Beginner’s Guide to CloudFlare

Summary and Overview

In fully disclosure, at least at the time of this writing, this blog uses CloudFlare but I am not compensated for mentioning it. I am really a fan of the product. In today’s world, sites and servers exposed to the internet are constantly scanned for vulnerabilities and exploits. I happen to look at such logs on a daily basis and see them constantly in a wide variety of systems.

Exploited and attacked systems can have effects that range from a site or network being brought down to sensitive data being stolen and sold to anywhere in between.

Firewalls are great but traditionally they do not inspect and potentially block traffic. Some do and are great, such as Checkpoint and Palo Alto but many times they have a high barrier to entry and require a traditional infrastructure that allows a physical or virtual appliance to exist.

Firewalls at the edge of your network are not great at dealing with Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks because everything is funneling to your firewall. If the DDoS saturates your internet connection, their goal is achieved and legitimate traffic gets dropped too.

Also with new encryption, specifically most TLS connections using Diffie Hellman – it is not enough to load the TLS key on to an intermediary device to decrypt. It must actually terminate to the device, whether that’s CloudFlare, F5, CheckPoint, etc.

Why CloudFlare?

Web Security

Appliances and services like CloudFlare are great because they are specialized to understand HTTP transactions and content and with something like CloudFlare that sees a major chunk of the internet traffic their heuristics are fairly good.

This blog for example is just a web site exposed to the internet, so I will use it as an example for setup and benefits.

Pricing and Tiers

CloudFlare has a few different tiers, ranging from free ($0/month), professional ($20/month), business ($200/month) and enterprise($much more/month). Sometimes its difficult to be knowledgeable of which features exist in each addition until you try to implement them and realize you need the next tier up. That is really my only major gripe with it but it does have a free tier so can one really complain?

Distributed Architecture

Their environment is highly distributed so that local denial or distributed denial of service attacks are typically limited to the region they originate. In a truly distributed attack, the nodes closest to the source of the DDoS tend to not get as overloaded because they catch it closer to the source.

This distributed nature combined with their build in caching also greatly increases performance as static content on your site is cached close to where requestors are requesting it. This helps your site scale and mitigates/minimizes the need to spin up more servers closer to the consumers of your web content.

In a fairly static site like this blog, it helps keep hosting costs lower! This page has some good “marketing” documentation on it –

Beginning Onboarding

Configuration is fairly straight forward. You can sign up online, indicate the domain name. It will then try to pull down your existing DNS records from the existing provider as you will ideally want CloudFlare to host your DNS. This allows it to use AnyCast to provide responses as close to the destination as possible. For those that are a bit skeptical of hosting your DNS with CloudFlare, at the Business level (currently $200/month) you can do a CNAME setup for just domains and subdomains.

Before you point your NS records to CloudFlare, export your records from the current hosting provider and make sure what CloudFlare has matches up.

All of these entries would normally be public but for proxied entries, CloudFlare will actually point it at one of its termination points and forward to this entry. Its a good idea to keep these private so potential attackers do not know the source of the content and attempt to bypass CloudFlare.

Any records that do not need to go through CloudFlare, click on the “Proxied” status and it will change to DNS only.

Once you point your DNS servers at CloudFlare’s and check, you are most of the way there!

Enabling SSL/TLS

SSL has actually be deprecated and replaced by TLS but it has been around that people still call it TLS. You will see it used interchangeably everhwere. This allows CloudFlare to terminate TLS for you. In the earlier days, all static content was plain text/unecrypted via http/80. These days though browsers start to mark that content as insecure, search engines rank those sites lower and people generally look for the lock in their browser that indicates the site is secure. This is whether the content really needs it. For this reason it is important to enable TLS so that users have a better browsing experience and any potential sensitive data is encrypted. Some examples of that are usernames and passwords when logging into a site.

TLS – Full

TLS – Full is the best compromise of all. CloudFlare will issue a certificate to its endpoint, unless you have a custom one you would like to upload. The Business plan is required for custom certificates, otherwise you will get a shared certificate with other random customers of CloudFlare.

Full also encrypts between CloudFlare and your web server/service. This allows end to end encryption. By default CloudFlare will issue a free origin certificate but unless you are in Full (strict) the origin certificate is not validated so it can be a self signed or expired certificate.

Enabling Web Application Firewall

The Web Application Firewall (WAF) is the heart of the protection of CloudFlare. It has a list of protections and vulnerabilities that are enabled based on your needs to better protect your site. In order to help prevent false positives though, it is best to only enable what you need.

You will note that it does require the Professional plan which at the time of this writing is about $20/month.

If you opt for Pro or higher, you can enable the WAF via the following option and then enable the individual managed rules that apply to your site.

The list goes on and on for a bit so this is not all inclusive.

Securing Your Origin

Once you are completely comfortable with CloudFlare, do not forget to secure your origin. By this I mean setup ACLs to restrict connections to only allow CloudFlare to connect to it. This way malicious parties do not simply bypass CloudFlare. This list is always kept up to date –

CheckPoint Syslog Data to Elastic Stack

Recently I had an opportunity to get some exposure Elastic Stack (previously ELK). I had some downtime and a possible need for this and an app team was looking at replacing splunk with it. I will not be going into the install of it here but there are plenty of how-to guides on it and possibly another article.

We produce a ton of CheckPoint logs that were previously going to both the Management Server and proxied to Microsoft OMS via syslog relay. The problem with OMS is it was not indexed by field and at the time of implementation, there was not an easy way to do it. Integrating this into a stack that non infrastructure support staff may have access to was a bonus.

For those not familiar with Elastic Stack, it is primarily made up of Elastic Search (search engine), Logstash (data flow manipulator) and Kibana (web front end). The later versions also implemented beats as a light weight mechanism for pulling in syslog data, file data and a few others without having to load Logstash where the logs reside as it has some beefy memory requirements.

With Logstash, it is very easy to filter CheckPoint data that 1) gets a syslog header wrapped around it due to the proxy and 2) has embedded key value pairs.

Here is a sample of the log

29:51--7:00 CP-GW - Log [[email protected] Action="accept" UUid="{0x5da7ee3f,0x4,0x5679710a,0xc0000005}" rule="42" rule_uid="{0F0D6B41-C4CC-45E1-A059-0753CBAB43E1}" rule_name="Allowed Traffic" src="" dst="" proto="6" product="VPN-1 & FireWall-1" service="1234" s_port="4321" product_family="Network"]

And here is the logstash config to go with it.

  if [type] == "syslog" and "checkpoint" in [tags] {
    grok {
      match => { "message" => "<%{POSINT:priority}>%{SYSLOGTIMESTAMP:syslog_timestamp} %{IPORHOST:checkpoint.cluster}  %{DATA:checkpoint.timestamp} %{IPORHOST:checkpoint.node} %{DATA:checkpoint.product_type} - %{DATA:checkpoint.log_type} \[[email protected]%{DATA:checkpoint.field_id} %{DATA:[@metadata][]}\]" }
      add_field => {
         "received_at" => "%{@timestamp}"
         "received_from" => "%{host}"
      remove_field => [ "host" ]
    mutate {
      gsub => [ "checkpoint.timestamp", "--", "-" ]
    date {
      match => [ "syslog_timestamp", "MMM  d HH:mm:ss", "MMM dd HH:mm:ss" ]
      #This is not quite ISO8601 because it has the timezone on it
      #match => [ "checkpoint.timestamp", "ISO8601" ]
    kv {
        prefix => "checkpoint."
        source => "[@metadata][]"
        transform_key => "lowercase"
    mutate {
      rename => { "" => "checkpoint.protection_name" }
      rename => { "checkpoint.type" => "checkpoint.protection_type" }
      rename => { "checkpoint.level" => "checkpoint.confidence_level" }
      rename => { "checkpoint.profile" => "checkpoint.smartdefense_profile" }
      rename => { "checkpoint.impact" => "checkpoint.performance_impact" }
      rename => { "" => "checkpoint.attack_info" }
      rename => { "checkpoint.src" => "source.ip" }
      rename => { "checkpoint.s_port" => "source.port" }
      rename => { "checkpoint.dst" => "destination.ip" }
      rename => { "checkpoint.service" => "destination.port" }
      rename => { "checkpoint.node" => "hostname" }

output {
  if [type] == "syslog" and "checkpoint" in [tags] and "_grokparsefailure" in [tags] {
    file {
        path => "/var/log/logstash/checkpoint_failure.log"
#         codec => rubydebug

The “grok” filter seems to be a simplified regular expression where you can match data based on the type and is fairly self explanatory for those familiar with Regular Expressions

The “kv” filter is a for the Key/Values in the fields. I could do a better job of using this as the fields sometimes have spaces in them which kv doesn’t match automatically but that’s a word in progress. That’s why the mutate filter is renaming some of the fields.

CheckPoint R77.30 To R80.20 Upgrade Nuances For a n00b

I have been going through a CheckPoint R77.30 to R80.20 upgrade. I was lucky enough to have a “lab” instance to run this through as we plan for production.

In going through this upgrade, I learned a few things being fairly new to CheckPoint.

#1 – Newer Management servers can manage much older Security Gateway. I was concerned that upgrading the management server and leaving it as is for a while which would likely be the case for production would become a major issue but it is well supported by CheckPoint. It appeared that the R80.20 Management server could manage as old as R65 SGs.

#2 – When you have an R80.20 Management server pushing IPS updates to an R77.30 instances, the R80 instance translates the IPS rules since there were major changes. This was a concern because R77 is past End of Support so I wanted to ensure IPS rules could still be downloaded and supported.

#3 – When you actually upgrade the Security Gateway, some of the IPS inspection rules change or act differently. One in particular is the “Non Compliant HTTP” which appears to no longer support HTTP 0.9.

For #3 – What this means is that GET requests without a version will may get blocked by default with the reason “illegal header format detected: Malformed HTTP protocol name in request”

Interestingly enough vendors like F5 by default for http monitors use HTTP 0.9 –

Taken from the article

http example - HTTP 0.9 GET /
HTTP 0.9 GET /

Check_MK ( when setup for distributed monitoring (remote sites) also uses an http “like” protocol that triggers this.

Options are either to add exclusions in the IPS Inspection Setting to bypass the Non Complaint for these specific cases or in the case of F5, create an HTTP 1.0 or higher compliant HTTP check.

f5 http
GET / HTTP/1.1

UPDATE: 2019-11-07 – I decided to kick a ticket around with CheckPoint Support on this one but have not heard back. I imagine since HTTP 1.0 has been around circa 1996 they decided to require it. In doing so they likely forgot many out of the box software is backward compatible to HTTP 0.9

UPDATE: 2019-11-11 – CheckPoint provided me with sk163481. The dates of this are after my ticket so my inquiry most likely triggered this.