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Usable Firewall Rule Sets
Karlstad University, Faculty of Health, Science and Technology (starting 2013), Department of Mathematics and Computer Science (from 2013). (PriSec)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9203-0773
2017 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Correct functioning is the most important requirement for any system. Nowadays there are a lot of threats to computer systems that undermine confidence in them and, as a result, force a user to abandon their use. Hence, a system cannot be trusted if there is no proper security provided. Firewalls are an essential component of network security and there is an obvious need for their use.

The level of security provided by a firewall depends on how well it is configured. Thus, to ensure the proper level of network security, it is necessary to have properly configured firewalls. However, setting up the firewall correctly is a very challenging task. These configuration files might be hard to understand even for system administrators. This is due to the fact that these configuration files have a certain structure: the higher the position of a rule in the rule set, the higher priority it has. Challenging problems arise when a new rule is being added to the set, and a proper position, where to place it, needs to be found. Misconfiguration might sooner or later be made and that will lead to an inappropriate system's security. This brings us to the usability problem associated with the configuration of firewalls.

The overall aim of this thesis is to identify existing firewall usability gaps and to mitigate them. To achieve the first part of the objective, we conducted a series of interviews with system administrators. In the interviews, system administrators were asked about the problems they face when dealing with firewalls. After having ascertained that the usability problems exist, we turned to literature to get an understanding on the state-of-the-art of the field and therefore conducted a systematic literature review. This review presents a classification of available solutions and identifies open challenges in this area. To achieve the second part of the objective, we started working on one identified challenge. A set of usability metrics was proposed and mathematically formalized. A strong correlation between our metrics and how system administrators describe usability was identified.

Abstract [en]

Network security is an important aspect that must be taken into account. Firewalls are systems that are used to make sure that authorized network traffic is allowed and unauthorized traffic is prohibited. However, setting up a firewall correctly is a challenging task. Their configuration files might be hard to understand even for system administrators.

The overall aim of this thesis is to identify firewall usability gaps and to mitigate them. To achieve the first part of the objective, we conduct a series of interviews with system administrators. In the interviews, system administrators are asked about the problems they face when dealing with firewalls. After having ascertained that the usability problems exist, we conduct a systematic literature review to get an understanding on the state of the art of the field. This review classifies available solutions and identifies open challenges. To achieve the second part of the objective, a set of usability metrics is proposed and mathematically formalized. A strong correlation between our metrics and how system administrators describe usability is identified.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstads universitet, 2017. , p. 11
Series
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 2017:40
Keywords [en]
Network Security, Usable Security, Firewall Configuration, Systematic Literature Review, Usability Metrics, User Studies
National Category
Computer Sciences
Research subject
Computer Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-64703ISBN: 978-91-7063-817-6 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7063-912-8 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-64703DiVA, id: diva2:1150051
Presentation
2017-11-27, 9C 204, Rejmersalen, Karlstad, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Projects
HITS, 4707
Funder
Knowledge Foundation
Note

Artikel 3 i lic.uppsatsen som manuskript. Nu publicerat.

Available from: 2017-11-08 Created: 2017-10-17 Last updated: 2020-02-20Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Challenges in Managing Firewalls
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Challenges in Managing Firewalls
2015 (English)In: Secure IT Systems: 20th Nordic Conference, NordSec 2015, Stockholm, Sweden, October 19–21, 2015, Proceedings, Springer, 2015, Vol. 9417, p. 191-196Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Firewalls are essential security devices that can provide protection against network attacks. To be effective, a firewall must be properly configured to ensure consistency with the security policy. However, configuring is a complex and error-prone process. This work tries to identify the reasons behind firewall misconfigurations. To achieve our goal, we conducted a series of semi-structured interviews with system administrators that manage access control lists in networks of different sizes. The paper discusses our interview results and describes future work.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer, 2015
Series
Lecture Notes in Computer Science, ISSN 0302-9743 ; 9417
Keywords
Access Control, Security Policy, Intrusion Detection System, System Administrator, Access Control Policy
National Category
Software Engineering
Research subject
Computer Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-39073 (URN)10.1007/978-3-319-26502-5_13 (DOI)000374098500013 ()978-3-319-26501-8 (ISBN)
Conference
The 20th Nordic Conference on Secure IT Systems, NordSec 2015, Stockholm, Sweden, October 19–21, 2015
Projects
HITS, 4707
Funder
Knowledge Foundation
Available from: 2016-01-19 Created: 2016-01-19 Last updated: 2020-02-27Bibliographically approved
2. Systematic Literature Review on Usability of Firewall Configuration
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Systematic Literature Review on Usability of Firewall Configuration
2018 (English)In: ACM Computing Surveys, ISSN 0360-0300, E-ISSN 1557-7341, Vol. 50, no 6, article id 87Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Firewalls are network security components that handle incoming and outgoing network traffic based on a set of rules. The process of correctly configuring a firewall is complicated and prone to error, and it worsens as the network complexity grows. A poorly configured firewall may result in major security threats; in the case of a network firewall, an organization’s security could be endangered, and in the case of a personal firewall, an individual computer’s security is threatened. A major reason for poorly configured firewalls, as pointed out in the literature, is usability issues. Our aim is to identify existing solutions that help professional and non-professional users to create and manage firewall configuration files, and to analyze the proposals in respect of usability. A systematic literature review with a focus on the usability of firewall configuration is presented in the article. Its main goal is to explore what has already been done in this field. In the primary selection procedure, 1,202 articles were retrieved and then screened. The secondary selection led us to 35 articles carefully chosen for further investigation, of which 14 articles were selected and summarized. As main contributions, we propose a taxonomy of existing solutions as well as a synthesis and in-depth discussion about the state of the art in firewall usability. Among the main findings, we perceived that there is a lack (or even an absence) of usability evaluation or user studies to validate the proposed models. Although all articles are related to the topic of usability, none of them clearly defines it, and only a few actually employ usability design principles and/or guidelines.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), 2018
Keywords
usability, Firewall, systematic literature review, visualization
National Category
Computer Sciences
Research subject
Computer Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-65622 (URN)10.1145/3130876 (DOI)000419881700010 ()
Projects
HITS, High Quality Networked Services in a Mobile World (4707)
Funder
Knowledge Foundation
Available from: 2018-01-18 Created: 2018-01-18 Last updated: 2020-02-27Bibliographically approved
3. Measuring the Usability of Firewall Rule Sets
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Measuring the Usability of Firewall Rule Sets
2020 (English)In: IEEE Access, E-ISSN 2169-3536, p. 27106-27121Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Firewalls are computer systems that assess the network traffic using an ideally coherentand manageable set of rules. This study aims to provide means to measure the usability of firewall rulesets in terms of how easily IT professionals can understand and manage them. First, we conductedsemi-structured interviews with system administrators wherein we obtained the usability challenges relatedto the management of firewall rule sets. This was followed by the analysis of related work. The interviewresults were combined with the findings from the related work. Accordingly, we acquired four usabilityattributes related to the manageability of firewalls; these were formally defined. We tested and measured thecognitive aspects related to the structure and ordering of the rules through a user study. A third user studywith system administrators validated our metrics. It exhibited a very strong correlation between the metricsand how the administrators characterized usability.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
IEEE, 2020
Keywords
Firewall rule set, iptables, formalization, metrics, usability, user study
National Category
Human Computer Interaction
Research subject
Computer Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-64702 (URN)10.1109/ACCESS.2020.2971093 (DOI)000525466900049 ()
Projects
HITS, 4707
Note

Artikeln publicerad som manuskript i Voronkovs lic.uppsats.

Available from: 2017-10-17 Created: 2017-10-17 Last updated: 2020-05-11Bibliographically approved

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