2.4 The Internet


The Internet is the world's largest IP-based network. It is an amorphous group of computers in many different countries on all seven continents (Antarctica included) that talk to each other using the IP protocol. Each computer on the Internet has at least one unique IP address by which it can be identified. Most of them also have at least one name that maps to that IP address. The Internet is not owned by anyone, although pieces of it are. It is not governed by anyone , which is not to say that some governments don't try. It is simply a very large collection of computers that have agreed to talk to each other in a standard way.

The Internet is not the only IP-based network, but it is the largest one. Other IP networks are called internets with a little i : for example, a corporate IP network that is not connected to the Internet. Intranet is a current buzzword that loosely describes corporate practices of putting lots of data on internal web servers.

Unless you're working in a high security environment that's physically disconnected from the broader network, it's likely that the internet you'll be using is the Internet. To make sure that hosts on different networks on the Internet can communicate with each other, a few rules need to be followed that don't apply to purely internal internets. The most important rules deal with the assignment of addresses to different organizations, companies, and individuals. If everyone picked the Internet addresses they wanted at random, conflicts would arise almost immediately when different computers showed up on the Internet with the same address.

2.4.1 Internet Address Classes

To avoid this problem, blocks of IPv4 addresses are assigned to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) by their regional Internet registry. When a company or an organization wants to set up an IP-based network connected to the Internet, their ISP gives them a block of addresses. Traditionally, these blocks come in three sizes called Class A, Class B, and Class C. A Class C address block specifies the first three bytes of the address; for example, 199.1.32. This allows room for 254 individual addresses from to [1] A class B address block only specifies the first two bytes of the addresses an organization may use; for instance, 167.1. Thus, a class B address has room for 65,024 different hosts (256 Class C size blocks times 254 hosts per Class C block). A class A address block only specifies the first byte of the address rangefor instance, 18and therefore has room for over 16 million nodes.

[1] Addresses with the last byte either .0 or .255 are reserved and should never actually be assigned to hosts.

There are also Class D and E addresses. Class D addresses are used for IP multicast groups, and will be discussed at length in Chapter 14. Class D addresses all begin with the four bits 1110. Class E addresses begin with the five bits 11110 and are reserved for future extensions to the Internet.

There's no block with a size between a class A and a Class B, or Class B and a Class C. This has become a problem because there are many organizations with more than 254 computers connected to the Internet but less than 65,024. If each of these organizations gets a full Class B block, many addresses are wasted . There's a limited number of IPv4 addressesabout 4.2 billion, to be precise. That sounds like a lot, but it gets crowded quickly when you can easily waste fifty or sixty thousand addresses at a shot.

There are also many networks, such as the author's own personal basement -area network, that have a few to a few dozen computers but not 255. To more efficiently allocate the limited address space, Classless Inter-Domain Routing (CIDR) was invented. CIDR mostly (though not completely) replaces the whole A, B, C, D, E addressing scheme with one based on a specified numbers of prefix bits. These prefixes are generally written as / nn , where nn is a two-digit number specifying the number of bits in the network portion of the address. The number after the / indicates the number of fixed prefix bits. Thus, a /24 fixes the first 24 bits in the address, leaving 8 bits available to distinguish individual nodes. This allows 256 nodes, and is equivalent to an old style Class C. A /19 fixes 19 bits, leaving 13 for individual nodes within the network. It's equivalent to 32 separate Class C networks or an eighth of a Class B. A /28, generally the smallest you're likely to encounter in practice, leaves only four bits for identifying local nodes. It can handle networks with up to 16 nodes. CIDR also carefully specifies which address blocks are associated with which ISPs. This scheme helps keep Internet routing tables smaller and more manageable than they would be under the old system.

Several address blocks and patterns are special. All IPv4 addresses that begin with 10., 172.16. through 172.31., and 192.168. are deliberately unassigned . They can be used on internal networks, but no host using addresses in these blocks is allowed onto the global Internet. These non-routable addresses are useful for building private networks that can't be seen from the rest of the Internet or for building a large network when you've only been assigned a class C address block. IPv4 addresses beginning with 127 (most commonly always mean the local loopback address . That is, these addresses always point to the local computer, no matter which computer you're running on. The hostname for this address is generally localhost . In IPv6 0:0:0:0:0:0:0:1 (a.k.a. ::1) is the loopback address. The address always refers to the originating host, but may only be used as a source address, not a destination. Similarly, any IPv4 address that begins with 0.0 is assumed to refer to a host on the same local network.

2.4.2 Network Address Translation

For reasons of both security and address space conservation, many smaller networks, such as the author's home network, use network address translation (NAT). Rather than allotting even a /28, my ISP gives me a single address, Obviously, that won't work for the dozen or so different computers and other devices running in my apartment at any one time. Instead, I assign each one of them a different address in the non-routable block 192.168.254.xxx . When they connect to the internet, they have to pass through a router my ISP sold me that translates the internal addresses into the external addresses.

The router watches my outgoing and incoming connections and adjusts the addresses in the IP packets. For an outgoing packet, it changes the source address to the router's external address ( on my network). For an incoming packet, it changes the destination address to one of the local addresses, such as Exactly how it keeps track of which connections come from and are aimed at which internal computers is not particularly important to a Java programmer. As long as your machines are configured properly, this process is mostly transparent to Java programs. You just need to remember that the external and internal addresses may not be the same. From outside my network, nobody can talk to my system at unless I initiate the connection, or unless I configure my router to forward requests addressed to to If the router is safe, then the rest of the network is too. On the other hand, if someone does crack the router or one of the servers behind the router that is mapped to, I'm hosed. This is why I installed a firewall as the next line of defense.

2.4.3 Firewalls

There are some naughty people on the Internet. To keep them out, it's often helpful to set up one point of access to a local network and check all traffic into or out of that access point. The hardware and software that sit between the Internet and the local network, checking all the data that comes in or out to make sure it's kosher, is called a firewall . The firewall is often part of the router that connects the local network to the broader Internet and may perform other tasks , such as network address translation. Then again, the firewall may be a separate machine. Modern operating systems like Mac OS X and Red Hat Linux often have built-in personal firewalls that monitor just the traffic sent to that one machine. Either way, the firewall is responsible for inspecting each packet that passes into or out of its network interface and accepting it or rejecting it according to a set of rules.

Filtering is usually based on network addresses and ports. For example, all traffic coming from the Class C network 193.28.25 may be rejected because you had bad experiences with hackers from that network in the past. Outgoing Telnet connections may be allowed, but incoming Telnet connections may not. Incoming connections on port 80 (web) may be allowed, but only to the corporate web server. More intelligent firewalls look at the contents of the packets to determine whether to accept or reject them. The exact configuration of a firewallwhich packets of data are and are not allowed to pass throughdepends on the security needs of an individual site. Java doesn't have much to do with firewallsexcept in so far as they often get in your way.

2.4.4 Proxy Servers

Proxy servers are related to firewalls. If a firewall prevents hosts on a network from making direct connections to the outside world, a proxy server can act as a go-between. Thus, a machine that is prevented from connecting to the external network by a firewall would make a request for a web page from the local proxy server instead of requesting the web page directly from the remote web server. The proxy server would then request the page from the web server and forward the response back to the original requester. Proxies can also be used for FTP services and other connections. One of the security advantages of using a proxy server is that external hosts only find out about the proxy server. They do not learn the names and IP addresses of the internal machines, making it more difficult to hack into internal systems.

While firewalls generally operate at the level of the transport or internet layer, proxy servers normally operate at the application layer. A proxy server has a detailed understanding of some application level protocols, such as HTTP and FTP. (The notable exception are SOCKS proxy servers that operate at the transport layer, and can proxy for all TCP and UDP connections regardless of application layer protocol.) Packets that pass through the proxy server can be examined to ensure that they contain data appropriate for their type. For instance, FTP packets that seem to contain Telnet data can be rejected. Figure 2-3 shows how proxy servers fit into the layer model.

Figure 2-3. Layered connections through a proxy server

As long as all access to the Internet is forwarded through the proxy server, access can be tightly controlled. For instance, a company might choose to block access to www.playboy.com but allow access to www.microsoft.com. Some companies allow incoming FTP but disallow outgoing FTP so confidential data cannot be as easily smuggled out of the company. Other companies have begun using proxy servers to track their employees ' web usage so they can see who's using the Internet to get tech support and who's using it to check out the Playmate of the Month. Such monitoring of employee behavior is controversial and not exactly an indicator of enlightened management techniques.

Proxy servers can also be used to implement local caching. When a file is requested from a web server, the proxy server first checks to see if the file is in its cache. If the file is in the cache, the proxy serves the file from the cache rather than from the Internet. If the file is not in the cache, the proxy server retrieves the file, forwards it to the requester, and stores it in the cache for the next time it is requested . This scheme can significantly reduce load on an Internet connection and greatly improve response time. America Online runs one of the largest farm of proxy servers in the world to speed the transfer of data to its users. If you look at a web server logfile, you'll probably find some hits from clients in the aol.com domain, but not as many as you'd expect given the more than twenty million AOL subscribers. That's because AOL proxy servers supply many pages out of their cache rather than re-requesting them for each user . Many other large ISPs do similarly.

The biggest problem with proxy servers is their inability to cope with all but a few protocols. Generally established protocols like HTTP, FTP, and SMTP are allowed to pass through, while newer protocols like Gnutella are not. (Some network administrators would consider this a feature.) In the rapidly changing world of the Internet, this is a significant disadvantage. It's a particular disadvantage for Java programmers because it limits the effectiveness of custom protocols. In Java, it's easy and often useful to create a new protocol that is optimized for your application. However, no proxy server will ever understand these one-of-a-kind protocols. Consequently, some developers have taken to tunneling their protocols through HTTP, most notably with SOAP. However, this has a significant negative impact on security. The firewall is normally there for a reason, not just to annoy Java programmers.

Applets that run in web browsers use the proxy server settings of the web browser itself, generally set in a dialog box (possibly hidden several levels deep in the preferences) like the one in Figure 2-4. Standalone Java applications can indicate the proxy server to use by setting the socksProxyHost and socksProxyPort properties (if you're using a SOCKS proxy server), or http.proxySet , http.proxyHost , http.proxyPort , https .proxySet , https.proxyHost , https.proxyPort , ftpProxySet , ftpProxyHost , ftpProxyPort , gopherProxySet , gopherProxyHost , and gopherProxyPort system properties (if you're using protocol-specific proxies). You can set system properties from the command line using the -D flag, like this:

  java -DsocksProxyHost=    socks.cloud9.net    -DsocksProxyPort=    1080    MyClass  

You can use any other convenient means to set these system properties, such as including them in the appletviewer.properties file, like this:

 ftpProxySet=true ftpProxyHost=ftp.proxy.cloud9.net ftpProxyPort=1000 gopherProxySet=true gopherProxyHost=gopher.proxy.cloud9.net gopherProxyPort=9800 http.proxySet=true http.proxyHost=web.proxy.cloud9.net http.proxyPort=8000 https.proxySet=true https.proxyHost=web.proxy.cloud9.net https.proxyPort=8001 

Figure 2-4. Netscape Navigator proxy server settings

Java Network Programming
Java Network Programming, Third Edition
ISBN: 0596007213
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 164

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