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ACL Concepts

Chapter Description

In this sample chapter from Enterprise Networking, Security, and Automation Companion Guide (CCNAv7) for Cisco Networking Academy students, you will explore differences between standard and extended IPv4 ACLs.

Summary (4.5)

The following is a summary of the sections in this chapter.

Purpose of ACLs

Several tasks performed by routers require the use of ACLs to identify traffic. An ACL is a series of IOS commands that are used to filter packets based on information found in the packet header. A router does not have any ACLs configured by default. However, when an ACL is applied to an interface, the router performs the additional task of evaluating all network packets as they pass through the interface to determine whether the packets can be forwarded. An ACL uses a sequential list of permit or deny statements, known as ACEs. Cisco routers support two types of ACLs: standard ACLs and extended ACLs. An inbound ACL filters packets before they are routed to the outbound interface. If a packet is permitted by the ACL, it is then processed for routing. An outbound ACL filters packets after being routed, regardless of the inbound interface. When an ACL is applied to an interface, it follows a specific operating procedure:

  • Step 1. The router extracts the source IPv4 address from the packet header.

  • Step 2. The router starts at the top of the ACL and compares the source IPv4 address to each ACE, in sequential order.

  • Step 3. When a match is made, the router carries out the instruction, either permitting or denying the packet, and the remaining ACEs in the ACL, if any, are not analyzed.

  • Step 4. If the source IPv4 address does not match any ACEs in the ACL, the packet is discarded because there is an implicit deny ACE automatically applied to all ACLs.

Wildcard Masks

An IPv4 ACE uses a 32-bit wildcard mask to determine which bits of the address to examine for a match. Wildcard masks are also used by the Open Shortest Path First (OSPF) routing protocol. A wildcard mask is similar to a subnet mask in that it uses the ANDing process to identify which bits in an IPv4 address to match. However, a wildcard mask and a subnet mask differ in the way they match binary 1s and 0s. Wildcard mask bit 0 matches the corresponding bit value in the address. Wildcard mask bit 1 ignores the corresponding bit value in the address. A wildcard mask is used to filter traffic for one host, one subnet, and a range of IPv4 addresses. A shortcut for calculating a wildcard mask is to subtract the subnet mask from 255.255.255.255. Working with decimal representations of binary wildcard mask bits can be simplified by using the Cisco IOS keywords host and any to identify the most common uses of wildcard masking. Keywords reduce ACL keystrokes and make it easier to read ACEs.

Guidelines for ACL Creation

There is a limit on the number of ACLs that can be applied on a router interface. For example, a dual-stacked (that is, IPv4 and IPv6) router interface can have up to four ACLs applied. Specifically, a router interface can have one outbound IPv4 ACL, one inbound IPv4 ACL, one inbound IPv6 ACL, and one outbound IPv6 ACL. ACLs do not have to be configured in both directions. The number of ACLs and the direction in which they are applied to the interface depend on the security policy of the organization. Basic planning is required before configuring an ACL and includes the following best practices:

  • Base ACLs on the organization’s security policies.

  • Write out what you want the ACL to do.

  • Use a text editor to create, edit, and save all of your ACLs.

  • Document ACLs by using the remark command.

  • Test the ACLs on a development network before implementing them on a production network.

Types of IPv4 ACLs

There are two types of IPv4 ACLs: standard ACLs and extended ACLs. Standard ACLs permit or deny packets based only on the source IPv4 address. Extended ACLs permit or deny packets based on the source IPv4 address and destination IPv4 address, protocol type, source and destination TCP or UDP ports, and more. ACLs 1 to 99 and 1300 to 1999 are standard ACLs. ACLs 100 to 199 and 2000 to 2699 are extended ACLs. Using named ACLs is the preferred method when configuring ACLs. Standard and extended ACLs can be named to provide information about the purpose of each ACL.

The following are basic rules to follow for named ACLs:

  • Assign a name to identify the purpose of an ACL.

  • Names can contain alphanumeric characters.

  • Names cannot contain spaces or punctuation.

  • It is suggested that the name be written in CAPITAL LETTERS.

  • Entries can be added or deleted within an ACL.

Every ACL should be placed where it has the greatest impact on efficiency. Extended ACLs should be located as close as possible to the source of the traffic to be filtered. This way, undesirable traffic is denied close to the source network without crossing the network infrastructure. Standard ACLs should be located as close to the destination as possible. If a standard ACL were placed at the source of the traffic, the “permit” or “deny” would occur based on the given source address, regardless of the traffic destination. Placement of the ACL may depend on the extent of organizational control, bandwidth of the networks, and ease of configuration.

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