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Linux Firewalls 91

David Martinjak writes "Linux Firewalls, authored by Michael Rash and published by No Starch Press, covers five main topics: traditional packet filtering with iptables, port scan detection, snort rule translation, port knocking, and log visualization. At first I considered only skimming the chapters regarding iptables packet filtering. I have a good amount of experience with iptables, and have been running it for several years. Thankfully I decided to give the first chapter a good read. Right from the start, the book presented valuable information and pulled me in." Read on for the rest of David's review.
Linux Firewalls
author Michael Rash
pages 336
publisher No Starch Press
rating 9
reviewer David Martinjak
ISBN 1-59327-141-7
summary Linux Firewalls discusses the technical details of the iptables firewall and the Netfilter framework that are built into the Linux kernel.
The chapters about iptables packet filtering are crucial for any reader new to networking or firewall administration. Experienced users might pick up a tip or two, as well. Linux Firewalls contained a wealth of knowledge about packet structure in addition to a solid explanation of iptables usage. I was rather impressed by the variety of information presented in the early chapters. The book of course detailed the syntax and logistics of iptables, but also provided detailed examples of attacks at the network, transport, and application layers.

Packet filtering was followed by port scan detection. When I first started using GNU/Linux, one application in my toolbox was PortSentry. PortSentry was designed to counter-act port scans, and minimized the amount of information that could be discovered from a scan. I lost track of PortSentry for some reason, but was glad to have almost re-discovered it in a new form. PSAD is the Port Scan Attack Detector and was developed by the book's author, Michael Rash, along with contributions from the open source community.

PSAD was created as a lightweight network intrusion detection component. The book explained how PSAD can quickly react to port scans by analyzing iptables log entries; and effectively reduce the surface area exposed to the attacker. The differences between PSAD and PortSentry were also enumerated, which showed several advantages for using PSAD.

Linux Firewalls did a fantastic job of detailing how to install and configure PSAD. This seems to be par for the course with No Starch Press as each book I have read from them was meticulous with regards to installation and configuration specifics. Additionally, the topics of installing and configuring the book's other two main applications, fwsnort and fwknop, were also properly addressed.

I don't want to give away too much of the material in Linux Firewalls; so I will just say that the chapters on fwsnort, fwknop, and log visualization were all on par with the earlier sections of the book. The information did not let up at any point — there were useful examples and details throughout each chapter. Additionally, there was a good amount of consistency with regard to how the chapters progressed, and the type of information that was presented along the way. All together, Linux Firewalls was an impressive read.

There were no real disappointments with this book. The reading did get a bit tedious at times with regard to configuration specifics, but it was only due to the depth of helpful explanation. Had I been working with the applications while reading (instead of just reading), the content would have been much more relevant. In the end, however, the variety resulted in a rather impressive and enjoyable book. The coverage of psad, fwsnort, and fwknop were welcomed additions. Each of the central topics were thoroughly explained in an informative, yet engaging manner. Essentially, I did not want to stop reading.

The netfilter/iptables software is licensed under the GNU General Public License, and can be found at The psad, fwsnort, and fwknop applications are licensed under the GNU General Public License Version 2, and can be downloaded from

The publisher hosts a Web page which contains an online copy of the table of contents, portions of reviews, links to purchase the electronic and print versions of the book, and a sample chapter ("Chapter 10: Deploying fwsnort") in PDF format.

David Martinjak is a programmer, GNU/Linux addict, and the director of 2600 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He can be reached at

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Linux Firewalls

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