Inbound Port Mapping

Port Mapping in IPNetRouter
IPNetRouter, DNS, and Enabling Local NAT
Port Mapping and Generic IP Services

Port Mapping in IPNetRouter

IPNetRouter provides a feature called "IP Masquerading" that allows you to connect multiple hosts to the Internet using a single user ISP account and single public IP address. This saves you the cost of setting up multiple accounts or getting a block of globally unique IP addresses assigned that your ISP must route (and will charge you for).

IP Masquerading works using a technique called "Network Address Translation" (NAT) with extensions for "Port Multiplexing" and "ICMP Translation". The basic idea is to disguise IP packets to or from your private LAN so appear to the rest of the Internet as if they are only communicating with your gateway machine's Internet IP address. The Network Address Translator in IPNetRouter is implemented as a module that sits between your gateway machine and the public Internet. When the Translator sees a packet from your LAN that doesn't originate from the gateway, it changes the source IP address of that packet to the IP address of the gateway machine. In order to keep track of which host on your LAN the packet came from, it also assigns it an unused protocol port number on the gateway machine. Whenever a response is received at that port on the gateway, the Translator knows to reverse the process substituting the original IP address and port number on your private LAN.

The effect is to hide multiple hosts behind a single public IP address. Notice it is the action of sending a packet from the LAN to a host on the Internet that creates a return translation entry. Until a host on the LAN initiates contact, it is invisible to the public Internet. It has no public IP address and traffic addressed to the gateway machine is not forwarded to the LAN since there is no reverse translation entry. It passes through the NAT module unchanged so remains addressed to the gateway. IP Masquerading acts like a firewall allowing you to access the public Internet from inside your LAN, but not the other way around.

This arrangement is ideal for surfing the web from your LAN since each time your web browser requests a page, it creates a reverse translation entry allowing the requested web page to be returned through the NAT gateway. Suppose you want to run a server on your private LAN and make it visible to the public Internet. You could run all your servers on the gateway machine which is visible to the public Internet, but this might not be the most convenient way to arrange your network. In order to allow servers on your private LAN to be visible to the public Internet, we need a way to create a reverse translation entry without initiating the connection from your private LAN. This is the purpose of "Inbound Port Mapping".

Inbound Port Mapping allows you to manually create a permanent (or static) translation entry that maps a protocol port on your gateway machine to an IP address and protocol port on your private LAN. TCP/IP uses the term "Endpoint" to refer to the combination of an IP address and protocol port. Every TCP/IP connection exists between two Endpoints. We use the term "Apparent Endpoint" to refer to the endpoint on your gateway machine that the rest of the Internet sees--your LAN's external IP address--and the term "Actual Endpoint" to refer to the Endpoint on your LAN that forms the local end of a connection; the local LAN IP address for the particular service to be mapped.

To specify an inbound mapping, open IPNetRouter's Port Mapping window when IP masquerading is enabled for your gateway IP address. If you uncheck "Show Static Only" and press Monitor, you will be able to see the NAT table in real time (for any connections in progress). The window help describes how to add or remove your own mapping entries.

Suppose you have three machines and want to set up a web server on your LAN as follows: (Gateway machine, IPNR) (Web server)

The apparent address (what the Internet sees) is the public IP address of your gateway (the floating IP number assigned by your ISP). This number will be filled in automatically for you in the Port Mapping window. The Private address is the address of your web server on your private LAN ( The port number is whatever port is used for your server. Web servers usually listen on port 80.

In the Port Mapping window, you would enter the following in the "specify entry" area:

Protocol: TCP
Apparent Endpoint Address: leave as already filled in
Port: 80
Actual Endpoint Address:
Port: 80
Static: checked

Then press the "Add" button to update the actual record in the NAT table.

If entered correctly, this would appear in your IPNetRouter log window as


and if happened to be your gateway's Internet IP address. See "Port Mapping and Generic IP Services" below for some tips on how to determine what ports any given service might be using.

IPNetRouter, DNS, and Enabling Local NAT

If you set IP Forwarding to Automatic in the Gateway Window, the NAT configuration is as follows:


In this configuration, only hosts on the public Internet can access a server on your LAN using its public IP address on the gateway. If the LAN tried to access your server via its public address, the packet would be delivered to the gateway without being translated.

If you check "Enable Local NAT" in the Gateway Window, the configuration becomes:


In this configuration, if a host on your LAN tries to access a server on your LAN using its public (port mapped) IP address, the packet is translated before it gets to the gateway so the gateway will forward it back out the same interface it arrived from. This allows you to use the same DNS names to access your servers behind the gateway regardless of where you are. This feature is not available in single Ethernet configurations (with cable or dsl modem--dialup PPP works okay though) because NAT is disabled on the private network used to communicate with your LAN (so it can share the same physical Ethernet port with your public IP address).

Port Mapping and Generic IP Services

There are different resources you can use to determine whether a particular IP service is NAT compatible and whether port mapping will work in a given situation.

If you encounter problems using an IP application on a client behind the gateway, consult the problem software's documenation and developer website for "firewall" and/or "NAT" compability information. The goal is to find out if port mapping will work at all and which ports need to be mapped. Our website FAQ page, nettalk archive, and other web search engines can be used to search for information on particular software packages. IPNetRouter can be used to see what ports are being mapped through the gateway for a particular service and to test if port mapping is a possible solution using the Exposed Host feature. IPNetMonitor can be used to determine which TCP/IP ports are being opened by an application as a possible clue to which ports might need to be mapped.

IPNetRouter 1.5 or later has an Exposed Host feature in the Gateway window. To see if a single LAN client's IP service Internet access problem can be fixed with port mapping, you can use this feature to map all of the gateway's IP ports to the client through NAT. See the help text in the Gateway window for more info on using the Exposed Host feature. If exposing the LAN client through the gateway works for the service in question then it is likely that port mapping will work for that service.

IPNetRouter's Port Mapping window also includes a real-time port monitoring feature. To see all ports opened by clients on your local network, uncheck "Show Perm" in the Port Mapping window and press the "Monitor" button. If you use IP software on a client that is having problems with NAT, you can see what IP endpoints are opened when the client service is used. You may have to sit in front of the gateway screen to see these transactions as they are sometimes very quick; get someone else to help you if the client is physically far away from the gateway Mac. (A logging feature to avoid this limitation may be added in a later version.) If no ports are opened in the Port Mapping window when the client software is accessed then things aren't looking good and you may want to check that all physical network wiring, client TCP/IP configurations, etc are intact and functioning. To see if TCP/IP ports are actually being opened on the client see below.

IPNetMonitor's connection list window can be used on a client Mac to see what TCP/IP ports are opened by a particular IP application or service. You can download IPNetMonitor from our website. As an example, launch IPNetMonitor and then your browser on a Mac. Open the Connection List window in IPNetMonitor and position it so that you can observe that window unobscured by any browser window that may be open. If the "Monitor" button is visible, click it. Now, in the browser, connect to a website somewhere (eg www.sustworks.com). Note the ports being opened. Now, attempt the same thing with the problem application or service on the same client. The connection list window only lists TCP/IP ports. Use IPNetRouter features discussed above to see what's happening on the gateway at the same time.

If the exposed host feature works, you can always use that to get services temporarily to any particular LAN client suffering behind the NAT router.

Many IP services can only be mapped to one client behind a NAT firewall at a time; this is a limitation with any standard NAT router, not just IPNetRouter. Some software packages have some features that will work through NAT and other features that won't. Some cannot be made to work through NAT at all. Investigate a little before giving up though.

Apple's TIL24321 also has a description of IP ports used by Appleshare IP and other Apple software. Our website FAQ page covers some of the common application we frequently recieve questions about. Search the nettalk user email list archives for user generated information about a package or service if you do not find any useful info elsewhere on the web.

For more Information

The basic concept of Network Address Translation (NAT) is described in RFC-1631, a public internet standards document. IPNetRouter extends this by adding "Port Multiplexing". In addition to translating between private and public IP addresses, IPNR translates multiple private addresses to a single public address by assigning unique port numbers to each protocol stream. RFC-1034 and RFC-1035 detail how domain name are resolved. You can also read more about this by searching for "Network Address Translation", "Port Multiplexing" and "Domain Name Service" on the web.

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