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Firewalls

Introduction

More than a million systems are now connected to the Internet, and something like 30 million people in 100 countries use Internet services.  More than 100 million email messages are exchanged each day, along with countless files, documents, and audio and video images.  Everyone is jumping on the Internet bandwagon.  The Net is now reaching large and small businesses, government at all levels, school children, and senior citizens.  The commercial world is rushing headlong into doing business on the Internet, barely pausing while technologies and policies catch up with their desire to go online.  But, too few of the seekers after Internet wisdom and riches consider whether their businesses will be safe on the Net.  Security has become one of the primary concerns when an organization connects its private network to the Internet.

Internet security is becoming a more, and more important term.  Some people simply enjoy destroying other peoples work, while others might want to steal you company's secret data.  Some people try to get real work done over the Internet, and others have sensitive or proprietary data they must protect.  Network security is so vast a subject that it's almost impossible to understand completely.  Hackers are always looking for new ways to intrude or wreak havoc on corporate networks, and it seems as if every time one problem is solved several more pop up.  Firewalls are probably the first products that come to mind when you think of Internet security.

What is firewall?

A firewall is one way of protecting a computer network against the outside world.  A firewall blocks all unauthorized communication between computers in an organization and computers outside that organization.  It is also often used to prevent unnoticed and unauthorized export of proprietary information (11, p.1).  It is a system or group of systems that enforces an access control policy between two networks.  The firewall determines which inside services may be accessed from the outside, which outsiders are permitted access to the permitted inside services, and which outside services may be accessed by insiders.

If the data on your network is like a castle, how far do you let people into the castle, and what do you allow them to do once inside?  Firewall will work on it, same as security guard (8, p. 1).

Types of Firewall:

There are two different kinds of firewalls.


 

Packet Filtering:
Packet filtering firewalls works at the network level.  They examine each packet that attempts to enter or leave the network and compare it with a programmed list of criteria.  In typical configurations, packets are blocked unless they are specifically allowed.  Packets are first checked and then either dropped or allowed to enter based on various rules and specified criteria.

A screening router is the basic component of most firewalls.  A screening router can be a commercial router or a host-based router with some kind of packet-filtering capability.  Typical screening routers have the ability to block traffic between networks or specific hosts, on an IP port level.  Some firewalls consist of nothing more than a screening router between a private network and the Internet (10, p. 1).

Proxy Sever Gateways:
The highest level of protection today is provided by application-level proxy servers.  Gateways work at a higher level in the protocol stack to provide more opportunities for monitoring and controlling access between networks.  A gateway is like a middle-man, relaying messages from internal clients to external services.  The proxy service changes the IP address of the client packets to essentially hide the internal client to the Internet, then it acts as a proxy agent for the client on the Internet.

Using proxies reduces the threat from hackers who monitor network traffic to collect information about computers on internal networks.  The proxy hides the addresses of all internal computers.  Traditionally, using proxies has reduced performance and transparency of access to other networks.  However, current firewall products solve some of these problems (8, p. 1).

There are two types of proxy servers:

1. Circuit Level Gateway:
This type of proxy server provides a controlled network connection between internal and external systems (i.e., there is no "air-gap").  A virtual "circuit" exists between the internal client and the proxy server.  Internet requests go through this circuit to the proxy server, and the proxy server delivers those requests to the Internet after changing the IP address. External users only see the IP address of the proxy server.  Responses are then received by the proxy server and sent back through the circuit to the client.  While traffic is allowed through, external systems never see the internal systems.  This type of connection is often used to connect "trusted" internal users to the Internet (8, p. 1).

2. Application Level Gateway:
An application-level proxy server provides all the basic proxy features and also provides extensive packet analysis.  When packets from the outside arrive at the gateway, they are examined and evaluated to determine if the security policy allows the packet to enter into the internal network.  Not only does the server evaluate IP addresses, it also looks at the data in the packets to stop hackers from hiding information in the packets (8, p. 1).  A typical application-level gateway can provide proxy services for applications and protocols like Telnet, FTP (file transfers), HTTP (Web services), and SMTP (e-mail).
The disadvantage of an application level gateway is that you need a specialized program for each application you want to use through the gateway.  This means that you can't offer every service through your gateway, and it takes time to configure a new service for use on the gateway (10, p. 1).

Firewall Policies

If someone can find a hole in your firewall, then the firewall has failed.  Security policies must be outlined in advance so administrators and users know what type of activities are allowed on the network.
Examples of outlines are:

Building a Firewall

In deciding to build a firewall, answer to the following questions might help you decide whether it has the resources to build and operate a successful firewall:

 The important guidelines to consider when forming a firewall: Buying a Firewall

These are seven of the best-selling firewall systems in the market.  All of them provided excellent security in our network tests, but they offer different interfaces and features. (This information has been tested in February 1997 by Brooks Talley)

CyberGuard Firewall 3.0
CyberGuard Firewall 3.0 is the most improved product in this comparison.  CyberGuard offers a solid, turnkey firewall solution that is particularly easy to administer and comes bundled with installation services.  Its support for high-end multiprocessing Intel PCs also makes it a good candidate for an Intranet firewall because it can support 10Base-T speeds and above.

CheckPoint Firewall-1 2.1
CheckPoint is a very solid product with a history of reliability and a refined user interface.  The addition of a remote administration tool that runs on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 95 and can control Unix- and Windows NT-based, CheckPoint firewalls is a  great improvement.  CheckPoint is a good solution for government sites that need remote administration capabilities.

Sidewinder Security Server 3.0
Side-winder is similar to CyberGuard's, but Secure Computing doesn't supply a backup tape or boot disks.  It is another good choice for government sites that need re-mote administration of firewalls.  This turnkey package was flexible and easy to administer, but we wish it came with backup materials in case of a network crash.

Gauntlet Internet Firewall
It is one of the more basic firewall implementations, lacking a lot of the features that some others have.  For a basic firewall that doesn't need to pass esoteric data types, Gauntlet is an excellent choice.  Its proxies work easily and quickly.

SmartWall 3.3.1
It is ok but for organizations that need more control over what traffic is allowed in and out, it's not enough.

Black Hole 3.0
Black Hole's administration wasn't as complete as CheckPoint's, but it still had the kind of modern user interface that really helped us use the firewall.  Black Hole offers one of the easiest and most automated installation processes.

Eagle NT
Eagle is one of the few firewalls available for the Windows NT platform.  It features strong integration with NT's domain security and prevents unauthorized processes, but the package feels more like Unix than Windows NT (9, p. 1).

Cost of firewalls

The cost of a firewall which a company can incur for a firewall can range from $10,000 to $100,000.  Including hardware and software.  The cost of a system depends on the wants of the company (11, p. 1).
 

Summary

Firewalls are a good means of security but they cannot protect against everything.  Firewalls cannot protect against attacks that do not go through the firewall.  They cannot protect against viruses.  There are some people who are intelligent enough to find a loophole through the firewall.  No security system is 100% secure; however, firewalls enhance host security by funneling attackers through a narrow gap where there is a chance of catching or detecting them first (11, p. 1).
 


BIBLIOGRAPHY

Books:
1. Derfler, Frank (1998). Using Network. Indiana: Que.
2. Goncalves, Marcus (1997). Firewalls Complete. New York: McGraw-Hill.

World Wide Web sites:
3. Martha, T. Effective Firewalls. http://www.utexas.edu/courses/kincaid/tyler/effect.html (1996, March 24)
4. Martha, T. Types of firewalls.  http://www.utexas.edu/courses/kincaid/tyler/type.html (1996, March 24)
5. Mecklermedia Corporation. Firewall. http://www.pcwebopedia.com/firewall.htm (1997, May 29)
6. O'Reilly & Associates, Inc. Building Internet Firewalls. http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/fire/desc.html (1998, July 2)
7. Semeria, C. Internet Firewalls and Security. http://www.3com.com/nsc/500619.html (1998, July 1)
8. Sheldon, Tom. General Firewall White Paper. http://www.ntresearch.com/firewall.html (1996, November)
9. Tallay, Brooks. Seven Firewalls That Keep Your Network Safe. http://www.fcw.com/pubs/gbb/1997/0203/gbb-firewall-2-3-1997.html (1997, February 3)
10. Trosvik, H. Firewalls. http://www.uio.no/~hege/in312/firewall.html (1998, June 29)
11. Woodcock, Ph.D. Mark. FIREWALLS. http://www.cs.umbc.edu/~woodcock/cmsc482/proj1/firewall.html (1995, October 26)
12. Wack, J. Internet Firewalls Frequently Asked Questions. http://www.telstra.com.au/pub/docs/security/800-10/node81.html (1995, February 3)
13. Wack, J. Introduction to Firewalls. http://www.telstra.com.au/pub/docs/security/800-10/node30.html (1995, February 3)