DIY: Install the web-based security appliance Untangle

Network security doesn't have to require purchasing costly hardware from SonicWALL or Cisco. Instead, give the Debian-based appliance Untangle a try and see if it fits your needs.

If you're worried that your company's rather meager security budget won't allow you to procure an effective solution, check out the Debian-based Untangle, which offers a free security appliance. It's easy to install, easy to manage, and pretty impressive on the security front.

The company that makes Untangle offers more than just free solutions -- you get everything from Free to Education Premium Packages (ranging from $0.00 to $100.00/mo). Take a look at the comparison matrix to see what package might best suit your needs.

Since this is a DIY column, I will focus on the Free package. This solution is downloaded as an ISO image, so you will need to be able to burn the ISO onto a disk that can be used as the installer for Untangle. The system requirements are fairly low:

  • 1-50 users: Standard PC hardware P4 or higher/RAM: 512 MB/HD: 20 GB
  • 51-100 users: CPU: Dual Core/RAM: 2 GB/HD: 80 GB
  • 101-150 users: CPU: 2+ Cores/RAM: 2 GB/HD: 80 GB
  • 151-500 users: CPU: 4 Cores/RAM: >= 2 GB/HD: 80 GB
  • 501-1500 users: CPU: >= 4 Cores/RAM: 4 GB/HD: 80 GB
  • 1500+ users: CPU: > 4 Cores/RAM: >= 4 GB/HD: 80 GB
  • Two network cards

Installing Untangle

Once you have the hardware ready and the ISO burned, put the CD into the disc drive and fire up the machine. The installation process is extremely simple -- there is very little interaction other than the click of a few buttons. After the installation completes, the system will reboot and eventually wind up opening a web browser where the rest of the installation is completed.

The one tricky installation issue is the choice between setting up Untangle in either Transparent Bridge or Router mode (Figure A). This will depend upon your network setup and your needs. Figure A

Even if you opt to install in Router mode, you can disable DHCP if you have DHCP being handed out by another piece of hardware. (Click the image to enlarge.)

Downloading applications

After the installation, it's time to start downloading applications into your server. Depending upon when you download the ISO image, there may be upgrades that must be downloaded and installed prior to installing applications.

From the Menu bar (Figure B), click the Launch Client button and then enter the credentials for administrator authentication, which are set up during installation. Once authenticated, it is time to start installing applications. Figure B

Controlling the appliance is done from this easy-to-use Menu bar that is the only interface to the Untangle appliance (allowing you to open the client interface). (Click the image to enlarge.)

Installing applications

When everything is upgraded and you are logged on to the client, you select the application to install from the left pane. You can also allow Untangle to walk you through the process of installing applications (Figure C) for specific tasks, or you can go with the recommended installation. Any way you choose, you'll will wind up with a very powerful appliance that will serve your network security needs well. Figure C

If you prefer, you can close the wizard out and install the tools you need manually. (Click the image to enlarge.)