Monday, April 11, 2022

Gateways: what are they and how do they work?

 Gateway

Accessing the internet from a computer, smartphone or tablet has become a trivial activity in our daily lives. With this, it is common to come across terms related to the configurations of the networks that we access and that we do not understand well. Gateway is one of those terms that may seem complicated in theory, but in practice are simple to understand.

 

If you've ever come across this concept and want to find out exactly what it's all about and what its function in practice, this content is for you! Read on and understand what gateway is , how it works and examples of its practical use!

What is Gateway?

First of all, “ gateway ” is an English term that simply means “gateway”, “gate” or “portal”. Bearing this in mind, we can say that the function of a “gateway” is to serve as a separation, intermediary and passage between two different environments, right?

Thus, the term gateway, in the context of the internet and connection settings, refers exactly to the tools that act as an intermediary for exchanging information . This exchange takes place between different devices that connect through a network.

To serve as an information exchange bridge, a gateway performs several functions. The main ones are: controlling data traffic (information packets); translate protocols to decode information from one network to another; and provide features and layers of security. 

Thus, gateways are essential for interconnection between networks and for information security.

How does Gateway work?

Every device we use to access the internet has an IP, which is nothing more than an identification or an “address” of the device . To connect this device to others, using an internet network to exchange information, it is necessary to have a gateway that acts as an intermediary between the IP's.

In this way, the gateway organizes the traffic between the IP's and the internet network, decoding data packets and protecting information on both sides. 

Imagine, for example, that a machine with IP 199.000.123.0.0 wants to establish communication over an internet network with another machine with IP 123.312.555.0.0. As the IP addresses are different, it is not possible for one to have direct access to the other's information. 

Therefore, an intermediary is needed to decode the information and organize the traffic.

In this case, the information provided by an IP arrives at the gateway, is encoded and sent in a packet to the network. With this, the IP at the other end can, through the network, find this packet of information, which will be downloaded and decoded by the gateway to then be accessed by this other IP address.

See how the gateway works in dual ways ? It plays a role in both sending and receiving information!

Here it is important to emphasize that the gateway functions are not performed exclusively by a device or device. In fact, because it is more a concept than a tool in itself, there are different types of gateways, which perform one or more intermediation functions in the connections we establish.

What are the main examples of Gateway?

Even without realizing it, we deal with different gateway tools in our daily lives using internet-connected devices. Checking the two main examples, it will certainly become clearer how broad the gateway concept is and how it can be applied!

routers

Today, routers are an almost mandatory piece of equipment in every home and business and it is quite easy to understand how these devices perform gateway functions.

Using a home router, for example, it is possible to connect several devices with different IP's in a shared network. However, in this case, the only device that actually has direct access to the internet is the router. In order for all other devices to be able to access the network, they need to connect to the router.

Therefore, the router is the equipment that makes the IP's gateway, translating the information so that they can communicate with other addresses through the network.

firewalls

Firewall is also an English term, which can be translated as “wall of fire”. In computing, therefore, firewalls are tools that monitor and check both the flow and access to data.

Therefore, as the metaphor of the name suggests, a firewall is a type of “barrier”, whose objective is to protect the devices and information of a network from possible malicious attacks. Consequently, by performing an intermediary role for the exchange of information, firewalls are a type of gateway.

Basically, there are two types of firewall: 

  • Software firewalls ― work through programs installed on devices, such as operating system, antivirus, browsers; 
  • Hardware firewalls ― specific appliances whose sole purpose is to serve as a gateway to control and protect information.

While software firewalls are used by all people who access the internet using the devices we know, hardware firewalls are more used in large business applications that need extra care with information security.

Now it is easier to understand that gateway is a concept used to refer to equipment and tools that mediate or protect the exchange of information between different devices. Understanding this and other information is critical so that we can use shared network features safely!

 

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