Implementing a bridging-level firewall

The Drawbridge

Article from Issue 50/2005

Firewalls are typically implemented as routers,but it doesn’t have to be that way. Bridging packet filters have a number of advantages,and you can add them to your network at a later stage without changing the configuration of your network components.

Linux has earned a reputation as an excellent firewall platform. The kernel has a powerful Netfilter/ IPtables-based packet filter. In a traditional firewall scenario, Netfilter resides on a router, where it subdivides the network into two or more subnets. But adding a firewall to an established network can involve changing the network infrastructure. This effort can result in IP address changes and modifications to access controls for internal services. It is far simpler to add a bridge. Bridges reside in layer 2 of the OSI reference model and normally inspect MAC addresses rather than IP addresses (see the box titled “Building Bridges”). Linux can leverage this capability in a clever way to add transparent firewalling to a network. Of course, the bridge evaluates packets from the higher protocol layers (IP addresses, TCP ports) in its role as a firewall. But the hosts on the network will not notice a thing, unless they attempt to send illegal packets.

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