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Building Internet Firewalls, 2nd Edition by D. Brent Chapman, Simon Cooper, Elizabeth D. Zwicky

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Chapter 8. Packet Filtering

Packet filtering is a network security mechanism that works by controlling what data can flow to and from a network. The basic device that interconnects IP networks is called a router. A router may be a dedicated piece of hardware that has no other purpose, or it may be a piece of software that runs on a general-purpose computer running Unix, Windows NT, or another operating system (MS-DOS, Windows 95/98, Macintosh, or other). Packets traversing an internetwork (a network of networks) travel from router to router until they reach their destination. The Internet itself is sort of the granddaddy of internetworks — the ultimate “network of networks”.

A router has to make a routing decision about each packet it receives; it has to decide how to send that packet on towards its ultimate destination. In general, a packet carries no information to help the router in this decision, other than the IP address of the packet’s ultimate destination. The packet tells the router where it wants to go but not how to get there. Routers communicate with each other using routing protocols such as the Routing Information Protocol (RIP) and Open Shortest Path First (OSPF) to build routing tables in memory to determine how to get the packets to their destinations. When routing a packet, a router compares the packet’s destination address to entries in the routing table and sends the packet onward as directed by the routing table. Often, there won’t be a specific route for ...

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