Excerpt from the book "Configuring IPCop Firewalls: Closing Borders with Open Source"

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Excerpt from the book Configuring IPCop Firewalls: Closing Borders with Open Source by Barrie Dempster and James Eaton-Lee. Published by Packt Publishing and reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. IPCop is a firewall for the Small Office/Home Office (SOHO) network, which is extremely easy to use and is released under the GNU General Public License (GPL). This excerpt
Deploying IPCop

Introduction

IPCop is a firewall for the Small Office/Home Office (SOHO) network, which is extremely easy to use and is released under the GNU General Public License (GPL). It provides most of the basic features that you would expect a modern firewall to have, and what is most important is that it sets this all up for you in a highly automated and simplified way. It's very easy to get an IPCop installation up and running and takes very little time. For features like those in IPCop, you would usually have to pay for a high-end firewall system or string something together using a collection of other tools. IPCop takes some of those powerful Linux tools and creates a pre-built package for you. IPCop was created to fill a void in the market, where users with small networks need some features that only large networks can afford, as far as expertise or money is concerned.

If your network is relatively small and has a single Internet connection or you have a couple of sites with separate internet connections that require linking together in a medium-sized business then you can certainly benefit from using IPCop. Since IPCop itself is free your only expense for the firewall is the cost of the hardware (which can be a low-end older computer left over from a previous upgrade) and the time spent administering the machine (which is relatively low due to the easy-to-use interface). For smaller networks this is a very attractive system.

Systems such as ISA server and Checkpoint are extremely expensive and require a great deal of background knowledge to configure and secure properly. Compare this to IPCop, which functions as a well-secured router and firewall almost immediately on installation. Larger enterprise systems also have much higher hardware requirements and are overkill for smaller networks. The expense and time it takes to set these expensive systems up is unlikely to provide a good return on investment for networks outside the larger enterprise. IPCop also benefits from simplicity that is not available when using a general purpose OS such as Windows or even a Linux distribution because of all the unnecessary services they usually install by default. IPCop has a single specific role, so many of the standard services and applications are not installed leaving you with a simplified, specialized firewall installation.

When evaluating IPCop for use in your environment, you should look at the various functionality it provides and determine if it will be the most effective solution for your network. Generally for a small to medium sized network IPCop is extremely effective and can simplify network administration greatly. However, for very large networks with a variety of segments all interconnecting with varying mechanisms you may find IPCop inadequate. It's important to figure out how exactly your network will fit together and then choose IPCop, if it fits your needs. For the SOHO network this may be a very simple topology and may require very little planning. In a larger network IPCop can be used for specific roles within the infrastructure, for example as a gateway for key remote networks like branch offices.

Trust Relationships between the Interfaces

The four types of network interface -- Green, Red, Blue, and Orange -- supported by IPCop have differing levels of trust associated with them. Here is a simple table outlining what traffic is allowed to go to and from which interfaces. This table, and the knowledge contained within it, should form the basis of our planning when considering how many interfaces to use and what to use them for. This is basically the Traffic Flow diagram from the IPCop administrative guide (www.ipcop.org/1.4.0/en/admin/html/section-firewall.html).

Traffic Flow Diagram

Interface From nterface To Status How To Access

Red

Red

Red

Red

Firewall

Orange

Blue

Green

CLOSED

CLOSED

CLOSED

CLOSED

External Access

Port Forwarding

Port Forwarding / VPN

Port Forwarding / VPN

Orange

Orange

Orange

Orange

Firewall

Red

Blue

Green

CLOSED

OPEN

CLOSED

CLOSED

DMZ Pinholes

DMZ Pinholes

Blue

Blue

Blue

Blue

Firewall

Red

Orange

Green

CLOSED

CLOSED

CLOSED

CLOSED

Blue Access

Blue Access

Blue Access

DMZ Pinholes / VPN

Green

Green

Green

Green

Firewall

Red

Orange

Blue

OPEN

OPEN

OPEN

OPEN

In visualizing the way in which traffic goes through the IPCop firewall, we can see it as a sort of giant junction with a traffic cop (literally, an IP Cop -- hence the name!) in the middle of it. When a car (in network parlance, a packet of data) reaches the crossroads, the cop decides in which direction the packet should go (based on the routing tables IPCop uses), and pushes it in the appropriate direction.

In the case of a Green client accessing the Internet, we can see from the previous table that this access is OPEN, so the cop allows the traffic through. In other instances, however, this might not be the case. If a Blue client tries to access a client on the Green segment, for instance, the cop might allow the traffic through if it comes over a VPN or through DMZ pinholes -- but if a client on the Blue segment has neither of these things explicitly allowing the traffic, it is stopped. The car is pulled over, the occupants victims of some virtual time in the cells!

Note that (generally) when we illustrate IPCop Configurations, the Red interface is uppermost (North), the Orange interface is to the left (West), the Blue interface is to the right (East), and the Green interface is to the bottom (South).

Altering IPCop Functionality

As with many aspects of the behavior of the IPCop firewall, it is possible to alter the behavior of the firewalling rules in order to customize IPCop to meet a topology un-catered for by the default rules. Within the context of the firewall rules, IPCop has had a file since the 1.4-series release that allows users to specifically add their own firewall rules (/etc/rc.d/rc.firewall.local). Since version 1.3, there have been iptables chains, CUSTOMINPUT, CUSTOMFORWARD, etc., allowing iptables rules to be added manually.

Specifically using iptables is out of our scope here, but we recommend that interested readers read:

The Linux iptables HOWTO at www.linuxguruz.com/iptables/howto/

Topology One: NAT Firewall

Our first topology exists as a drop-in replacement for the many NAT firewalls that exist in the market. In small offices and homes, solutions such as the embedded NAT firewalls sold by D-Link, Linksys, and friends are frequently deployed in order to provide small networks with cost-effective Internet access. Solutions such as Internet Connection Sharing, a combined NAT firewall, DNS Proxy, and DHCP Server, built into client editions of Windows since Windows 98, are also frequently used in order to allow one PC with a modem or network interface to act as a network gateway for other clients. For our purposes here, we will consider ICS, as such a topology with ICS is effectively a superset of the work required to replace a router such as a Linksys or NETGEAR model as mentioned previously. Our migration from one of these routers to IPCop would be identical save for the decommissioning of the ICS software on the client -- if we remove the router, this is unnecessary and the router can be left configured as-is (and/or kept as a backup, or reused elsewhere) (See http://www.annoyances.org/exec/show/ics for more information on implementing (and consequently, decommissioning) ICS on different Windows versions).

Such solutions, while cheap and convenient, are often not scalable or reliable, and provide poor security. They open workstations up to unnecessary security risks, provide limited throughput, and are often unreliable, requiring frequent reboots and locking up.

As with software firewalls, a network firewall is designed as a barrier in between your workstations and the Internet. By connecting one of your workstations directly to the Internet and using a solution like ICS, although you reduce the resources required to share the internet connection, you expose that workstation to unnecessary risk. There is also an obligation for that PC to be on all the time -- compared to a low-end PC with no unnecessary components and a low-power PSU running IPCop, this may be noisier, and have more power consumption.

IPCop offers a cost-effective replacement in such situations, providing small businesses and home users with a powerful firewall without the need for over-complexity, and adding other features not present in embedded solutions or ICS, such as a customizable DHCP Server, Intrusion Detection, a Proxy Server, and so on.

Such a topology ensures that firewalling is done before data gets to clients, using a package designed to act as a network firewall, greatly increasing the quality of service to clients as well as the security that their network offers. In this situation, the components of IPCop in use would be:

  • Green/Red zones

  • DHCP Server

  • DNS Server

In such a situation, a network administrator or consultant might also choose to enable any of the following pieces of functionality in order to enhance the services provided to the network:

  • Intrusion Detection

  • IPSec in order to allow remote work or remote support

  • Port Forwarding in order to allow remote access to VNC or Terminal Services/Remote Desktop for a simplified model of remote access for remote support (more convenient than IPSec although inherently more insecure)

Decommissioning of ICS in such a situation is quite simple -- we would merely disable the ICS functionality, as depicted in the following screenshot (taken from the network connections property of the external, internet-facing ICS network interface).

Removing ICS is as simple as deselecting the Allow other network users to connect through this computer's Internet connection option. After we have done this, we should hit OK, reboot if asked to, and then we are free to disable and/or remove the external interface on the workstation (disable if we wish to leave a second network card in the machine or if it has two onboard cards, or remove if we are using an external modem or other piece of hardware we intend to remove or install in our IPCop host).

Firewall rules for this topology are simple; as the Green segment is automatically allowed to access resources on the Red interface, there is no topology-specific setup required in order to set this up.

Another substantial benefit in deploying IPCop for such a small office situation is that in the event that the business is required to grow, the solution that it has is scalable. Such a business running a handful of Windows workstations in a workgroup may decide that a workgroup is insufficient for its needs and that it requires centralized management, file storage, and configuration.

IPCop, even in a pre-upgrade scenario like this, is advantageous simply because it provides a built-in, open upgrade path. There is no hardware or software upgrade required to move from simple NAT and DHCP to a network with several network segments, port forwarding, and a proxy server. If the Server already has several network cards (and with the price of these nowadays, there's no reason for it not to, if an expansion is anticipated), this can even be done with little or no noticeable interruption in service to existing clients.

Topology Two: NAT Firewall with DMZ

In a small office situation with a growing company, the need for incoming email might force the activation of the Orange zone, and the deployment and installation of a mail server in this segment.

Such a company might choose to keep its Desktop and Internal Server infrastructure within the Green network segment and put their its server in the DMZ on a switch/hub, or simply attached to the Orange interface of the IPCop host using a crossover cable. As such systems are exposed to the Internet, this segmentation provides a considerable advantage by providing a 'stop line' past which it would be harder for an intruder to escalate his or her access to the network.

Microsoft's Exchange mail server has for some time supported such a configuration through the use of the 'front end' and 'back end' exchange roles (although these roles will be deprecated with future Exchange releases). With a different network configuration however, such as Linux clients using a management system such as Novell's eDirectory or RedHat's Directory Server (RHDS), or a filtering appliance, a similar system with externally-facing SMTP servers (perhaps running the open-source MTA exim) would be equally beneficial.

In this topology, Clients are freely able to connect to the mail server (whether via POP, IMAP, RPC, or RPC over HTTP). In order for a mail server that exists as part of the network domain to authenticate to the directory server, we would also need to open the appropriate ports (contingent upon the directory provider) to the directory server using the DMZ Pinholes feature.

We also have a Port Forwarding rule set up from the external IP address of the IPCop firewall to port 25 on the mail server. This allows external mail servers to connect to the mail server in order to deliver email.

In this topology, a compromise of the mail server (which in the Green segment could compromise the entire network segment) is controlled, as there is some level of protection provided by the firewall.

In such a topology, we use the following capabilities of the IPCop Firewall:

  • Red, Orange, Green zones

  • DMZ Pinholes

  • DHCP Server

  • DNS Server

  • Port Forwarding to Orange segment

We might also choose to employ any of the following elements of functionality:

  • Intrusion Detection System

  • Port Forwarding to web server on the mail server (for external access of IMAP or Exchange mailboxes via a webmail solution such as Horde, SquirrelMail, or Outlook Web Access) Proxy Server (for desktop Internet access)

  • IPSec for remote access to Servers in the Green and Orange segment or for external support

  • Back-end mail server with mailboxes in the Green zone, using the Server in the Orange zone as a relay, performing anti-spam and anti-virus scanning/filtering

Topology Three: NAT Firewall with DMZ and Wireless

In a larger organization, or if the network above grew, we might choose to expand our network topology using one or more IPCop firewalls.

Several IPCop firewalls might be used by such an individual in order to separate several sites, or in order to further segregate one or more DMZs with physically distinct firewalls.

It is also worth considering that IPCop is designed primarily for networks in which it is the only network firewall, in the Small and Medium Business, and Home/Home Office market. Although it is possible to set IPCop up in larger deployments, this is fairly rare, and there are other packages that are arguably more suited to such deployments. In such circumstances, the constraints of IPCop's network segmentation begin to be more burdensome than they are convenient, and the amount of work required to tailor IPCop to meet an organization's needs may exceed the work it would take to manually set up another firewall package to suit the same topology.

In this example, we will consider the broadest scope in which one IPCop box could be deployed, using all four network interfaces to protect a network with an internal (Green) network, an Internet or WAN connection (Red), a DMZ containing more than one Server (Orange), and a wireless segment (Blue) with an IPSec VPN system.

In such a situation, we would almost certainly choose to deploy all of the higher-end features that IPCop contains, such as the Proxy Server and the Intrusion Detection System.

In this situation, the services we are providing for individual network interfaces are as follows:

On the Red Interface, in addition to the default firewalling policy, we are invoking the Port Forwarding feature to allow connections to the mail server on port 25 in the DMZ, and also to port 443 (https) on the mail server in order to allow connections to the business webmail system. We are also allowing incoming IPSec connections to the IPCop firewall in order to allow remote access to staff who work remotely and to provide remote connectivity for support purposes for the IT Staff and third-party software and hardware vendors.

On the Blue interface, we are providing connectivity via an IPSec VPN for clients in order that they can access services run from Servers internally on the Green segment and DMZ segment. Vendors and visitors are allowed access to the Green segment through use of WPA in pre-shared key mode configured on the wireless access point.

WPA-PSK with solely an access point prevents access to the wireless segment and the Internet by unauthorized users, and is an adequate solution for most small and medium networks; use of a newer, WPA2-PSK-capable access point increases this security more for those without an access point or network infrastructure implementing RADIUS or Certificate Services.

The firewalling policy and IPSec system ensures that visitors/vendors only have access to the Red zone (the Internet), and not to any of the resources on the network.

On the Orange interface, our pinholes allow the DMZ servers to connect to a directory server and Kerberos domain controller in the Green segment in order to authenticate users logging onto them via the company directory system. This ensures that the policy and configuration for these Servers is managed centrally, and that there are logs stored centrally for them, but the damage that could be caused by a compromise of these externally-facing services is greatly minimized, ensuring business security and regulatory compliance.

On the Green interface, we allow connectivity to all interfaces, as workstations and Servers within the Green segment are managed service workstations on which users do not have the necessary level of access to cause damage to the resources to which they have access.

In such a situation, we are making use of the following IPCop features:

  • Red, Orange, Green, Blue zones

  • DMZ Pinholes

  • DHCP Server

  • DNS Server

  • Port Forwarding to Orange segment

  • IPSec for remote access to Green, Orange, Blue segments

  • IPSec for access to internal resources by Blue users

  • Intrusion Detection System

  • Port Forwarding to web server on the Mail server externally

  • Proxy Server (for desktop Internet access)

In a larger organization, we may also choose to use IPSec in site-to-site mode in order to link this office with one or more branch or parent offices. In this role as in the role of a single network firewall, IPCop excels.

About the Authors:

Barrie Dempster is currently employed as a Senior Security Consultant for NGS Software Ltd a world-renowned security consultancy well known for their focus in enterprise-level application vulnerability research and database security. He has a background in Infrastructure and Information Security in a number of specialised environments such as financial services institutions, telecommunications companies, call centres, and other organisations across multiple continents. Barrie has experience in the integration of network infrastructure and telecommunications systems requiring high calibre secure design, testing and management. He has been involved in a variety of projects from the design and implementation of Internet banking systems to large-scale conferencing and telephony infrastructure, as well as penetration testing and other security assessments of business critical infrastructure.

James Eaton-Lee works as a Consultant specializing in Infrastructure Security who has worked with clients ranging from small businesses with a handful of employees to multinational banks. He has a varied background, including experience working with IT in ISPs, manufacturing firms, and call centers. James has been involved in the integration of a range of systems, from analogue and VOIP telephony to NT and AD domains in mission-critical environments with thousands of hosts, as well as UNIX & LINUX servers in a variety of roles. James is a strong advocate of the use of appropriate technology, and the need to make technology more approachable and flexible for businesses of all sizes, but especially in the SME marketplace in which technology is often forgotten and avoided. James has been a strong believer in the relevancy and merit of Open Source and Free Software for a number

www.packtpub.com/ipcop/book


         Publisher: Packt Publishing (September 29, 2006)
         Language English
         Paperback 154 pages [191mm x 235mm]
         Release date October 2006
         ISBN 1904811361
         Reprinted with permission.
      

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need for firewall

Mirko Filipovic's picture

For my home laptop I use ZoneAlarm free firewall. This is absolutely necessary for everyone. It blocks at least 50 attempts daily.

home user firewall

linux firewall user's picture

Small Office/Home Office maybe buy home user like me do not use a firewall, I think firewall are only for corps. It is not a big deal to implement a firewall on my home computer. I use linux. I just never got DoS attacks on my home computer.

IPCop is cool though

I use an Ipcop firewall at

Anonymous's picture

I use an Ipcop firewall at home. It runs great on an old k6 and protects both wired and wireless networks. In Ipcop-speak, this is a Red-Green-Blue network, where red=external, green=wired, blue=wireless. The firewall rules are very thorough and extensible. It was easy to set up for what it does. It does DHCP, has a caching proxy server, an intrusion detection system, NTP server, etc. It is also very secure. My wife has a firewall on her wireless XP laptop and almost nothing ever hits it. This is a very polished, easy to use firewall distribution and you cannot beat the price.

I would not go online without some sort of hardware firewall. And Ipcop beats limited consumer routers hands down. All you need is an older PC and a couple of network cards. And if you want to connect to a VPN or have a DMZ, Ipcop boxes are way less expensive than commercial solutions.