Sphirewall is a unique firewall distribution based on Debian Linux that offers more than just standard security; out of the box, you get advanced information for your network and traffic usage as well as the ability to glance at network traffic according to user, address, device, and much more. Unlike most Linux-based firewalls, Sphirewall doesn’t use iptables — it uses a kernel module that hooks into the packet stream and passes the packets to the Sphirewall core, which tracks and manages the packets based on user-configurable rules and events.

It’s incredibly easy to get Sphirewall up and running for a small business. Before I start the walk-through, please note: It is possible to install it on an already running Debian-based machine, but I highly recommend installing the Sphirewall as a dedicated machine, thus installing the entire platform.

Install Sphirewall

Download the ISO image from the Sphirewall Download page. Once you have that file, burn the image to disk. With that disk burned, place it into the server to be used and boot up.

When the splash screen opens (Figure A), you can choose between Install or Graphical Install. Both are very simple, but if you’re not accustomed to the ncurses interface, select the Graphical Install option.
Figure A

Use the cursor to select your option and hit Enter.

I’ll walk you through the information each screen requires.

  • Screen 1: Language for the installation
  • Screen 2: Location (used to set timezone and locale)
  • Screen 3: Select keyboard mapping
  • Screen 4: Create root user password
  • Screen 5: Configure clock
  • Screen 6: Partition disks (all you have to do is select Yes and click Continue, Figure B)

Figure B

I am installing Sphirewall within VirtualBox.
  • Screen 7: Select the location for package manager (select the country closest to your location)
  • Screen 8: Further refine the location for package manager (select the nearest mirror location)

Let the system boot. When the boot process completes, log in with the following:

  • user: root
  • password: admin password created in screen 4 of the installation

Once you’re logged in, issue the command ifconfig to find out the machine’s ipaddress. Armed with that address, you can log in to the web-based administration console by opening a web browser on the same network and pointing it to http://IP_ADDRESS_OF_SERVER (IP_ADDRESS_OF_SERVER is the server’s address). At the login prompt, log in with these credentials:

  • user: admin
  • password: admin

Once you’re in the web-based management console, you need to complete these tasks:

  1. Change the admin password.
  2. Set up the networking devices.
  3. Start configuring the firewall.

Change the admin password

  1. Log in to Sphirewall.
  2. Click Authentication in the right navigation.
  3. Click the admin user.
  4. Click the Set Password checkbox.
  5. Enter the new password in both password boxes (Figure C).
  6. Click Save.

Figure C

You will receive confirmation the password has been saved. (Click the image to enlarge.)

Set up networking devices

By default, Sphirewall uses DHCP to get its IP address; this has to be changed to a static setup. To do this, follow these steps.

  1. Log in to Sphirewall.
  2. Click Network.
  3. Click Network Devices.
  4. Click the device to be configured (eth0, eth1, etc.).
  5. Enter the correct information for the device (Figure D).
  6. Click Save Interface.

Figure D

From the Network menu, you can also configure the Sphirewall to act as a DHCP server. (Click the image to enlarge.)

Configure your firewall

You will want to set up your firewall according to your company/network/user needs. But in order to make those configurations, you at least need to know where to look. Here’s what to do.

  1. Log in to Sphirewall.
  2. Click Firewall.
  3. Click Rules.
  4. Click the Options Menu.
  5. Click Add Rule.
  6. Enter the necessary information in the new screen (Figure E).
  7. Click Create Rule.

Figure E

You’ll need to have some knowledge of how firewalls work before you reach this point. (Click the image to enlarge.)

After you configure all of your rules, you can go back and set up BlockLists and Aliases to help further secure your network. Once Sphirewall is set up, head over to the Dashboard and the Reporting section to start monitoring how your network traffic is shaping up.


Sphirewall is a powerful tool that can enable you to enjoy a much more secure network for a fraction of the cost of proprietary solutions (if you already have the hardware, the cost is zero). Give this security solution a try, and see if it meets your needs.