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SSL VPN Design Considerations

Chapter Description

This chapter discusses design issues you should consider when you build a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Virtual Private Network (VPN) solution.

Device Placement

SSL VPN appliances are normally placed at the Internet edge of the corporate network. At the Internet edge of the network, other security devices are often deployed to protect the internal network from attacks. This section discusses the device placement issues you should consider when placing the SSL VPN devices among other security services at the edge.

For companies that already have an IPsec-based remote access VPN solution deployed, the device placement considerations should also apply to SSL VPN deployment.

Figure 3-2 shows three common designs for placing the SSL VPN appliances in a medium-sized network.

Figure 3-2

Figure 3-2 SSL VPN Device Placement

The device placement relationship between the SSL VPN appliance and Internet firewall is mainly based on the following two considerations:

  • Do you trust the VPN traffic? In parallel mode, the VPN traffic is trusted and thus sent directly into the internal network after decryption. A high level of security risk is associated with this design. In the other two modes shown in Figure 3-2, VPN traffic is semitrusted and goes through a stateful firewall for access control and access logging.
  • Do you need a firewall to protect the SSL VPN appliance? In parallel and inline mode, apply access control lists (ACL) on the WAN router to allow only the SSL VPN traffic to the SSL VPN appliance. In the DMZ mode, you can put that access control on the Internet firewall and configure more advanced session control to guard against denial of service (DoS) attacks. Because the traffic is encrypted, the firewall will not be able to inspect much SSL traffic. Also, with this design, the firewall sees the VPN traffic twice: once before decryption and once after decryption. Hence, higher performance is required of the firewall.

In all cases, an optional IPS is placed after the VPN decryption to inspect the traffic for attacks. Depending on your security policy and requirements, the IPS can operate in an inline mode or promiscuous mode.

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