The majority of NATs map multiple private hosts to one publicly exposed IP address. In a typical configuration, a local network uses one of the designated "private" IP address subnets (RFC 1918). A router on that network has a private address in that address space. The router is also connected to the Internet with a "public" address assigned by an Internet service provider. As traffic passes from the local network to the Internet, the source address in each packet is translated on the fly from a private address to the public address. The router tracks basic data about each active connection (particularly the destination address and port). When a reply returns to the router, it uses the connection tracking data it stored during the outbound phase to determine the private address on the internal network to which to forward the reply.
All Internet packets have a source IP address and a destination IP address. Typically packets passing from the private network to the public network will have their source address modified while packets passing from the public network back to the private network will have their destination address modified. More complex configurations are also possible.
To avoid ambiguity in how to translate returned packets, further modifications to the packets are required. The vast bulk of Internet traffic is TCP and UDP packets, and for these protocols the port numbers are changed so that the combination of IP and port information on the returned packet can be unambiguously mapped to the corresponding private address and port information. Protocols not based on TCP or UDP require other translation techniques. ICMP packets typically relate to an existing connection and need to be mapped using the same IP and port mappings as that connection.
Read more about this topic: Network Address Translation
Other articles related to "nat":
... The NAT traversal problem arises when two peers behind distinct NAT try to communicate ... One way to solve this problem is to use port forwarding, another way is to use various NAT traversal techniques ... The most popular technique for TCP NAT traversal is TCP hole punching, which requires the NAT to follow the port preservation design for TCP, as explained below ...