One of the cool things of the Snort_inline project is the support for NFQUEUE. NFQUEUE is the new queuing mechanism to push packets from the kernel to userspace so a userspace program can issue a verdict on it. What makes NFQUEUE cooler than it’s predecessor ip_queue is that it supports multiple queue’s. This means that there can be more than one Snort_inline process inspecting and judging traffic. The challenge is to make sure that each Snort_inline instance sees all traffic belonging to a certain connection so Snort_inline can do stateful inspection on it. Luckily, Vuurmuur makes it very easy.
Normally an ‘accept’ rule in Vuurmuur looks like this:
accept service http from local.lan to world.inet options log
The NFQUEUE equivalent of this rule is:
nfqueue service http from local.lan to world.inet options log,nfqueuenum=”1″
To have ftp handled by another Snort_inline instance, just add a new rule:
nfqueue service ftp from local.lan to world.inet options log,nfqueuenum=”2″
Easy, no? 🙂 Vuurmuur creates the iptables rules that are required. It uses some advanced connmark-fu for it, so the right Snort_inline process receives all packets from a connection. It uses the helper match to make sure related connections are handled by the right queue, such as the ftp data channel. Of course you also need Snort_inline to be ready for it. See this post for more info on that.
The Snort_inline configuration part takes some work. You have to setup your init scripts to start all instances, setup different configs, logging to different locations. You will need multiple Barnyard’s and if using Sguil multiple snort_agent.tcl instances. When updating the rules you need to take care of the multiple processes as well. As said, it takes some work, but it’s rewarding. You can for example setup an extra Snort_inline instance for testing purposes only. Send all traffic from a certain IP to it to try out new rules, config changes, etc. I have set it up to have separate processes monitor my dmz and my lan.
What is possible as well, but not with Vuurmuur so far, is to have a form of poor man’s load balancing by sending new connections to one of multiple processes. This could be done by making use of the ‘ipt_statistics’ iptables module (fmr ipt_random). This allows a rule to be activated only some percent of the time. By using some more connmark-fu it’s possible to have multiple Snort_inline instances to handle different connections of the same type of traffic. I’ll add support for that to a future Vuurmuur release.
Has anyone tried dynamically reassign queques to different snort_inline instances on the fly based on traffic volume per destination port? Currently we just statically balance between different instances running on different processor cores but this setup leaves much to be desired.