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Introduction to Firewalls - Connecticut

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Introduction to Firewalls - Connecticut

A firewall is a set of related programs, located at a network gateway server that protects the resources of a private network from users operating in other networks. An enterprise with an intranet that allows its workers access to the wider Internet installs a firewall to prevent outsiders from accessing its own private data resources and for controlling what outside resources its own users have access to.
Basically, a firewall, working closely with a router program, examines each network packet to determine whether or not to forward it toward its destination. A firewall also includes or works with a proxy server that makes network requests on behalf of workstation users. A firewall is often contained in a specially designated computer separate from the rest of the network so that no incoming request can get directly at private network resources.
There are a number of firewall screening methods. A simple one is to screen requests to make sure they come from acceptable (previously identified) domain name and Internet Protocol addresses. For mobile users, firewalls allow remote access in to the private network by the use of secure logon procedures and authentication certificates.
The techniques and systems networks use to restrict incoming traffic include:

1. Stateful Inspection: An advanced firewall architecture that was invented by Check Point Software Technologies in the early 1990s. Also known as dynamic packet filtering, it has replaced static packet filtering as the industry standard firewall solution for networks.
Stateful inspection provides enhanced security by keeping track of communications packets over a period of time. Both incoming and outgoing packets are examined. Outgoing packets that request specific types of incoming packets are tracked; only those incoming packets constituting a proper response are allowed through the firewall. In contrast to static packet filtering, in which only the headers of packets are checked, stateful inspection analyzes packets down to the Application layer.
In a firewall that uses stateful inspection, the network administrator can set the parameters to meet specific needs. In a typical network connected to the Internet, ports are normally closed unless an incoming packet requests connection to a specific port, and then only that port is opened to the packet. This prevents port scanning, a well-known technique used by hackers to gain entry to networks and individual computers connected to the Internet.
2. Proxy Server: In an enterprise that uses the Internet, a proxy server is a server that acts as an intermediary between a workstation user and the Internet so that the enterprise can ensure security, administrative control, and caching service. A proxy server is associated with or part of a gateway server that separates the enterprise network from the outside network and a firewall server that protects the enterprise network from outside intrusion.
A proxy server receives a request for an Internet service (such as a Web page request) from a user. If it passes filtering requirements, the proxy server, assuming it is also a cache server, looks in its local cache of previously downloaded Web pages. If it finds the page, it returns it to the user without needing to forward the request to the Internet. If the page is not in the cache, the proxy server, acting as a client on behalf of the user, uses one of its own IP addresses to request the page from the server out on the Internet. When the page is returned, the proxy server relates it to the original request and forwards it on to the user.
3. Network Address Translation (NAT): This is the translation of an Internet Protocol address (IP address) used within one network to a different IP address known within another network. One network is designated the inside network and the other is the outside. Typically, a company maps its local inside network addresses to one or more global outside IP addresses and unmaps the global IP addresses on incoming packets back into local IP addresses. This helps ensure security since each outgoing or incoming request must go through a translation process that also offers the opportunity to qualify or authenticate the request or match it to a previous request. NAT also conserves on the number of global IP addresses that a company needs and it lets the company use a single IP address in its communication with the world. Through this technique, to access internal IP’s there is one main IP address. The system performs the translation forth and back.

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