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Firewall issue with SMTP traffic

Posted on 2007-10-04
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2013-11-30
Howdy Experts!

I have a problem with my firewall automatically blocking some mail servers, due to a perceived intrusion attack.  I can resolve this with 'exceptions' but am finding that I need to do this more often than I would like.  I have run packet traces from outside the firewall (put a hub between the firewall and the cable modem, and attached Wireshark) and it appears the firewall is working correctly.  The remote mail server is sending an (I think) unneccesary packet on port 113, which is unopened, and my firewall starts blocking the server thinking it is an intrusion attempt.  

Here is the packet activity for a blocked communication - 74.95.xxx.xxx is my mail server, and 216.46.xxx.xxx is the remote mail server.  
1.  74.95.xxx.xxx -- 216.46.xxx.xxx TCP 10049 > SMTP [SYN]
2.  216.46.xxx.xxx -- 74.95.xxx.xxx TCP SMTP > 10049 [SYN,ACK]
3.  74.95.xxx.xxx -- 216.46.xxx.xxx TCP 10049 > SMTP [ACK]
4.  216.46.xxx.xxx -- 74.95.xxx.xxx TCP 44090 > AUTH [SYN]
5.  74.95.xxx.xxx -- 216.46.xxx.xxx ICMP Destnation unreachable
6.  216.46.xxx.xxx -- 74.95.xxx.xxx SMTP Response: 220 mail.remotemailserver.com ESMTP Sendmail

The problem is packet 4 - this comes in on port 113, my firewall blocks it as an intrusion attempt and begins temporarily blocking that IP.  Packet 6 (which repeats in subsequent packets) are ignored.  

Why/what is packet #4, and why is the remote mail server sending it?  Again, I know I can set my mail server to allow an exception for this remote mail server, but I have now got 4 remote mail servers that need this exception.  That doesn't seem right.

Thanks in advance for any ideas, help.  

Question by:Thorin
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Accepted Solution

flames1100 earned 1400 total points
ID: 20016668
Appears to be the remote server sending authentication/identification data over UDP to port 113 to gather info on the client maybe?  Just looked it up and one site said if it caused problems closed to forward the port to a unused internal IP.  Never tried that, though.  They also mentioned you could open that port, but you take some risk in doing so.  Do you have an IP setup just for SMTP or anything?

Author Comment

ID: 20017516
Hi flames1100,

Thanks for the response.  Can you provide your information source?  I would like to do some reading on it too.  I do not have an IP setup specifically for SMTP, the firewall does NAT for anything receivied over 25 to the mail server.  All packets go through the firewalll....does that help?


Expert Comment

ID: 20017737
I referenced a couple articles on Google, plus we have our SMTP setup on a specific IP to keep it separate and to make it easier to troubleshoot and such.  Hope these help (and are accurate)!



Author Comment

ID: 20017893

thanks...I had just found that GRC article - why do I always forget about that site?!?  Anyway thanks for the info.  Looks like I need to open a support case with the firewall vendor to figure out a better way of handling this.  


Expert Comment

ID: 20017926
Glad I could help.

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