The Quiet Release of the New Cisco Firepower/FTD 6.4 Code
The new Cisco Firepower 6.4 code has some great features. Something for Cisco to be proud of, and I’ll list a few of the top ones in this short article. However, it seemed to me that this release had less fanfare than say the “make it or break it code of 6.2.3”, or the “powerful 6.3 code” releases. Why? is it not as quite as powerful or full or fixes and features? Sure it is; not as much as 6.3, but still a good amount and worth the upgrade.
My thought is that we’ll see that they will make more use of this new code at Cisco Live when they announce some new all-so-powerful FTD devices. For example, you can’t run multiple instances using both ASA and FTD code except on the 9300. The existing 4100’s do not support it. In addition, the low-end 5506 doesn’t support anything above 6.2.3 code. Let’s see what Cisco Live brings us with the new 41×5 and 1000 series devices running the all-new-powerfull 6.4 code.
Worth the upgrade?
Sure, read on and find out. I believe the change in objects is worth it alone. However, they were very clear in the documentation that it’s a faster upgrade and that you’ll see faster deploy times. I upgraded over 20 FMC’s and the 90 minutes was about the same as 6.2.3 to 6.3. Also, there is zero time change in my deployments, but maybe you’ll see different results with this (hopefully!).
I could not for the life of me find these two new features in the Cisco Firepower Release Notes, Version 6.4.0: Object Usage and URL Categories
This is a pretty great new feature: You can now click and find the Object usage.
You can’t however see what rule the object is used in from here, but you can click on the Usage Policy listed, and it will take you to that rule. Very useful.
Another big change, and again not documented, is the URL categories. Firepower will now utilize categories from Cisco’s Talos and not brightcloud. https://www.talosintelligence.com/categories
[UPDATE 5/2/2019: The new URL categories for 6.4 were not implemented in this change as discussed in the beta, so 6.4 is still using bright cloud. This feature has been moved to the 6.5 release.] Here is an example of the new categories:
The ACP has two good changes:
First, you can now configure an external syslog server to receive file/malware events, which are generated by file policies configured on access control rules. Important: File events use message ID 430004, malware events are 430005 (this is not documented in the Cisco Syslog Documentation).
What Cisco doesn’t tell you here is that you still need to go into Devices>Platform Settings>Syslog and configure the MID’s into the Event List to make this work; and you might as well turn on 430001 (identifies an intrusion event), 430002 (identifies a connection event logged at the beginning of the connection) and 430003 (identifies a connection event logged at the end of the connection) well you’re at it.
UPDATE 5/1/19: Cisco just added these to the documentation: https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/td/docs/security/firepower/Syslogs/b_fptd_syslog_guide/security-event-syslog-messages.html#id_105507
Also new inside your ACP is your Analyze Hit counts for your PreFilter and ACP. We’ll see how good this really is as my customers upgrade, but it sounds good.
There are some new CLI commands for this feature as well such as show rule hits that can be run on your FTD. Also, the show failover now contains object static counts related to syncing hit counts between HA peers
Enhancements & Improvements
There were five enhancements to the Firepower Threat Defense Encryption and VPN, however, this is the one I was waiting for the most:
RA VPN: Duo as first factor in two-factor authentication. You can now use a Duo proxy server (which also acts as a RADIUS server) as the first factor in RA VPN two-factor authentication
There were also five enhancements to the Events, Logging, and Analysis of Firepower.
Here is one of them: Cisco Threat Response (CTR) integration via System > Integration > Cloud Services
Cisco Threat Response is a new Cisco offering that you will be able to integrate with Firepower Threat Defense deployments. CTR’s powerful analysis tools will allow you to integrate Firepower event data with data from other sources for a unified view of threats on your network.
Also, Splunk users can use a new, separate Splunk app, Cisco Firepower App for Splunk, to analyze events. If you use Splunk, you need to check this out as it’s pretty cool, plus estreamer is going away soon: https://splunkbase.splunk.com/app/3663/
Connection-based troubleshooting or debugging provides uniform debugging across modules to collect appropriate logs for a specific connection.
It also supports level-based debugging up to 7 levels and enables uniform log collection mechanism for lina and Snort logs.
debug packet start, debug packet start, show packet debugs and clear packet debugs are the new commands
Snort restart improvements for 4100/9300 devices: Before Version 6.4, during Snort restarts, the system dropped encrypted connections that matched a ‘Do not decrypt’ SSL rule or default policy action. Now, routed/transparent traffic passes without inspection instead of dropping, as long as you did not disable large flow offload or Snort preserve-connection.
Faster access control The Version 6.4 upgrade process enables egress optimization which is a performance feature targeted for selected IPS traffic, and this enhances access control performance. Cisco TAC strongly recommend you leave this feature enabled. from the CLI use the command asp inspect-dp egress-optimization, but this is enabled by default and you should leave it as so.
Faster SNMP event logging Performance improvements when sending intrusion and connection events to an external SNMP trap server.
Faster deploy: Cisco mentions that they made improvements to appliance communications and deploy framework for faster deployment times. However, after my upgrade the deploy time was about the same as it was in 6.2.3 and 6.3. Will keep an eye on this one.
Lastly, there were quite a few new features available in FTD 6.4 when configured using Firepower Device Manager (FDM).