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Most Linux distributions provide mailing list services for security update announcements, and tools for applying updates to the system. General Linux only security issues are reported among others at Linuxsecurity.com.

Updating is an ongoing process, so it should be an almost daily habit.


10.5.4. Firewalls and access policies What is a firewall?

In the previous section we already mentioned firewall capabilities in Linux. While firewall administration is one of the tasks of your network admin, you should know a couple of things about firewalls.

Firewall is a vague term that can mean anything that acts as a protective barrier between us and the outside world, generally the Internet. A firewall can be a dedicated system or a specific application that provides this functionality. Or it can be a combination of components, including various combinations of hardware and software. Firewalls are built from "rules" that are used to define what is allowed to enter and/or exit a given system or network.

After disabling unnecessary services, we now want to restrict accepted services as to allow only the minimum required connections. A fine example is working from home: only the specific connection between your office and your home should be allowed, connections from other machines on the Internet should be blocked.

image Packet filters

The first line of defense is a packet filter, which can look inside IP packets and make decisions based on the content. Most common is the Netfilter package, providing the iptables command, a next generation packet filter for Linux.

One of the most noteworthy enhancements in the newer kernels is the stateful inspection feature, which not only tells what is inside a packet, but also detects if a packet belongs or is related to a new or existing



The Shoreline Firewall or Shorewall for short is a front-end for the standard firewall functionality in Linux. More information can be found at the Netfilter/iptables project page. TCP wrappers

TCP wrapping provides much the same results as the packet filters, but works differently. The wrapper actually accepts the connection attempt, then examines configuration files and decides whether to accept or reject the connection request. It controls connections at the application level rather than at the network level.

TCP wrappers are typically used with xinetd to provide host name and IP-address-based access control. In addition, these tools include logging and utilization management capabilities that are easy to configure.

The advantages of TCP wrappers are that the connecting client is unaware that wrappers are used, and that they operate separately from the applications they protect.

The host based access is controlled in the hosts.allow and hosts.deny files. More information can be found in the TCP wrapper documentation files in /usr/share/doc/tcp_wrappers[-<version>/] or /usr/share/doc/tcp and in the man pages for the host based access control files, which contain examples.

image Proxies

Proxies can perform various duties, not all of which have much to do with security. But the fact that they are an intermediary make proxies a good place to enforce access control policies, limit direct connections through a firewall, and control how the network behind the proxy looks to the Internet.

Usually in combination with a packet filter, but sometimes all by themselves, proxies provide an extra level of control. More information can be found in the Firewall HOWTO or on the Squid website.

image Access to individual applications

Some servers may have their own access control features. Common examples include Samba, X Window, Bind, Apache and CUPS. For every service you want to offer check which configuration files apply.

image Log files

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