How to Make an Isolated Network

A network which can access the Internet, but not other machines on the LAN. Not even ethernet frames.


I was asked to give a short presentation at my church on how to remove a virus from your PC. And I thought the best way to do that is to install some malware and actually remove it.

Now I try to maintain good habits with computer security. I use a password manager for all passwords (much to my wife’s dislike). I maintain a website dedicated to generating easy to remember yet difficult to guess passwords. I run as a standard user on all computers; no admin without another password. I have two-factor authentication active where ever I can (even on my 6 year old’s Google account).

And I am painfully aware how destructive malware can be.

So deliberately installing malware on my network was not going to be taken lightly.


I already have a guest WiFi network, which is isolated from my main LAN. But I figured I should learn something in this process, and decided to isolate a wired network.

  • A single ethernet port is designated isolated
  • It can access anything on the Internet
  • It cannot access anything on my LAN (in particular, SMB / CIFS file shares)
  • Ideally, it should not be aware of my LAN at all (no broadcast packets, no tricky ethernet level tricks)
  • To simplify things, a public IPv6 address will not be offered

Technology Used

We’ll be using the following (in order of importance):

Layers - Network Theory

To isolate one network from another, we need to separate them at two levels:

  1. The network layer (3 and 4 in the OSI model, or TCP/IP in the real world). This would mean separate netmasks and address ranges.
  2. The data link layer (2 in the OSI model, or Ethernet in the real world). This means separate vLANs or network switches.

Restricting at Layer 3/4 (TCP/IP)

Restricting communications at the TCP/IP level is done via creating a new network and firewall rules.

Creating a new network is streight forward, but multi-step:

  1. Add a new IP address to the isolated port (IP -> Addresses)
  2. Add a new IP address pool for DHCP (IP -> Address Pool)
  3. Add a new DCHP server listening on the isolated port for the address pool

(I’ll write up a separate post for those details.)

Then we need to add appropriate firewall rules. Mikrotik routers allow all traffic by default. So I add a drop everything rule at the end of my routing table, and then allow traffic as required.

Conceptually, this looks like:

  • Some accounting rules tracking bytes in and out (so I can see that traffic is flowing)
  • Allow packets to / from the router (for DNS, DHCP, etc)
  • Allow packets to / from the Internet via NAT
  • Drop anything for my LAN

And the actual implementation (note references to ether10-isolated):

[admin@Mikrotik-gateway] /ip firewall filter> print

5 ;;; Incoming Stats
chain=forward action=passthrough in-interface=pppoe-internode out-interface=ether10-isolated log=no log-prefix=""

8 ;;; Outgoing Stats
chain=forward action=passthrough in-interface=ether10-isolated out-interface=pppoe-internode log=no log-prefix=""

26 ;;; Allow DNS access for all internal
chain=input action=accept protocol=udp src-address-list=isolated dst-port=53 log=no log-prefix=""

36 ;;; Accept to established connections
chain=input action=accept connection-state=established log=no log-prefix=""

37 ;;; Accept to related connections
chain=input action=accept connection-state=related log=no log-prefix=""

41 ;;; Drop access to LAN from isolated network
chain=forward action=drop dst-address-list=all_internal in-interface=ether10-isolated log=no log-prefix=""

43 ;;; Drop access to Router from isolated network
chain=input action=drop in-interface=ether10-isolated log=no log-prefix=""

[admin@Mikrotik-gateway] /ip firewall nat> print

11 ;;; Main NAT rule
chain=srcnat action=masquerade src-address-list=all_internal out-interface=pppoe-internode log=no log-prefix=""

12 chain=srcnat action=masquerade src-address-list=isolated out-interface=pppoe-internode log=no log-prefix=""

[admin@Mikrotik-gateway] /ip firewall nat>

Restricting at Layer 2 (ethernet)

Restricting at the ethernet layer is more difficult, and something I’d never tried in the past.

I tried creating vLANs and managed to isolate every device on my LAN from every other device! And then hit CTRL+Z.

Mikrotik routers, however, have a programmable network switch. The documentation seemed to say that you can create switch groups, where certain ports function as if they were part of a network switch (layer 2), and others as routed ports (layer 3/4). If I could take a single port out of a switch group, that should physically isolate it.

By default, my router had the five 100Mb ports configured as one switch group, and the gigabit ports as no switch group. (Apparently, the gigabit ports are bridged and use fast path routing to achieve near wire speed performance. This means they act like a switch, but you can use firewall rules against individual ports. Although I’m still not 100% certain exactly what that means: more information about bridge vs switch).

I took one 100Mb ethernet port (number 10) out of the switch group, and named it isolated.
Which was all I needed to do (after several hours of reading and incorrect attempts).

Master port = none, taking it out of the switch group

Connecting Devices

There were two devices I connected:

  1. A physical PC acquired from work
  2. A VM, hosted on my do everything server using Hyper-V

The physical PC was easy enough: simply plug the cable in.

The VM required a little extra work. Hyper-V networking is either internal to Hyper-V or part of a LAN. There isn’t any other option (although this appears to be changing, see below for more details).

So I connected a cheap USB network adapter and created a new External Network Switch, which was bound to the new NIC and named isolated. The switch was configured not to share with the host OS; that is, Hyper-V takes exclusive use of the NIC and the host does not access it at all.

Exclusive use of a $30 USB NIC

Then you assign the VM to use the isolated switch and plug the cable into the NIC.

Finally, running two devices from one ethernet port means you need an additional switch. I had an old 100Mb 4 port router which worked for this. Simply plug-in the isolated port from the Mikrotik, the physical PC and the USB NIC.


When a device connects to the isolated network, it sees a nice network in the 10.0.0.x space. It’s default gateway, DNS and DHCP server is So, any malware shouldn’t be suspicious of my LAN over on 192.168.0.x.

However, I wanted to be sure. So I loaded nmap on the isolated device, and told it to scan from it’s 10.0.0.x network.

Devices on my local network (determined via nmap scan from the LAN):

Devices on my local network (as visible from the isolated network

Only (the router) was up and running.

That was enough for me to be satisfied the networks were isolated.

(As an aside: I run this nmap test before the layer 2 isolation was in place, that is, before I’d taken the port out of the switch group. I could not connect to any device on my LAN and nmap reported all open ports as filtered, but it was aware of every live device on my LAN. Although I’m reasonably sure that is isolated enough, I really wanted to be sure)!



My first thought at isolating a network would be to set up a vLAN. After all, that’s what the networking guys do at my work.

I had never done any work with vLANs, so I wasn’t very confident about this approach. And managed to isolate every device from every other device while trying it out. But I suspect someone who knew what they were doing could make it work.

Hyper-V NAT

I mentioned above that Hyper-V only has internal and external network switches. Well, it appears they are implementing NAT switches as well.

That should allow a VM to be isolated at layer 2 (via a Hyper-V switch) and 3/4 (via NAT). And would have saved me $30 on the USB NIC.

However, this feature was not available when I created my network.


By taking a network port out of the normal network switch, and implementing the correct firewall rules, you can isolate a single port on a Mikrotik device.

This creates a highly isolated network which can access the Internet but not see any other device on your LAN.