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Network Address Translation explained

Many firewalls use a technique called network address translation (NAT) to hide the actual IP address of a host from the outside world. When that’s the case, the NAT device must use a globally unique IP to represent the host to the Internet; behind the firewall, however, the host can use any IP address it wants. As packets cross the firewall, the NAT device translates the private IP address to the public IP address, and vice versa.

One of the benefits of NAT is that it helps slow down the rate at which the IP address space is assigned because a NAT device can use a single public IP address for more than one host. It does this by keeping track of outgoing packets so that it can match up incoming packets with the correct host. To understand how this process works, consider this sequence of steps:

Actually, the process is a little more complicated than that because it’s very likely that two or more users may have pending requests from the same public IP. In that case, the NAT device uses other techniques to figure out to which user each incoming packet should be delivered.


Published on Tue 20 May 2008 by Phil Helmsley in Networking with tag(s): network address translation