Risks to Geo Blocking



  • @kelly said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    @scottalanmiller said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    @jaredbusch said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    @scottalanmiller said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    @kelly said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    The purpose of Geo IP has nothing to do with stopping a directed attacker. It is about lowering the load on your edge from the useless noise and reducing the impact of automated attacks.

    What about false positives? If you are willing to block so broadly, why not block completely? Or whitelist?

    What false positives? We don't care. This is about blocking incoming on an edge router. not something service websites. Although we are already off topic as the OP was talking about outbound traffic.

    When do you want to block some things, but not all, but are okay with false positives? I can't think of any scenario, theoretical or otherwise, where you'd want ANY access (short of a whitelist) but are okay with what that blocks.

    Basically, it's blocking at random, instead of blocking fully. But it is more work. So... why?

    @scottalanmiller analogy time. Let's put this other terms. If you have a fence that keeps out dogs, but doesn't stop squirrels why would you use it? It even keeps your dog out. That fence is terrible. Right?

    Not a good analogy. Because that's not at all what is happening. It's a gate, not a fence. A gate that randomly lets people in, both the ones you want AND the ones you don't. It doesn't really discriminate. It's essentially random.

    Why would you ever put in extra effort to randomly let bad people in and good people out? Either block all bad people, or don't block. Both approaches are easier and more effective.



  • @kelly said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    If I am an American business that has products that I cannot export, or I have zero international customers blocking the Geo IP addresses of Iran, Russia, and China will have little, if any impact on my ability to market my product and support my customers. It will not stop every attack against me originating in those countries. It will reduce the automated attacks and scans however.

    Correct, it will reduce automated attacks. It will also block any American customer that happens to be traveling, or just randomly gets mis-marked as being in those countries. Since Geo-blocking isn't reliable, you block a lot of people that are legitimate "would be" customers.

    As someone who travels AND as someone who is regularly detected as being in a different country, I can tell you a lot of businesses and websites lose business from potential customers because they either flat out announce that they won't do business with them or, far more likely, simple appear to have an outage that never stops. It makes legitimate customers believe you've gone out of business.

    How many businesses want to "reduce automated attacks" in exchange for risking real business?



  • @kelly said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    This isn't an across the board rule. Not every business only does business within the US (or any other country). Obviously it wouldn't work unless you wanted to take that risk. It is a risk. But the gains of blocking key countries by Geo IP is worth the risk in my opinion for many SMBs.

    I don't believe that this is true. The risk is trivial from scanning, while losing even one real customer is large.

    Put a dollar value on it. Let's say you are a restaurant. And you do this. You will easily lose one custmomer who gets a false positive and can't get to your website (now they think you are closed, or can't determine if you are open, or worse, think your restaurant failed as most do.) You lose a $20 customer.

    What's the average risk to scanning a restaurant's website? Restaurants are the "most local" of all businesses (generally.) They ONLY care about people in the direct vicinity. But I'd argue that even for them, Geo-blocking poses a business risk that is far larger than the value in security that it potentially adds. I'd put the value of reducing the scanning at below $20.



  • The who geo blocking thing has zero benefit. Anyone who does it, where it was suddenly turned off without them knowing, would only notice benefits... nobody would notice anything negative.



  • There are days where I question why I even bother trying to persuade...



  • @obsolesce said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    The who geo blocking thing has zero benefit. Anyone who does it, where it was suddenly turned off without them knowing, would only notice benefits... nobody would notice anything negative.

    It's tricky, because people who do it have no way to know how much they lose in doing so. It's impossible for the person doing the blocking to know what damage they've done. Companies don't realize the business that they are losing unless a potential customer figures out that the company is still working, but geo-blocking, then takes the time to reach out and explain that they've been snubbed and will refuse to do business with them.

    I've done this to a few companies, but I'm the exception. Most people will never realize the company still has a working website, and those few that do will never take the effort to inform someone that they are telling legit customers to go away.

    We ran into this same concept at a job I once had. They had HR secretly telling candidates not to accept jobs at the company, but they told them this BEFORE HR recorded them in the system. So departments had no idea that people were turning the company down, rather than the other way around, because it was happening before any metrics were collected. HR got caught when a friend of a friend was asked to take the job and turned it down, and their friend asked them why and they divulged what HR had told them. Then an investigation ensued and they discovered HR sabotaging the company out of spite for something.

    Same effect - turn customers away BEFORE you record them as potential customers and there is no metric to show how much damage you've done to the company.



  • @kelly said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    There are days where I question why I even bother trying to persuade...

    I never want to persuade, that's not a good goal. The goal should always be to find what is true. Persuading is necessary only when your position isn't correct but you want someone to accept it anyway. Working towards truth is a better goal - put forth ideas and see if they make sense.

    In this case, this is something that's been discussed a lot, and I firmly believe, for very real business reasons, that geo-blocking is reckless and done out of a misunderstanding.

    Because it is not reliable and blocks both legit and non-legit users, and because the value of blocking non-legit users is nominal, and the risk of blocking legit ones is huge, it's very difficult to make a compelling argument for why to do it.

    It sounds good, until you examine the risks and costs involved. Then it is hard to understand why it is ever promoted.

    Given these facts...

    1. It is not reliable and allows both bad people in and blocks good people.
    2. It carries a higher cost to implement than to not implement (even if just in effort.)
    3. The risk of false positives is generally extremely high.

    Try to persuade us while specifically addressing these concerns. Those are things we can prove. Geo-blocking seems great, but all "arguements" for why to do it always seem to ignore these three concerns.



  • We saw a situation where the perps were definitely Russian and the IPs they were operating out of were definitely Russian but the edge had no ability to Geo Block. This would have been a classic case and point.



  • @phlipelder said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    We saw a situation where the perps were definitely Russian and the IPs they were operating out of were definitely Russian but the edge had no ability to Geo Block. This would have been a classic case and point.

    So what about the hundreds of people you unintentionally block because the GeoIP service you use put them in Russia instead of eastern Europe? Which is worse, purposely loosing business, or having to block malicious IP addresses (which should be automatic)?



  • @phlipelder said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    We saw a situation where the perps were definitely Russian and the IPs they were operating out of were definitely Russian but the edge had no ability to Geo Block. This would have been a classic case and point.

    Sure, but this assumes several things that are not stated...

    1. That there was no collateral damage from the assumed blocking (any legit customers caught in the sweeping block.)
    2. That the perps would not have attempted any other trivially easy vector.
    3. That geo blocking would not flag you as a high profit target.
    4. That their attacks were successful.

    That's a lot of assumptions required to make even that use case valid for wanting to geo block.



  • @travisdh1 said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    @phlipelder said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    We saw a situation where the perps were definitely Russian and the IPs they were operating out of were definitely Russian but the edge had no ability to Geo Block. This would have been a classic case and point.

    So what about the hundreds of people you unintentionally block because the GeoIP service you use put them in Russia instead of eastern Europe? Which is worse, purposely loosing business, or having to block malicious IP addresses (which should be automatic)?

    This is also a lot of assumption.



  • @jaredbusch said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    @travisdh1 said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    @phlipelder said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    We saw a situation where the perps were definitely Russian and the IPs they were operating out of were definitely Russian but the edge had no ability to Geo Block. This would have been a classic case and point.

    So what about the hundreds of people you unintentionally block because the GeoIP service you use put them in Russia instead of eastern Europe? Which is worse, purposely loosing business, or having to block malicious IP addresses (which should be automatic)?

    This is also a lot of assumption.

    It is. The assumption should be that there is a risk of someone being blocked. How much risk, if it's not worth figuring out, it's not worth blocking.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    @phlipelder said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    We saw a situation where the perps were definitely Russian and the IPs they were operating out of were definitely Russian but the edge had no ability to Geo Block. This would have been a classic case and point.

    Sure, but this assumes several things that are not stated...

    1. That there was no collateral damage from the assumed blocking (any legit customers caught in the sweeping block.)
    2. That the perps would not have attempted any other trivially easy vector.
    3. That geo blocking would not flag you as a high profit target.
    4. That their attacks were successful.

    That's a lot of assumptions required to make even that use case valid for wanting to geo block.

    Your intentional actions that cause your alleged repeated false positives are not the proof you are requiring of others.



  • @jaredbusch said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    @scottalanmiller said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    @phlipelder said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    We saw a situation where the perps were definitely Russian and the IPs they were operating out of were definitely Russian but the edge had no ability to Geo Block. This would have been a classic case and point.

    Sure, but this assumes several things that are not stated...

    1. That there was no collateral damage from the assumed blocking (any legit customers caught in the sweeping block.)
    2. That the perps would not have attempted any other trivially easy vector.
    3. That geo blocking would not flag you as a high profit target.
    4. That their attacks were successful.

    That's a lot of assumptions required to make even that use case valid for wanting to geo block.

    Your intentional actions that cause your alleged repeated false positives are the proof you are requiring of others.

    It's not the same. One is taking an action known to risk loss of business, the other is de facto state without demonstrated value to action.

    The two are not the same.



  • I can't believe this is still discussed.

    One is taking an action that puts the business at risk.

    The other is blocking randomly an unknown risk.

    Put this before a CEO and see if he would agree that blocking potential customers to protect against a risk that is unknown to even exist is worth spending money on. This isn't a technical thing, it's pure business.



  • Simple guide to fill out before presenting to the business:

    • Estimated financial value to the blocking: _________________
    • Estimated risk of customer loss from blocking: __________________
    • Impact assessment if second factor is miscalculated: ______________

    Fill those out before considering even discussing blocking of this nature.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    I can't believe this is still discussed.

    One is taking an action that puts the business at risk.

    The other is blocking randomly an unknown risk.

    Put this before a CEO and see if he would agree that blocking potential customers to protect against a risk that is unknown to even exist is worth spending money on. This isn't a technical thing, it's pure business.

    It is 100% not unknown risk. It is basic mitigation from known risks.

    But again, you took this thread south from the OP on your one sided opinion.

    The OP is discussing outbound traffic. Not inbound.

    So fork this out of the OP's thread and rant elsewhere.



  • @jaredbusch said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    @scottalanmiller said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    I can't believe this is still discussed.

    One is taking an action that puts the business at risk.

    The other is blocking randomly an unknown risk.

    Put this before a CEO and see if he would agree that blocking potential customers to protect against a risk that is unknown to even exist is worth spending money on. This isn't a technical thing, it's pure business.

    It is 100% not unknown risk. It is basic mitigation from known risks.

    Right, and the risk as we know them are nominal - roughly $0.

    It's attacks that are annoying, but carry no financial harm. That's the point. The value to blocking approaches zero. But the risk of blocking is non-zero. Hence why it is generally reckless.



  • @jaredbusch said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    But again, you took this thread south from the OP on your one sided opinion.

    Wasn't me. I was only a respondant.



  • @jaredbusch said in Risks to Geo Blocking:

    @scottalanmiller said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    @kelly said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    The purpose of Geo IP has nothing to do with stopping a directed attacker. It is about lowering the load on your edge from the useless noise and reducing the impact of automated attacks.

    What about false positives? If you are willing to block so broadly, why not block completely? Or whitelist?

    What false positives? We don't care. This is about blocking incoming on an edge router. not something service websites. Although we are already off topic as the OP was talking about outbound traffic.

    You just told me that I was ranting and off topic because we were discussing outbound. But you were definitely already discussing inbound as well.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Risks to Geo Blocking:

    @jaredbusch said in Risks to Geo Blocking:

    @scottalanmiller said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    @kelly said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    The purpose of Geo IP has nothing to do with stopping a directed attacker. It is about lowering the load on your edge from the useless noise and reducing the impact of automated attacks.

    What about false positives? If you are willing to block so broadly, why not block completely? Or whitelist?

    What false positives? We don't care. This is about blocking incoming on an edge router. not something service websites. Although we are already off topic as the OP was talking about outbound traffic.

    You just told me that I was ranting and off topic because we were discussing outbound. But you were definitely already discussing inbound as well.

    Ah, if you read my post in context, I was simply replying to another (incorrect) response and attempting to bring it back on topic. I was definitely not discussing inbound.



  • @kelly said in Risks to Geo Blocking:

    @travisdh1 said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    @phlipelder said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    • Edge should support subnet/IP/Country and other forms of blacklist blocking.

    We've been over how bad blocking by Country is around here. I've "hacked" that system just by putting a used router online. It's seriously bad and not worth anyone's time.

    I don't necessarily agree with the common wisdom on this one. It is easily bypassed with a targeted attack, but it can significantly reduce your scanning activity and automated attacks. It isn't the answer but it is a layer in a defense in depth.

    Layers is often used to excuse over the top and unnecessary security. Yes, all defense is in layers. But excusing bad layers as "just another layer" often is misleading. The problem is is that the value to the defense is low, while it creates risks that most other layers do not.

    Blacklisting, for example, blocks exclusively known attackers, not actual customers. Geo blocking blocks mostly bad actors, but some good ones. A very different thing with a totally different value discussion that cannot be discussed in terms of "being a layer."

    Security can't be viewed in a vacuum. It's a business decision like anything else, and IT has no place making a call about this kind of tech without a business evaluating the risks that it proposes. All security comes at a price. Some costs, like a basic firewall, are trivial and pose no measurable risk. Others, like geo blocking, cost more and pose varying risk from small to enormous. It's never something that can be done without understanding the business in question, very thoroughly, in ways that are often impossible to measure and can only be calculated as a risk.



  • @travisdh1 This has to do with traffic leaving the corporate/production network.

    I don't see how this is applicable since folks looking to do business would be browsing an Internet based site outside those limits as well as emailing and/or phoning from outside of the business?



  • @phlipelder said in Risks to Geo Blocking:

    @travisdh1 This has to do with traffic leaving the corporate/production network.

    I don't see how this is applicable since folks looking to do business would be browsing an Internet based site outside those limits as well as emailing and/or phoning from outside of the business?

    To which point was this a response?



  • @travisdh1 said in Risks to Geo Blocking:

    @phlipelder said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    We saw a situation where the perps were definitely Russian and the IPs they were operating out of were definitely Russian but the edge had no ability to Geo Block. This would have been a classic case and point.

    So what about the hundreds of people you unintentionally block because the GeoIP service you use put them in Russia instead of eastern Europe? Which is worse, purposely loosing business, or having to block malicious IP addresses (which should be automatic)?

    @scottalanmiller This one. I must have goofed on the QUOTE step ...



  • @scottalanmiller said in Risks to Geo Blocking:

    @kelly said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    There are days where I question why I even bother trying to persuade...

    I never want to persuade, that's not a good goal. The goal should always be to find what is true. Persuading is necessary only when your position isn't correct but you want someone to accept it anyway. Working towards truth is a better goal - put forth ideas and see if they make sense.

    I do take issue with you calling into question my use of the word persuasion and contrasting it with the word truth. This is why I question the value in discussing things here on Mangolassi that have been designated as "the right way". The rhetoric does not appear to allow for an honest discussion.



  • @kelly said in Risks to Geo Blocking:

    @travisdh1 said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    @kelly said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    @travisdh1 said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    @phlipelder said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    • Edge should support subnet/IP/Country and other forms of blacklist blocking.

    We've been over how bad blocking by Country is around here. I've "hacked" that system just by putting a used router online. It's seriously bad and not worth anyone's time.

    I don't necessarily agree with the common wisdom on this one. It is easily bypassed with a targeted attack, but it can significantly reduce your scanning activity and automated attacks. It isn't the answer but it is a layer in a defense in depth.

    It doesn't do that tho. It can't, because the system itself is that flawed.

    We're going down a rabbit trail here, but I'll bite. How is the system flawed? I understand that address blocks are being sold off and assigned outside of their original IANA country designation, but aside from that how does it not work? What about if you are updating your tables from a source like Maxmind that is updated frequently?

    It doesn't work because the primary systems out there routinely don't know the source of IPs. This is why I constantly point out that these systems believe my Dallas Fiber service is from Toronto, an entirely different country thousands of miles away. My phone often registers as a different state, but not country. When working in NY I was consistently listed as Germany.

    And those are the "accidents". As a traveler, it's common to use VPN services to "choose" which country people think you are in. That's very common. And trivially easy, for consumers. Loads of people do that just to watch movies.

    Geo blocking works, I would estimate, about 95-98% of the time when no one is attempting to get around it. But even if it worked 99% of the time, 1% poses a significant business risk to a normal business.



  • On topic here.

    Risks to geo-blocking inbound traffic.

    First you have to define what kind of inbound you are talking about.
    As I stated in my reply above where @scottalanmiller is trying to blame me for what he does, geo blocking inbound traffic on an edge router carries little to no penalty but solid benefits as it should cause drop rules to execute earlier in the firewall chain.

    This is no different than a drop all but my trusted IP rule setup for anything.

    Your default inbound rule should be drop all new connections.
    You first rules should be allow from trusted IP 1-6.
    That's it.

    If you are in the inbound scenario that you need a more open set than can easily be whitelisted, a drop on geo IP match can easily slim up the subsequent rul processing or limit what is forwarded inbound.



  • @scottalanmiller said in Risks to Geo Blocking:

    @kelly said in Risks to Geo Blocking:

    @travisdh1 said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    @kelly said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    @travisdh1 said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    @phlipelder said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    • Edge should support subnet/IP/Country and other forms of blacklist blocking.

    We've been over how bad blocking by Country is around here. I've "hacked" that system just by putting a used router online. It's seriously bad and not worth anyone's time.

    I don't necessarily agree with the common wisdom on this one. It is easily bypassed with a targeted attack, but it can significantly reduce your scanning activity and automated attacks. It isn't the answer but it is a layer in a defense in depth.

    It doesn't do that tho. It can't, because the system itself is that flawed.

    We're going down a rabbit trail here, but I'll bite. How is the system flawed? I understand that address blocks are being sold off and assigned outside of their original IANA country designation, but aside from that how does it not work? What about if you are updating your tables from a source like Maxmind that is updated frequently?

    It doesn't work because the primary systems out there routinely don't know the source of IPs. This is why I constantly point out that these systems believe my Dallas Fiber service is from Toronto, an entirely different country thousands of miles away. My phone often registers as a different state, but not country. When working in NY I was consistently listed as Germany.

    You. You. You.

    No one else.

    Prove this is actually more than just you.

    Because none of this ever happens to any of my clients, myself, or anyone else I professionally work with.



  • @kelly said in Risks to Geo Blocking:

    @scottalanmiller said in Risks to Geo Blocking:

    @kelly said in Firewall rules for outgoing traffic:

    There are days where I question why I even bother trying to persuade...

    I never want to persuade, that's not a good goal. The goal should always be to find what is true. Persuading is necessary only when your position isn't correct but you want someone to accept it anyway. Working towards truth is a better goal - put forth ideas and see if they make sense.

    I do take issue with you calling into question my use of the word persuasion and contrasting it with the word truth. This is why I question the value in discussing things here on Mangolassi that have been designated as "the right way". The rhetoric does not appear to allow for an honest discussion.

    But wasn't your goal, and your complaint, that you were unable to convince us of your point, rather than engaging in a back and forth? It was the back and forth of honest discussion that you were appearing to take issue with.

    What if I had said the exact same thing? You'd have taken exception to that, correct?

    No one did anything to dissuade you from making points, and you are equally free to point out where our points are incorrect. How has this discussion in any way made you feel that there is a "right way" that is accepted and that counter points can't be made? I see none of that in this thread. There are two sides to the discussion, and multiple people on each side, and both sides attempting to make points. One side doesn't have any automatic advantage, and one hasn't stopped the other from making points any more than the other has.


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