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USENIX Technical Program - Abstract - USENIX Annual Conference, Freenix Session - June 2000

Transparent Network Security Policy Enforcement

Angelos D. Keromytis, University of Pennsylvania; Jason L. Wright, Network Security Technologies, Inc. (NETSEC)


Recent work in the area of network security, such as IPsec, provides mechanisms for securing the traffic between any two interconnected hosts. However, it is not always possible, economical, or even practical from an administration and operational point of view to upgrade the software and configuration of all the nodes in a network to support such security protocols.

One apparent solution to this problem is the use of security gateways that apply the relevant security protocols on behalf of the protected nodes, under the assumption that the "last hop" between the security gateway and the end node is safe without cryptography. Such a gateway can be set to enforce specific security policies for different types of traffic. While this solution is appealing in static scenarios (such as building so-called "intranets"), the use of Layer-3 (network) routers as security gateways presents some transparency and configuration problems with regards to peer authentication in the automated key management protocol.

This paper describes the architecture and implementation of a Layer-2 (link layer) bridge with extensions for offering Layer-3 security services. We extend the OpenBSD ethernet bridge to perform simple IP packet filtering and IPsec processing for incoming and outgoing packets on behalf of a protected node, completely transparently to both the protected and the remote communication endpoint. The same mechanism may be used to construct "virtual local area networks," by establishing IPsec tunnels between OpenBSD bridges connected geographically separated LANs. As our system operates in the link layer, there is no need for software or configuration changes in the protected nodes.

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Last changed: 6 Feb 2002 ml
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