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 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 bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.