Netgear ProSecure STM600 web security gateway

Although the Netgear ProSecure STM600 doesn't match the feature set and flexibility of some of the high-end web security gateways from vendors such as Bluecoat, Cisco and Trend Micro, it has a robust and solid design appropriate to midsized and small businesses

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Netgear Australia ProSecure STM600

Pros

  • Good web interface

Cons

  • Doesn't match the feature set and flexibility of some high-end web security gateways,

Bottom Line

By making a serious attempt to match the web security needs of small businesses, Netgear has created a product that sits between the relatively spare feature set of the UTM firewall and the expensive depth of enterprise-class web security gateways. The Netgear ProSecure STM600 gives network managers an excellent option to add web security at a reasonable price with minimum risk.

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The Netgear ProSecure STM600 security appliance takes on small-to-midsize business stalwarts such as Fortinet and Barracuda by including antispam, antimalware, and web content filtering in a single unit that offers easy deployment and budget-preserving pricing.

We tested the Netgear ProSecure STM600, the high-end appliance Netgear started shipping in November, and found that it does an adequate job of blocking what you don't want, while making a minimal intrusion into your network.

The Netgear ProSecure STM600 combines two main functions in a single appliance. First is email protections, including antispam and antimalware, as well as some content filtering. Second is web and FTP client protections, including antimalware and content filtering.

The Netgear ProSecure STM600 has an easy-to-use web-based interface, and a separate out-of-band management port, which is a nice feature. In general, most network managers will be able to configure the STM600 in just a few minutes.

The email protection features work on SMTP, POP3 and IMAP4 protocols. You identify what ports you're running these three protocols on, and then define a fairly simple policy on how to handle traffic.

Web protection is slightly more sophisticated. You start with the same configuration: define what ports you run HTTP, Secure-HTTP and FTP on, then say which policies will apply. The Netgear ProSecure STM600 supports malware scanning, content filtering (such as blocking .EXE files or online shopping sites), URL filtering with your own block/allow lists of URLs and sites, application filtering for a list of about 18 common applications, such as BitTorrent, GoToMyPC, and Yahoo Messenger, plus man-in-the-middle HTTPS scanning.

The Netgear ProSecure STM600 also allows HTTP users to authenticate themselves using a Web page, and you can use this authentication to apply exceptions to your basic policy.

Netgear ProSecure STM600: inline ins and outs

The Netgear ProSecure STM600 acts as a "bump in the wire", meaning that it sits transparently in your network, doing its job, without any additional configuration of your web clients, mail servers or DNS. That's quite a departure from other products in this space, which usually act as separate email servers or web proxies.

The advantage is that you don't have to touch anything. But there are also disadvantages. The most obvious is that now the Netgear ProSecure STM600 is sitting "inline" in your network, controlling all traffic. If the STM600 locks up or otherwise starts misbehaving, everything can slow down or be cut off entirely.

Netgear partially works around this by putting fail-open ports on the STM600, which let traffic pass through untouched if the Netgear ProSecure STM600 loses power. We tested this and found that the STM600 is only "mostly" transparent. Both when we power-cycled it, and when it rebooted, we had to clear ARP caches before communications would resume. You've got to be comfortable putting another device in the critical path between your network and the internet to consider this approach.

Another unusual part of the Netgear ProSecure STM600 configuration is that you don't really make it aware of IP addresses, only ports to scan. This means that, by default, the STM600 will scan traffic to every IP address on the ports you list. That can be a benefit, or it could cause mysterious network problems if you don't realise that even your test lab is being filtered. Fortunately, there is a way to exclude specific IP addresses or subnets from scanning.

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