Cisco ASA cluster – upgrade

Cisco seems to have a good track record of there products, but I must say that there ASA firewalls have seen a lot of critical bugs in the last couple of years. Both in hardware and software…

The last critical bug I was not informed about, so didn’t catch it before the customer did. Always nice when a customer calls in with the problem of there primary ASA being down. It crashed in a way that meant that it did not come up again. It needed a physical reboot.

Before having the chance to have someone onsite locate the firewall and reboot it that secondary also died. And did not come up again! Customer needs to get online again, so there was no time to get a console cable and see what the heck was going on. So I told them to do a hard reboot on both firewalls. After the ASA booted they both became active again and could see each other. Great, customer online. But why and how.

Contact with Conscia Cisco support could confirm that the exact issue has been hitting multiple customers. Due to a bug, the firmware did a memory buffer overflow when being hit by a specific udp/500 attack. Great, now we know the problem and the fix is to upgrade ASA firmware.

It’s not something I do often, and I always forget to write down to procedure, so here goes.

Upgrade procedure

  1. Have a look at the cisco ASA upgrade guide, to see what version you and on and what is supported to go up to. I were on 9.8.2 and could go up to 9.13.x. So I did.
  2. Download and upload firmware to BOTH members of the cluster
  3. Change the boot image to the newly uploaded image
  4. Update the secondary, make a failover
  5. Update the primary and make a failover
  6. Done

Uploading the images to both nodes with TFTP.

I used the portable version of Tftpd64 by Jounin, simple and works out of the box. Copied the freshly downloaded images to both nodes.

### Primary
DS-ESB-ASA5516x# copy /noconfirm tftp:// disk0:/asa9-13-1-lfbff-k8.SPA
DS-ESB-ASA5516x# copy /noconfirm tftp:// disk0:/asdm-7131.bin

### Secondary
DS-ESB-ASA5516x# failover exec mate copy /noconfirm tftp://$
DS-ESB-ASA5516x# failover exec mate copy /noconfirm tftp://$

Change config to the new image

So now we will change over the config so that it will use the new boot images that we have uploaded. First, we remove the existing boot image, and afterwards, we set the new image together with the new ASDM image.

### Show current boot image
DS-ESB-ASA5516x# show running-config boot system
boot system disk0:/gf/asa982-20-lfbff-k8.SPA

### Remove existing boot image
DS-ESB-ASA5516x(config)# no boot system disk0:/gf/asa982-20-lfbff-k8.SPA

### Add new boot image that you just uploaded
DS-ESB-ASA5516x(config)# boot system disk0:/asa9-13-1-lfbff-k8.SPA

### Reload the standby node for the new firmware to take effect
DS-ESB-ASA5516x(config)# failover reload-standby

### Look at the output from show failover, check if the standby is up and verify the firmware version.

Failover and reload the second node

So now the secondary node is booted with the new firmware, time to failover to it so we can reload and have the new firmware running on the primary node. When doing the failover you might lose the SSH connection, just connect again. This time you will be connected to the second node, that is not the active node. Reload the primary, that is now standby and wait for it up come up. It will show in the console that its sending config to mate. Just like when we did it with the first reload of the standby, secondary node.

### Controlled failover to secoundary, standby node
DS-ESB-ASA5516x# no failover active
### reload the primary, standby node for firmware to take effect.
DS-ESB-ASA5516x# failover reload-standby

You are done

Now it’s only to test, and if you want, failback to the primary. But that up to you. I did not lose one ping through the upgrade process. So that cluster is indeed working as it should. While you are at it then why not also update the AnyConnect client and remember to clean up the flash so the old versions and file won’t fill it up. Enjoy your newly updated cluster.