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 SnapGear PRO Internet Security Appliance

Page 1 

 Author: Tim Higgins
 Review Date: 8/15/2001

Model: PRO


- Extremely fast
- Built-in PPTP server and client endpoints and IPsec endpoint with no per-user licensing
- Two serial ports for simultaneous WAN dialup/ISDN and dial in RAS connection


- Windows client required for setup
- No DMZ
- Need to work out some kinks in the features

Review Updates

10/9/01 - New firmware upgrade available. Version 1.4.2 promises "improved firewall, port forwarding and IPSec support for IP aliases."


The Basics

  • Power

  • System

  • Online

  • LAN Receive

  • LAN Transmit

  • Internet Receive

  • Internet Transmit

  • VPN

  • Update

  • Support

  • One RJ45 10BaseT for the WAN

  • One RJ45 10BaseT LAN

  • Two DB9M  "COM" RS232 ports

  • Power

Comes with
  • printed Quick Install guide

  • Installation CD

  • one normal UTP cable

  • one crossover UTP cable

  • 100-240VAC Power supply

  • power supply AC cord

  • Reset switch always clears unit to factory defaults

  • Power switch

  • NO Uplink or Normal / Crossover switch for LAN Ports (see this page if this concerns you!)



SNAPgear is a new entry into the SOHO router market, with a sharp focus on providing PPTP and IPsec VPN capabilities without putting too large a dent in your pocket.


Background & Basic Features

SNAPgear, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of embedded OS supplier Lineo, is a very new company with a mission... to bring VPN networking to the masses!  The product line is based on the Motorola ColdFire processor (the PRO uses the 5307 clocked at 90MHz) running Lineo's uCLinux OS, and is based on Lineo's SecureEdge reference design platform.  It starts with the $249 Lite model and ends with the $549 PRO model, which is the one they sent us for review.

All versions have a serial port that can support dialup or ISDN WAN connection, in addition to the 10BaseT WAN Ethernet port.  The $399 SOHO+ and PRO models have a second serial port that can be used to simultaneously support a dialup/ISDN WAN and dial-in RAS connections.  These two models also support Telnet-based configuration, and RADIUS/TACACS+ authentication.  The PRO, however, is the only model to have a security co-processor, which helps with the encryption processing and allows the PRO to support a total of 40 PPTP and 70 IPsec tunnels (more on this later).

The $299 Lite+ is the only model to include a 4 port 10/100 switch. All other versions have just one 10BaseT LAN port, with no uplink connector or switch.  SNAPgear does include both normal and crossover UTP cables to make your setup job easier, though.



SNAPgear makes no secret about being Linux based and even lets you view, edit, save, and restore key Linux configuration files!  So I found it curious that I needed to run a Windows based installation program to assign an IP address to the router before I could access the HTTP (web) based admin pages. As a result of this and other decisions that SNAPgear made about the setup process, it took me longer than it should have to set up the unit.  So that you don't repeat my experience, here's how the unit comes set up:

  • No IP address assigned

  • WAN port not set to be a DHCP client

  • LAN DHCP server not enabled

So make things easy on yourself, and assign a static IP to the PC that you use for setup.  The setup program will detect the subnet you're in and you'll just have to enter a number from 1 to 254 to complete the IP address for the box.

Once you assign the SNAPgear an address, you'll be able to reach the admin pages, where you'll need to enter the other information to get you connected.  The Connect to Internet page (not shown) gives you the choice of Cable Modem, Modem, ADSL, and Do not Connect to Internet for non-PPPoE, Dialup, PPPoE, and no Internet connection respectively.  The ADSL setup page shown here gives you the options you'll need to get set up with most PPPoE based BSPs.  Note that the Cable Modem setup page has choices for Generic, Big Pond Advance (a popular Australian BSP), and @Home networks.  

Tip: The SNAPgear will also let you change the WAN MAC address for AT&T Broadband and other BSPs, but you'll have to go to the Advanced > Flash Upgrade page!

SNAPgear - ADSL config page

You'll probably need to visit this page, where you both set the IP address and subnet mask for the router itself, and find the settings for the router WAN port.

SNAPgear - Change IP page

Your set-up may also include a visit to the LAN DHCP server page. In this screen shot, I've already set up the server and have a few IP addresses leased.  Note the ability to end a lease, but also the absence of MAC address info for the lessees.

The DHCP server does not automatically pick up gateway and DNS server info from the WAN settings.  You'll need to set them manually using an entry area that's not shown on the screen shot, toward the bottom of the page.

SNAPgear - DHCP config page

Routing Features

The SNAPgear has a decent set of routing features, but there are a few quirks you'll need to be aware of, and features that they don't have.  First, the good stuff:

Port Forwarding ("Services") -
The first screen shot shows enables (or disables) for Web (HTTP) and Telnet services, and also common ICMP based services.  The second shot shows that you have the ability to forward an unlimited number of single TCP or UDP ports through the firewall. Unfortunately, you need to define them one at a time and there are no copying or editing features.  There's also no way to disable a defined port... you have to delete it.  There are no port ranges and no "DMZ" or "Exposed Server", i.e. the ability to place one computer on the WAN side of the NAT firewall.

Access Control/Port Filtering ("Security Groups")
You can separately set default filtering for all LAN and dial-in clients (a nice touch), or define filtering for each LAN IP address.  The filter definitions can include multiple TCP and UDP ports and there is no limit to the number of client filters that can be defined.  However, you can't enable filtering for specific times or the day or days of the week.

SNAPgear - Services page (upper)

SNAPgear - Services page (lower)

SNAPgear - Security groups page

In addition to the missing items mentioned above, here are a few other things that you should know about:

  • DMZ - You don't have the ability to place one computer completely outside the firewall, which may be required for using applications such as NetMeeting, gaming, or other applications that you can't get to work through the firewall.

  • Content Controls - You can't control the type of Web sites that users can visit

  • Logging - This feature really isn't totally missing, since router configuration changes are logged and you can even send them to a syslog server.  But you can't see any information on who's accessing what through the gateway, or attempts to "probe" your network from the WAN side.

  • Alerts - You can't get an email notice of attempts to access your network or other nasty attacks

  • Remote (WAN) Administration - You actually can access the admin pages from the router's WAN side, as long as you don't also want to access a LAN based webserver.  If you do, your webserver will take precedence over the built-in admin page server, and you can't move the admin server to an alternate port.  Note also that you can't restrict external admin access to a specific IP address or address range to help with security, and the SNAPgear allows multiple administrators to be logged in, with no warning message.

  • Server "Loopback" - You won't be able to access any of your mapped LAN based servers by using the SNAPgear's external IP address (or assigned domain if you have one).  You'll have to use the "private" LAN IP address instead.

That's it for the routing features. Now we can look at what SNAPgear's really bringing to the party... their VPN features!

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