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Introduction to Firewalls

A firewall is a hardware or software system that prevents unauthorized access to or from a network. They can be implemented in both hardware and software, or a combination of both. Firewalls are frequently used to prevent unauthorized Internet users from accessing private networks connected to the Internet. All data entering or leaving the Intranet pass through the firewall, which examines each packet and blocks those that do not meet the specified security criteria.

Firewalls can greatly enhance the security of a host or a network. They can be used to do one or more of the following things:
* To protect and insulate the applications, services and machines of your internal network from unwanted traffic coming in from the public Internet.
* To limit or disable access from hosts of the internal network to services of the public Internet.
* To support network address translation (NAT), which allows your internal network to use private IP addresses and share a single connection to the public Internet (either with a single IP address or by a shared pool of automatically assigned public addresses).

Introduction to Firewalls

FIREWALL CONCEPTS
There are two basic ways to create firewall rulesets: “inclusive” or “exclusive”. An exclusive firewall allows all traffic through except for the traffic matching the ruleset. An inclusive firewall offers much better control of the outgoing traffic, making it a better choice for systems that offer services to the public Internet. It also controls the type of traffic originating from the public Internet that can gain access to your private network. All traffic that does not match the rules, is blocked and logged by design.
Inclusive firewalls are generally safer than exclusive firewalls because they significantly reduce the risk of allowing unwanted traffic to pass through them.

HOW FIREWALLS WORK ?
A firewall, working closely with a router program, examines each network packet to determine whether 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 installed in a specially designated computer separate from the rest of the network so that no incoming request can get directly at private network resources.
Firewalls use one or more of three methods to control traffic flowing in and out of the network:
* Packet filtering – Packets are analyzed against a set of filters. Packets that make it through the filters are sent to the requesting system and all others are discarded.
* Proxy service – Information from the Internet is retrieved by the firewall and then sent to the requesting system and vice versa.
* Stateful inspection – It compares certain key parts of the packet to a database of trusted information. Information traveling from inside the firewall to the outside is monitored for specific defining characteristics, then incoming information is compared to these characteristics. If the comparison yields a reasonable match, the information is allowed through. Otherwise it is discarded.

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