Setting Up Linux for Firewalling

To build a Linux IP firewall, it is necessary to have a kernel built with IP firewall support and the appropriate configuration utility. In all production kernels prior to the 2.2 series, you would use the ipfwadm utility. The 2.2.x kernels marked the release of the third generation of IP firewall for Linux called IP Chains. IP chains use a program similar to ipfwadm called ipchains. Linux kernels 2.3.15 and later support the fourth generation of Linux IP firewall called netfilter. The netfilter code is the result of a large redesign of the packet handling flow in Linux. The netfilter is a multifaceted creature, providing direct backward-compatible support for both ipfwadm and ipchains as well as a new alternative command called iptables. We'll talk about the differences between the three in the next few sections.

Kernel Configured with IP Firewall

The Linux kernel must be configured to support IP firewalling. There isn't much more to it than selecting the appropriate options when performing a make menuconfig of your kernel.[1] We described how to do this is in Chapter 3”. In 2.2 kernels you should select the following options:
Networking options  --->
	[*] Network firewalls
	[*] TCP/IP networking
	[*] IP: firewalling
	[*] IP: firewall packet logging

In kernels 2.4.0 and later you should select this option instead:
  Networking options  --->
     [*] Network packet filtering (replaces ipchains)
         IP: Netfilter Configuration  --->
             <M> Userspace queueing via NETLINK (EXPERIMENTAL)
             <M> IP tables support (required for filtering/masq/NAT)
             <M>   limit match support
             <M>   MAC address match support
             <M>   netfilter MARK match support
             <M>   Multiple port match support
             <M>   TOS match support
             <M>   Connection state match support
             <M>   Unclean match support (EXPERIMENTAL)
             <M>   Owner match support (EXPERIMENTAL)
             <M>   Packet filtering
             <M>     REJECT target support
             <M>     MIRROR target support (EXPERIMENTAL)
             <M>   Packet mangling
             <M>     TOS target support
             <M>     MARK target support
             <M>   LOG target support
             <M> ipchains (2.2-style) support
             <M> ipfwadm (2.0-style) support

The ipfwadm Utility

The ipfwadm (IP Firewall Administration) utility is the tool used to build the firewall rules for all kernels prior to 2.2.0. Its command syntax can be very confusing because it can do such a complicated range of things, but we'll provide some common examples that will illustrate the most important variations of these.

The ipfwadm utility is included in most modern Linux distributions, but perhaps not by default. There may be a specific software package for it that you have to install. If your distribution does not include it, you can obtain the source package from in the /pub/linux/ipfwadm/ directory, and compile it yourself.

The ipchains Utility

Just as for the ipfwadm utility, the ipchains utility can be somewhat baffling to use at first. It provides all of the flexibility of ipfwadm with a simplified command syntax, and additionally provides a “chaining” mechanism that allows you to manage multiple rulesets and link them together. We'll cover rule chaining in a separate section near the end of the chapter, because for most situations it is an advanced concept.

The ipchains command appears in most Linux distributions based on the 2.2 kernels. If you want to compile it yourself, you can find the source package from its developer's site at Included in the source package is a wrapper script called ipfwadm-wrapper that mimics the ipfwadm command, but actually invokes the ipchains command. Migration of an existing firewall configuration is much more painless with this addition.

The iptables Utility

The syntax of the iptables utility is quite similar to that of the ipchains syntax. The changes are improvements and a result of the tool being redesigned to be extensible through shared libraries. Just as for ipchains, we'll present iptables equivalents of the examples so you can compare and contrast its syntax with the others.

The iptables utility is included in the netfilter source package available at It will also be included in any Linux distribution based on the 2.4 series kernels.

We'll talk a bit about netfilter's huge step forward in a section of its own later in this chapter.



Firewall packet logging is a special feature that writes a line of information about each datagram that matches a particular firewall rule out to a special device so you can see them.