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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Netgear ProSecure STM600: web filtering made easy

With its bump-in-the-wire design, the Netgear ProSecure STM600 is easy to slip in and out of small networks to protect end users and control web usage. Web filtering on the STM600 includes antimalware scanning, category-based URL filtering, local block and allow lists, and some very basic content scanning, including blocking certain HTTP download file types and file extensions.

Although the web security settings on the Netgear ProSecure STM600 are system-wide, you do have the capability to apply some per-user rules which will override the basic settings. These can be done based on IP address or based on user authentication. We tested the STM600 by linking it to our corporate directory with RADIUS and Active Directory to verify that we could write rules so that some users could have full internet access with minimal content filtering, while others were restricted to a subset of sites. The mechanisms in the STM600 are a good match for the small business market.

The Netgear ProSecure STM600 can also inspect HTTPS traffic, a critical requirement for any web security gateway. The STM600 does this by signing a new digital certificate for any website protected by SSL. (The STM600 comes with a generic signing certificate, or you can supply your own.)

The Netgear ProSecure STM600 splices together the two encrypted connections: one between the STM600 and the real website, and the other between the STM600 and the end user, enabling it to inspect the traffic as it passes by. Of course, this requires the end user to accept the STM600's signing certificate as authentic or the network manager to pre-load it into end user systems, a necessary inconvenience.

We tested the Netgear ProSecure STM600's ability to identify recent viruses on web pages, in encrypted traffic, and found it lived up to its billing. We also tested the category-based URL filtering, and found about the normal success rate at categorisation and blocking.

An additional feature of the Netgear ProSecure STM600, Application Control, didn't show up as well in our testing. These controls purport to give the network manager greater control over applications. With vendors such as Palo Alto Networks pushing this as a key feature in managing end-user access, we were interested to see how the SMB-focused Netgear would do. Answer: not very well.

On the Netgear ProSecure STM600, Application Control includes four main categories of applications: messaging, media, peer-to-peer, and tools. Each category has between three and six applications. In theory, check the box and you turn off BitTorrent. We tested three of the four categories, but none of the applications we tested (BitTorrent, iTunes Music Store, Google Talk) were successfully blocked. Netgear needs to go back to the drawing board on that one.

Because the Netgear ProSecure STM600 sits in-line for all traffic, whether HTTP or not, we ran performance tests to see how well it would behave under load. Running typical loads through the STM600 with antimalware (but without URL filtering), we saw our system max out at 100 percent CPU around 33Mbps. With HTTPS traffic, the STM600 was about 15 percent slower, decrypting, scanning and re-encrypting at about 28Mbps.

Those speeds are fast enough for a typical small business internet connection. However, if you have bulk traffic in your network, such as backups, it would be better to avoid sending that through the Netgear ProSecure STM600, or make sure that you've configured the STM600 not to scan that traffic based on port number or IP address.

Our most significant criticism of the Netgear ProSecure STM600's design as a web security gateway is that it requires the network manager to know ahead of time all the TCP port numbers used to host malware. While most web traffic is running on Port 80 (or 443 for encrypted traffic), someone hosting malware on Port 81, for example, would be able to fly right by the STM600.

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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