In terms of a home network, is there any reason to set up a router firewall so that all outgoing ports are blocked, and then open specific ports for things such as HTTP, HTTPS, etc. Given that every computer on the network is trusted, surely the amount of extra security provided by blocking outgoing ports would be pretty much negligible?
Blocking outbound traffic is usually of benefit in limiting what an attacker can do once they've compromised a system on your network.
So for example if they've managed to get malware onto a system (via an infected e-mail or browser page), the malware might try to "call home" to a command and control system on the Internet to get additional code downloaded or to accept tasks from a control system (e.g. sending spam)
Blocking outbound traffic can help stop this from happening, so it's not so much stopping you getting infected as making it less bad when it's happened.
Could be overkill for a home network tho' as there's a lot of programs which make connections outbound and you'd need to spend a bit of time setting up all the exceptions.
Coming from a security role, particularly if you've ever been involved in incident response, the idea of outbound filtering would seem a natural course in a high security environment. However, it is a very large and complex undertaking. Mention the words "egress filtering" to a firewall, network, or systems administrator and you'll likely get this response.
So while we know that high security environments may need this, and would warrant the extra work, it can sometimes be difficult to get buy-in. Particularly when a unit whose primary duty is to maintain uptime is suddenly asked to take on a potentially significant amount of extra maintenance to accomplish something that has a high probability of reducing uptime.
In this case we would be remis to not mention the compliance angle. Let's look at the PCI-DSS v2.0 for a moment. Requirements section 1 discusses systems and network security. This one is relevant here:
Do not allow unauthorized outbound traffic from the cardholder data environment to the Internet.
As much as we all like to talk about how "Compliance is a Starting Point" in the real world sometimes the only traction we can get is the goal of filling in that checkbox or passing that audit. Taking a look at compliance documents relevant to your field or service could be useful. While PCI-DSS is exclusively an industry requirement, agreed to by contract law, it is a fairly specific set of requirements that I have seen adopted as a standard to audit against in other places that have less well defined requirements.
Unless you block all outgoing traffic other than a whitelist of legitimate websites you visit (and/or use a proxy that does whitelisting and security scanning), there's little additional security to be gained from blocking all ports except 80/443. Well, blocking port 25 might be good to keep your network from being used to send spam.
Many botnets already communicate over HTTP to connect to their command/control network since they know that other ports may be blocked (some even use DNS as their command/control protocol). So if you're going to let your network connect to any HTTP server, then you're not giving yourself much additional protection from joining a botnet, and you'll continually run into problems when you try to run things that use other ports like VPN, video conferencing, online gaming, websites on non-standard ports, FTP, etc. And you'd really need to regularly audit the logs to look for signs of infection.
Probably not worth the hassle on a home network. You're probably better off spending your time in trying to prevent malware infection in the first place than in mitigating damage once you've been infected.
Incoming traffic blocking can only prevent unsolicited traffic from reaching your internal network. However, if you get malware on an internal machine (via running an untrusted executable, or through an exploit) you can still be hit.
Blocking outgoing traffic helps limit the damage, by preventing the malware from connecting to a command & control server or exfiltrating data. Whilst your machine will still be compromised, it might save you from having your personal details stolen by a keylogger.
- In the event that malware makes its way into your network, blocking outgoing traffic can sometimes contain the damage by preventing the malware from contacting a remote server. If you firewall at the machine level, you may also keep the malware from spreading further through your network. Disallowing outgoing traffic also means that your machine becomes less interesting as part of a botnet.
- Legitimate software with networking capabilities might be vulnerable and could be tricked into setting up outgoing connections which can then be used to further compromise your system. Consider, for example, a web server that runs an application with a flaw that allows an attacker to trick it into downloading files over the internet instead of opening local files (such a flaw is easy to produce and overlook in, for example, PHP). If you have it properly firewalled off, the request will simply fail, and maybe even trigger an alarm somewhere.
Blocking outgoing DNS queries so that DNS can only be routed through your preferred DNS server (enterprise DNS server, OpenDNS, Quad9, Google Public DNS, etc) is fairly commonplace on a network that has been somewhat secured.
US-CERT has an informative article about this, and lists the impacts of not doing so:
Unless managed by perimeter technical solutions, client systems and applications may connect to systems outside the enterprise’s administrative control for DNS resolution. Internal enterprise systems should only be permitted to initiate requests to and receive responses from approved enterprise DNS caching name servers. Permitting client systems and applications to connect directly to Internet DNS infrastructure introduces risks and inefficiencies to the organization, which include:
- Bypassed enterprise monitoring and logging of DNS traffic; this type of monitoring is an important tool for detecting potential malicious
- Bypassed enterprise DNS security filtering (sinkhole/redirect or blackhole/block) capabilities; this may allow clients to access malicious domains that would otherwise be blocked.
- Client interaction with compromised or malicious DNS servers; this may cause inaccurate DNS responses for the domain requested (e.g.,
the client is sent to a phishing site or served malicious code).
- Lost protections against DNS cache poisoning and denial-of-service attacks. The mitigating effects of a tiered or hierarchical (e.g., separate internal and external DNS servers, split DNS, etc.) DNS architecture used to prevent such attacks are lost.
- Reduced Internet browsing speed since enterprise DNS caching would not be utilized.
" there's little additional security to be gained from blocking all ports except 80/443. "
unless you're running a proxy in order to disguise your IP, which code from a website (or injected into a website) could bypass by phoning home on a different port, thus bypassing your proxy (which will normally be configured only to reroute outgoing traffic on the ports usually used by your browser).
This is so simple that anybody using Tor should be aware of it, since it punches a hole right through the mask that Tor provides.
Solution: Route ALL ports through the proxy (Tor Does not recommend due to performance loss), or block all outgoing ports except for those specifically routed through your proxy.
A better approach for a home network is a software "personal firewall" that runs on each PC and prompts the user if they would like to allow a program that is trying to make an outbound connection to do so.
This, while annoying at first when it prompts you for everything while it tries to figure out what should be allowed, is easier to maintain in a home environment than a network firewall doing outbound blocking that has no concept of the difference between Google Chrome making a web page request and LulzBot2000 (yes, I made that up) making a web request for malware payloads.
The world might be a better place if more home routers defaulted to block outgoing ports like STMP, IRC, etc. And those are just off the top of my head.
I just landed here after turning off pretty much everything but ssh, http and https. It's a preventative measure, another layer of security, but in this case, it's preventing bad actors from using your network as a launching point for an attack.
That being said, I'm currently in the middle of debugging it, and while the Linux clients (my main Debian box, plus a Debian netbook, the internal name/file/print/time server running Debian, the HestiaPi thermostat) are all working fine. The Android phone is whining that there's no Internet (because I also setup caching/filtering DNS, then pointed all the clients at it, ala PiHole), but I can get to things that I use (pretty much web and SSH).
The Roku is another story; YouTube, Vimeo and even Netflix work fine, after (again) whining from Roku that there's no Internet because I won't let it contact it's precious ad servers (for the first time ever, the ads are gone on the main screen; I'll try to keep that at least). But Amazon and Hoopla both don't work, and given that I have to fire up a VPN on the work computer tomorrow, I will almost certainly be scaling back.
TL;DR - filtering outgoing is a good idea. At least close off outgoing connections to all the bad things you never use (telnet, R-commands, etc), and judiciously consider closing off others.
As others have mentioned above, blocking outgoing ports will minimize what an attacker can after your machine has already been infected. Let's take a look at the situation below:
- An attacker manages to compromise your machine with a R.A.T (Remote administration tool)
- Usually the way a RAT works is by connecting back to the attacker's machine to communicate with it, normally the RAT would be able to freely communicate with the attacker's machine.
- Let's assume you have all outgoing traffic blocked, the RAT can no longer communicate with the attacker's machine. This makes any information it's stolen from your PC essentially useless.
Just because you've stopped the RAT from communicating with the attacker's server doesn't mean your safe.
The RAT can still modify your file system, slow your machine depending on what it's doing, it's worth mentioning that if the RAT had privileges it could change your firewall's rules and enable outgoing traffic - allowing it to communicate with the attacker's server.