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2.18 Firewalls

A firewall is neither a product nor a tiny, magical box with lots of blinking LEDs even if more IT security companies try to let you think so. A firewall is a security concept. It serves to protect the network and computers from being attacked and is only as effective as the combination of its components.

Typical parts of a firewall are a packet filter, intrusion detection system, intrusion prevention system, log analyzer, continuous system updates, virus scanner, proxies, honeypot and/or VPNs.

A packet filter works on layer 3 and 4 and decides which packets shall pass, be dropped, rejected or redirected depending on its rule-set.

Intrusion detection systems can be classified into two different types: hostand network intrusion detection system. A host intrusion detection system (HIDS for short) locates successful attacks on a local computer by, for example, continuously checking all files and directories against a database of cryptographic checksums.

A network intrusion detection system (NIDS) therefore detects attacks in the network traffic and can operate on all layers at the same time. Its functionality can be compared to a virus scanner, because it searches for signatures of known attacks. Additionally it has the possibility to learn what is classified as normal traffic in a network and the anomaly detection component alarms packets that differs from it.

Attacks recognized by a NIDS can be prevented thanks to a intrusion prevention system (IPS). In the easiest case it just inserts the attacking IP address into a list of IPs to block and the packet filter will drop everything from them. Be careful: this isn't the best way to deal with attacks. A smart attacker could forge packets from legitimate and important systems and cut you completely from the net. Therefore it would be better to rewrite the attack packets in such a way that they cannot do any damage any more or to at least protect certain ips from being blacklisted.

A honeypot is a simulated server or whole simulated network of easy to crack services. Depending on its purpose it is used to keep script kiddies and crackers away from production systems, to have a prealert system and to log and analyze new cracking techniques, viruses, worm codes etc.

Last but not least the most important component: a continuous system upgrade and patch workflow! Without current security updates you will never get security at all. A firewall consists of software like a normal desktop computer.

Fig. 2.15 Man-in-the-middle attack

2.19 Man-in-the-Middle-Attacks

Man-in-the-middle attacks (Mimor Mitm attacks for short) behave like a proxy, but on an unintentional base. Some individuals therefore consider transparent proxies of ISPs a Man-in-the-Middle attack.

All mim-attacks have in common to partly or entirely redirect the traffic of a victim to themselves and afterwards forward them to the real destination (see Fig. 2.15).

This can be realized through different techniques such as ARP-Cache-Poisoning (Sect. 4.2), DNS-Spoofing (Sect. 6.7) or ICMP Redirection (Sect. 5.10).

Not only can an attacker steal the complete traffic including sensitive data like usernames and passwords, but also drop connections at will and manipulate content to fool the victim.

 
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