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I'm sure Linux sysadmins are quite familiar with iptables, the userland interface to the netfilter packet-filtering framework.

Now, this "Question" is meant to be a Community Wiki for collecting together various bits-n-pieces of iptables wisdom. Nothing is too common or too obscure. Post anything you know that would help others make the most of iptables.

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10 Answers 10

Using whitelist and blacklist with iptables



echo 'Clearing all rules'
iptables -F

## Whitelist

for x in `grep -v ^# $WHITELIST | awk '{print $1}'`; do
        echo "Permitting $x..."
        $IPTABLES -A INPUT -t filter -s $x -j ACCEPT

## Blacklist

for x in `grep -v ^# $BLACKLIST | awk '{print $1}'`; do
        echo "Denying $x..."
        $IPTABLES -A INPUT -t filter -s $x -j DROP

Script to open ports

ALLOWEDTCP="80 3128 3784"
ALLOWEDUDP="3128 3784"

## Permitted Ports

for port in $ALLOWEDTCP; do
       echo "Accepting port TCP $port..."
       $IPTABLES -A INPUT -t filter -p tcp --dport $port -j ACCEPT

for port in $ALLOWEDUDP; do
        echo "Accepting port UDP $port..."
        $IPTABLES -A INPUT -t filter -p udp --dport $port -j ACCEPT

Blocking portscan

# Attempt to block portscans
# Anyone who tried to portscan us is locked out for an entire day.
iptables -A INPUT   -m recent --name portscan --rcheck --seconds 86400 -j DROP
iptables -A FORWARD -m recent --name portscan --rcheck --seconds 86400 -j DROP

# Once the day has passed, remove them from the portscan list
iptables -A INPUT   -m recent --name portscan --remove
iptables -A FORWARD -m recent --name portscan --remove

# These rules add scanners to the portscan list, and log the attempt.
iptables -A INPUT   -p tcp -m tcp --dport 139 -m recent --name portscan --set -j LOG --log-prefix "Portscan:"
iptables -A INPUT   -p tcp -m tcp --dport 139 -m recent --name portscan --set -j DROP

iptables -A FORWARD -p tcp -m tcp --dport 139 -m recent --name portscan --set -j LOG --log-prefix "Portscan:"
iptables -A FORWARD -p tcp -m tcp --dport 139 -m recent --name portscan --set -j DROP

Spoofed/Invalid packets

# Reject spoofed packets
# These adresses are mostly used for LAN's, so if these would come to a WAN-only server, drop them.
iptables -A INPUT -s -j DROP
iptables -A INPUT -s -j DROP
iptables -A INPUT -s -j DROP
iptables -A INPUT -s -j DROP

iptables -A INPUT -s -j DROP
iptables -A INPUT -d -j DROP
iptables -A INPUT -s -j DROP
iptables -A INPUT -d -j DROP
iptables -A INPUT -s -j DROP
iptables -A INPUT -d -j DROP
iptables -A INPUT -d -j DROP
iptables -A INPUT -d -j DROP

# Drop all invalid packets
iptables -A INPUT -m state --state INVALID -j DROP
iptables -A FORWARD -m state --state INVALID -j DROP
iptables -A OUTPUT -m state --state INVALID -j DROP

Block Smurf attacks

# Stop smurf attacks
iptables -A INPUT -p icmp -m icmp --icmp-type address-mask-request -j DROP
iptables -A INPUT -p icmp -m icmp --icmp-type timestamp-request -j DROP
iptables -A INPUT -p icmp -m icmp -j DROP

# Drop excessive RST packets to avoid smurf attacks
iptables -A INPUT -p tcp -m tcp --tcp-flags RST RST -m limit --limit 2/second --limit-burst 2 -j ACCEPT

Block ICMP (aka ping)

# Don't allow pings through
iptables -A INPUT -p icmp -m icmp --icmp-type 8 -j DROP
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Consider adding a comment to the "spoofed" comments, so that less experienced users know why the source addresses are considered spoofed (...when arriving on a wan interface). –  3molo Mar 10 '11 at 15:07
Good call :-). Done. –  Bart De Vos Mar 10 '11 at 16:11
wait. Isn't Block ICMP (aka ping) line redundant to Block smurf attack line: iptables -A INPUT -p icmp -m icmp -j DROP ? –  Stann Mar 31 '11 at 3:14
also - here is the explanation for many items described here: newartisans.com/2007/09/neat-tricks-with-iptables.html –  Stann Mar 31 '11 at 7:01
@Andre: Sure, it's redundant. Some people might only want to block ICMP, that's why I mentioned it ;-) –  Bart De Vos Mar 31 '11 at 7:30

Optimize netfilter's Performance Using ipset

If you write a lot of similar rules based on mere IP, port, or both, consider using ipset to optimize netfilter's performance.

For example:

iptables -s -j ACCEPT
iptables -s -j ACCEPT
iptables -s -j ACCEPT
... hundreds of similar rules ...
iptables -s -j ACCEPT

This means that a packet with the source address of must first traverse hundreds of rules before it can get its verdict of ACCEPT.

Of course, experienced sysadmins will split the rules by subnet. But that still means hundreds of rules.

ipset to the rescue!

First, define an IP Set of ipmap type:

ipset -N Allowed_Hosts ipmap --network

Then, populate it with the addresses:

for ip in $LIST_OF_ALLOWED_IP; do ipset -A Allowed_Hosts $ip; done

Finally, replace the hundreds of iptables rules above with one rule:

iptables -m set --match-set Allowed_Hosts src -j ACCEPT

When a packet arrives, netfilter will perform a very quick bitmap search for the packet's source (src) IP against the Allowed_Hosts IP Set. All packets coming from will experience one rule. And do believe me that searching a bitmap is at least two order of magnitudes faster than performing hundreds of iptables rule-checking.

ipset is not limited to IP addresses. It can also match based on ports, IP-port tuple, network/subnet addresses, IP-MAC tuple, and so on and so forth. And it can match those criteria as source or destination or a mix of both (in the case of tuples).

And finally, with ipset you can automatically put IP addresses in blacklists/whitelists. These blacklists/whitelists can also 'age', thus automatically deleting the IP address after a configurable amount of time has passed.

Please refer to ipset's man page for more details.


Some Linux distros do not have 'out-of-the-box' support for ipset. Two distros I know that do not support ipset out-of-the-box are Ubuntu and Debian. Running aptitude on them tantalizingly shows that an ipset package is available, but I strongly recommend you to not install that package for two reasons: (1) It's an old version of ipset, and (2) It won't work anyway.

Instead, download ipset's source from its website: http://ipset.netfilter.org/install.html

Alternatively, if you use xtables-addons, ipset is included in its source: http://xtables-addons.sourceforge.net/

Edit: The above is true for Ubuntu 10.04, the latest LTS at the time of writing. Ubuntu 12.04 has built-in support for ipset and/or xtables-addons, in the sense that installing the relevant package properly enables the features. I don't know the situation on Debian, though, having not used it for quite some time...

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That's a real pity it's not supported by default on Debian and Ubuntu. I thought you were going to list some obsure distros :/ –  UpTheCreek Apr 25 '13 at 7:44
@UpTheCreek I've edited my answer... the 'special note' was applicable during time of posting the answer, but no longer applicable now. –  pepoluan Mar 10 at 12:40

Add comments to your rules:

-m comment --comment "Comments help to read output of iptables -nvL"
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Block Well-Known TCP Attacks

Add the following rules, preferably in -t raw -A PREROUTING

-p tcp --tcp-flags FIN,SYN FIN,SYN -j DROP
-p tcp --tcp-flags SYN,RST SYN,RST -j DROP
-p tcp --tcp-flags FIN,SYN,RST,PSH,ACK,URG FIN,PSH,URG -j DROP
-p tcp --tcp-flags FIN,SYN,RST,PSH,ACK,URG FIN -j DROP
-p tcp --tcp-flags FIN,SYN,RST,PSH,ACK,URG NONE -j DROP

The attacks being blocked are, respectively:

  • SYN-FIN attack
  • SYN-RST attack
  • X-Mas attack
  • nmap FIN scan
  • NULLflags attack
  • ALLflags attack

(feel free to edit the names of the attacks above)

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The -p tcp --tcp-flags FIN,SYN,RST,PSH,ACK,URG FIN,SYN,RST,PSH,ACK,URG -j DROP could be removed, as the -p tcp --tcp-flags FIN,SYN FIN,SYN -j DROP will catch every packet it could block. –  Jean-Philippe Guérard Nov 19 '12 at 14:26

Block ICMP attacks

Add the following rules, preferably in -t raw -A PREROUTING

-p icmp -m u32 ! --u32 "4&0x3FFF=0"   -j DROP
-p icmp -m length --length 1492:65535 -j DROP

The first rule blocks all ICMP packets whose "fragmentation flag" is not 0. (ICMP should never be fragmented; they should be carrying small payloads)

The second rule blocks oversized unfragmented ICMP packets.

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using FireHOL - convenient iptables wrapper

I found it much more intuitive than direct iptables commands. Especially for people with past experience with other firewalls:

FireHOL is an iptables firewall generator producing stateful iptables packet filtering firewalls, on Linux hosts and routers with any number of network interfaces, any number of routes, any number of services served, any number of complexity between variations of the services (including positive and negative expressions).

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I prefer Shorewall which is actively developed, supports IPv4 and IPv6, and can generate firewalls for other iptables systems. –  BillThor Mar 10 '11 at 16:52
@BillThor sounds like a good tool - thanks –  Ophir Yoktan Mar 10 '11 at 17:28

Enabling NAT

  1. echo 1 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward
  2. /sbin/iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -o eth0 -j MASQUERADE

Step 1 sets the kernel parameter to allow for ip forwarding, step 2 sets up an iptables rule that enables NAT on interface eth0.

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That won't be persistent through a reboot, will it? You need to edit /etc/sysctl.conf net.ipv4.ip_forward = 1. (Assuming Red Hat or derivative.) –  Aaron Copley Apr 3 '11 at 14:48

(from my iptables_tricks.txt file, recompiled from a lot of places :P)

Makes iptables wait 15 seconds between new connections from the same IP:

 iptables -A INPUT -p tcp -i eth0 -m state --state NEW --dport 22 -m recent --update --seconds 15 -j DROP
 iptables -A INPUT -p tcp -i eth0 -m state --state NEW --dport 22 -m recent --set -j ACCEPT
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Same, but with counting of attempts: -A INPUT -p tcp --dport 22 -m state --state NEW -m recent --set --name SSH -A INPUT -p tcp --dport 22 -m state --state NEW -m recent --update --seconds 60 --hitcount 5 --rttl --name SSH -j DROP –  alexm Apr 25 '11 at 6:15

Another GUI that can be used to configure iptables is Firewall Builder. It lets users create rule elements as objects in a database and then drag-and-drop these objects into a rules editor to create the desired firewall policy. The application then generates a script file with all the iptables commands required to implement the rules.

Unlike some other iptables GUI solutions where you can only manage one iptables configuration at a time, with Firewall Builder you can manage a large number of iptables configurations all from a single application. Firewall Builder runs on Linux, Windows and Mac OS X, has been around for over 10 years and has thousands of active users around the world.

Full Disclosure - I'm the co-founder of NetCitadel which is the company that develops Firewall Builder.

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