Ross Oliver performed a test in which he attempted to compare certain products and how they handled SYN Flood attacks. If you read down, the article is very specific and negative about Checkpoint's lack of performance. From the article:

It's fair to note that while one expects at least some protection from any firewall, the Cisco kit isn't marketed for SYN flood protection as the Checkpoint kit obviously is.

Then we learn that Mr. Oliver is a Security Manager for E*TRADEGroup, and worse, that Check Point Firewall-1 was not even running on the machine during the test. This kind of mistake is unacceptable for someone trying to do benchmark tests for security products.

Ross Oliver is the Production Security Manager for E*TRADEGroup. Although he has 15 years of UNIX industry experience, he stillwants to be a pilot when he grows up.

From: Scott Walker Register (
Subject: Re: Hardware defences against SYN flooding

An article appeared on this list and in other forums indicating poor
performance by Check Point's FireWall-1 product in response to SYN floods.

Based on discussions with Thomas Greene and Ross Oliver, we have learned
that FireWall-1 was not running on the machine at the time of the test.
Because of this, the test and reported results have absolutely no validity.
We are working with the authors to conduct a meaningful test against a
properly configured firewall.  Further details and clarification will be
posted when available.

----------------------------------------------------------------  ||  FireWall-1 Product Manager
                Check Point Software Technologies, Inc.
2255 Glades Road    /    Suite 324A     \  Boca Raton, FL  33431
Voice: 561.989.5418 | Fax: 561.997.5421  |   08/30/01   18:21:29

At 08:54 AM 8/27/01, you wrote:

By Thomas C Greene in Washington
Posted: 25/08/2001 at 00:39 GMT

A SYN flood is perhaps the most efficient packet attack, devouring the
greatest amount service with the least effort. It fakes the initial
handshake of a TCP connection with spoofed IPs which the target
machine is unable to answer.

Establishing a TCP connection requires the exchange of three packets:
the first with a SYN (for SYNchronise) bit from the surfer, then
SYN/ACK in return from the Web server, and finally ACK (for
ACKnowledge) back from the surfer. The connection is then established;
but if there's a delay in completing the handshake, the server
re-tries (sending SYN/ACK) several times, and waits with the necessary
resources to accept the connection already allocated.

Re-try and timeout periods can add up to over three minutes per bogus
connection, so it's easy to see how even a modest flood of
unanswerable SYN packets can overwhelm a server in short order.

Because the handshake is a necessary part of normal Net traffic,
malicious SYN packets are difficult to filter. You can cope with an
attack by changing the number of times your machine will re-try the
SYN/ACK response, but you'll also deny legitimate connections if you
get too aggressive.

With this difficulty in mind, TechMavens' Ross Oliver decided to
benchmark several hardware solutions, all in roughly the same price
range, using a homebrew kit to simulate SYN floods against them. He
released his results at last week's USENIX Security Symposium in

He established a baseline for his test server (Apache over Red Hat
7.1), which, when unprotected, crashed at 100 SYNs/sec. The worst
performers were the Cisco PIX firewall and Checkpoint's Firewall-1
equipped with the SYNDefender module.

The Cisco kit showed no advantage whatsoever, crashing at the baseline
100 SYNs/sec. Firewall-1 showed only marginally better results,
breaking down (i.e., dropping connections) at a lame 500 SYNs/sec,
which can be exceeded by only two or three boxes connected by T1,
cable or DSL lines.

It's fair to note that while one expects at least some protection from
any firewall, the Cisco kit isn't marketed for SYN flood protection as
the Checkpoint kit obviously is.

Netscreen's Netscreen-100 fared better, breaking down after 14,000
SYNs/sec for a 28-fold performance improvement at roughly the same

Only the Top Layer AppSafe switch exceeded the test's limits, showing
no sign of stress while sustaining 22,000 SYNs/sec, the maximum Oliver
could throw at it with his rig. This would work out to about one
dollar per SYN during a fairly severe attack, which strikes us as
rather economical protection.

Of course we asked Top Layer if they had any idea where the AppSafe's
performance might top out. Marketing Director Dennis Anglin told us
they're currently benchmarking it (and, we'll bet, tweaking it), but
haven't got any solid numbers just yet.

The switch distinguishes 'normal', 'suspicious' and 'malicious'
traffic according to user-defined rules, and can be configured to lock
out troublesome IPs for anywhere from fifteen seconds to over a week.

We look forward to learning just how much punishment it can take. If
any of our readers using it have anecdotal data to pass along, we'd
love to see it.

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