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Systematic Literature Review on Usability of Firewall Configuration
Karlstad University, Faculty of Health, Science and Technology (starting 2013), Department of Mathematics and Computer Science (from 2013). (Prisec, Datasäkerhet och personlig integritet)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9203-0773
Karlstad University, Faculty of Health, Science and Technology (starting 2013), Department of Mathematics and Computer Science (from 2013). (Prisec, Datasäkerhet och personlig integritet)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9005-0543
Karlstad University, Faculty of Health, Science and Technology (starting 2013), Department of Mathematics and Computer Science (from 2013). (Prisec, Datasäkerhet och personlig integritet)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9980-3473
Karlstad University, Faculty of Health, Science and Technology (starting 2013), Department of Mathematics and Computer Science (from 2013). (Prisec, Datasäkerhet och personlig integritet)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-0778-4736
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. Vol. 50, no 6, article id 87
Keywords [en]
usability, Firewall, systematic literature review, visualization
National Category
Computer Sciences
Research subject
Computer Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-65622DOI: 10.1145/3130876ISI: 000419881700010OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-65622DiVA, id: diva2:1175449
Projects
HITS, High Quality Networked Services in a Mobile World (4707)
Funder
Knowledge FoundationAvailable from: 2018-01-18 Created: 2018-01-18 Last updated: 2020-02-27Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Usable Firewall Rule Sets
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Usable Firewall Rule Sets
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
Network Security, Usable Security, Firewall Configuration, Systematic Literature Review, Usability Metrics, User Studies
National Category
Computer Sciences
Research subject
Computer Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-64703 (URN)978-91-7063-817-6 (ISBN)978-91-7063-912-8 (ISBN)
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
2. Usability of Firewall Configuration: Making the Life of System Administrators Easier
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Usability of Firewall Configuration: Making the Life of System Administrators Easier
2020 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Firewalls are an important component of network security that serve to protect networks by regulating incoming and outgoing traffic. However, setting up firewalls correctly is a challenging task, which becomes more difficult with the growth of the network's size. Firewall configuration files consist of rule sets that might be hard to understand even for professionals who deal with them regularly. The main reason for this is that most firewall rule sets 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 added to the set and a proper position for it needs to be found or the existing rules are removed due to a security policy change. This brings us to the usability problem associated with the configuration of firewalls.

The overall aim of this thesis is to help system administrators better manage firewalls. We explore three different aspects of firewall configuration: 1) the syntax of rules, 2) the organization of rules in a rule set, and 3) the way rule sets are presented to a user. Using this acquired knowledge, we offer system administrators more usable firewall solutions and approaches to the configuration process that can help facilitate their daily work.

Abstract [en]

Most companies have access to the Internet and their corporate networks connected to it. Many threats to computer systems, e.g. worms, trojans, and denial-of-service attacks, can be encountered online and they may entail, for example, confidential data theft, service disruption and financial losses. Every organization, regardless of its size, type of activity or infrastructure, requires network security solutions in place in order to protect it from the ever-increasing number of cyber threats. Firewalls are an important component of network security that protect networks by regulating incoming and outgoing traffic.

Simply having a firewall does not guarantee any protection against Internet threats, unless it is properly configured. However, setting up firewalls correctly is a challenging task, which becomes more difficult with the growth of the network's size. Firewall configuration files consist of rule sets that might be hard to understand even for professionals that deal with them regularly. The main reason for this is that most firewall rule sets 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 added to the set and a proper position for it needs to be found, or when existing rules are removed due to a security policy change. This brings us to the usability problem associated with the configuration of firewalls.

The overall aim of this thesis is to help system administrators better manage firewalls. First, we conduct a series of semi-structured interviews with system administrators, in which we ask them about problems confronted when managing firewalls. After having ascertained that there are usability problems involved, we begin to address them. We compare two different firewall rule set representation approaches and identify that a preference for one or the other depends on the firewall expertise of the individual. We introduce and mathematically formalize a set of four usability metrics which are designed to evaluate the quality of firewall rule sets. Furthermore, we not only investigate which firewall interfaces are utilized and preferred by system administrators but also identify and classify the interfaces' strengths and limitations. Finally, we conduct a systematic literature review to gain an understanding of the state of the art in firewall usability. This review classifies the available solutions and identifies the open challenges that exist in the field.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstads universitet, 2020. p. 17
Series
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 2020:15
Keywords
network security, usable security, firewall configuration, firewall interfaces, usability metrics
National Category
Electrical Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Information Engineering
Research subject
Computer Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-77106 (URN)978-91-7867-098-7 (ISBN)978-91-7867-108-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2020-04-03, 1B306, Fryxellsalen, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Knowledge Foundation
Available from: 2020-03-13 Created: 2020-02-27 Last updated: 2020-03-13Bibliographically approved

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Voronkov, ArtemIwaya, Leonardo HMartucci, LeonardoLindskog, Stefan

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