Systematic structural testing of firewall policies

Jee Hyun Hwang, Tao Xie, Fei Chen, Alex X. Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Firewalls are the mainstay of enterprise security and the most widely adopted technology for protecting private networks. As the quality of protection provided by a firewall directly depends on the quality of its policy (i.e., configuration), ensuring the correctness of firewall policies is important and yet difficult. To help ensure the correctness, we propose a systematic structural testing approach for firewall policies. We define structural coverage (based on coverage criteria of rules, predicates, and clauses) on the firewall policy under test. To achieve high structural coverage effectively, we have developed four automated packet generation techniques: the random packet generation, the one based on local constraint solving (considering individual rules locally in a policy), the one based on global constraint solving (considering multiple rules globally in a policy), and the one based on boundary values. We have conducted an experiment on a set of real policies and a set of faulty policies to detect faults with generated packet sets. Generally, our experimental results show that a packet set with higher structural coverage has higher fault-detection capability (i.e., detecting more injected faults). Our experimental results show that a reduced packet set (maintaining the same level of structural coverage with the corresponding original packet set) maintains similar fault-detection capability with the original set.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6138839
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalIEEE Transactions on Network and Service Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Firewall policy
  • fault detection
  • structural coverage
  • test packet generation
  • validation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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