Which Firewall Distro is Right for Me?

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    • @devyncjohnson

    I had written an article on choosing the right distro for a desktop system. I decided to write a similar article on choosing the right router, firewall, gateway, etc. Linux distro. Yes, Linux can be used as an operating system for other network devices. Linux is so versatile, its use is not restricted to servers, clusters, desktops, and laptops.

    FREESCO, also known as Free Cisco, is intended to be a replacement OS for many proprietary router systems (http://www.freesco.org/). FREESCO can support no more than ten modems and ten different network cards. If you have more than this, then this is not the router distro for you. FREESCO is small enough to fit on a 1.44MB floppy disk or a RAM chip. If desired, this OS can be installed onto a hard-drive. For minimal function, this distro requires 12MB of RAM and needs an i386 processor or better. For server features, this distro needs 16MB. FREESCO can act as a bridge, router, firewall, and server. FREESCO can support DSL, Dial-up, and leased-line connections.

    Floppyfw (http://www.zelow.no/floppyfw/) has the same requirements as FREESCO (i386, 12MB memory, 1.44MB floppy). The difference is Floppyfw has less features and is more lightweight. Floppyfw can act as a firewall, gateway, and router. This distro supports up to two network cards. Floppyfw can filter packets, log traffic, shape traffic, and act as a DHCP server or store DNS cache. Generally, if you need a distro that is more lightweight than FREESCO, then choose Floppyfw.

    IPCop (http://www.ipcop.org/) is specifically designed to be a secure firewall. This distro is supposedly easy to manage and install.

    IPFire (http://www.ipfire.org/) is an out-of-the-box router and firewall. This distro requires at least a 333MHz CPU and 128MB memory. Pakfire is the package manager which allows administrators to add extra software (like anti-virus software). This system can also be a DNS and DHCP server.

    OpenWrt (https://openwrt.org/) is a large network distro. This can be referred to as the multi-purpose distro. It can act as a server, firewall, router, bridge, etc. This is still a small and efficient system. This is perfect for hardware that needs to perform a large variety of tasks. Generally, if you want one task to be performed, then admins should try to select a lightweight distro.

    Alpine Linux (http://alpinelinux.org/) is a lightweight Linux distro, but compared to other network distros, this is a large, heavy-duty distro. Alpine uses GNOME or XFCE and comes with Firefox. Alpine can be used as a router, gateway, firewall, or a server. Alpine is small enough to run on memory alone. Alpine contains security patches and is made to be a secure system. Alpine supports 32 and 64-bit hardware unlike most router and firewall distros.

    ClearOS (http://www.clearfoundation.com/) is a CentOS-based gateway, workstation, and server distro. ClearOS functions well as a firewall, but its main intended use is as a server.

    Devil-Linux (http://www.devil-linux.org/home/index.php) functions as a router and/or firewall. This distro can be run off of a Live-CD rather than installing on a hard-drive. Devil-Linux is lightweight enough to work on many old computers. This system can also function as a lightweight server.

    DD-WRT (https://secure.dd-wrt.com/site/) is a distro for wireless routers. This OS can also be a firewall. This distro needs 8MB and some flash storage.

    SmartRouter is a complete desktop system that is intended to act as a router/firewall. The minimum requirements are 175MHz i536 processor, 32MB memory, and 40MB storage.

    NOTE: Obviously, these systems also need at least two network cards (unless otherwise specified here or on the websites documentation).

    Various Linux distros have been mentioned for firewalls, gateways, routers, etc. However, some of you may be wondering about Proxy servers. Most of these systems will work well as a proxy. To make a system a proxy, install Squid which supports various network services.

    Further Reading


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