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Firewalls - Computer Networks

Published on Sunday, December 20, 2015

Hope your preparations are going well for exams ahead. Today, we'll be learning Firewalls and all about them as a part of networks. Feel free to share your views/doubts/clarifications in comments section.

This article is a part of PK Series (IT)

What is a Firewall?

A firewall is a device designed to control the flow of traffic into and out-of a network. In general, firewalls are installed to prevent attacks. It disrupts free communication between a trusted and un-
trusted network in order to mange the information flow and restrict unwarranted dangerous access. 
Hardware firewall is a physical device between internet and your computer while Software firewall is installed as a program on computer.

Types of Firewalls

Packet Filtering Firewall

It applies a set of rules to each incoming packet and then forwards/discards (two default policies) the packet. It filters packets going in both directions. The packet filter is typically set up as a list of rules based on matches to fields in IP or TCP header. Some of the attacks that can be made on packet filtering routers are: IP address spoofing, Source Routing attacks, Tiny Fragment attacks.

Advantages: Simplicity, transparency to users and high speed.
Disadvantages: Difficult to set up, lack of authentication.

Application Level Gateway Firewall

In this, when a client establishes connection with the destination service, it connects to an application gateway. It is also called a proxy server. The proxy then establishes the connection with destination behind the firewall and acts on behalf of client, making all packet forwarding decisions. It acts as a relay of application level traffic. Also, it needs separate proxies for each service- SMTP, DNS and other custom services.

Advantages: Higher security than packet filters, Easy to log and audit all incoming traffic.
Disadvantages: Requires great memory and processor resources.
Firewalls types

Circuit Level Gateway Firewall

This firewall works at session layer of OSI model. Traffic is allowed only if a session request is legitimate. It sets up two TCP connections. The gateway typically relays TCP segments from one connection to other without examining the contents and security function determines whether to allow it further or not. A proxy server as explained above is a security barrier between internal and external computers while a circuit level gateway is a virtual circuit between proxy server and internal hosts.

Advantages: Hides private network data, doesn't need a separate proxy server for each application, simple to implement.
Disadvantages: Doesn't filter individual packets, attacker may take advantage after establishing a connection.
firewall types

What is a Bastion Host?

It is a system identified by firewall administrator as a crucial point in network's security. It executes a secure version of OS and is trusted. It requires additional authentication before access is allowed. It is designed specifically to withstand attacks as it is on public side of the network. Firewalls and Routers can be considered as Bastion Hosts.

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