Access Control Lists

Access control lists (ACLs) open holes in the PIX Firewall to allow traffic from a public or less-secure portion of the network to go to a private or more-secure portion of the network. The connection is initiated from the public or less-secure network. For a machine on a DMZ network to access the private network behind the PIX, an access list must be created, specifying that this type of traffic needs to be allowed. This access list is needed because the DMZ is a less-secure network than the private network. Access lists are needed in addition to a static Network Address Translation (NAT) entry to allow this to happen. A static translation is needed because traffic going from a less-secure network to a higher-security network does not have the luxury of using the NAT setup for traffic moving from a more-secure network to a less-secure network. A permanent translation in the opposite direction is needed to accommodate this type of traffic.

Often access lists are used to allow connections to be made to web or mail servers sitting on the DMZ network of the PIX from the public network. Access lists control these connections based on a combination of source address, destination address, protocol numbers, and port numbers. ICMP packets can also be controlled using ACLs. Be careful when using them. Opening the PIX for more than what is required can lead to network intrusions. The site's security policy plays a critical role in defining the ACLs on a PIX Firewall.

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