Cisco ASA Firewall Review

Standard reports allow us to constantly monitor our environment and take corrective steps


What is our primary use case?

We use the Cisco firewall for a number of things. We've got VPN tunnels, IPsec tunnels. We also use it for basic network layer filtering for our internal service, because we have a number of services that we offer out to clients, so that is the first device that they come across when they get into the network.

We have a network of six remote sites and we use proxy to go to the internet, and from the internet Cisco is the first line of defense. We have internet banking services that we offer to our clients, and that also makes use of the Cisco firewall as the first line of defense. And we've got a number of servers, a Hyper-V virtual environment, and we've got a disaster recovery site.

We had VAPT (vulnerability assessment and pen testing) done by external people to see our level of security from inside and outside and they managed to find some deficiencies inside. That's when they recommended that we should put in network access control. By integrating the ASA with Cisco ISE, that is what we are trying to achieve.

The whole idea is to make sure that any machines that are not on our domain should not be able to connect to the network. They should be blocked.

We also have Cisco switches deployed in our environment. All our active switches are Cisco. The ASA is integrated with them. This integration was done by a combination of our Cisco partner and in-house, because we did this at the time of setting up the infrastructure in 2016.

How has it helped my organization?

The benefits we see from the ASA are connected to teleworking as well as, of course, having the basic functionality of a firewall in place and the prevention of attacks. The VPN is also helpful.

What is most valuable?

Among the most valuable features are the reports which are generated according to the rules that we've put in place to either block traffic or report suspicious attempts to connect to our network. They would come standard with any firewall and we're always monitoring them and taking any corrective steps needed.

What needs improvement?

We have the ASA integrated with Cisco ISE for network access control. The integration was done by our local Cisco partner. It took them about a month to really get the solution up and running. I would like to believe that there was some level of complexity there in terms of the integration. It seems it was not very easy to integrate if the experts themselves took that long to really come up with a working solution. Sometimes we had to roll back during the process.

Initially, when we put it up, we were having issues where maybe it would be barring things from users completely, things that we wanted the users to access. So we went through fine tuning and now I think it's working as we expect.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using Cisco ASA NGFW since 2016, when we launched.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The ASA is utilized 100 percent of the time. It's up all the time as it's a perimeter firewall. It's always up. It's our first line of defense. It's quite robust, we've never had issues with it. It's very stable.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We haven't maxed it out in terms of its capacity, and we've got up to about 200 users browsing the internet at any given time. In terms of throughput, we've got an ASA 5525 so it handles capacity pretty well. There aren't any issues there.

How are customer service and technical support?

We have a Cisco partner, so if ever we did have issues we'd go through them, but up until now — this bank has been open for four years — we've never had an issue with the Cisco firewall.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We went with Cisco because it's a reputable brand and we also have CCNP engineers in our team as well. It's the brand of choice. We were also familiar with it from our past jobs.

What was our ROI?

The ROI is the fact that we haven't been attacked.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It's a brilliant firewall, and the fact that it comes with a perpetual license really does go far in terms of helping the organization in not having to deal with those costs on an annual basis. That is a pain point when it comes to services like the ones we have on FortiGate. That's where we really give Cisco firewalls the thumbs up.

From the point of view of total cost of ownership, the perpetual licensing works well in countries like ours, where we are facing challenges with foreign exchange. Trying to set up foreign payments has been a challenge in Zimbabwe, so the fact that we don't have to be subscribed and pay licenses on an annual basis works well. If you look at FortiGate, it's a good product, but we are always under pressure when renewal time comes.

Where Cisco falls a bit short is because of the fact that, if I want IPS, I have to buy another license. That's why I have my reservations with it. If I want Cisco AnyConnect, I have to buy another license. That's where we have challenges. That's unlike our next-gen FortiGate where everything comes out-of-the-box.

What other advice do I have?

My advice is "go for it," 100 percent. If ever I was told to implement a network, ASA would definitely be part and parcel of the solution.

The biggest lesson we've learned from using the product is about the rapid growth of the product's offerings.

In terms of the maturity of our organization's security implementation, I would like to believe that we are about midway. We still need to harden our security. We need to conduct penetration testing every two years and, resources permitting, maybe yearly. The guys out there who do cyber security crimes are becoming more and more advanced, so there is a need for us to also upgrade our security.

We have a two-layer firewall setup, which is what is recommended as the standard for the payment card industry. We probably need solutions linked with cloud providers from the likes of Cisco, and to put in some bank-grade intrusion detection solutions. Because we have already adopted two technologies, Cisco and FortiGate, we might be looking at solutions from those two providers.

We're also looking at end-point security solutions. We've been using the one which comes with our Office 365 and Microsoft product, Windows Defender. We are going to be trialing their new end-point management solution. We are trying to balance things from a cost point of view and providing the right level of security.

In addition to Windows Defender and the firewalls — ASA and FortiGate — and the network access control, we also have SSL for the website.

As for application visibility and control, currently we're just using logging. We don't have the Firepower installed, so it's just general logging and scheduled checks here and there. As for threat visibility, for us the ASA is a perimeter firewall. Behind that firewall we have an IDS and an IPA. We actually have the license for Firepower but we haven't implemented it; it was just an issue of priorities at the time.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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...who work at a Financial Services Firm
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