On Wed, 27 Aug 1997, Steven Bellovin wrote:
> Date: Tue, 26 Aug 1997 22:22:31 -0500
> From: "Bruce K. Marshall" <bkmarsh @
> Subject: Historic firewall definition
> I was recently browsing through the 1992 copyrighted edition
> of_Interconnections: Bridges and Routers_ by Radia Perlman when I
> stumbled upon an interesting definition of a firewall. Radia writes:
> "With most networks, malfunctions can cause widespread disruption.
> Some networks, however, are designed with ''firewalls.'' If a network
> is partitioned into pieces by firewalls, a disruption will spread only
> as far as a firewall and will therefore affect only a portion of the
> So, my curiosity was perked into wondering whether firewalls
> originally filled this purpose before they became more orientated to
> protecting networks or whether this was simply a competing definition.
> A while back, a few of us tried to track down the etymology of the word
> "firewall". You're quite correct -- it originally meant a mechanism
> that guarded against non-malicious malfunctions. The first use in today's
> sense that we were able to track down was in some email that I sent in,
> I believe, 1987. The first occurrence in print was by Spafford, in 1991.
I first heard it in 1989, I think, to describe bulwarking in an internal
network. At the time, IBM's Watson Research was modifying bridges to not
pass IP because we had a lot of implementations on the net that were
non-compliant and a lot of weak stacks that would die a horrible death if,
somehow, they got a malformed packet. So '87 in the networking world
probably fits well.
That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.
That which does kill us makes us smell stronger, after a few days, anyway.
Nick Simicich mailto:njs @
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