Saturday, July 16, 2011

ALG Overview [DNS, FTP, H.323, PPTP, SQL & TFTP]


Application Layer Gateway Overview

Firewall policies are the method through which the firewall determines which traffic is allowed to flow between security zones and interfaces. It is a stateful process, which means that the traffic only needs to be explicitly defined in the initiating direction and replies to the valid traffic are implicitly allowed. If a user is allowed to send HTTP traffic to a server in a different zone, then the server’s replies are understood to be allowed to return to the client. This is controlled though the use of firewall sessions. The following exchange is an example of a simple TCP session, in this case HTTP is the application protocol.

ClientIP:30009 -> ServerIP:80 HTTP GET
ClientIP:30009 <- ServerIP:80 200

It is easy enough to identify the valid retuning traffic by examining the source and destination address / port values. However there are protocols that use multiple or dynamic client and server ports for different parts of the communication.

This “dynamic session” or “pinhole” in the firewall would be based on the policy that allowed the original control traffic. The secondary connection traffic would be expected to arrive at the firewall within a certain amount of time from the initial connection establishment. If it took longer, the pinhole would not be created. Effectively, the session that supports the pinhole is a child session of the initial connection traffic.


DNS

Protocol Description
The Domain Name Service provides host name to IP resolution for both the Internet and for private networks. A given DNS server will be responsible for a portion of the total DNS name space. This responsibility involves knowing the addresses or the location of the address data for all records within that portion of the DNS tree. For example, a DNS server that is authoritative for spiceup.net.in would have information on all hosts within the spiceup.net.in domain. The information may just be the name of another name server, or it could be the actual IP address.

In its simplest form, the DNS client will submit a Recursive Query to its configured Name Server. This kind of query is either answered with a successful lookup, or a record not found error. The Name server receiving the recursive query would check to see if it had the data within its own database or cache. If it did not it would begin to “walk the tree”. In the worst case it would start by querying a top level name server with a Iterative query. These queries can be answered with a successful lookup, a record not found or the name of another server with authority over the host in question. In this way the clients DNS server can work its way through the DNS namespace until it arrives at a system that can provide a definitive yes / no answer.


ALG Behavior
The DNS ALG is different then most of the other protocol ALG’s mentioned in this document. There are no secondary connections to be managed. Rather the job of the DNS ALG is to close the firewall session as soon as a reply is returned from the DNS server. DNS does not have any session tear down procedure and the sessions would remain until the protocol time out expired. The time out needs to be long enough to support the iterative query process, which could be involved. With the ALG in place DNS queries that are completed are removed from the session table in a timely manner without have to adjust the protocol time out to a level that could cause problems for slower valid queries. For IPv6 the DNS ALG will perform the IPv4 / v6 address transformations.


FTP

Protocol Description
The File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a widely and commonly used method of exchanging files over IP networks. There are numerous vendors of both FTP clients and servers. In addition to being very common, FTP also supports data exchange between different host operating systems. The default behavior of a FTP session involves both a control and a data channel set up between the client and the server. The control channel is established from the client to the server on a well known port. TCP/21 is the assigned port for FTP, although some internet servers will host FTP on non-standard ports in an attempt to increase security through obfuscation. Once the client successfully establishes a control connection, the serve would open a data connection, originating from a port one lower then the control session. For the internet standard ports we would expect to see this connection coming from TCP/20. This default communication looks like this:

clientIP:port -> serverIP:21 USER jdoe
clientIP:port <- serverIP:21 331- User OK
clientIP:port -> serverIP:21 PASS blah
clientIP:port <- serverIP:21 230 User jdoe logged in
clientIP:port -> serverIP:21 RETR file.doc
clientIP:port <- serverIP:21 150 File OK, opening data connection
clientIP:port <- serverIP:20 DATA
clientIP:port <- serverIP:21 226 Closing data connection

There are two FTP control channel commands that can alter this behavior. One can be used to change the client port that is to receive the traffic and the other can be used to set the server data port that will listen for the user’s request. The PORT command instructs the server to make the data connection to a port other then the initiating client port. It can also be used to instruct the server to open the connection to a different IP address as well as port. It alters the communication structure as follows:

clientIP:port -> serverIP:21 USER jdoe
clientIP:port <- serverIP:21 331- User OK
clientIP:port -> serverIP:21 PASS blah
clientIP:port <- serverIP:21 230 User jdoe logged in
clientIP:port -> serverIP:21 PORT clientIP:newPort
clinetIP:port <- serverIP:21 200 Command OK
clientIP:port -> serverIP:21 RETR file.doc
clientIP:port <- serverIP:21 150 File OK, opening data connection
clientIP:newPort <- serverIP:20 DATA
clientIP:port <- serverIP:21 226 Closing data connection

The final command that affects this behavior is Passive (PASV). By placing the server into passive mode, the client becomes the one to initiate the data connection. The servers reply to the PASV command will provide the port to be used for the client initiated data transfer. The command sequence for PASV mode FTP follows:

clientIP:port -> serverIP:21 USER jdoe
clientIP:port <- serverIP:21 331- User OK
clientIP:port -> serverIP:21 PASS blah
clientIP:port <- serverIP:21 230 User jdoe logged in
clientIP:port <- serverIP:21 PASV
clinetIP:port -> serverIP:21 227 Entering Passive Mode dataPort
clientIP:port -> serverIP:21 RETR file.doc
clientIP:port -> serverIP:21 150 File OK, opening data connection
clientIP:port -> serverIP:dataPort DATA
clientIP:port <- serverIP:21 226 Closing data connection


ALG Behavior
Since FTP uses a different connection for data transfer it will require intervention of the ALG. The initial FTP request will be to a standard port (TCP/21, but others could be defined as custom services as well.) and this will invoke the ALG. For the case of the standard FTP behavior the ALG will open a pinhole for replies from the server to the client port that originate from a server port one lower then the FTP control session.

With the use of the PORT command, the ALG will parse the statement and extract the specified client port. A pinhole session holder can then be created from the server’s data port to the new client port.

Passive FTP is most commonly used to improve interoperability with firewalls. Since the client initiates both the control and the data session there is not much that the ALG needs to do. For this scenario the ALG ‘s only purpose is to associate the data session to the FTP control connection for purposes of firewall policy. In this way, a single policy allowing FTP out would also allow the client initiated data session without the need for additional policy.

In addition to this functionality, the ALG can parse and drop other FTP control channel messages. Specifically FTP-GET and PUT commands can be limited. This way a single policy could allow users to download file from a target FTP server, but not upload them, or vice versa.

The FTP ALG also monitors PORT, EPRT, PASV and 227, EPSV and 229 commands.


H.323

Protocol Description
H.323 is an older protocol designed originally to support Voice over IP type applications. In many cases it is being superseded by SIP; however it had wide deployment and will continue to be used to some degree in the near future. H.323 covers the various set up and call control functions of the media connection rather then the actual data exchange which is accomplished through RTP/RTCP. Within the H.323 specification are a number of more specific protocols that address the various needs of the media exchange. The ones of interest to our discussion include H.225.0 used in the Registration, Admission and Status (RAS) process as well as the Call Signaling Channel and H.245 which is used in the Call Control Channel.

Most H.323 communication is between a client and a gatekeeper. The gatekeeper system passes the required information between all clients on the call. Data streams and call control can also be sent directly between clients.

The first step is for a client to associate itself with a gatekeeper through a Gatekeeper Request message (GRQ). This can be unicast to one or more know gatekeeper IP addresses on UDP/1718 or multicast to the IP 224.0.1.41. After this discovery phase the client can then initiate or join calls. This portion of the communication is the RAS portion and it uses H.225.0. There are a number of messages that are sent in this phase. They will be sent to either the well know port UDP/1719 or to a dynamically assigned port specified in either the discovery (GCF – Gatekeeper Confirmation message) or the first RAS exchange (RCF – Registration Confirmation message).

Once the RAS channel is set up, the Call Signaling channel is built to either TCP/1720 or a dynamic port specified in additional RAS session messages. Following the Call Signaling Channel is the Call Control Channel which uses H.245 and connects through a dynamic port defined in the Call Signaling Channel data. Finally the clients use RTP / RTCP connections on ports defined in the H.245 data to actually send the media stream.

ALG Behavior
There are a number of requirements for the ALG in working with the H.323 stack. As can be seen there are a number potentially dynamic ports in the exchange. Each of these ports will need to be determined to open the appropriate pinholes for the return traffic. Only the initial discovery process is reliably sent on a well known port. The ALG will parse the various confirmation and response messages and extract the network and transport addresses that they contain. This data will be altered if NAT is in effect to replace public and private addresses as needed. In addition the embedded transport layer address will be used to open pinholes for future communications to the gatekeeper or peer client.


PPTP

Protocol Description
PPTP is used to provide IP security at the network layer. PPTP uses TCP 1723 for its control connection and GRE (IP protocol 47) for its PPP data. The PPTP protocol consists of a control connection and a data tunnel. The control connection runs over TCP and is used to establish and disconnect calls. The data tunnel carries PPP packets encapsulated in GRE packets which are carried over IP.

After the underlying TCP connection is established, either the client or server can send a Start Control Connection Request message to establish a control connection. The other end replies with a Start Control Connection Reply message. Either end can then request a call to be established. ScreenOS only considers clientinitiated calls. In this scenario, the client sends an Outgoing Call Request message. It assigns a call ID (bytes 12-13 of the control message) that is unique to the tunnel. The call ID is used to identify the call a particular PPP packet belongs to. The server replies with an Outgoing Call Reply message, which carries its own call ID (bytes 12-13) and the client’s call ID (bytes 14-15). The detailed working of the protocol is described in RFC
2637.

Communication between the client and server can be modeled as follows:

clientIP:port -> serverIP:1723(TCP) Start Control Connection Request
clientIP:port <- serverIP:1723(TCP) Start Control Connection Reply
clientIP:port -> serverIP:1723(TCP) Outgoing Call Request
clientIP:port <- serverIP:1723(TCP) Outgoing Call Reply
client(GRE) -> server(GRE) GRE data
client(GRE) <- server(GRE) GRE data

clientIP:port -> serverIP:1723(TCP) Call Clear Request
clientIP:port <- serverIP:1723(TCP) Call Disconnect Notify
clientIP:port -> serverIP:1723(TCP) Stop Control Connection Request
clientIP:port <- serverIP:1723(TCP) Stop Control Connection Reply

ALG Behavior
The ALG parses the control messages, looking for the Outgoing Call Request and Outgoing Call Reply messages, open up one gate to accept GRE traffic sent by the server and the other gate to accept GRE traffic sent by the client. Each of the gates opened above will create a session for data traffic arriving in that direction. This means that there will be 2 data sessions opened for each tunnel: one for client-to-server traffic using the server’s call ID as the destination port and the other for server-to-client traffic using the client’s translated call ID as the destination port. The ALG can support PAT for PPTP on all platforms.

ALG Timeout
The default timeout value of the control connection will be 30 minute. The data session will use the same timeout value. So if the data session is idle for too long it will be closed. When the parent control session terminates, then all the data session created by the control connection will also be closed. The call ID value for the session can be reused after the session is closed and no earlier than that.


SQL

Protocol Description
Oracle SQL*Net is a network access protocol for Oracle databases. In operation a database client would connect to the Oracle server on the well known port of TCP/1521 or TCP/1525 for SQL*Net V1. The server would then send the client connection information for the actual data communication. The main reason for this behavior is that SQL*Net was developed at a time when there were a very wide range of network protocols in use, and it was designed to be independent of any particular transport. TOP/IP was only one of more then 8 options in the original SQL*Net specification.

ALG Behavior
This is a very straight forward ALG. It will parse any replies from TCP/1521 and look for the string “(IP=a.b.c.d)(PORT=x)” in ASCII and then open a pin hole for the subsequent server connection. Nat can also be applied at this point to translate public to private IP addresses and vice versa.

ALG Timeout
The control channel on TCP/1521 (1525) is not linked with the resulting data connection. While the SQL session inherits the time out from this connection, they are not linked and the control channel can time out without effecting the data channel.


TFTP

Protocol Description
TFTP is a protocol used to transfer files. It runs on top of UDP, with port 69 as the well known port. TFTP ALG processes TFTP packets that initiate the request and creates pinholes to allow return packets from the reversedirection.

Communication between the client and server can be modeled as follows:

(1) Write request:

clientIP:port -> serverIP:69(UDP) WRQ
clientIP:port <- serverIP: 69(UDP)ACK

(2) Read request:

clientIP:port -> serverIP:69(UDP) RRQ
clientIP:port <- serverIP: 69(UDP)DATA

ALG Behavior
The ALG processes TFTP packet that initiate the request and opens gate to allow return packets from the reverse direction to the port that sends the request. ALG Timeout The default timeout value of the control connection will be 30 minute. The data session will use the same timeout value.



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  8. Thanks for nice information.am looking for ALG open source ,please let me know if anything is avalaible

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. am lokking for any open source avaliable ALG for following protocols
      http
      sip
      dns
      h.323
      ftp
      icmp
      smtp
      ipsec
      http
      ike
      ip multicast
      nfs

      Delete
    2. No... I am not sure whether we have any open source...

      Delete
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