Static Routing Security

Static routing security

Securing the information on your company network is a top priority for network administrators. Security is also required as the routing protocols used are internationally known standards that typically provide little or no inherent security by themselves.

The two reasons for securing your network are the sensitive and proprietary information on your network, and also your external bandwidth. Hackers not only can steal your information, but they can also steal your bandwidth. Routing is a good low level way to secure your network, even before UTM features are applied.

Routing provides security to your network in a number of ways including obscuring internal network addresses with NAT and blackhole routing, using RPF to validate traffic sources, and maintaining an access control list (ACL) to limit access to the network.

This section includes:

  • Network Address Translation (NAT)
  • Access Control List (ACL)
  • Blackhole Route
  • Reverse path lookup

Network Address Translation (NAT)

Network address translation (NAT) is a method of changing the address from which traffic appears to originate. This practice is used to hide the IP address on a company’s internal networks, and helps prevent malicious attacks that use those specific addresses.

This is accomplished by the router connected to that local network changing all the IP addresses to its externally connected IP address before sending the traffic out to the other networks, such as the Internet. Incoming traffic uses the established sessions to determine which traffic goes to which internal IP address. This also has the benefit of requiring only the router to be very secure against external attacks, instead of the whole internal network as would be the case without NAT. Securing one computer is much cheaper and easier to maintain.

1. Configuring NAT on your FortiGate unit includes the following steps.

2. Configure your internal network. For example use the 11.101.0 subnet.

3. Connect your internal subnet to an interface on your FortiGate unit. For example use port1.

4. Connect your external connection, for example an ISP gateway of 20.120.2, to another interface on your

Fortigate unit, for example port2.

Configure security policies to allow traffic between port1 and port2 on your FortiGate unit, ensuring that the NAT

feature is enabled.

The above steps show that traffic from your internal network will originate on the subnet and pass on to the network. The FortiGate unit moves the traffic to the proper subnet. In doing that, the traffic appears to originate from the FortiGate unit interface on that subnet — it does not appear to originate from where it actually came from.

NAT “hides” the internal network from the external network. This provides security through obscurity. If a hacker tries to directly access your network, they will find the Fortigate unit, but will not know about your internal network. The hacker would have to get past the security-hardened FortiGate unit to gain access to your internal network. NAT will not prevent hacking attempts that piggy back on valid connections between the internal network and the outside world. However other UTM security measures can deal with these attempts.

Another security aspect of NAT is that many programs and services have problems with NAT. Consider if someone on the Internet tries to initiate a chat with someone on the internal network. The outsider only can access the FortiGate unit’s external interface unless the security policy allows the traffic through to the internal network. If allowed in, the proper internal user would respond to the chat. However if its not allowed, the request to chat will be refused or time-out. This is accomplished in the security policy by allowing or denying different protocols.


Access Control List (ACL)

An access control list (ACL) is a table of addresses that have permission to send and receive data over a router’s interface or interfaces. The router maintains an ACL, and when traffic comes in on a particular interface it is buffered, while the router looks up in the ACL if that traffic is allowed over that port or not. If it is allowed on that incoming interface, then the next step is to check the ACL for the destination interface. If the traffic passes that check as well the buffered traffic is delivered to its accentuation. If either of those steps fail the ACL check, the traffic is dropped and an error message may be sent to the sender. The ACL ensures that traffic follows expected paths, and any unexpected traffic is not delivered. This stops many network attacks. However, to be effective the ACL must be kept up to date —when employees or computers are removed from the internal network their IP addresses must also be removed from the ACL. For more information on the ACL, see the router chapter of the FortiGate CLI Reference.


Blackhole Route

A blackhole route is a route that drops all traffic sent to it. It is very much like /dev/null in Linux programming. Blackhole routes are used to dispose of packets instead of responding to suspicious inquiries. This provides added security since the originator will not discover any information from the target network.

Blackhole routes can also limit traffic on a subnet. If some subnet addresses are not in use, traffic to those addresses (traffic which may be valid or malicious) can be directed to a blackhole for added security and to reduce traffic on the subnet.

The loopback interface, a virtual interface that does not forward traffic, was added to enable easier configuration of blackhole routing. Similar to a normal interface, this loopback interface has fewer parameters to configure, and all traffic sent to it stops there. Since it cannot have hardware connection or link status problems, it is always available, making it useful for other dynamic routing roles. Once configured, you can use a loopback interface in security policies, routing, and other places that refer to interfaces. You configure this feature only from the CLI. For more information, see the system chapter of the FortiGate CLI Reference.


Reverse path lookup

Whenever a packet arrives at one of the FortiGate unit’s interfaces, the unit determines whether the packet was received on a legitimate interface by doing a reverse lookup using the source IP address in the packet header. This is also called anti-spoofing. If the FortiGate unit cannot communicate with the computer at the source IP address through the interface on which the packet was received, the FortiGate unit drops the packet as it is likely a hacking attempt.

If the destination address can be matched to a local address (and the local configuration permits delivery), the FortiGate unit delivers the packet to the local network. If the packet is destined for another network, the Fortigate unit forwards the packet to a next-hop router according to a policy route and the information stored in the FortiGate forwarding table.

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