Welcome!

Linux Authors: Carmen Gonzalez, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Victoria Livschitz, Ignacio M. Llorente

Related Topics: Linux

Linux: Article

10 minutes to an iptables-based Linux firewall

You can harden your Linux 2.4 machines in no time at all.

(LinuxWorld) -- As I write this column, the world suffers infestation by yet another Internet worm, and again the worms are intended to attack Microsoft-based machines. Fortunately for my company, we don't run any Microsoft-based machines, but the Nimda worm still affects us.

 

Nimda eats our bandwidth since other companies sharing our subnet are running infectious Windows 98, NT, and 2000 machines. These diseased, ill-maintained beasts from the land of insufficient light are now trying to infest our stable, secure, long running, easy-to-use, well-behaved Linux machines. (Can you tell I'm a bit irritated?)

 

This has led me to start editing some of our firewall rules, and in the process, consider that, as we have recently migrated to the 2.4 kernel, some people may be interested in how to create a Linux 2.4 kernel-based firewall quickly.

 

The following examples do not create the perfect firewall. What I describe is designed to give a system administrator a little piece of mind by fortifying a machine from obvious attacks.

 

Why 2.4/iptables?

 

The 2.2 version of the Linux kernel used the ipchains application to control the firewall. For standard firewalling, ipchains is a decent solution. We still use it on some of our machines, and there is still a positive argument for 2.2 kernel-based firewalls, because the 2.4 kernel still has some stability issues under heavy load.

 

Those heavy load issues aside, the 2.4 kernel provides a wealth of networking capabilities 2.2 lacks. These include stateful firewalling and solid quality-of-service options. One could argue that the 2.4 kernel, and its iptables firewall code, enables a person to build intricate firewalls capable of competing with the likes of CheckPoint.

 

Using iptables

 

The command to execute iptables is simple: as root type iptables. The execution of the previous command should display output similar to the following:

 

[root@jd root]# /sbin/iptables
iptables v1.2.1: no command specified
Try `iptables -h' or 'iptables --help' for more information.
[root@jd root]#

 

If you would like an output of the available options when using the iptables you can pass the -h flag during program execution. The -h command will result in output similar to the following:

 

[root@jd root]# /sbin/iptables -h
iptables v1.2.1
Usage: iptables -[ADC] chain rule-specification [options]
       iptables -[RI] chain rulenum rule-specification [options]
       iptables -D chain rulenum [options]
       iptables -[LFZ] [chain] [options]
       iptables -[NX] chain
       iptables -E old-chain-name new-chain-name
       iptables -P chain target [options]
       iptables -h (print this help information)

Commands: Either long or short options are allowed. --append -A chain Append to chain --delete -D chain Delete matching rule from chain --delete -D chain rulenum [...]

 

For this article, I am not going to go into exhaustive explanation of all the iptables options. If you want an advanced introduction, to iptables I suggest the Linux 2.4 Packet Filtering HOWTO (see resources below).

 

When developing a personal or desktop firewall I practice a very simple philosophy. If you aren't going to use it, don't open it. For example, if you are not hosting a Web site, do not open port 80. If you are not using telnet (and there is not a good reason on this Earth to use telnet), do not open port 23!

 

In an effort to follow my philosophy, the quickest way to port protection nirvana is the following iptables chain:

 

/sbin/iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --syn -j DROP

 

The previous statement will allow you to, as the user of the computer, performed all your normal Internet activities. You will be able to browse the Web, ssh out, or chat with a colleague on ICQ. On the other hand, the outside world, when trying to connect to your Linux box via TCP/IP, will simply be ignored. This is a reasonable solution for most Linux computers.

 

However, one of the benefits of Linux is its remote management capabilities. One of the more popular ways that people remotely manage Linux machines is via the SSH (see resources) suite. SSH typically operates on port 22 and thus, we would need to enable connections to port 22, while keeping the rest of the connections closed. This can be done with the following iptable chains:

 

/sbin/iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --syn --destination-port 22 -j ACCEPT
/sbin/iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --syn -j DROP

 

It is probably not a good idea to let the world connect to your machine on port 22 unless you run a public server. Therefore, we can limit which machines can connect to port 22 by modifying the iptable chain, and adding the -s option. The -s in this example specifies what source address is allowed to connect to the server.

 

/sbin/iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --syn -s 192.168.1.110/32 --destination-port 22 -j ACCEPT
/sbin/iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --syn -j DROP

 

The addition of the -s 192.168.1.110/32 will enable only the remote machine with the IP address of 192.168.1.110 to connect to your protected host.

 

When you create an iptables-based firewall, each chain (for simplicity's sake, each line) will be read sequentially. Thus, it is possible to have the previous configuration of only one machine having rights to connect via SSH, and to run a public Web server. This could be done with the following commands:

 

/sbin/iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --syn -s 192.168.1.110/32 --destination-port 22 -j ACCEPT
/sbin/iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --syn --destination-port 80 -j ACCEPT
/sbin/iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --syn -j DROP

 

This is just an introduction to iptables, but it does give a reasonable representation of the bare essentials for a firewall. If you are currently running Linux with kernel 2.4, it may be a good time to review what your firewall looks like. On a closing note, if you are still running kernel 2.2 and you are looking for a good firewall configuration utility, take a look at Guard Dog (see resources).

More Stories By Joshua Drake

Joshua Drake is the co-founder of Command Prompt, Inc., a PostgreSQL and Linux custom development company. He is also the current author of the Linux Networking HOWTO, Linux PPP HOWTO, and Linux Consultants HOWTO. His most demanding project at this time is a new PostgreSQL book for O'Reilly, 'Practical PostgreSQL'

Comments (3) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Peter 10/04/04 12:38:21 PM EDT

Thank you... this is the info I have been looking for, a quick and simple way to secure a basic web server.

Jules 07/24/04 02:19:10 PM EDT

Thankyou! At last an article that shows me how to create a simple set of rules.

Pankaj Kumar 09/27/03 12:17:26 AM EDT

Good introductory article on iptables for newbies.

@ThingsExpo Stories
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Cultural, regulatory, environmental, political and economic (CREPE) conditions over the past decade are creating cross-industry solution spaces that require processes and technologies from both the Internet of Things (IoT), and Data Management and Analytics (DMA). These solution spaces are evolving into Sensor Analytics Ecosystems (SAE) that represent significant new opportunities for organizations of all types. Public Utilities throughout the world, providing electricity, natural gas and water, are pursuing SmartGrid initiatives that represent one of the more mature examples of SAE. We have s...
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, and physical persons. In the IoT vision, every new "thing" - sensor, actuator, data source, data con...
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...
The Internet of Things will greatly expand the opportunities for data collection and new business models driven off of that data. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO of MetraTech, discussed how for this to be effective you not only need to have infrastructure and operational models capable of utilizing this new phenomenon, but increasingly service providers will need to convince a skeptical public to participate. Get ready to show them the money!
The Internet of Things will put IT to its ultimate test by creating infinite new opportunities to digitize products and services, generate and analyze new data to improve customer satisfaction, and discover new ways to gain a competitive advantage across nearly every industry. In order to help corporate business units to capitalize on the rapidly evolving IoT opportunities, IT must stand up to a new set of challenges. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies, will examine why IT must finally fulfill its role in support of its SBUs or face a new round of...
One of the biggest challenges when developing connected devices is identifying user value and delivering it through successful user experiences. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mike Kuniavsky, Principal Scientist, Innovation Services at PARC, described an IoT-specific approach to user experience design that combines approaches from interaction design, industrial design and service design to create experiences that go beyond simple connected gadgets to create lasting, multi-device experiences grounded in people's real needs and desires.
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can't be addressed w...
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. According to a recent IDG Research Services Survey this rate of traffic will only grow. What's driving t...
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.