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Last updated Feb 26, 2022 Edit Source

# Network Address Translation

Both network and transport layer (violation of abstraction/layering)

  1. More devices than IP addresses! What do we do?
  2. Home router gets assigned an IP (public IP) by the ISP
  3. Devices connected on the local network are assigned a private IP address (usually starts with subnet mask 196.168.x.x or 10.x.x.x)
  4. Changes the private IP address to the public address of the router
    1. Changes source port to some available port
  5. Adds the mapping to the NAT forwarding table
    1. Entries correspond to private side ( to public side (
    2. Includes
      1. Source IP
      2. Source Port
      3. Destination IP
      4. Destination Port
      5. Protocol
      6. NAT IP (Router public IP address)
      7. NAT Port (Unique)
    3. Actually, Port Forwarding just adds entries to the NAT forwarding table! You can set remote IP and remote port to wildcard entries (i.e. any web requests made to this port go to the specified machine)
      1. Max number of rows is 65535
      2. Any requests that come in then clone the wildcard rule and make it specific to that conversation (to avoid collisions to the NAT port)
      3. Entries are removed when a conversation is coming to a close (stream based protocol, detect termination packets)
  6. Does the inverse when it receives a packet

# Hole-punching

Hole punching (or sometimes punch-through) is a technique in computer networking for establishing a direct connection between two parties in which one or both are behind firewalls or behind routers that use network address translation (NAT).

Mostly used in decentralized or peer-to-peer communication as the latency incurred by relaying through a central server is prohibitively expensive for real-time activity like voice calling, file syncing, etc.

Hole-punching usually involves the use of third-party hosts that run STUN or ICE to figure out the public address of the NAT.

The idea is that to allow packets to come in from a remote endpoint, the computer behind the NAT or firewall needs to send something to the remote endpoint first. By doing so it creates a “hole” in the NAT or firewall through which communications can proceed. This even works when both sides are behind a NAT/firewall, when both sides start by punching a hole in their respective NAT/firewalls.

Types of NAT/Firewall combinations

  1. Endpoint-Independent Mapping (EIM): all outgoing connections from the same IP address and port have the same modified IP address and port
  2. Address-Dependent Mapping (ADM): each outgoing connection to a different address from the same IP address and port has a different modified IP address and port
  3. Address and Port-Dependent Mapping (APDM): same as ADM, instead of just address, it’s address + port
  4. Endpoint-Independent Filtering (EIF): all packets from remote addresses are allowed for a single endpoint on the NAT/Firewall
  5. Address-Dependent Filtering (ADF): only allows packets to a specific endpoint from a specific address if a computer behind the NAT/Firewall has sent a packet to that address
  6. Address and Port-Dependent Filtering (APDF): same as ADF but instead of just address, it’s address + port

# Efficacy

From UDP NAT and Firewall Puncturing in the Wild by Gertjan Halkes and Johan Pouwelse

Possible explanations for a non-100% connection rate even in EIM-EIF to EIM-EIF peers

# Flow

Let $A$ and $B$ be the two hosts, each in its own private network; $N_A$ and $N_B$ are the two NAT devices with globally reachable IP addresses $EIP_A$ and $EIP_B$ respectively. $S$ is a public server with a well-known, globally reachable IP address.

  1. A and B both begin a UDP conversation with $S$
  2. NAT devices $N_A$ and $N_B$ create UDP translations and assign temporary external ports $EP_A$ and $EP_B$
  3. S looks at UDP packets to get source ports of $N_A$ and $N_B$ (through $EP_A$ and $EP_B$)
  4. S makes pairs of external IP addresses assigned by the NAT along with temporary external ports and exchanges them between $A$ and $B$ (S passes $EIP_A:EP_A$ to $B$ and $EIP_B:EP_B$ to $A$)
  5. $A$ and $B$ send packets to each other and their appropriate NAT devices create the entries in their lookup tables
    1. $A$ sends a packet to $EIP_B:EP_B$.
    2. $N_A$ examines $A$’s outgoing packet and adds (Source-IP-$A$, $EP_A$, $EIP_B$, $EP_B$) to its translation table.
    3. $B$ sends a packet to $EIP_A:EP_A$.
    4. $N_B$ examines $B$’s outgoing packet and adds (Source-IP-$B$, $EP_B$, $EIP_A$, $EP_A$) to its translation table.
  6. Best case scenario $N_A$ and $N_B$ should have made the entry in the translation. Worst case, both NAT devices have not yet made the entry and drop the first packet sent from $B$
  7. At worst, the second packet from both $A$ and $B$ make it to each other. Holes have been “punched” in the NAT and both hosts can directly communicate through $N_A$ and $N_B$ without needing $S$

# Peer Discovery in a purely distributed manner

  1. Peer A sends an introduction-request to peer B. Peer B is chosen from an existing pool of neighboring peers.
  2. Peer B sends an introduction-response to peer A containing the address of peer C.
  3. Peer B sends a puncture-request to peer C containing the address of peer A.
  4. Peer C sends a puncture to peer A, puncturing its NAT.

When a peer doesn’t yet have a list of neighboring peers, it will select a bootstrap server for peer B. Bootstrap servers have the same peer discovery protocol as regular peers except they respond to introduction-requests for anyone.

# STUN (Session Traversal Utilities for NAT)

Servers like $S$ usually run STUN. Recognized using a stun or stuns resource record.

Details how a server can determine what kind of NAT and firewall is between itself and the public Internet.

# ICE (Interactive Connectivity Establishment)

Uses STUN. Provides a structured mechanism to determine the optimal communication path between two peers

# TURN (Traversal Using Relays around NAT)

TURN places a third-party server to relay messages between two clients when direct media traffic between peers is not allowed by a firewall.

Interactive Graph