Signature-based defense is used against known attacks or vulnerability exploits. These often involve an attacker attempting to gain access to your network. The attacker must communicate with the host in an attempt to gain access, and this communication includes commands or sequences of commands and variables. The IPS signatures include these command sequences, allowing the FortiGate unit to detect and stop the attack.
This section describes the following components used in signature-based defense:
- IPS signatures
- Protocol decoders
- IPS engine
- IPS sensors
- IPS filters
- Custom and predefined signature entries
IPS signatures are the basis of signature-based intrusion prevention. Every attack can be reduced to a particular string of commands or a sequence of commands and variables. Signatures include this information, and FortiGate uses the information to detect and stop attacks.
Signatures also include characteristics about the attack they describe. These characteristics include the network protocol associated with the attack, the vulnerable operating system, and the vulnerable application.
To view the complete list of signatures, go to Security Profiles > IPS Signatures. The list of signatures includes predefined and custom signatures. You can hover over the name of the IPS signature to display a pop-up window that includes an ID number. You can click the ID number to display the FortiGuard page.
Before examining network traffic for attacks, the IPS engine uses protocol decoders to identify each protocol appearing in the traffic. Attacks are protocol-specific, so your FortiGate unit conserves resources by looking for attacks only in the protocols used to transmit them. For example, the FortiGate unit will only examine HTTP traffic for the presence of a signature describing an HTTP attack.
Once the protocol decoders separate the network traffic by protocol, the IPS engine examines the network traffic for the attack signatures by using IPS sensors.
The IPS engine does not examine network traffic for all signatures. The IPS engine examines network traffic for signatures specified in IPS sensors. You must first create an IPS sensor, and then you can specify what signatures the IPS sensor will use. You can add individual signatures to IPS sensors, or you can add filters to IPS sensors, and the filters automatically include the applicable signatures.
To view IPS sensors, go to Security Profiles > Intrusion Prevention. To create a new sensor, click Create New.
An IPS sensor is composed of IPS signatures and filters. Under IPS Signatures and Filters, click Create New to create a set of IPS signatures or a set of IPS filters.
You can create IPS sensors for specific types of traffic, and then select the IPS sensors in firewall policies designed to handle the same type of traffic. For example, you can specify all of the web-server related signatures in an IPS sensor, and select the IPS sensor in a firewall policy that controls all traffic to and from a web server that is protected by the FortiGate unit.
The FortiGuard Service periodically adds new predefined signatures to counter new threats. New predefined signatures are automatically included in IPS sensors that are configured to use filters when the new signatures match existing filter specifications. For example, if you have an IPS sensor with a filter that includes all signatures for the Windows operating system, your filter will automatically incorporate new Windows signatures that the FortiGuard Service adds to the database.
IPS signature and filter entries are checked from top down. When a signature is found in a set of signatures or filters, the action defined for the signature is taken.
IPS sensors can contain one or more IPS filters. A filter is a collection of signature attributes that you specify. The signatures that have all of the attributes specified in a filter are included in the IPS filter.
Following are the attribute groups:
When selecting multiple attributes within the same group, the selections are combined by using a logical
OR. When selecting multiple attributes between attribute groups, each attribute group is combined by using a logical
Once you select filters in the GUI, the filtered list of IPS signatures are displayed. Adjust your filters accordingly to construct a suitable list for your needs.
For example, if your FortiGate unit protects a Linux server running the Apache web server software, you could create a new filter to protect it. By setting OS filter attribute to Linux, and the filter attribute Application to Apache, the filter will include only the signatures that apply to both Linux and Apache. If you wanted to scan for all the Linux signatures and all the Apache signatures, you would create two filters, one for each.
To view the filters in an IPS sensor, go to Security Profiles > Intrusion Prevention, select the IPS sensor, and click Edit.
Custom and predefined signature entries
Signature entries allow you to add individual, custom or predefined IPS signatures to an IPS sensor. If you need only one signature, or you want to manually select multiple signatures that don’t fall into the criteria for an IPS filter, adding a signature entry to an IPS sensor is the easiest way. Signature entries are also the only way to include custom signatures in an IPS sensor.
To select an individual signature, click a signature, and select Add Selected. The signature moves to the Selected list.
To select multiple signatures, use the Search bar to perform a keyword search, and then click Add All Results to move all entries to the Selected list.
Overriding the default action
Each IPS signature comes with a default action such as Block and Pass. In some scenarios, you may want to override this action. You can override a set of IPS filter or signatures. By default, a set of IPS filter or signatures has an action of Default, which applies a signature’s default action when the signature is matched. By changing the action, you can override the setting for all signatures within the filter or signature set.
You must select an IPS sensor in a security policy or an interface policy to apply the IPS sensor to traffic. An IPS sensor that it not selected in a policy is not applied to network traffic.