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2. Bridging, Firewalls, and DSL connections

Until recently, our local network was hooked into the global net via PPP over a modem. I had installed a firewall using IPChains ( http://www.linuxdoc.org/HOWTO/IPCHAINS-HOWTO.html) with this setup and it worked nicely. We recently upgraded to a DSL connection. I thought it would be trivial to simply switch my firewall to insulate me from the larger net coming in via the DSL connection. I was wrong. It took three days of work to finally get it up and running. I found a lot of suspect information on the net that caused a good deal of confusion. This mini-HOWTO was written because I suspected that our setup will be a quite common configuration in the future when DSL becomes more widespread and I wanted to help people avoid massive frustration.

I guess this is applicable to a cable modem setup, but YMMV as I know nothing about cable modem hookups.

2.1 The Problem

The problem I am trying to solve is to configure the system such that the firewall code in the kernel (that is manipulated with ipchains) can be used to filter the packets that travel back and forth between the outside world and the local network. I also needed some of the local machines to be "seen" on the global net (though always filtered through the firewall). This ruled out IP masquerading (see IP Masquerade HOWTO) which would otherwise probably be a simpler solution. This is not as simple as it seems.

2.2 The Solution

To accomplish our goal of insulating a local net from the global net (over DSL) by using our Linux box, we will use two ethernet (NIC) cards. One card is hooked up to the local net and one to the global net. The only machine that can directly talk to the outside world is the Linux box. All other machines in our local net must go through the Linux box (firewall).

Configuring the software really consists of two problems:

The Bridging mini-Howto gives detailed instructions that solves the first problem by routing packets between the two sides of the network (local and global). This works by putting both NIC's into "promiscuous" mode such that they sniff all the packets on each NIC and transfer packets over when they belong on the other side. This is done transparently; the other computers on the net do not even see the bridge, because it does not even have an IP address. But this does not totally solve the problem. I wanted the firewall to have an IP address (for administration via the network, if nothing else) and more importantly, the bridge code in the kernel intercepts and bridges packets BEFORE they get to the firewall code, so the firewall will have no effect.

It turns out you can assign your NIC's IP addresses and still use them as a bridge. Although the Bridging mini-Howto does not do this (well actually, it uses loopback addresses), it works fine. That solves one problem. For the firewall problem, we turn to a fine kernel patch at http://ac2i.tzo.com/bridge_filter/ that causes the firewall rules to be invoked for packets that are being bridged with a special new rule "bridgein".

2.3 Setup Overview

This mini-HOWTO is meant to handle the situation where you have a Linux box configured as a gateway/firewall. The system has 2 NIC cards installed. One of the NIC cards is connected to the outside world (in our case a DSL modem) and nothing else. The other NIC is connected to our local network.

Note that I have only had one experience with this and it was on my i386 (ABIT BP6 MOBO, w/2 celery) box with RedHat 6.0 with the 2.2.13 kernel, and a DSL modem going to a router, and two Netgear FA310TX NIC cards. Your mileage may vary.

Also note that the steps here will leave your network open to potential attack during setup (before the firewall is turned on). If you are very paranoid you will want to take extra steps to avoid this.

2.4 References

I found a good deal of information on the net that I used to finally get things working. Some of the information was useful, but inaccurate.

The Bridging mini-Howto was instrumental in getting things up. Unfortunately using it alone does not implement a firewall.

The Linux Bridge+Firewall mini-HOWTO at first looked like just what I needed. However, it turns out that I think it is inaccurate. I got things sort-of working with it, but in the end I realized that it was not necessary to split your sub-net in two like it directs and did not use that method. If you look at this document, take it with a grain of salt.

The Bridge Filter Patch is the key to getting the whole thing to work. Oddly enough, the information on the web page directs you to the Bridge+Firewall mini-HOWTO. You do not need to use the information in Bridge+Firewall mini-HOWTO to get things to work. You will need this patch.

The IPCHAINS HOWTO is invaluable in setting up the firewall itself. I do not attempt to cover the details of firewall setup in this document; only issues which are different because of the bridging setup are mentioned here.


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