CCIE security lab 1, Steve 0

I sat the CCIE security lab on Friday, January 12th. Result was Pass/Pass/Fail. That means overall I failed.

For those who are unaware, there are three sections to the exam; Troubleshooting, Diagnostics, and configuration.

Here’s my interpretation of those sections:

Troubleshooting is like getting a bunch of 2:30am phone calls where something is broken and you need to hop on and fix it now.

Diagnostics is like getting emails at work where a field tech and/or the Helpdesk are stuck on a problem, and you have to figure it out from a couple of screenshots and some log/device output. You do not get to actually touch the devices.

Config is like being a consultant asked to complete a build on an enterprise network where sales severely underbid the required project hours and you’ve got to make it happen.

With that out of the way, I’d like to break down what went well, what went less than well, and what I need to improve on.

What Went Well

Staying calm

I did a lot of self care in the 36 hours leading up to sitting the lab. Mostly breath meditation, and reliving an amazing road trip I took last summer. Looked at photos, listened to a playlist of music I listened to on the trip, closed my eyes and relived moments. That was very effective, it’s amazing what we can draw from those times when we need them.


In the run up my waking and sleeping hours were all over the map in a mad dash to get all the labbing in I could, but I needed to rein that in. About a week prior to lab day I started adhering to a rigid routine of going to bed and getting up early. A week was enough to get my body clock reset.

Structured approach to the exam

Keeping a score card, task list, reading questions multiple times to make sure I’m not overlooking small but critical details, and making notes. Using checklists for long tasks. This all worked very well, no problem there.

Keeping all cli config in notepad

Building everything in notepad makes it dead easy to make updates and corrections, and to refer back to what you did earlier. Its also an exam saver if for some reason you have to reinitialize a device. Little things that I do cli first, I will still transfer those to notepad.

Quickly discovering relevent information

I didn’t have much trouble quickly isolating the relevant area I needed to look at in troubleshooting or diag, that was a good feeling and gave me confidence.

Theory and technology knowledge

I was pleased that my topic knowledge was pretty much up to snuff. All the hard work of learning the technology paid off when I found the tickets straightforward and I never got lost or confused. There is something related to TS I need to improve to save time for config, I’ll touch on that in the next section.

What Did Not Go Well

Slow at verification

This first showed up in tshoot. I was spending more time verifying corrections than I was fixing the issue. I think there were two causes.

1. I have no field experience with some of the technology because I’ve never seen it on a live network. This is a disadvantage of working in enterprise; I have a narrower cross section of exposure.

2, In my final prep I was using fixed topologies and designs that I knew intimately. Consequently I didn’t have to put a lot of effort into verification. On a network you’ve never seen, and you don’t know the underlying details of the routing design other than what’s depicted on the topology diagram, it’s a completely different situation.

These significantly impacted my speed in tshoot and config. Spent way too much time on verification.

Managing Information Overload

I was feeling pretty good coming out of Troubleshooting and Diag. As I started reading through the config section, I did not have that good feeling. Some of the tasks were very long and packed with small details. There are key details that you will only pick up on if you read carefully and understand the technology. This intimidated me and caused me to worry too much.

I spent way too much time double checking and verifying those details. I think you have to trust yourself enough to bang it out, and double check your work at the end of day, otherwise you won’t get enough done.

Not Checking the Preconfigure

There may be stealth faults in the configuration section; not checking the preconfigure can extract a heavy toll in wasted time as you have to reset appliances and clean up the mess. Unfortunately this happened to me. Rookie mistake,

Not enough speed/memorization of cli commands

There is a lot to do in config. You have to be capable generating large blocks of config in notepad and pasting them into the devices error-free for any of the technologies being tested. For gui based task elements, you have to be able zip through the ui and configure whats needed without any poking around. That’s the bar, simple as. Some things I was at that level with, others I was not.

Knob Recall

This exam does ask for some knob turning (i.e. advanced requirements). That was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I think these are intended to slow you down more than anything, and that they will if you don’t know where the knob lives.

What I Need To Improve

Verification Speed

That means giving it consistent attention and focus

Configuration Speed

That means being able to create in notepad any tested cli based technology cold….and have it paste in error-free 10x out of 10.

For example if you’re asked to spin up flex mesh, you need to be able to look at the requirements given for it in the task, type it up in notepad, paste it into the routers, and have it come up and work right out of the gate. You may be able to get away with checking cli syntax for some of the knob turning, but at a minimum you need to be able to quickly spin up a basic working configuration from memory without errors.

Knob knowledge

Add knob turning elements into practice exercises

Knowledge hole patching

Study a couple of small things I wasn’t knowledgeable enough on.

Wrap Up

Overall it wasn’t a bad showing, would like to have done a bit better. But the results weren’t terrible. Encouraged that most of what needs to be done is simple repetition to gain speed, rather than correcting issues in fundamental knowledge or approach.

Hopefully I can even the score next time.

Thanks for walking with me.



SEC-1.6 IOS Zone Based Firewall (ZBFW)

Greetings programs!

Today we’re talking about zone based firewall.


Zone based firewall is a stateful firewall available as a feature on cisco routers running ios and ios-xe. It’s capable of using nbar to identify traffic and and can perform deep packet inspection (DPI) on a few protocols (the most notable being http). Interestingly it can use Trustsec Security Group Tags (SGTs) as a matching condition.

It offers a cost effective solution for a couple of common cases. One would be small branch offices utilizing an internet connection for Guest internet and a backup dmvpn tunnel.

ZBFW provides a strong alternative to the care and feeding of a separate firewall in some situations, especially now that IOS-XE is capable of running some pretty cool containerized security apps like Snort and Stealthwatch learning network.

There are a couple of tradeoffs to using ZBFW that I noted when I was playing with it. The biggest one is classes in the service policy cannot be reordered or inserted inline.  you have to delete and re-create the policy, then add it back in to the zone pair.  That could lead to some change management headaches.

With that out of the way, let’s go ahead and take a look at this thing.


What does Stateful mean?

The term stateful in the context of a firewall means the firewall builds and maintains a connection table based on traffic it receives on it’s interfaces.  It uses this information to automatically allow the return traffic when it sees the match in the connection table.

A row in a generic connection would look something like this:


This would be a http connection from to  when the return packet from comes back the firewall sees the match in the connection table and automatically allows the traffic. This neat little trick is what makes a firewall a firewall in the sense that most people understand it.

Basic ZBFW operation

for starters have a quick look at this cheat-sheet that shows a simple use case involving internet access for some corporate computers and guest endpoints.

The way it works at a high level is classes are use to match traffic. A policy calls the classes and sets the action for the matching traffic .  Finally the policy is attached to a zone-pair.  A zone pair defines the source and destination interfaces that the policy will be applied to.

Definitions of terms


Zones define interfaces that share a common security policy. Traffic can move freely between interfaces in same zone.

It’s important to know, Interfaces that belong to security zones cannot communicate with interfaces that do not belong to security zones. This is something to keep in mind when designing the deployment and when troubleshooting.

Classes and polices:

There are two kinds of classes and policies. Layer 3/4 and layer 7.


Layer 3/4 Class maps

Layer 3/4 class maps are traffic selectors. Classes are used to identify what traffic we want to apply an action to. Class maps can match based on protocol (NBAR), access-lists, another class map for compound conditions, security group tags (trustsec), and user groups.

layer 7 class maps

A layer 7 class map is used for Deep packet inspection DPI. Most commonly used with HTTP to match attributes or content of http traffic. It’s outdated since most web traffic is encrypted now, but it’s there so I’m mentioning it.

Policy maps

Layer 3 Policy maps

Layer 3 Policy maps contain a list of classes, and the actions we want to perform on the classes.

There is a built-in class called class-default which matches anything not explicitly matched. It can be very useful for troubleshooting to call that class and add the log action to it to see what’s being blocked.

Layer 7 policy maps

Layer 7 policy maps apply actions to the traffic identified by the layer 7 classes.  These classes cannot be called directly from a service policy.  they are called under a layer 3/4 class in a layer 3 policy map that identifies the traffic flows we want to perform DPI on.

Here’s a example

Class-map type inspect http CM-L7-HTTP-1
match response header length gt 5000
policy-map type inspect http PM-L7-HTTP-1
class CM-L7-HTTP-1
Class-map type inspect CM1
match protocol http
policy-map type inspect PM1
class CM1
service-policy http PM-L7-HTTP-1


Important note about classes in policies

Note:  Classes need to be called in most to least specific order.  For example the there was a class  matching on tcp then a class matching on http, the http rule would never fire.  To re-order the classes, you must delete and re-create the policy, then re-add it back to the zone pair.


There two types of nesting. nested classes and nested policy maps

Nested classes are used for creating compound matching conditions. i.e. example inspect these protocols for those hosts.

Nested policy maps are used in deep packet inspection. layer 7 policy maps are called under a class in a layer 3 policy map

Nested class example.  this accomplishes the goal of allowing a specific list of protocols for a specific host.  It’s a basic compound condition.

access-list 100 permit ip any
class-map type inspect match any CM1-L4
match protocol http
match protocol dns
match protocol icmp
Class-map type inspect match-all CM1-L3
match access-group 101
match class CM1-L4

Parameter Maps

There are quite a few different kinds of parameter maps. I’m going to cover a couple of them briefly.

Layer 3/4 maps are used primarily for DDOS prevention. they are attached to the action in a policy map  i.e. “inspect PARAM-MAP”  where param-map is a parameter map.

The most common layer 7 parameter map is regex which is used to match strings in http traffic. It’s applied as an argument to a layer 7 class map.

There is a global inspect parameter map, and this where NBAR2 for protocol classification can be enabled, as well as general connection controls.

Zone pairs

A zone pair defines what traffic is allowed to pass from a source zone to a destination zone. Being stateful, the zone pair builds a connection table based on outgoing traffic. return traffic that matches an entry in the connection table is allowed.

The self zone

The self zone is a special built in zone that’s used to control traffic to and from the control plane of the router.

The self zone has some different behaviors and restrictions from normal zones, and it’s worth taking a closer look at it.

Zone pairs involving the self zone are not stateful. They behave a lot more like access control lists. There have been changes to how self works from version to version, so be mindful of that and test the your image before deploying self zone on a live network. For the version of IOS I tested 15.6(2)T, this is what I found:

By default traffic is allowed to and from the control plane to any zone unless the self zone is added to a zone pair, and a policy attached to it.

If a zone pair is created using self but no service policy is attached, traffic is still allowed.

If a service policy is attached, traffic in that direction is now restricted to what’s permitted in the policy, however, traffic in the other direction is not affected.

Because the self zone is not stateful, you must use the pass argument instead of inspect to allow the traffic, as the inspect directive has no meaning.

ZBF configuration workflow

1. diagram out your zones and policies
a. determine if you need nested classes
i. i.e. match x protocols for y hosts
2. define zones
3. define parameter maps if called for (advanced)
4. create traffic selectors
protocol matching
5. create policy maps
a. call class(es)
b. set action
6. create zone pairs and assign policies
7. assign interfaces to zones
8. test policies
9. review output to verify

Best practices

1. good naming convention: type, direction.
a. ex: for layer 3/4 class map something like: CM-IN2OUT
b. ex: layer 7 CM-L7-BLOCKED-SITES
2. call class-default with drop log action to catch errors
3. pro tip: you can flip a class between match-any and match-all by just re-inputing the command. don’t have to remove re-add

Verification commands

1. show zone security – shows zone interface assignment
2. show zone pair security – verify overall configuration
3. show policy-map type inspect zone-pair – shows statistics for zone pair
4. show policy-map type inspect zone-pair sessions | s Established – shows connection table info.
5. show run | s class|policy|parameter|zone – basic dump of the config elements

Challege lab

This lab topology takes ZBFW and places it in the context of a typical branch office network doing Direct Internet Access (DIA).  The zip contains the challenge and a solution.  enjoy!

SEC-4.5.1 Troubleshooting Web Authentication (WebAuth) for ISE

Greetings programs!

In this post, I’m going to go through my troubleshooting workflow for webauth redirect.


Webauth redirect is a core function of providing Network Access control with Identity Services Engine ISE.  It’s used for a number of critical authentication flows, and when it does not work, you will not be able to provide guest access or onboard devices.

Taken as a whole the configuration and processes between ISE and the Network Access devices (NADs, which are Switches, and Wireless LAN Controllers) is quite complex, especially in the case of the switches.  Trying to troubleshoot by staring at pages and pages of config, and making random google searches is going to be slow and painful.  It’s much better to understand the information flow and dependencies, and using the device output to logically deduce where the problem lies.

Lab Setup

Network Topology

This is the toplogy we’re going to use for our example. It’s a cobbled together lab.  ISE is running in a remote location, the vWLC is running in esxi on an intel NUC in my home lab.

ISE Configuration

Our ISE configuration is going to as simple as I can make it. This will be our policy:

Policy Sets

There will be separate policy sets for wired and wireless for the sake of clarity.

Authentication policy

  • Mac Address Bypass (MAB)
    Continue if authentication fails

Authorization Policy

  • IT – MAC addresses in the IT group get full access to the network
  • GUEST – Guest users Will have access to the internet only
  • Webauth Redirect – If the connecting device is unknown to ISE, we’ll:
    • Apply an ACL that restricts network access to the bare minimum
    • Redirect the user to a registration portal.

Guest Registration Portal Configuration

To keep things simple, we’re going to allow self registration, which is not something you would normally do.  After registering, the MAC address of the user’s device will be placed in the GuestEndpoints Group, which is the default for ISE.


WebAuth Redirect process flow

At a high level a basic flow works like this:

  1. Unkown device connects to network
  2. ISE returns a result to the Network Access Device (NAD) with a redirect URL.
  3. when the user tries to connect to a website the NAD intercepts the HTTP get request and returns a 302 redirect, pointing towards the web portal on ISE.  The redirect also contains the Radius session ID and the original url the user was trying to reach.
  4. The user and device are onboarded.
    1. in the case of guests, the mac address of the device is stored in the endpoint database and associated with a guest endpoint group
    2. for BYOD, the device will be issued a certificate for dot1x authentication
  5. after onboarding, ISE will send a Change of Authorization (CoA) to the NAD.  This re-triggers the authentication process as if the user had just connected.
  6. Because the Device is now known to ISE, it should match an authorization rule, giving the device network access.

Troubleshooting workflow

To troubleshoot efficiently, it’s important to have a workflow that produces consistent results, then you need to trust it!  It can be tempting to take shots in the dark hoping for the quick fix, but in the long run a process oriented approach will be consistently more productive and less stressful.

Troubleshooting workflow summary:

  1. Trigger the process
    1. connect to network
    2. issue http get via web brower
  2. Check the radius log on ISE to verify output
  3. Check the Authentication result on the Switch/WLC to verify output
  4. Determine what stage of the flow the fault is occurring at
  5. Check dependencies for the failed portion of the flow
  6. Correct what appears to be the problem.
  7. Trigger the process again
    1. If it’s still not working did we fix a fault?
      1. if not, put the change back
        1. return to step 1
      2. If still not working but a fault was fixed
        1. go to step 5

Now that we have our troubleshooting flow written down, let’s get started


Wireless WebAuth Redirect

on the WLC, the Redirect ACL uses opposite processing logic from the switches.   Permit means “dot not redirect this traffic”.  All other traffic will be redirected.  This means we don’t have to bother with referencing an airespace ACL on the WLC as the implicit deny will prevent the remaining traffic from going anywhere.

Additionally, ACLs on the WLC have the following additional differences.

  1. They use natural masks not wildcard masks
  2. They’re bidirectional
    1. you must define the flow in both directions

Dependencies on the WLC

  1. Redirect ACL
    1. must be defined on the WLC
  2. CoA support
    1. disabled by default when defining a radius server
  3. MAC filtering on the layer 2 security configuration

Troubleshooting a wireless problem

Portal page doesn’t load in the browser

Typically a problem with the redirect ACL on the WLC.  Steps to investigate:

  1. Check ISE livelog for webauth redirect status
  2. Check Client Status on WLC
  3. Check webauth ACL.
    1. Make sure DNS is able to resolve hostname in URL
    2. Ensure ACL is permitting the ip address of the ISE node

User does not gain access to the network after logging in to portal

Common causes:

VLAN change in portal config without Java capable browser

Changing VLANs at the end of a guest flow requires the the user to download and run the NAC Agent to release and renew the IP address of the client. The NAC agent is Java based, and not supported in current web browsers. Vlan change for guest flows is not a good idea.

Enabling this setting will trigger a java applet download to run the NAC agent when the users completes log in.  Probably not a good idea.

Change of authorization Failure

CoA is disabled by default in the Radius server configuration on the WLC, so it’s probably a common fault.  Let’s use this one as an example of how to look at the device output to work out what’s going on.

First place to look is the Radius LiveLog.  Looking at the sequence of events, we can see that the client hit the webauth rule, logged in, and then something went wrong.

We already know from glancing at this that first few steps worked and the user access the portal, but let’s take the opportunity to look at output on ISE and WLC for the webauth redirect step.

Checking the initial log entry on ISE (this is at the very bottom):

there’s the redirect with the with the session id.  The user-name is the mac address of the wireless in the client.

Now let’s go to the WLC and take a look:

the redirect URL and redirect ACL have been applied to the client.  The WLC has client in a Central Web Auth State.

Let’s take a quick look at the redirect ACL.

Redirect ACL allows DNS and traffic to and from ISE.  all non http/s traffic will be dropped.  HTTP/s traffic will be intercepted and the redirect mesages with the redirect URL will be send to the client.

So everything looks good until the end.  Let’s take a look at that last log entry in ISE.

Change of Authorization Failure.

Ok, let’s go take a look at the configuration on the WLC.

Sure enough.  Change of Authorization was disabled.

Ok, let’s enable CoA, delete the endpoint and guest account from ISE, and give it another try.

Let’s break down what’s going on here.

  1. User gets redirected
  2. He signs in
  3. mac address of the deivce is added to the guest endpoints Identity group
  4. Change of Authorization is sent to the WLC
  5. The WLC authenticates the user against ISE
  6. The authentication request loops back through our Authorization policy only this time it it hits on our wireless guest rule because the device is now in the guest endpoints group.

Ok that was cool right?


Wired WebAuth Redirect

From the perspective of ISE


This screenshot depicts the set of Radius attributes that are sent down to the NAD.  There are 4 items.

  1. Radius Access-Accept
  2. The Downloadable ACL to restrict network access
  3. The redirect URL for guest registration portal
  4. The Redirect ACL

The Redirect ACL is the always the confusing part.  Put simply, The redirect ACL tells the switch what traffic NOT to redirect and what traffic to intercept for redirection.  This solves a chicken and egg problem.  If http get requests to ISE were intercepted by the switch, what you would have is a redirect loop and you would never reach the portal.

Short answer: Permit means “redirect this traffic”.  Deny means “leave this traffic alone”.

Keep in mind however only http/https traffic can actually be redirected.  The Switch uses the built in web server to create the http redirect message that’s sent back to the client web browser.

Dependencies on the Switch

In addition to the normal radius and dot1x stuff that’s required, WebAuth requires some additional items.

  1. Redirect ACL
    1. is defined locally on the switch
  2. Authentication proxy
    1. needed to support web authentication feature
  3. CoA Support
    1. needed to initiate re-authentication after registering in the portal
  4. IP Device tracker
    1. Needed for the Enforcement Policy Module (EPM) to have awareness of the endpoint’s ip address.
  5. HTTP/HTTPS server enabled
    1. The switches onboard web server is what intercepts the connection request, handshakes with the client’s web browsers, sends the redirect message.

Ok, let’s apply our troubleshooting workflow to a wired problem.

Troubleshooting a Wired problem

User doesn’t get portal page when connecting.

Just like with wireless, we start by looking at log and device output to narrow the scope.

Let’s start with the radius log.  It looks like we’re stopped at webauth redirect.

Let check the switch.

we can see we’re on switchport g1/0/1 and that the port is in the state we expect.  so why isn’t it working?  Let’s check the Redirect ACL.

Redirect ACL looks good.  hmm.  What are our other dependencies?  Ah!

Http server is not running.  ok let’s fix that and try again.

What?  Why is the switch sending a reset instead of redirecting?  we know the http server being shut off was an problem.  It must mean there’s another fault with the switch.  Let’s check for ip device tracking.


What’s this, command doesn’t work?  Better check the documentation.

Ah, looks like our trusty dot1x template for ios-xe 15 isn’t working so well for ios 16, now we have to use some different commands to get ip device tracking to work.  So let’s do that:


These are hard problems to solve because you have multiple faults and when the first thing you find doesn’t fix it, it’s easy to start doubting yourself.  maybe it’s a problem with the endpoint etc.  But by trusting the Radius logs, device output, and our knowledge of the process flow, we can deduce where the problem has to be, and you have to follow the output where it leads you.

I hope this was helpful.  It’s helpful for me to write it down.


Until next time.



SEC-3.3.1 FlexVPN challenge/Exploration lab

Greetings programs!

This is a lab topology I put together in EVE-NG to help me sharpen up my knowledge and skills with IKev2/FlexVPN. The baseline configuration uses pre-shared keys and there’s quite a bit of preconfigure.


Screenshot of topology

Here’s a screenshot of the topology.  I’ll give a big shout out to whomever can explain why tunnel 100 between r1 and r2 exists.  🙂


There’s two initial versions in the repo.

  • There’s the actual challenge lab where I removed some bits of config here and there to make it more fun.
  • There’s a partially completed version using pre-share keys.  flex mesh works, the ASA part works, flex client works.  No config on R7.  You could use this as a starting point to work on the tasks in the lab.



Challenge lab proper

Challenge lab with working basic config

Fire it up and let me know what you think!  If you get everything working, feel free to do a pull, inject some faults and create some troubleshooting labs.   Here’s the link to the github repo:

Happy labbing!


1.5.2 FTD & ASA NAT – Terminology, ACL Logic


Welcome to part 2 of this series of blog posts covering Network Address Translation on the ASA and Firepower threat Defense.  In this installment, we’re going to cover some terminology.

Notes on (confusing) terminology

Something that has always made NAT somewhat confusing to work with is overlapping terminology.  And it’s not just between vendors, or even vendor platforms, but also within the product documentation and the implementation of the same product.

Here’s the most relevant example.  The first screenshot is from the ASA 9.6 documentation. CLI book 2, NAT section.  The second screenshot is show output from an ASA that has the items referenced in the documentation snippet configured.

If you are brand new to the ASA, you’d never know from looking at these images that they are referencing the exact same thing.  When you’re trying to learn and discern what’s important, this terminology discrepancy presents an impediment.  This section is intended to help with that as best as I can.

Overall there are two categories where the terminology can be a bit confusing.  The first is items referred to with one term in the documentation, and a different one in the device .  We’ll call these synonymous terms:

The second is terms for what I would call use cases in the documentation, that don’t have an analog in the device configuration.  It’s just a term for specific use.  We’ll call these use case terms

When discussing configuring the technology where terms are synonymous, I’ll do my best to always use the term that’s referenced in the device configuration as it’s the most relevant.

When discussing use cases, I’ll point out where there’s a specific term defined for that use, but it’s not used anywhere in the device itself.

Synonymous terms

Auto NAT = Object NAT

They are the same thing,  the documentation calls it Object NAT, the command line interface calls it Auto NAT.  It’s called Object NAT in the documentation because the translation is always the property of an object.

!——-auto nat example—–!
object network foo
nat (i,o) static

Manual NAT = Twice NAT

They are exactly the same thing.  It’s called Twice NAT in the documentation to signify that both source and destination fields in the packet can be matched and altered.  NOTE: This can also be done with object NAT on a limited basis by using multiple statements, one in each direction.

!——-manual nat example—–!
object network foo
object network MAP-foo
object puppy
object MAP-puppy
nat (i,o) source static foo MAP-foo destination static puppy MAP-puppy

Use Case Terms

Identity NAT

Identity NAT is a use of Manual NAT.  The firewall is instructed  not to translate any of the fields in the flow.  This is used in situations where you would be performing NAT for most traffic flows, but you want to exempt speicifc destinations from translations.

The most common case for Identity NAT is VPN traffic..  As NAT is performed prior to encryption, most of the time you’ll want to make sure that the firewall doesn’t translate the source IP of the return packets, which prevent it from being sent over the tunnel as it would no longer match the crypto ACL.  Even if for the sake of argument the packet did get sent over the tunnel, because it’s source address has been altered, the receiving host would not recognize the packet as part of a flow and it would be dropped.

Here’s an illustrated example:

Policy NAT

Policy NAT is a use of manual NAT.  The term policy means setting the condition based on a specific destination.  Identity NAT does the same thing, but the difference is in the case of policy NAT a translation will be performed.

A common use for Policy NAT is Extranets and Software as a Service (SaaS) providers.  These types of connectivity typically call for the customer server to be seen as coming from a specific Mapped address.

For example, let’s say Server-web runs a web app that’s accessed from the Internet with Mapped address of  A  SaaS provider needs to get information from this server, but the server-web must appear to be at the IP address, which has been designated by the SaaS provider.

Here’s a graphical representation:


Destination NAT

A strict definition of Destination NAT is Manual Nat where destination address and/or port number is being translated.  On the surface this implies the use of manual NAT, as it’s the only form of NAT that allows us to map the destination address or port to a different value.

Considered this for a moment:

Object network Server-A-In
nat (i,o) static
Object network Server-A-Out
host host
nat (o,i)

These two statements produce the exact same end result.  The distinction being with the second object, we’re making the public facing address the real address and the internal address the mapped address.   So the term destination NAT is really a matter of perspective.

Access Control Rule Processing and NAT

Access control rules in ASA NAT are always applied to the real address.  This is really very straightforward, but it can be a bit counter-intuitive at first.  Let’s illustrate with a simple example:

Let’s say we have a web server in a DMZ, and we want to allow access to it from the internet.

Object network server-web
nat (d,o) static
access-list outside-in permit tcp any host eq www
access-group outside-in in interface outside

The intuitive thing would be to consider that an internet user would use the address to access the web server, therefore that would be the destination IP you would use in the access control list.  so this is very confusing.  A good way to think of this is that we’re really applying the ACL to the object.  Since the object can only have one real address, but potentially many mapped addresses, it makes sense for the ACL logic work this way.

In fact, using objects and object groups in Access-control lists instead of bare ip addresses is quite handy.  If you get in the mindset of working with objects instead of addresses (which are the properties of an object), the operational logic of the ASA then becomes more intuitive.

Let’s re-write our ACL to use the object instead:

Object network server-web
nat (d,o) static
access-list outside-in permit tcp any host object server-web eq www
access-group outside-in in interface outside

Makes more sense now right?


Wrap up

My goodness, where does the time go.  In our next installment we’ll we’ll talk about static and dynamic NAT and PAT, services, objects and object groups.

1.5.1 FTD & ASA NAT – Introduction


In this series of posts, I’m going to discuss NAT on Firepower and the ASA in the way that I comprehend it. For this post I don’t plan on to getting too far into the configuration and verification aspects, we’ll dive into that later.

It’s not as complex as it looks.  Really.

In my opinion this is one of those topics where the difficulty level can be measured by the quality of your foundation knowledge. Put plainly – if you can clearly visualize what the traffic flow should look like, then it’s easy.   The actual configuration syntax is easy to learn and work with.  And although the configuration interface may look different, there is in actuality zero difference between FTD and ASA NAT.  So you only have to learn it once for both platforms, nice right?!?

Armed with these insights, let’s do a level set on traffic flows.  This baseline will give NAT syntax and semantics their context, so please at least skim it.  You can always come back to it as needed.

The 5 tuple flow (and stateful firewalls).

A unique IP traffic flow is defined by 5 fields.

  • Source IP address
  • Destination IP address
  • Transport protocol (Ex: TCP/UDP)
  • Source port
  • Destination port

For the purpose of working with NAT, I find it helpful to visualize this in a left to right fashion like this:

[| | TCP | 50922 | 80]

In this example a device at is communicating with a web server at

A conversation between two hosts can be seen as two unidirectional Flows were the IP addresses and Ports are a mirror image in the reverse direction.

Taking our above example, that is what the two flows in the conversation look like:

[ | | TCP | 50922 | 80]
[ | | TCP | 80 | 50922]

And that’s pretty much what it looks like in a packet capture:

firewall# capture example int inside
firewall# sh capture example

5 packets captured

1: 00:39:03.453925 > […] 1520352048:1520352048(0) win 4128 <mss 536>
2: 00:39:03.459921 > […]


A stateful firewall recognizes these mirror image flows and identifies them as related.  This simplifies usage – we only have to define our traffic rules in one direction, and the firewall can imply how the return traffic should be processed.

This logic also applies to NAT.  If you define the flow in one direction, the NAT engine in the firewall processes the mirror image packets to look for a match.

Note how the firewall sees the two flows as a single connection:

firewall# sh conn
1 in use, 1 most used

TCP outside inside, idle 0:00:07, bytes 0, flags UB

Nat rule types

FTD and the ASA have two types of NAT rules:  Auto and Manual.

Auto Nat

Auto NAT is the simplest and easiest form of NAT to configure.  I think of it as the microwave popcorn button of NAT.    We define a network object, then attach a NAT statement to the object that tells that firewall what translation we want to perform based on the source and destination interface.

Here is a basic example:

Object network Server-A
nat (inside,outside) static

This is how the fields relate to the flow:

Original packet:
[ | | TCP | 80 | 50922]
Translated packet:
[ | | TCP | 80 | 50922]

The individual components:.

Host – The firewall will evaluate this against the first interface in the NAT statement.  With object NAT this is always going to be the source IP address

Nat (inside,outside) – The source ip address is coming from the inside interface of the router, and the destination ip address is on the outside interface of the router.  the destination interface is determined by the routing table.

Static – The source and destination address will be linked together in a fixed 1:1 relationship.  This is most commonly used for servers that require a fixed public (mapped) ip address.  Examples would be a web or email server.  – The mapped (public) ip address.  If source address, source interface, and destination interfaces all match, then the firewall will perform the translation.

Here’s what our NAT table looks like with the Auto Nat Rule Configured:

firewall# sh nat

Auto NAT Policies (Section 2)
1 (inside) to (outside) source static Server-A
translate_hits = 0, untranslate_hits = 0

Manual NAT

Manual NAT is useful for more advanced requirements, such as translating multiple fields in both directions, and conditional translation.

Happily, the way the NAT configuration syntax is structured makes it very easy to work with  once one can relate the fields in the flow to how that NAT statements are laid out.

In Manual Nat, the full five tuple flow can be matched and transformed. Be aware that unlike object Nat where the mapped address can be given directly, Manual Nat requires that all addresses/ranges/subnets in the statement be predefined as objects.

Manual NAT basic example:

Object network Server-A
Object network MAP-Server-A
nat (inside,outside) source static Server-A MAP-Server-A

As you can see, when you’re doing simple source translation Manual NAT requires more lines of configuration to accomplish the same result as auto nat.

Here’s what our NAT rule looks like for the above manual NAT example:

firewall# sh nat
Manual NAT Policies (Section 1)
1 (inside) to (outside) source static Server-A MAP-Server-A
translate_hits = 0, untranslate_hits = 0

Let’s look at common use for Manual NAT.  We’ll dive deeper in a subsequent post, This is just to give you a starting example.

Let’s say you’ve configured the Auto NAT translation shown earlier.  You are then asked to create a site to site VPN with a branch office.  In that case, when users from the branch office attempt to connect to Server-A, the auto NAT rule will kick in, translating the source address of the server on the return leg, and traffic will not return over the VPN tunnel.——————————————————————–>
*source IP in return traffic is translated, breaking the flow

So how do we fix this problem?  We use manual NAT to tell the firewall not to translate the address of Server-A when the destination is Branch-PC.  Like This:

Object network Srv-A
Object network Br-PC
nat (inside,outside)  source static Srv-A Srv-A destination static Br-PC Br-PC

Here is the generalized form is what this statement is doing:
(incoming, exit) static source real mapped destination static real mapped

The important thing to grasp is that for both source and destination, we’re setting a condition.  Match this . If all conditions match, then change to this.

We’re telling the firewall, if you have this source and destination pair, Don’t change anything.  This overrides the Auto NAT and allows it and our VPN connection to co-exist.  This a use called Identity NAT.


Nat rule table structure

The Nat rule Table has Three sections.

  1. Manual before auto

  2. Auto

  3. Manual After Auto

The user can set the order of the Manual NAT rules.  The Auto Nat rule order is set by the firewall automatically from most to least specific traffic match.  i.e. a host object would be ordered before a subnet object.

NAT table with Auto NAT rule, plus the identity nat override

firewall# sh nat
Manual NAT Policies (Section 1)
1 (inside) to (outside) source static Srv-A Srv-A destination static Br-PC Br-PC
translate_hits = 0, untranslate_hits = 0

Auto NAT Policies (Section 2)
1 (inside) to (outside) source static Server-A
translate_hits = 0, untranslate_hits = 0

Now a reason to order Manual NAT ahead of Auto NAT makes some sense right?

Wrap up

Well that’s quite a few words for an introduction, so let’s stop here.  In our next post we’ll go deeper into the terminology and usage examples .

3.11 FlexVPN – Flex Server w/Next Generation Encryption. Routing Design, Device enrollment


This is a kickoff post for a series demonstrating the capabilities of FlexVPN server.

Since we’re building up this sample network from a clean sheet of paper, we’re going all in.  We’re going to build ourselves a solid foundation, and then up the ante with high availability and integration with Identity Services Engine down the road.

The base build is going to use Next Generation Encryption (NGE), Elliptic curve certificates, and overlay routing design.  We’ll also demonstrate how we can support a site with an older design (firewall w/crypto maps) with the exact same head end.

In this installment, we’re going to review the routing design, cryptography suite selection, and enroll our devices with shiny 384 bit elliptic curve certificates.

Included at the end of this post are links to useful documents.



Great slide deck on FlexVPN

Densemode Labbing Topology 1

Cisco Next Generation Encryption Techology Document

Tim Glen breaks down Diffie Hellman Groups

RFC 6379: Suite B Cryptographic Suites for IPsec

Elliptic Curve Cryptography

3.10 FlexVPN Smart Defaults


In this installment we’re going to take a quick look a the main configuration blocks for FlexVPN on Cisco IOS devices.  then we will take advantage of smart defaults to turn up a tunnel with just a handful of commands.

Here’s the config from the video.  As you can see it’s ridiculously easy to use. There’s 5 lines of config that relate to ipsec.  That’s it.

PKI for Network Engineers (9/?): Elliptic Curve Setup

Greetings fellow networkers,

In this installment of PKI for network engineers, we’re going to build up our two tier Elliptic Curve PKI hierarchy in one shot.  There are a lot of tasks, but only a few of them differ from our RSA setup.  I’ll highlight those below.

  1. Cryptographic service provider and Hash algorithm.
    1. I’m using ECDSA 384 and SHA384
      1. Although the Microsoft CA supports 521 bit EC Keys, Cisco IOS maxes at 384
  2. No NDES/SCEP.  NDES supports RSA only for in-band device enrollment
    1. There is a new standard called EST (enrollment over secure transport)
      1. IOS and IOS-XE support EST as clients
      2. There’s an open source project called libEST you can use to test.
      3. Cisco ISE as of version 2.2 supports EST
  3. Web enrollment doesn’t support version 3 or 4 templates
    1. When duplicating templates, be aware of this fact
  4. Mind your signatures and public key algorithms.
    1. RSA public keys can be signed by a EC CA and vice versa.  Keep this in mind when creating your templates and take care to test them and inspect your certificates to make sure you’re getting what you think you’re getting




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