Section 2.4. Allocating Resources in the DMZ

So everything public goes in the DMZ. But does each service need its own host? Can any of the services be hosted on the firewall itself? Should one use a hub or a switch on the DMZ?

The last question is the easiest: with the price of switched ports decreasing every year, switches are preferable on any LAN, and especially so in DMZs. Switches are superior in two ways. From a security standpoint, they're better because it's a bit harder to "sniff" or eavesdrop traffic not delivered to one's own switch-port.

(Unfortunately, this isn't as true as it once was: there are a number of ways that Ethernet switches can be forced into "hub" mode or otherwise tricked into copying packets across multiple ports. Still, some work, or at least knowledge, is required to sniff across switch-ports.)

One of our assumptions about DMZ hosts is that they are more likely to be attacked than internal hosts. Therefore, we need to think not only about how to prevent each DMZ'ed host from being compromised, but also what the consequences might be if it is, and its being used to sniff other traffic on the DMZ is one possible consequence. We like DMZs because they help isolate publicly accessible hosts, but that does not mean we want those hosts to be easier to attack.

Switches also provide better performance than hubs: most of the time, each port has its own chunk of bandwidth rather than sharing one big chunk with all other ports. Note, however, that each switch has a "backplane" that describes the actual volume of packets the switch can handle: a 10-port 100Mbps hub can't really process 1000 Mbps if it has an 800Mbps backplane. Nonetheless, even low-end switches disproportionately outperform comparable hubs.

The other two questions concerning how to distribute DMZ services can usually be determined by nonsecurity-driven factors (cost, expected load, efficiency, etc.), provided that all DMZ hosts are thoroughly hardened and monitored and that firewall rules (packet-filters, proxy configurations, etc.) governing traffic to and from the DMZ are as restrictive as possible.