is the role of the public key infrastructure (PKI). There are many types of PKI, with certificate authorities (CA) being the most popular. In cryptography, a certificate authority is an entity that issues digital certificates.

A certificate can be a pointless blank paper unless it is somehow trusted. This is done by digitally signing the certificate to endorse the validity. It is the responsibility of the certificate authorities to ensure all details of the certificate are correct before signing it. PKI is a framework that defines a set of roles and responsibilities used to distribute and validate public keys in an untrusted network securely.

For this, a PKI leverages a registration authority (RA). You may wonder what the difference between an RA and a CA is. The RA interacts with the subscribers to provide CA services. The RA is subsumed by the CA, which takes total responsibility for all actions of the RA.

The registration authority accepts requests for digital certificates and authenticates the entity making the request. This binds the identity to the public key embedded in the certificate, cryptographically signed by the trusted 3rd party.


Not all certificate authorities are secure!

However, all certificate authorities are not bulletproof from attack. Back in 2011, DigiNotar was at the mercy of a security breach. The bad actor took complete control of all eight certificate-issuing servers in which they issued rogue certificates that had not yet been identified. It is estimated that over 300,000 users had their private data exposed by rogue certificates.

Browsers immediately blacklist DigiNotar’s certificates, but it does highlight the issues of using a 3rd party. While Public Key Infrastructure is used at large on the public internet backing X.509 certificates, it’s not recommended for zero trust SDP. At the end of the day, when you think about it, you are still using 3rd party for a pretty important task. It would be best if you were looking to implement a private PKI system for a zero-trust approach to networking and security.

You could also implement a temporary one-time password (TOTP) if you are not looking for a fully automated process. This allows for human control over the signing of the certificates. Remember that much trust must be placed in whoever is responsible for this step.



As businesses continue to face increasingly sophisticated cyber threats, the importance of implementing robust network security measures cannot be overstated. Software Defined Perimeter offers a comprehensive solution that addresses the limitations of traditional network architectures.

By adopting SDP, organizations can enhance their security posture, improve network flexibility, simplify management, mitigate DDoS attacks, and meet regulatory requirements. Embracing this innovative approach to network security can safeguard sensitive data and provide peace of mind in an ever-evolving digital landscape.

Organizations must adopt innovative security solutions as cyber threats evolve to protect their valuable assets. Software-Defined Perimeter offers a dynamic and user-centric approach to network security, providing enhanced protection against unauthorized access and data breaches.

With enhanced security, granular access control, simplified network architecture, scalability, and regulatory compliance, SDP is gaining traction as a trusted security framework in today’s complex cybersecurity landscape. Embracing SDP can help organizations stay one step ahead of the ever-evolving threat landscape and safeguard their critical data and resources.


sdp security

browser isolation

Ericom Browser Isolation: Making surfing the internet safer


Ericom Browser Isolation


Ericom Browser Isolation

Today, organizations cannot know when and where the next attack will surface and how much damage it will cause. The risk is compounded by the fact that castle-and-moat security no longer exists. Network perimeters are fluid, with no clear demarcation points between “outside” and dangerous, and safely “inside.” Calling the need for Ericom browser isolation with Ericom Shield. Suppose you are new to the capabilities of remote browser isolation and Ericom’s uses of containerization to perform isolation. In that case, you may want to visit the following: What is Remote Browser Isolation? and Docker Container Security.


Ericom Shield.

Key Ericom Remote Browser Isolation Discussion points:

  • Discussion on the issues with Internet security.

  • The need and role for browser isolation technologies.

  • Introducing Ericom RBI solution.

  • Types of attacks on the Internet.

  • A final note on looking forward.


Before you proceed, you may find the following helpful

  1. Open Networking
  2. CradlePoint Acquire Eircom
  3. New Variants of Malware


The Need For Ericom Shield: The Internet is Chaotic

The internet is chaotic and only getting worse. It was built with the twin ideals of providing a better user experience and easy connectivity. For instance, if you have someone’s IP address, you can communicate directly with them. IP has no built-in authentication mechanism: Authentication is handled higher up the stack. Bad actors take full advantage of the internet’s “trust model,” making attacks, not a matter of “if” but a concern of “when.” This norm is the devil’s bargain we have accepted in exchange for convenience and easy connectivity.

Today, with virtually nothing secure, we must strive for solutions by looking at the whole problem from a new angle. Previous solutions don’t provide enough protection from today’s highly evolved hackers. With this being said, it is always better to be safe than sorry, especially when keeping confidential files safe.

Fortunately, however, we have reached a significant evolution in security technology with the introduction of Ericom’s Zero-Trust Remote Browser Isolation (RBI) solution ( Ericom Shield ). Now, for the first time, we can say that browsing is more secure than ever. However, if you have unfortunately been hacked or contracted a virus and, as a result, your computer isn’t working. There are numerous computer repair companies out there that can help with just this sort of thing.


Cyberattacks: It’s all about the money

Or at least mainly, since politically-motivated attacks are on the rise. But let’s look at what might motivate a bad actor to hack into a private healthcare system. Once an attacker is in, he gets access to all members’ or patients’ financial, insurance, personal, and bank account information. Each record is valuable in the black market, much more than credit card details. You can’t undo your health history. Hence, bad actors can blackmail or pressure targets for monetary gain – which does not stop them from rolling the information on the dark web for additional profit.


Ericom Shield with Ericom Browser isolation 

Realistically, perfect, airtight security will always remain just beyond reach. When you are surfing the internet, there’s no way to be sure that the site you plan to visit is safe – you can’t trust any site. And white- and blacklisting can’t help: So many sites arise and disappear so quickly that there is no way to catalog them all in advance.

Attackers evolve and adapt their techniques at a rapid pace with which defenders cannot keep up. Discussion on the defense side gravitates toward “how quickly can we respond?”. This reactive posture is dangerous when dealing with, for example, malware that penetrates internal networks. First, there is a risk of not being able to establish barricades to keep malware out; the lateral spread of malware throughout the network compounds the threat. Even if you can eventually catch the malware, searching, cleaning, testing, and shutting resources down until they are clean involves crushingly high costs.

Therefore, to strengthen security postures and protect an organization’s valuable assets, there is a dire need for a new paradigm. And that new paradigm is zero trust + RBI. Zero trust is about ‘not trusting’ any process, network, user, or device and ensuring that every connection in the chain of events is authenticated. RBI, on the other hand, is about stopping all threats. RBI complements the zero-trust story by adding another brick in the wall and filling the internet gaps that zero trust leaves open.


Types of internet-based attacks

The internet browser is one of the primary attack vectors today, as many of the most aggressive hacking trends demonstrate. Existing solutions do not successfully protect against the constant influx of innovative threats that attack via web browsers.

  • Phishing

The average lifespan of a phishing site is around 6 hours. By the time you can hunt, identify and protect against many of these sites, their short lifespan is over. Phishing usually starts with an email that lures the user to click on a link. The link can be for a download or navigation to a site. Phishing sites automatically download malware through drive-bys or are spoofed sites designed to gather credentials.

  • Drive-by downloads

Drive-by downloads can happen on innocent sites that have been injected with malware with the intention of hacking users’ sessions and on dedicated phishing sites. The hackers attempt to penetrate sensitive data in the user’s organization by reverse-engineering the connection.

  • Malware

Recently, bad actors have raised malware to unprecedented sophistication and impact. Malware campaigns can now be automated without any human intervention. The devastating effect of Nyetya on more than 2000 Ukrainian companies is terrifying evidence.

Malware comes in a variety of forms and file types. File sanitization solutions are essential to protect against malware in files downloaded onto endpoints. However, they are powerless against malware that enables hackers to watch the keystrokes as people enter data in forms and gain access to credentials.

The Ericom Shield RBI solution safeguards against this by allowing suspicious sites (i.e., spoofed/phishing sites) to be opened in read-only mode, so users can’t type in sensitive data.

  • Crypto-jacking

When cryptocurrencies were in full bloom, bad actors were infecting computers with crypto-mining software and harvesting computing power to mine currencies for themselves. These miners would run 24/7, resulting in high electricity bills and lower capacity for legitimate processing. There are many scammers out there looking to take advantage of new investors in bitcoins and other types of cryptocurrencies, just as many different types of crypto software might target these new investors. Luckily, there are bitcoin profit scam reviews that might be able to let investors know if the software they are interested in is a scam or legit.

However, with RBI, crypto-jacking doesn’t work because browser tabs are destroyed quickly after user interactions cease. Crypto-miners can’t persist on your computer as the containers are only active as long as users are active in the browser tab. This is another remarkable win for RBI.

  • Cross-site scripting

Cross-site scripting attacks occur when users browse different sites by adding tabs while using the same browser. When users enter their credentials on one site, an infected site in another tab can pick them up. Chrome and other browsers address this issue by isolating tabs from each other. However, the entire browser still sits on the end-user computer.

So, while this type of isolation protects information from tab to tab, it does not generally cover the end-users – or organization’s- information from malware attacks. Tab isolation is a step in the evolution of remote browser isolation but is only a partial solution since it merely provides isolation between sites browsed on the local endpoint. It is far from a complete solution to browser-borne threats.


Introduction to Ericom Browser Isolation with Ericom Shield

The concept of securing browsing through isolation is not new. Solutions have been on the market in one form or the other for quite some time. However, none of these solutions fully secure the end user’s browsing session from internet-borne threats. Browsing companies offer security features such as Adblockers and local tab isolation that can help, but only to a certain degree. Many purported secure browsing solutions are local isolation techniques that provide limited protection since they allow site content onto the endpoint, albeit in isolated segments, containers, or virtual machines.


Ericom Shield: Revolutionizing browser isolation

The incarnation of Ericom’s remote browser isolation technology occurred over three years ago with a “double browser” solution. This solution isolated the browser from the end-user device by allowing users to establish a remote session with an application that happened to be a remote browser. While other solutions in the marketplace talked about remote browser isolation, most are not remote from the endpoint — perhaps the most critical factor. Ericom has taken this to the next level of protection with the Ericom Shield Remote Browser Isolation (RBI) solution.


Currently, some available solutions isolate tabs from each other or isolate complete browsers within local machines. But these solutions do not isolate web content from the end-user device or the network it connects to. As a result, they are only halfway to protecting their users from browser-borne threats.

Local isolation solution concepts entail running a virtual machine (VM) on the endpoint device to create a safe zone within the computer. Other solutions create a compartment within the hard drive, hoping to provide good-enough isolation, but unfortunately, it does not. For an effective security posture, you want to ensure that threats stay as far from your internal network and end-user devices.

In reality, these solutions decrease the security posture, so there is a big push for remote browser isolation (RBI). Some solutions require users to install software or even hardware on their devices. This is old-fashioned thinking, labor/management intensive, and unfeasible for distributed organizations. Other solutions limit users to their proprietary browsers – a significant inconvenience for users.

Everyone knows that within every organization, there are a variety of devices. A solution that does not work with all different devices adds complexity, which is the number one enemy of security.


  • The power of genuinely remote isolation

With Ericom Browser Isolation in place, someone else handles the heavy lifting job to ensure security. Users enjoy an average browsing experience, although browsing doesn’t occur on the user’s endpoint device. The robust architecture reduces the possibility of attack via the end-point to an absolute minimum. The power of RBI is that it stops everything — known and unknown threats. Defenders can worry less about the latest as-yet-unknown attack vector. A practical solution isolates potential danger as far away from the end-user.

RBI is a holistic solution that does not identify something and only then stops it. Instead, it simply stops everything (while still allowing users to interact naturally with websites). Nothing on the internet touches the end-user device. Hence, the cat-and-mouse game of detection-based solutions, in which solution providers are always playing catch-up, no longer applies.


The future

Cyber threats will only continue to grow and become more destructive as cyber criminality escalates around the globe. Nowadays, with many widely available hacking services, such as phishing-as-a-service, it’s easy to become a hacker.

2017 was about ransomware, 2018 was about crypto-jacking, and now in 2019, it’s phishing. No one knows what is coming next, so we need a solution that doesn’t have to play catch-up like most solutions. Firewalling and anti-virus software block threats that already exist. They restrict attacks that have occurred in the past or resemble past episodes. Therefore, many threats arise de novo cannot be corked with legacy security systems. There is always a window where solutions must catch up, or it could be fatal for security.

Ericom Browser Isolation seamlessly adds another layer of security to existing solutions and complements them. This new layer stops everything that is not verified – which is to say, everything from the internet — which is why it’s an ideal fit for the zero-trust approach.


ericom shield

Removing State from Network Functions



Network Functions

In the world of modern communication, network functions play a crucial role in enabling seamless connectivity and efficient data flow. From the moment we send an email or stream a video, to the secure transmission of sensitive information, network functions silently work behind the scenes, ensuring our digital experiences are smooth and uninterrupted. In this blog post, we will explore the concept of network functions, their significance, and how they contribute to the functioning of today’s interconnected world.

Network functions refer to the tasks performed by various networking devices and software components to manage, control, and secure data traffic within a network. These functions encompass a wide range of operations, including routing, switching, firewalls, load balancing, network address translation (NAT), and intrusion detection systems (IDS). Each of these functions serves a specific purpose in optimizing network performance, enhancing security, and facilitating efficient communication between devices.


Highlights: Network Functions

  • The Role of Non-Proprietary Hardware

We have seen a significant technological evolution where network functions can run in software on non-proprietary commodity hardware, whether a grey box or white box deployment model. Taking network functions from a physical appliance and putting them into a virtual appliance is only half the battle.

The move to software provides the on-demand elastically and scale of network security components and quick recovery from failures. However, we are still hindered by one major factor – the state that each network function needs to process.

  • The Tights Coupling of State

We still have the challenges created by the tight coupling of the state and processing for each network function, be it virtual firewalls, load balancer scaling, intrusion protection system (IPS), or even distributed firewalls closer to the workloads for dynamic workload scaling use cases. Having the state tightly coupled with the network functions limits the network functions agility, scalability, and failure recovery.

Compounded by this, we have seen an increase in network complexity. The rise of the public cloud and the emergence of hybrid and multi-cloud has made data center connectivity more complicated and critical than ever.


Network Functions.

Key Network Functions Discussion points:

  • Discussion on Network Functions.

  • What is state and a description.

  • Example: Stateless Network Functions.

  • The issues with having state: Scaling

  • The issues with having state: Failure.


For pre-information, you may find the following helpful:

  1. Event Stream Processing
  2. NFV Use Cases
  3. ICMPv6


A Key Point: Knowledge Check 


Back to basics with Network Functions


Virtualization (which generally indicates server virtualization when used as a standalone phrase) refers to the abstraction of the application and operating system from the hardware. Similarly, network virtualization is the abstraction of the network endpoints from the physical arrangement of the network. In other words, network virtualization permits you to group or arrange endpoints on a network independent from their physical location.

Network Virtualization refers to forming logical groupings of endpoints on a network. In this case, the endpoints are abstracted from their physical locations so that VMs (and other assets) can look, behave, and be managed as if they are all on the same physical segment of the network.


Importance of Network Functions:

Network functions are the backbone of modern communication systems, making them essential for businesses, organizations, and individuals alike. They provide the necessary infrastructure to connect devices, transmit data, and facilitate the exchange of information in a reliable and secure manner. Without network functions, our digital interactions, such as accessing websites, making online payments, or conducting video conferences, would be nearly impossible.

Types of Network Functions:

1. Routing: Routing functions enable the forwarding of data packets between different networks, ensuring that information reaches its intended destination. This process involves selecting the most efficient path for data transmission based on factors like network congestion, bandwidth availability, and network topology.

2. Switching: Switching functions allow data packets to be forwarded within a local network, connecting devices within the same network segment. Switches efficiently direct packets to their intended destination, minimizing latency and optimizing network performance.

3. Firewalls: Firewalls act as a barrier between internal networks and external networks, protecting against unauthorized access and potential security threats. They monitor incoming and outgoing traffic, filtering and blocking any suspicious or malicious data packets.

4. Load Balancing: Load balancing distributes network traffic across multiple servers to prevent overloading and ensure optimal resource utilization. By evenly distributing workloads, load balancing enhances network performance, scalability, and reliability.

5. Network Address Translation (NAT): NAT allows multiple devices within a private network to share a single public IP address. It translates private IP addresses into public ones, enabling communication with external networks while maintaining the security and privacy of internal devices.

6. Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS): IDS monitor network traffic for any signs of intrusion or malicious activity. They analyze data packets, identify potential threats, and generate alerts or take preventive actions to safeguard the network from unauthorized access or attacks.


What is State

Before we delve into the potential ways to solve this problem, mainly by introducing stateless network functions, let us first describe the different types of state. We have two: dynamic and static. The network function processes continuously update the dynamic state. The dynamic state could be anything from a firewall’s connection information to the load balancer’s server mappings.

On the other hand, the static state could include something like pre-configured firewall rules or the IPS signature database. The dynamic state must persist across instance failures and be available to the network functions when scaling in or out. On the other hand, the static state is easy and can be replicated to a network instance upon boot time.


Stateless network functions

Stateless Network Functions are a new and disruptive technology that decouples the design of network functions into a stateless process component and a data store layer. There also needs to be some orchestration layer that can monitor the network function instances for load and failure and adjust the number of instances accordingly.

Taking or decoupling the state from a network function enables a more elastic and resilient infrastructure. So how does this work? From a 20,000 bird’s eye view, the network functions become stateless. The statefulness of the application, such as a stateful firewall, is maintained by storing the state in a separate data store. The data store provides the resilience of the state. No state is stored on the individual networking functions themselves.


  • Datastore example

The data store can be, for example, RAMCloud. RAMCloud is a distributed key-value storage system with high-speed storage for large-scale applications. It is purposely designed when many servers need low-latency access to a durable data store. RAMCloud is suitable for low-latency access as it’s based primarily on DRAM.  RAMCloud keeps all data in DRAM. As a result, the network functions can read RAMCloud objects remotely over the network in as little as 5μs.


Stateless network functions advantages.

Stateless network functions may not be helpful for all but are valid for standard network functions that can be re-designed statelessly. Stateful network functions are helpful for a stateful firewall, intrusion prevention system, network address translator, and load balancer. Removing the state and placing it on a database brings many advantages to network management.

As the state is accessed via a data store, a new instance can be launched, and traffic is immediately directed to it offering elasticity. Secondly, resilience, a new instance, can be spawned instantaneously upon failure.  Finally, as any instance can handle an individual packet, packets traversing different paths do not have asymmetric and multi-path routing issues.


Problems with having state: Failure

The majority of network designs have redundancy built-in. It sounds easy when one data center fails to let the secondary take over. When the data center interconnect (DCI) is configured correctly, everything should work upon failover, correct?

Let’s not forget about one little thing called state with a firewall in each data center design. The network address translation (NAT) in the primary data center stores the mapping for two flows, let’s call them F1 and F2. Upon failure, the second firewall in the other data center takes over, and traffic is directed to the new firewall. However, any packets from flows F1 and F2 will not enter the second firewall.

This will result in a failed lookup; existing connections will timeout, causing application failure.  Asymmetric routing causes problems. If a firewall has an established state for a client-to-server connection (SYN packet), if the return SYN-ACK passes through a different firewall, the packet will result in a failed lookup and get dropped.

Some have tried to design distributed active-active firewalls to solve layer three issues and asymmetrical traffic flow over the stateful firewalls. The solution looks perfect. Simply configure both wide area network (WAN) routers to advertise the same IP prefix to the outside world.

This will attract inbound traffic and pass the traffic through the nearest firewall. Nice and easy. The active-active firewalls would exchange flow information, solving the asymmetrical flow problems.? Distributed active-active firewall state across each data center is better in PowerPoint than in real life.


Problems with having the state: Scaling

The tight coupling of the state can also cause problems with the scaling of network functions. Scaling out NAT functions will have the same effect as NAT box failure. Packets from flow originating from a different firewall directed to a new instance will result in a failed lookup.



Network functions form the foundation of modern communication systems, enabling us to connect, share, and collaborate in a digitized world. By performing vital tasks such as routing, switching, firewalls, load balancing, NAT, and IDS, network functions ensure the smooth and secure flow of data across networks. Understanding the significance of these functions is crucial for businesses and individuals to harness the full potential of the interconnected world we live in today.


network server room with computers for digital tv ip communications and internet

Stateless Network Functions


Stateless Network Functions

In today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape, networking infrastructure plays a crucial role in ensuring seamless connectivity and efficient data transmission. One emerging concept that has gained significant attention is the stateless network function (SNF). This blog post aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of SNFs, exploring their significance, benefits, and potential applications.

Stateless network functions, also known as stateless processing, refer to a network architecture approach that eliminates the need for storing session-specific information. Unlike traditional stateful network functions, which rely on maintaining session state information, SNFs process each packet independently, without any context or knowledge of previous packets


Highlights: Stateless Network Function

  • Tight State and Processing

New technology is needed, and it’s time to break the tight state and processing. This involves decoupling the existing network function design into a stateless processing component ( stateless network functions) and a data store layer. Doing this and breaking the tight coupling enables a more elastic and resilient network functions infrastructure.


Before you proceed, you may find the following posts helpful:

  1. SASE Solution
  2. Software-defined Perimeter
  3. Service Chaining
  4. ICMPv6


Back to Basics with Stateless Network Function

  • The Role of Networks

Let’s face it. Networks need to be both scalable and sophisticated. To be successful, you need to completely redesign the network functions, such as routing and firewall functions, along with the underlying platforms that manage and orchestrate these functions. However, to accomplish this, there is a need to create an entirely new architecture and adapt the existing technology to this new architecture.

If you look at technologies used for cloud storage, no one has ever used them for networks. Why is this? The reason is mainly down to performance requirements, such as throughput and latency in distributed systems.

  • Start with Architecture

One can understand that with this type of disruptive technology, there will be a lot of pushback from the industry, saying that it is just impossible. But we need to give the world something new. It deserves it. The ability to customize networks on-demand. It would help to have a logical place to start with a new architecture.


Benefits of Stateless Network Functions:

1. Enhanced Scalability: By eliminating the need to store session state information, SNFs offer improved scalability. Network devices can handle a higher volume of packets and achieve better performance, making them ideal for handling large-scale deployments and high traffic scenarios.

2. Simplified Network Management: Stateless network functions simplify network management by reducing the complexity associated with session state maintenance. This streamlined approach allows for easier configuration, troubleshooting, and monitoring, resulting in improved operational efficiency.

3. Increased Flexibility: SNFs enable more flexible network architectures, as they can be easily deployed and scaled without the constraints of session state limitations. This flexibility enables organizations to adapt their networks to changing demands and deploy new services rapidly.

4. Enhanced Security: Stateless processing enhances network security by reducing potential attack vectors. Since SNFs do not rely on session state information, they minimize the risk of session hijacking or data leakage, leading to more robust and secure networks.

Applications of Stateless Network Functions:

1. Load Balancing: Stateless network functions are particularly well-suited for load balancing applications. They enable efficient distribution of network traffic across multiple servers or resources, ensuring optimal resource utilization and improved application performance.

2. Deep Packet Inspection: SNFs can be used for deep packet inspection (DPI), a technique that analyzes the content of network packets for security or application identification purposes. The stateless nature of SNFs allows for faster and more efficient DPI, enabling real-time threat detection and network optimization.

3. Network Function Virtualization (NFV): Stateless network functions are a foundational component of network function virtualization (NFV) architectures. By decoupling network functions from dedicated hardware, NFV leverages SNFs to achieve greater flexibility, scalability, and cost-effectiveness in network deployments.


Stateless Network Functions: Changing the environment

Decentralized workloads, the decline of on-premise, and the increase in multi-cloud deployments have created one of the most extensive connectivity challenges for data centers. A key finding is those colocation providers, which have traditionally served as space, power, and physical network connectivity resources, should not become the hub for all traffic as workload decentralizes.

The problem is these colocation providers have not focused on connectivity that requires multi-tenancy and routing, and they usually have physical cloud connects; this has introduced growing management and operational challenges, which will only increase in large-scale deployments.

Cloud Connect is where you need to connect multiple enterprises, where these enterprises need to connect to multiple cloud providers. All of these tenants need BGP routing, firewall functions, and NAT, but to do this on a larger scale with a solution that couples the state cannot scale and be reliable.


  • New technologies come in waves – some appear, and others disappear.

The market needs a new type of technology, a software-defined interconnect like the Internet exchange. This came to light in 2016 when Laurent Vanbever proposed a software-defined internet exchange based on OpenFlow ( what is OpenFlow ) known as SDX; software-defined internet exchange is an SDN solution originating from the combined efforts of Princeton and UC Berkeley. It aims to address IXP pain points by deploying additional SDN controllers and OpenFlow-enabled switches. It doesn’t try to replace the entire classical IXP architecture with something new; rather, it augments existing designs with a controller.


Software-defined interconnect (SDIX)

However, a software-defined interconnect (SDIX) is a new category of offering that allows colocation providers to manage their cloud connects via software and extend their connectivity control. It should cover the cloud connection but also multiple data center interconnects. In the past, the colocation providers focused on space and power. However, in today’s world, they have new responsibilities. The responsibilities now extend to new types of connectivity for customers. Customers now have new requirements.

They must move their data from one colocation facility to another to avoid latency or backup purposes. For these cases, colocation providers need a new type of platform to direct all of their different tenant’s tasks and requirements to a software-based platform.

Why is this different? The underlying technology, for one: is when it comes to network functions such as firewalls, routers, and load balancers; regardless of the application architecture and requirements, these network functions are physical boxes. The challenge is that traffic that flows through these boxes is tightly coupled with the box.

The physical box, virtual machine, or container performing a network function is coupled with the state. What happens with the state when you launch a new network function or redirect the traffic to a backup device? For sure, this will affect the application. This might be acceptable for a single application but not for a large-scale deployment when you have millions of connections and applications running on top of network functions.

Network function virtualization (NFV) and NFV use cases didn’t help here. All it did was change the physical boxes to virtual ones. It’s like changing a physical appliance in Dublin to a cloud-based provider. Is this the future? NFV inherits the same design and features that the physical box has. But what needs to be done is realizing that the problem is the state. You need to decouple the dynamic state from each network function and put them in a high-performance data store within a cluster of commodity hardware and switches—a hardware-agnostic solution with code that is not open source.


Network function stateless

Then you can make the network function stateless, so it’s physically just a thread. So if it fails, it doesn’t affect application performance as the state is collected from the data store. This is needed as an underlying design, but does it seem possible? There will be overheads from decoupling the state.

The state can be put into a cluster of servers. Some servers maintain some of the state, and some of the other servers can be the network functions. The state is not physically in another data center or location. Every type of dynamic state, such as counters, timers, and handshaking that you see in the TCP flow, all of which is state is a challenge to decouple without breaking application performance. However, this can be done by adapting technology-distributed systems. A database to store the state needed that is designed for high-performance computing. A read for a state should be around 5 microseconds.  

An algorithm is needed to read and write the state in a way that reads multiple packets simultaneously. This enables you to overcome any latency issues and achieve better performance than traditional appliances that have the state coupled.


Stateless network functions are revolutionizing networking infrastructure by offering enhanced scalability, simplified management, increased flexibility, and improved security. With their wide range of applications, SNFs are paving the way for more agile and efficient networks. As organizations continue to embrace digital transformation, understanding and harnessing the potential of stateless network functions will be key to building resilient and future-proof network architectures.

Technician working in network card labaratory

What is Remote Browser Isolation



What is Remote Browser Isolation

In today’s digital landscape, the importance of web security cannot be overstated. With the increasing number of cyber threats and the growing sophistication of hackers, organizations and individuals are constantly seeking innovative solutions to protect themselves online. One such solution that has gained significant attention is remote browser isolation. In this blog post, we will delve into the concept of remote browser isolation and explore its advantages in safeguarding against web-based attacks.

Remote browser isolation is a security technology that separates the web browsing activity from the user’s local device. It accomplishes this by executing web pages on remote virtual machines or containers, preventing any potentially malicious code from reaching the user’s device. Essentially, it creates a secure barrier between the user’s device and the web.


Highlights: Remote Browser Isolation

  • The Rise of Threats

The majority of attacks originate externally. Why? Because we can’t control what we don’t know, the Internet can be dirty. Browsing the Internet and clicking on uniform resource identifier (URL) links exposes the enterprise to compromise risks. These concerns can be very worrying for individuals who need to use the internet regularly, as they want a safe online browsing experience. Cyber security is becoming an increasingly vital consideration to be aware of when using the internet, with rising cyber-attacks forcing the need for Remote Browser Isolation (RBI). 


Before you proceed, you may find the following posts helpful:

  1. Cisco Umbrella CASB
  2. Ericom Browser Isolation
  3. DDoS Attacks
  4. IPv6 Attacks


Back to Basics: What is Remote Browser Isolation

The Challenging Landscape

It is estimated that the distribution of exploits used in cyber attacks by type of application attacked showed over 40% related to browser attacks. Android was next in line with 27% of the attack surface. As a result, we need to provide more security regarding Internet browsing.

It’s a fact that most compromises will involve web-based attacks and standard plugins, such as Adobe, supported in the browser. Attacks will always happen, but your ability to deal with them is the key. If you use the internet daily, check the security of your proxy server.

Browser Attacks

Attacking through the browser is too easy, and the targets are too rich. Once an attacker has penetrated the web browser, they can move laterally throughout the network targeting high-value assets such as a database server. Data exfiltration is effortless these days.

Attackers use social media accounts such as Twitter and even domain name systems (DNS) that are commonly not inspected by firewalls as file transfer mechanisms. We need to apply the zero trust network design default-deny posture to web browsing. This is known as Remote Browser Isolation.

Remote Browser Isolation
Diagram: What is Remote Browser Isolation?


Advantages of Remote Browser Isolation:

1. Enhanced Security:

The primary advantage of remote browser isolation is its ability to provide enhanced web security. By isolating the browsing activity in a remote environment, any potential malware, zero-day exploits, or malicious websites are contained within the isolated environment, ensuring they cannot reach the user’s device. This greatly reduces the risk of successful cyber attacks, as even if a website is compromised, the user’s device remains protected.

2. Protection Against Phishing Attacks:

Phishing attacks continue to be a major concern for individuals and organizations alike. Remote browser isolation offers a robust defense against such attacks. By isolating the browsing session, any attempts to trick users into revealing sensitive information through fraudulent websites or email links are rendered ineffective, as the malicious code is contained within the isolated environment.

3. Mitigation of Web-Based Threats:

Remote browser isolation effectively mitigates web-based threats by preventing the execution of potentially malicious code on the user’s device. Whether it’s malware, ransomware, or drive-by downloads, all potentially harmful elements are executed within the isolated environment, ensuring the user’s device remains unharmed. This approach significantly reduces the attack surface and minimizes the potential impact of web-based threats.

4. Compatibility and Ease of Use:

One of the key advantages of remote browser isolation is its compatibility with various platforms and devices. Users can access isolated browsing sessions from any device, including desktops, laptops, and even mobile devices, without compromising security. This flexibility ensures a seamless user experience while maintaining a high level of security.


Remote Browser Isolation: Zero Trust

Neil McDonald, an analyst from Gartner, is driving the evolution of Remote Browser Isolation. This is a necessary feature if you want to offer a complete solution to the zero-trust model. The zero trust model already consists of micro-segmentation vendors that can be SDN-based, network-based appliances (physical or virtual), microservices-based, host-based, container-centric, IaaS built-in segmentation, and API-based. There are also a variety of software-defined perimeter vendors in the category of the zero-trust movement.

So, what is Remote Browser Isolation (RBI)? Remote Browser Isolation starts with a default-deny posture, contains the ability to compromise, reduces the surface area for an attack, and, as sessions are restored to a known good state after each use, it is like having a dynamic segment of 1 for surfing the Internet. Remote browser offerings are a subset of browser isolation technologies that remove the browser process from the end user’s desktop.

Take a browser and host it on a terminal server, and then use the on-device browser to browse to that browser. As a result, you increase the security posture. When you do HTML 5 connectivity, you get the rendering done in the remote browser.


Sample Solution

Some vendors are coming out with a Linux-based, proxy-based solution. A proxy – often hosted on sites like – acts as an internet gateway, a middleman for internet interactions. Usually, when you browse the Internet, you go to a non-whitelist site, but if it hasn’t been blacklisted, you will be routed to the remote system.

You could have a small Linux-based solution in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) or the cloud in the proxy-based system. That container with docker container security best practices enabled will do the browsing for you. It will render the information in real time and send it back to the user using HTML5 as the protocol using images. For example, if you are going to a customer relationship management (CRM) system right now, you will go directly to that system as it is whitelisted.

But when you go to a website that hasn’t been defined, the system will open a small container, and that dedicated container can give you the browsing experience, and you won’t know the difference. As a result, you can mimic a perfect browsing experience without any active code running on your desktop while browsing.



Remote browser isolation has emerged as a powerful solution in the fight against web-based cyber threats. By separating browsing activities from the user’s local device, it provides enhanced security, protects against phishing attacks, mitigates web-based threats, and offers compatibility across different platforms and devices. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, remote browser isolation is set to play a crucial role in safeguarding individuals and organizations from the ever-present dangers of the web.