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A Heuristic Process for Local Inconsistency Diagnosis in Firewall Rule Sets

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Author(s): Sergio Pozo | Rafael Ceballos | Rafael M. Gasca

Journal: Journal of Networks
ISSN 1796-2056

Volume: 4;
Issue: 8;
Start page: 698;
Date: 2009;
Original page

Keywords: diagnosis | consistency | conflict | anomaly | firewall | acl | ruleset

ABSTRACT
Writing and managing firewall ACLs are hard and error-prone tasks for a wide range of reasons. During these tasks, inconsistent rules can be introduced. An inconsistent firewall ACL implies in general a design error, and indicates that the firewall is accepting traffic that should be denied or vice versa. However, the administrator is who ultimately decides if an inconsistent rule is a fault or not. Although many algorithms to diagnose inconsistencies in firewall ACLs have been proposed, they have different drawbacks regarding many aspects of the consistency management problem, which can prevent their use in a wide range of real-life situations. The most important one is that they give complete and minimal results, but their algorithmic complexity is too high, making the problem intractable for even reasonably-sized ACLs. In this paper we present an analysis of the consistency diagnosis problem in firewall ACLs. Based on this analysis, we propose to split the process in several parts that can be solved sequentially: inconsistency detection and isolation, inconsistent rules identification, and inconsistency characterization. Our algorithms are the first which can solve the detection, isolation, and identification problems in quadratic time complexity, giving complete but not necessarily minimal results. A theoretical complexity analysis as well as experimental results with real ACLs is given.
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