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Chapter: Cryptography and Network Security Principles and Practice : System Security : Firewalls

Firewall Location and Configurations

· DMZ Networks · Virtual Private Networks · Distributed Firewalls · Summary of Firewall Locations and Topologies


As Figure 22.1a indicates, a firewall is positioned to provide a protective barrier between an external, potentially untrusted source of traffic and an internal network. With that general principle in mind, a security administrator must decide on the location and on the number of firewalls needed. In this section, we look at some common options.


DMZ Networks

Figure 22.3 suggests the most common distinction, that between an internal and an external firewall. An external firewall is placed at the edge of a local or enterprise network, just inside the boundary router that connects to the Internet or some wide area network (WAN). One or more internal firewalls protect the bulk of the enter- prise network. Between these two types of firewalls are one or more networked devices in a region referred to as a DMZ (demilitarized zone) network. Systems that are externally accessible but need some protections are usually located on DMZ networks. Typically, the systems in the DMZ require or foster external con- nectivity, such as a corporate Web site, an e-mail server, or a DNS (domain name system) server.

The external firewall provides a measure of access control and protection for the DMZ systems consistent with their need for external connectivity. The external

firewall also provides a basic level of protection for the remainder of the enterprise network. In this type of configuration, internal firewalls serve three purposes:

1.                                       The internal firewall adds more stringent filtering capability, compared to the external firewall, in order to protect enterprise servers and workstations from external attack.

2.                                       The internal firewall provides two-way protection with respect to the DMZ. First, the internal firewall protects the remainder of the network from attacks launched from DMZ systems. Such attacks might originate from worms, rootkits, bots, or other malware lodged in a DMZ system. Second, an internal firewall can protect the DMZ systems from attack from the internal protected network.


3.                        Multiple internal firewalls can be used to protect portions of the internal network from each other. For example, firewalls can be configured so that internal servers are protected from internal workstations and vice versa.  A common practice is to place the DMZ on a different network interface on the external firewall from that used to access the internal networks.


Virtual Private Networks

In today’s distributed computing environment, the virtual private network (VPN) offers an attractive solution to network managers. In essence, a VPN consists of a set of computers that interconnect by means of a relatively unsecure network and that make use of encryption and special protocols to provide security. At each corporate site, workstations, servers, and databases are linked by one or more local area net- works (LANs). The Internet or some other public network can be used to intercon- nect sites, providing a cost savings over the use of a private network and offloading the wide area network management task to the public network provider. That same public network provides an access path for telecommuters and other mobile employees to log on to corporate systems from remote sites.

But the manager faces a fundamental requirement: security. Use of a public network exposes corporate traffic to eavesdropping and provides an entry point for unauthorized users. To counter this problem, a VPN is needed. In essence, a VPN uses encryption and authentication in the lower protocol layers to provide a secure connection through an otherwise insecure network, typically the Internet. VPNs are generally cheaper than real private networks using private lines but rely on having the same encryption and authentication system at both ends. The encryption may be performed by firewall software or possibly by routers. The most common protocol mechanism used for this purpose is at the IP level and is known as IPsec.

An organization maintains LANs at dispersed locations. A logical means of implementing an IPsec is in a firewall, as shown in Figure 22.4, which essentially repeats Figure 19.1. If IPsec is implemented in a separate box behind (internal to) the firewall, then VPN traffic passing through the firewall in both directions is encrypted. In this case, the firewall is unable to perform its filtering function or other security functions, such as access control, logging, or scanning for viruses. IPsec could be implemented in the boundary router, outside the firewall. However, this device is likely to be less secure than the firewall and thus less desirable as an IPsec platform.


Distributed Firewalls

A distributed firewall configuration involves stand-alone firewall devices plus host- based firewalls working together under a central administrative control. Figure 22.5 suggests a distributed firewall configuration. Administrators can configure host- resident firewalls on hundreds of servers and workstations as well as configure personal firewalls on local and remote user systems. Tools let the network adminis- trator set policies and monitor security across the entire network. These firewalls protect against internal attacks and provide protection tailored to specific machines and applications. Stand-alone firewalls provide global protection, including internal firewalls and an external firewall, as discussed previously.

With distributed firewalls, it may make sense to establish both an internal and an external DMZ. Web servers that need less protection because they have less critical information on them could be placed in an external DMZ, outside the exter- nal firewall. What protection is needed is provided by host-based firewalls on these servers.

An important aspect of a distributed firewall configuration is security moni- toring. Such monitoring typically includes log aggregation and analysis, firewall statistics, and fine-grained remote monitoring of individual hosts if needed.


Summary of Firewall Locations and Topologies

We can now summarize the discussion from Sections 22.4 and 22.5 to define a spectrum of firewall locations and topologies. The following alternatives can be identified:


                                                Host-resident firewall: This category includes personal firewall software and firewall software on servers. Such firewalls can be used alone or as part of an in-depth firewall deployment.

                                                Screening router: A single router between internal and external networks with stateless or full packet filtering. This arrangement is typical for small office/home office (SOHO) applications.

Single bastion inline: A single firewall device between an internal and external router (e.g., Figure 22.1a). The firewall may implement stateful filters and/or application proxies. This is the typical firewall appliance configuration for small to medium-sized organizations.


                          Single bastion T: Similar to single bastion inline but has a third network interface on bastion to a DMZ where externally visible servers are placed. Again, this is a common appliance configuration for medium to large organizations.

                          Double bastion inline: Figure 22.3 illustrates this configuration, where the DMZ is sandwiched between bastion firewalls. This configuration is common for large businesses and government organizations.

                          Double bastion T: The DMZ is on a separate network interface on the bastion firewall. This configuration is also common for large businesses and govern- ment organizations and may be required. For example, this configuration is required for Australian government use (Australian Government Information Technology Security Manual - ACSI33).

                          Distributed firewall configuration: Illustrated in Figure 22.5. This configura- tion is used by some large businesses and government   organizations.

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