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Configuring IPCop Firewalls 114

Ravi writes "IPCop is a GPLed firewall solution targeted at Small Office/Home Office network. It is favored by many for its ease of configuration and setup and its support for a variety of features that you would expect to have in a modern firewall. IPCop is famed for letting users setup a sophisticated firewall for ones network without ever having to write an iptables rule themselves." Read the rest of Ravi's review.
Configuring IPCOP Firewalls - Closing borders with Open Source
author Barrie Dempster and James Eaton-Lee
pages 230
publisher Packt Publishing
rating 8.5
reviewer Ravi
ISBN 1-904811-36-1
summary A practical book that takes a hands on approach in setting up and configuring IPCop firewall on ones network

Configuring IPCop Firewalls published by Packt Publishing is authored by two people Barrie Dempster and James Eaton-Lee and is divided into 11 chapters. The first chapter gives a brief introduction to firewalls and explains technical concepts such as OSI reference model, an introduction to TCP/IP and a brief outline of the parts that comprise a network. Even though I did not find anything new in this chapter, I realized that this is meant for people who are new to the world of computer networks and aims to bring them up to date with the various technologies associated with it. A network administrator intending to pick up skills in configuring and setting up IPCop, can circumvent this chapter and go to the second chapter which gives an introduction to IPCop and its different features. The authors have explained the concepts in an easily understood way with the aid of necessary screen-shots. One of the salient features of IPCop is its web based interface which allows one to configure all aspects of it from a remote location. In fact, IPCop is designed to be controlled from a remote location and serves all its configuration parameters via the Apache web server.

In the second chapter, one gets to know all the features of IPCOP including the different services it offer. One thing that struck me while going through this book was that the authors are fully immersed in explaining the configuration aspects of IPCop which is done entirely via the web interface. Other than the first, third, and 10th chapter, where the readers are made to digest some theory, the rest of the book is as a how-to. I found this to be ideally suited for people who are the least bothered about theory and just want to set up IPCop and get on with what they were doing.

In the third chapter, we are introduced to the unique feature used by IPCop to segregate the network depending upon its vulnerability. And in the succeeding chapter, the authors walk one through installing IPCop. Here each and every installation step is explained with the help of a screenshot which makes understanding the procedure much more intuitive.

The chapter titled "Basic IPCop Usage" gives a good introduction to the web interface provided by IPCop. Reading this chapter, I was able to get a good feel for the IPCop interface. More specifically, you learn how to configure IPCop to provide different services such as DHCP server, support for Dynamic DNS, editing the hosts file and so on. The IPCop interface is quite rich in functionality even providing options to reboot or shutdown the machine remotely. In this chapter, apart from the introduction to the web interface, the authors have also provided a few tips related to logging in to the remote machine running IPCop using SSH.

Put in simple terms, IPCop is a specialized Linux distribution which contain a collection of tools which revolve around providing robust firewall capabilities. The tools bundled with IPCop range from the ubiquitous iptables, services such as DNS, and DHCP, to tools which specialize in intrusion detection such as snort.

The sixth chapter titled "Intrusion Detection with IPCop" explains the concept of intrusion detection and how one can use snort IDS bundled with IPCop to effectively find out what is passing through our network and thus isolate any harmful packets.

The book moves on to explain how to use IPCop to set up a virtual private network (VPN). By way of an example, the authors explain how to setup a VPN between two remote networks with each end having a IPCop firewall in place. This chapter covers different VPN scenarios such as host to net, net to net connections as well as configuring IPCop to detect the Certifying Authority certificates.

The 8th chapter is a rather short one which explains how to effectively use proxying and caching solutions available in IPCop to manage the bandwidth.

One of the biggest advantages of IPCop is that it is possible to extend it to provide additional features by way of add-ons. Add-ons are generally developed by third parties and are usually developed with an aim to provide a feature that the developers of IPCop have missed. There are a whole lot of add-ons available for IPCop. The 9th chapter introduces the most popular add-ons available for IPCop such as SquidGuard — a content filtering add-on, LogSend — an add-on which send the IPCop logs to remote email accounts, AntiSpam, integrating ClamAV anti virus solution and more. The authors have also explained how to install and enable these add-ons using the IPCop web interface.

The tenth chapter titled "Testing, Auditing and Hardening IPCop" has more of a theoretical disposition where the authors list some of the common attributes towards security and patch management and also some of the security risks and a few common security and auditing tools and tests.

One thing I really like about this book is the practical approach taken by the authors in explaining how to accomplish a certain task. Each section is accompanied by the relevant screenshots of the web interface with a brief explanation of the options available. The book is well designed with a number of tips provided in each section highlighted in big square brackets which makes it quite eye catching. Even though I found the book a bit short on theory, it is an ideal resource which provides a hands on approach to people who are more interested in installing and setting up IPCop firewall solutions in ones network rather than pondering about the theoretical concepts of the same.

Ravi Kumar likes to share his thoughts on all things related to GNU/Linux, Open Source and Free Software through his blog on Linux.

You can purchase Configuring IPCOP Firewalls - Closing borders with Open Source from Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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Configuring IPCop Firewalls

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  • Find it here (Score:5, Informative)

    by SpaceLifeForm ( 228190 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @03:53PM (#17135280)
    IPCop []

    • I think it would have been helpful to note somewhere in the review what IPCop actually is. It's a Linux firewall distribution.

      Reading the review, I thought that it was some new packet filtering system, like an actual replacement/alternative to iptables that I'd just never heard about.

      The review's introduction called it a "solution" which is a generic term for 'anything that does anything, somehow.' Not very descriptive.
    • I see that it's still not easy to run IPCop v1.4 (2.4 linux kernel) under Xen v3 (2.6 kernel). Any word on when they'll be starting up v1.5 (with a 2.6 kernel)?
      • Base operating system used is Linux From Scratch. It shouldn't be too much of a fight to get the frontend to work on a custom LFS/Cross-LFS build... I havent looked at their stuff but am fairly intimate with the OS build... may have a crack at it this weekend for shits and giggles...
  • Update on the link (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    For some reason the review links to B & N, but it seems that Amazon has it a few bucks cheaper []. With a book this pricey, any savings are welcome.
  • Moo (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Chacham ( 981 )
    IPCop is famed for letting users setup a sophisticated firewall for ones network

    It is "one's" not "ones". And, it would have been better to say "for their network".

    Is *any* editting done?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by CastrTroy ( 595695 )
      I'm not sure about that. I always thought that when using a pronoun, the apostrophe is not used for the possessive. Examples are yours, its, hers, his, and possible ones, although I'm not really sure about how this applies to "one". Their is the plural term, so it should not be used when referring to the individual. Using "one" is sometimes what happens because there is no widely used gender neutral singular pronouns in English. It's fine just to use his or her, but some people think that's sexist.
  • by b0bby ( 201198 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @03:58PM (#17135386) probably don't need this book. IPCop is super easy to to set up & configure if you're even the slightest bit geeky. I really like it, but then I'm the slightest bit geeky.
    • by rHBa ( 976986 )
      About 5-6(+?) years ago when adsl had just become popular in the UK, cheap, off the shelf firewall/routers weren't available and IPCop was still on IP chains, I bought an old Compaq deskpro off eBay, plugged in an Alcatel clamshell USB modem (the standard at the time) and installed IPCop on it in half a day, working from TFM and a HowTo.

      Baring in mind this was my second only Linux install, my first being RedHat on a Dell laptop, and I'm far from a computer nerd, I would agree that this book is only for the
    • If the book goes into detail and covers advanced configuration, it might still be worth it to me.

      I don't want a box that just deflects outside attacks, I want a box that limits the type of connections coming from inside the network going to the outside world. (To only allow web access for the machines on the internal network.) I tinkered with Smoothwall and IPCop 3 years ago when I had Internet access at home, but never really dug into it and don't remember if it had the option to close down outgoing conne
  • by intnsred ( 199771 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @04:02PM (#17135448)
    Does anyone knowledgeable want to contrast IPCop [] to SmoothWall []?

    Advantages/Disadvantages? Pros/Cons?
    • by TellarHK ( 159748 ) <tellarhk AT hotmail DOT com> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @04:10PM (#17135566) Homepage Journal
      I haven't followed the projects since way back, but IPCop was originally a fork of SmoothWall meant to stay completely Free after a "dickishness inclined" project founder pissed a good number of people off with particularly ugly actions and statements. Not to mention a downright hostile stance toward helping non-paid users and threatening critics with lawsuits (myself being one of the recipients of an indirect threat levelled against me through my college where I once hosted some email correspondence with some of the SmoothWall team) in order to silence people speaking up about issues with said founder being... well, a douchebag.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by il_diablo ( 574683 )
        I'll second that.

        I was a paying user of Smoothwall, and the founder was still a total douchebag to me. I was reselling the product to some clients, having had such a good experience with the product in house (my small company of 6 people). There was quite a bit of angst trying to get him to take care of some relatively simple things in the ordering provide an actual physical product to the client.

        Yes, I know it was downloadable. Yes, I know the point of open source/pseudo open source s
        • Luckily that guy has left now. I think someone vandalised his car and he had a re-think about his life.
          • Couldn't happen to a douchebaggier douchebag.

            Fortunately, I did hear some time ago that he left the project. Don't judge today's SmoothWall on yesterday's... douchebag.

            Damn, I just love the word douchebag. It needs more usage.
    • IPCop is spun off of Smoothwall close to 5 years ago- I don't really have any complaints about smoothwall, but IPCop has a nicer look and feel to it as well as some enhanced features.


    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by jazman_777 ( 44742 )
      The guy running SmoothWall, in my opinion, made Theo de Raadt (OpenBSD) look like someone with whom you'd like to have a spot of tea and a lovely afternoon chat.
    • by sparkyradar ( 908639 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @04:53PM (#17136238)
      I've used SmoothWall, and found it easy to setup, and extend. At the time (several years ago) IPCop was a pretty new fork from SmoothWall, so they were nearly the same. The GUI tools were different, and (particularly important for the forkers) the developer-attitude was supposed to be much-improved with IPCop.

      In terms of hardware, I was using a Pentium-166, which had *tons* of horsepower for this application (either IPCop or SmoothWall). The only thing was that it was older hardware, and about once a month it would sporadically die :-( Because of this, and also the 200W power-consumption, I eventually ditched it for a consumer-grade Netgear NAT/"firewall" thingy... I've never regretted this move! Be guided...

      SmoothWall was a compacted Linux distribution, which allowed for the usual Linux apps to be added. Want to your your own ntpd for your home-LAN? No problem. Perhaps some fancy dchp-configuration options - again, no problem.


  • Other options (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Jesterboy ( 106813 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @04:09PM (#17135560)
    Personally, I've always used m0n0wall [] since it can be run from a CD/floppy/flash drive, and the only experience I've ever had with IPCop was a bad one. I was working on a small project with a tight deadline, and it just completely failed at a crucial moment and I didn't give it a second look. Admittedly, it was configured by an idiot, so I am wondering:

    What does IPCop offer that other options (m0n0wall, Smoothwall) don't?

    What is the most barebones setup you can manage with it? By that I mean the smallest system requirements to get decent performance?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by racermd ( 314140 )
      I've tried both m0n0wall and Smoothwall, but neither of them seemed as easy to use. IPCop is (to me) logically laid out and incredibly easy to configure with nothing more than the descriptions on each of the config pages in the GUI.

      As for hardware config, I'm running a 1GHz P3 that I swiped out of a friend's PC that he was upgrading (long ago - a socket 370). It's got 256MB of RAM, and a 4GB disk, as well. This setup is *way* more than enough to run IPCop. One of it's advantages is a small system footpr
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Zuke8675309 ( 470025 )
      I've run ipcop on an old p166 with 32mb ram and a equally tiny hard drive (don't remember how big off hand) and it worked great for a network of 50 or so computers.

      Currently I run two at our private school, one is an old ibm e-series celeron 800 and the other is a p3-450. I moved up in processor speed because the current two machines fit in my rack better. :)
      Both perform flawlessly and continuous uptime would be over a year if we didn't have a long power-outtage a couple months ago. I just checked the cpu
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I can't speak to the difference between IPCop and Smoothwall, but the difference between those two and monowall is enormous. Monowall is designed to run on very small systems. I recommend it on a Soekris net4801 [] where monowall can fit on an 8MB Compact Flash card. If energy consumption and space are a concern for you than something like monowall is great.

      If, however, you want to do any kind of proxying (Squid for example) or run larger services off of the firewall and you have some old spare machine

    • 486sx25 w/ 12M Ram, 270M Disk & 2x ISA 10Base-T. Loaded via diskette/network, so no cd-rom needed. Supports 5Mb/768kb Cable Modem at full rate.

      I do not just use IPCop, I also test the LOW end.

  • How to use a GUI
  • I thought this was a bad thing.

    For example, there was this [] compromise from last year. I don't know the status, but it just seems to me this isn't such a good idea.

    I can think of a few other reasons why taking the Microsoft approach to a firewall distro isn't good. Most of which boil down to Linux's current status as "more secure" is easily discredited.

    An analogy would be all of the features/applications are a long rope with which the distro hangs itself.

    I'm thinking t
  • by t0qer ( 230538 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @04:18PM (#17135712) Homepage Journal
    Small real estate company with several sattelite offices around the bay area. Owner was cheap. Sometimes a cheap boss can force you to be creative, which can be fun.

    Most of the IPcop firewalls in the sattelite offices are running on PII or less machines, with the main office on a P4 1.4ghz. Freeswan VPN's are setup between all the office.

    Not much more to say than that. Other than a few upgrades (easily done through the web interface) my ipcop boxes have had uptimes around 2 years. Very awesome, reliable firewall.
  • I've used IPCop a few times doing some complex tasks (VPN's, VOIP, VTC) and have been generally satisfied with how things worked but look forward to the next major rev of the product based on the 2.6 kernel. The current IPsec implementation is OpenSWAN based and I prefer the native ipsec included with the 2.6. This by no means diminishes the effort of the IPCop team, it's a good product.
  • IPCop vs DD-WRT (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bcnstony ( 859124 )
    I've used IPCop, both a couple years ago and for a while earlier this year. I was impressed by it both times, but was unhappy about the noise/heat/electricity of a box running 24/7. Granted, it had great features, but I really didn't use them, so I just replaced it with a WRT54G running DD-WRT (I stopped using sveasoft after I felt they weren't honoring the spirit, if not the letter, of GPL).

    IPCop will permenantly dominate if someone manages to port it to the WRT54G. If I could have the amazing power of
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I use a Turion 64 and a IDE Flash card / RAM drive... low power, no noise.
    • My router handles firewalling but I read some time ago that Firestarter is also a good GUI based firewall, is easy to use but with features for advanced use. How does it campare with IPCop?

      • Firestarter and ipcop are completely different animals. Firestarter is a pretty cool firewall GUI for linux. It's pretty and easy to use. You can see the hits in real time, make firewall rules on the fly, etc., all without having to go anywhere near the iptables manpage. I would not hesitate to use firestarter on a laptop if I was travelling.

        But for home or business use, I would definitely use a dedicated solution like ipcop. I have two internal networks, one wireless for the laptops and another for my linu
  • Copfilter... (Score:3, Informative)

    by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @04:52PM (#17136230)
    Copfilter [] is an add-on for IPCop that provides spam and virus filtering using SpamAssassin, Clam, and proxSMTP. It can also filter incoming POP3 streams and even WWW traffic (but is sloooow doing it). Not terribly configurable, but handy if you need a quick spam appliance solution that Just Works. The only thing is that is doesn't seem to play nice when IPCop is running off a flash card and RAMdisk.

    I'm using IPCop and Copfilter on a LinITX PC for a client and so far he's very happy with the results. LinITX is a mini-ITX PC slightly larger than a Linksys "blue box" router with built-in video/USB/AT (so you don't have to configure it via serial console!), three Ethernet ports, a flash disk slot, room for a 2.5" HDD internally, and 2 on-board IDE controllers - you can even temporarily hook up a generic internal CD-ROM drive for install purposes.


  • IPcop has been a fantastic solution for my both at home and in some business solutions. Easy to manage, stable, and strong mailing lists for support.

    But the only knock I have is roadwarrior VPN's & windows. Now I'm sure that part of the problem lies with trying to integrate the two. Net-to-net VPN's are ungodly easy and rock solid. I've tried jumping through the hoops to get a roadwarrior going with no luck, and the most common piece of advice I've seen is to use a third-party add on such as zerina. Dam
    • FYI: There is an add-on for this.
      • FYI: There is an add-on for this.

        Yes, there sure is. I mentioned zerina in my post.

        Why can't i just go ahead and use the built-in VPN component? That's a usability area IPCop needs to improve. Net-to-net VPN's are simple. Roadwarrior VPN's....not so much.
    • by mink ( 266117 )
      I have gotten it working several times and I think I finally figured it all out.

      Drop me an e-mail if you want to discuss what I did.
  • imho (Score:2, Informative)

    by coaxeus ( 911103 ) *
    I do firewall/VPN/security work for a living; I've tried/used Ipcop and nearly all of the products mentioned below and dozens more (m0n0wall, cisco PIX, cisco ASA, checkpoint, juniper, smoothwall, proxy bases firewalls, sonicwall, guarddog, watchdog, hommade linux/freebsd/openbsd/etc etc).
    I personally vastly prefer PfSense over any of them for nearly all applications. []
  • I'm going to have to get this book.
    I'm one of those people midway between clueless AOL users and people who actually know what they're doing: I run all linux but don't actually know how to configure ipchains or the like. So I have an old (fanless 486) headless IPCop box downstairs, acting as a firewall and NAT. I got it set up and it's been running for six years, doing what I wanted, without me having to deal with it at all. Nobody (to the best of my knowledge) has ever gotten through it, and I do check
  • pfSense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by korozion ( 127804 )
    I've used a lot of products like this. However I find pfSense a lot better.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Agreed 75%. Better, but not a lot.

      I use both and never experienced a breach on one of them so I cannot give first person experience accounts on their security level. From a sysadmin point of view pfSense looks to me more stable and less prone to update failures, while ipCop supports more devices (I had problems with some wireless NICs under pfSense) but lacks multiple DMZs and other sometimes useful features.
      Form a user point of view the IpCop folks should seriously consider grabbing some ideas from the ext
    • by robpoe ( 578975 )
      my only issue with pfsense is that if you don't have 128mb of ram, it constantly complains at you ... I use smoothwall ..
  • uptime (Score:2, Informative)

    by Danzigism ( 881294 )
    IPCop is a great linux-router distro for old crappy machines as well.. i have it running at home on a pentium 133 with 32 megs of ram.. its been up 96 days without any problems at all.. the BSD based firewalls are great as well, but there's really not that much of a performance difference in my opinion.. they all do the same exact thing in the long run.. i guess its just a matter of your personal preference.. but for those of you who have an old piece just sitting in your closet, it'd make a great IPCop box
  • IPCop is a GPLed firewall solution targeted at Small Office/Home Office network

    Seeing that the average SOHO user is not a computer geek, why would they be the target audience? I ask this because I can go to any online store and buy a $25 hardware firewall that has DHCP, SPI, DynDNS, etc. all built in and ready to go as soon as I plug it in. For IPCop, I would need another PC besides my business PC and make sure I didn't set it up incorrectly and accidentally expose any holes. Then if something goes wron

    • In response to your first paragraph, for the past 4 years I've been running IPCop on a $0 Pentium 1 266mhz that my friend was going to throw away and I've had zero problems.

      In response to your last question, they make images for the Soekris boards which are supposed to be used on CF cards.
    • by jpop32 ( 596022 )
      Seeing that the average SOHO user is not a computer geek, why would they be the target audience?

      The short asnwer is, because the comparable Cisco would cost you 10x as much. And, being a SOHO you probably can't even consider buying a Cisco.

      Is there an advantage for the SOHO person to use IPCop vs. a small hardware firewall for their SOHO?

      $25 HW firewall will work, but if you want _any_ other feature not present when you opened the box, you're stuck. With IPCop, you install a plugin or edit a file, and you h
  • pf please (Score:2, Informative)

    by pkplex ( 535744 )
    IMO the IPCOP style firewall systems are only good for quite basic setups, mostly in the 'two nics, one external one internal' realm.

    But if your firewalls need to have multiple nic's and such, running carp and pfsync, doing all sorts of funky stuff on each, then the web based things suck. The best ive seen is pfsense, but it still suffers from the whole concept of internal/external nic's instead of just letting me sort that shit out.

    I use FreeBSD for all my firewalls now, with the exception of one pair of f
  • I work for a county hospital, so we don't get much money for equipment. So, a couple of years ago, when we out-grew our old firewall, I was forced to come up with a firewall solution for little or no money. So I took a spare pc and set it up with IPCop. We still use IPCop today, except now it is on a P4 2.4GHz pc with 1GB of ram. It services 600 devices that connect to the internet. I did have to make a few customizations for it, especially with the content filtering, since we have groups of ppl that n
  • OpenVPN AddOn (Score:1, Informative)

    by geronimo9 ( 656736 )
    I use IPCop at quite a few locations. My favorite addon is an openvpn module called Zerina. It can be found at
  • The free version of Astaro [] is much better than IPCop. It's got many, many, more features plus, if you're a home user you can get really cheap upgrades to add IDS, Web filtering, and email antispam/antivirus scanning. I use their commercial appliance where I work and it's great. Common Criteria and ICSA certification - plus it's Linux based.

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