Extended Access-List Established

Cisco IOS access-lists allow you to use the established parameter to check for “established” connections. You can use this if you want to allow one side to initiate connections and permit the return traffic while denying connections that are initiated from the other side. Here is a visualization:

H1 H2 R1 Acl Established Topology

The established parameter looks for the Acknowledge (ACK) or Reset (RST) flags in a TCP packet.  To understand how this works, take a look at the following capture file:

Telnet from H1 to H2

The first three packets contain the TCP three-way handshake:

  • Packet 1: H1 initiates a connection and sets the SYN flag.
  • Packet 2: H2 replies and sets the ACK and SYN flags.
  • Packet 3: H1 replies with the ACK flag set.

If we only want H1 to be able to initiate a connection with H2, we can create an inbound access-list on R1’s interface that connects to H2 which looks for the ACK flag in that second packet. Everything else will be denied. If H2 tries to initiate a connection, the first packet will have the SYN flag set which isn’t permitted in the access-list.

Configuration

Let’s try this in action. This is the topology we’ll use:

H1 R1 H2 Established Topology

We’ll make sure that H1 can initiate a connection with H2 but not the other way around. I am using IOS Version 15.9(3)M2.










Configurations

Want to take a look for yourself? Here you will find the startup configuration of each device.

H1

hostname H1
!
no ip routing
!
no ip cef
!
interface GigabitEthernet0/0
 ip address 192.168.1.1 255.255.255.0
!
ip default-gateway 192.168.1.254
!
line vty 0 4
 login
 transport input telnet
!
end

H2

hostname H2
!
no ip routing
!
no ip cef
!
interface GigabitEthernet0/0
 ip address 192.168.2.2 255.255.255.0
!
ip default-gateway 192.168.2.254
!
line vty 0 4
 login
 transport input telnet
!
end

R1

hostname R1
!
ip cef
!
interface GigabitEthernet0/0
 ip address 192.168.1.254 255.255.255.0
!
interface GigabitEthernet0/1
 ip address 192.168.2.254 255.255.255.0
!
end

We’ll create an access-list where we check for TCP traffic that uses source port 23 (telnet) and which has the ACK or RST flag set:

R1(config)#ip access-list extended ESTABLISHED
R1(config-ext-nacl)#permit tcp any eq telnet any established

And we’ll apply it inbound on the interface that connects to H2:

R1(config)#interface GigabitEthernet 0/1
R1(config-if)#ip access-group ESTABLISHED in

This completes our configuration.

Verification

To see our packet drop(s) in action, I’ll enable a debug:

R1#debug ip packet 
IP packet debugging is on

Let’s try to telnet from H1 to H2:

H1#telnet 192.168.2.2
Trying 192.168.2.2 ... Open

This is working as it should. We can see the hits on our access-list:

R1#show access-lists 
Extended IP access list ESTABLISHED
    10 permit tcp any eq telnet any established (8 matches)

Let’s try to telnet from H2 to H1:

H2#telnet 192.168.1.1
Trying 192.168.1.1 ... 
% Destination unreachable; gateway or host down

This is not working, excellent. You’ll see these debug packets on R1:

R1#
IP: s=192.168.2.2 (GigabitEthernet0/1), d=192.168.1.1, len 44, access denied
IP: s=192.168.2.2 (GigabitEthernet0/1), d=192.168.1.1, len 44, input feature, packet consumed, Access List(47), rtype 0, forus FALSE, sendself FALSE, mtu 0, fwdchk FALSE

These packets are denied by our access-list. Mission accomplished.

Configurations

Want to take a look for yourself? Here you will find the final configuration of each device.

H1

hostname H1
!
no ip routing
!
no ip cef
!
interface GigabitEthernet0/0
 ip address 192.168.1.1 255.255.255.0
!
ip default-gateway 192.168.1.254
!
 login
 transport input telnet
!
end

H2

hostname H2
!
no ip routing
!
no ip cef
!
interface GigabitEthernet0/0
 ip address 192.168.2.2 255.255.255.0
!
ip default-gateway 192.168.2.254
!
 login
 transport input telnet
!
end

R1

hostname R1
!
ip cef
!
interface GigabitEthernet0/0
 ip address 192.168.1.254 255.255.255.0
!
interface GigabitEthernet0/1
 ip address 192.168.2.254 255.255.255.0
 ip access-group ESTABLISHED in
!
ip access-list extended ESTABLISHED
 permit tcp any eq telnet any established
!
end

Conclusion

You have now learned how to configure an access-list that permits established connections by looking for the TCP ACK or RST flags.

On a router, you have more advanced options including:

So why would you use this “poor man’s firewall”? There is a good reason. An IOS switch doesn’t support any “firewall” features except for the access-list with the established parameter. If you need to route between Gigabit interfaces then you could use a router or firewall. However, if you require 10 Gigabit routing then a switch is much cheaper than a router or firewall.

I hope you enjoyed this lesson. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment!

Tags: , ,


Ask a question or start a discussion by visiting our Community Forum