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openSUSE 11.1 Reference Guide
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33.3 Firewalling Basics

Firewall is probably the term most widely used to describe a mechanism that provides and manages a link between networks while also controlling the data flow between them. Strictly speaking, the mechanism described in this section is called a packet filter. A packet filter regulates the data flow according to certain criteria, such as protocols, ports, and IP addresses. This allows you to block packets that, according to their addresses, are not supposed to reach your network. To allow public access to your Web server, for example, explicitly open the corresponding port. However, a packet filter does not scan the contents of packets with legitimate addresses, such as those directed to your Web server. For example, if incoming packets were intended to compromise a CGI program on your Web server, the packet filter would still let them through.

A more effective but more complex mechanism is the combination of several types of systems, such as a packet filter interacting with an application gateway or proxy. In this case, the packet filter rejects any packets destined for disabled ports. Only packets directed to the application gateway are accepted. This gateway or proxy pretends to be the actual client of the server. In a sense, such a proxy could be considered a masquerading host on the protocol level used by the application. One example for such a proxy is Squid, an HTTP proxy server. To use Squid, the browser must be configured to communicate via the proxy. Any HTTP pages requested are served from the proxy cache and pages not found in the cache are fetched from the Internet by the proxy. As another example, the SUSE proxy suite (proxy-suite) provides a proxy for the FTP protocol.

The following section focuses on the packet filter that comes with openSUSE. For further information about packet filtering and firewalling, read the Firewall HOWTO included in the howto package. If this package is installed, read the HOWTO with

less /usr/share/doc/howto/en/txt/Firewall-HOWTO.gz
openSUSE 11.1 Reference Guide
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