Open Source Firewalls Explained

    Date02 Jul 2003
    CategoryFirewalls
    6019
    Posted ByAnthony Pell
    Hackers have computers too and want to keep their own machines free of intrusion from the Internet. Paradoxically, these computers may be the most secure computers on the Internet, because the hackers use free software that they can examine for security . . . Hackers have computers too and want to keep their own machines free of intrusion from the Internet. Paradoxically, these computers may be the most secure computers on the Internet, because the hackers use free software that they can examine for security problems, they are the first to discover (or create) security weaknesses, and they fix their own systems as soon as loopholes are discovered. They share the security fixes with anyone who wants them, and you can take advantage of this fast response to new threats in your own network by using the same software they do. Free firewalls often suffer from a few of the same class problems: Weak or missing logging and alerting features No real-time firewall monitoring capability Weak or missing graphical user interface Difficult command prompt-based configuration

    These problems all stem from the fact that the software is developed primarily by a single individual or small team rather than by a corporation. Small teams don't have the time or money to spend on ancillary problems like ease of use or sophisticated alerting and logging mechanisms. These features, when present, are nearly always provided by an add-on package developed by a different developer. Free software is developed for people who deeply understand the problem to be solved and the operating system upon which the software runs. With network security being a strong point but ease-of-use being a weakness of these free packages, several companies have built businesses around "finishing" the free firewalls and selling the result. If you look closely, you'll find that under the hood of many of the commercial firewalls a Linux or BSD kernel running IPChains or ipf. For plug-and-play security that may be the better solution, but if you're not afraid to roll your own firewall, then this could be for you.

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