The Linux kernel includes the Netfilter subsystem, which is used to manipulate or decide the fate of network traffic headed into or through your server. All modern Linux firewall solutions use this system for packet filtering.

The kernel's packet filtering system would be of little use to administrators without a userspace interface to manage it. This is the purpose of iptables. When a packet reaches your server, it will be handed off to the Netfilter subsystem for acceptance, manipulation, or rejection based on the rules supplied to it from userspace via iptables. Thus, iptables is all you need to manage your firewall if you're familiar with it, but many frontends are available to simplify the task.

ufw - Uncomplicated Firewall

The default firewall configuration tool for Ubuntu is ufw. Developed to ease iptables firewall configuration, ufw provides a user friendly way to create an IPv4 or IPv6 host-based firewall.

ufw by default is initially disabled. From the ufw man page:

ufw is not intended to provide complete firewall functionality via its command interface, but instead provides an easy way to add or remove simple rules. It is currently mainly used for host-based firewalls.

The following are some examples of how to use ufw:

  • First, ufw needs to be enabled. From a terminal prompt enter:

    sudo ufw enable
  • To open a port (ssh in this example):

    sudo ufw allow 22
  • Rules can also be added using a numbered format:

    sudo ufw insert 1 allow 80
  • Similarly, to close an opened port:

    sudo ufw deny 22
  • To remove a rule, use delete followed by the rule:

    sudo ufw delete deny 22
  • It is also possible to allow access from specific hosts or networks to a port. The following example allows ssh access from host to any ip address on this host:

    sudo ufw allow proto tcp from to any port 22

    Replace with to allow ssh access from the entire subnet.

  • Adding the --dry-run option to a ufw command will output the resulting rules, but not apply them. For example, the following is what would be applied if opening the HTTP port:

     sudo ufw --dry-run allow http
    :ufw-user-input - [0:0]
    :ufw-user-output - [0:0]
    :ufw-user-forward - [0:0]
    :ufw-user-limit - [0:0]
    :ufw-user-limit-accept - [0:0]
    ### RULES ###
    ### tuple ### allow tcp 80 any
    -A ufw-user-input -p tcp --dport 80 -j ACCEPT
    ### END RULES ###
    -A ufw-user-input -j RETURN
    -A ufw-user-output -j RETURN
    -A ufw-user-forward -j RETURN
    -A ufw-user-limit -m limit --limit 3/minute -j LOG --log-prefix "[UFW LIMIT]: "
    -A ufw-user-limit -j REJECT
    -A ufw-user-limit-accept -j ACCEPT
    Rules updated
  • ufw can be disabled by:

    sudo ufw disable
  • To see the firewall status, enter:

    sudo ufw status
  • And for more verbose status information use:

    sudo ufw status verbose
  • To view the numbered format:

    sudo ufw status numbered

If the port you want to open or close is defined in /etc/services, you can use the port name instead of the number. In the above examples, replace 22 with ssh.

This is a quick introduction to using ufw. Please refer to the ufw man page for more information.

ufw Application Integration

Applications that open ports can include an ufw profile, which details the ports needed for the application to function properly. The profiles are kept in /etc/ufw/applications.d, and can be edited if the default ports have been changed.

  • To view which applications have installed a profile, enter the following in a terminal:

    sudo ufw app list
  • Similar to allowing traffic to a port, using an application profile is accomplished by entering:

    sudo ufw allow Samba
  • An extended syntax is available as well:

    ufw allow from to any app Samba

    Replace Samba and with the application profile you are using and the IP range for your network.


    There is no need to specify the protocol for the application, because that information is detailed in the profile. Also, note that the app name replaces the port number.

  • To view details about which ports, protocols, etc are defined for an application, enter:

    sudo ufw app info Samba

Not all applications that require opening a network port come with ufw profiles, but if you have profiled an application and want the file to be included with the package, please file a bug against the package in Launchpad.

IP Masquerading

The purpose of IP Masquerading is to allow machines with private, non-routable IP addresses on your network to access the Internet through the machine doing the masquerading. Traffic from your private network destined for the Internet must be manipulated for replies to be routable back to the machine that made the request. To do this, the kernel must modify the source IP address of each packet so that replies will be routed back to it, rather than to the private IP address that made the request, which is impossible over the Internet. Linux uses Connection Tracking (conntrack) to keep track of which connections belong to which machines and reroute each return packet accordingly. Traffic leaving your private network is thus "masqueraded" as having originated from your Ubuntu gateway machine. This process is referred to in Microsoft documentation as Internet Connection Sharing.

ufw Masquerading

IP Masquerading can be achieved using custom ufw rules. This is possible because the current back-end for ufw is iptables-restore with the rules files located in /etc/ufw/*.rules. These files are a great place to add legacy iptables rules used without ufw, and rules that are more network gateway or bridge related.

The rules are split into two different files, rules that should be executed before ufw command line rules, and rules that are executed after ufw command line rules.

  • First, packet forwarding needs to be enabled in ufw. Two configuration files will need to be adjusted, in /etc/default/ufw change the DEFAULT_FORWARD_POLICY to “ACCEPT”:


    Then edit /etc/ufw/sysctl.conf and uncomment:


    Similarly, for IPv6 forwarding uncomment:

  • Now we will add rules to the /etc/ufw/before.rules file. The default rules only configure the filter table, and to enable masquerading the nat table will need to be configured. Add the following to the top of the file just after the header comments:

    # nat Table rules
    # Forward traffic from eth1 through eth0.
    # don't delete the 'COMMIT' line or these nat table rules won't be processed

    The comments are not strictly necessary, but it is considered good practice to document your configuration. Also, when modifying any of the rules files in /etc/ufw, make sure these lines are the last line for each table modified:

    # don't delete the 'COMMIT' line or these rules won't be processed

    For each Table a corresponding COMMIT statement is required. In these examples only the nat and filter tables are shown, but you can also add rules for the raw and mangle tables.


    In the above example replace eth0, eth1, and with the appropriate interfaces and IP range for your network.

  • Finally, disable and re-enable ufw to apply the changes:

    sudo ufw disable && sudo ufw enable

IP Masquerading should now be enabled. You can also add any additional FORWARD rules to the /etc/ufw/before.rules. It is recommended that these additional rules be added to the ufw-before-forward chain.

iptables Masquerading

iptables can also be used to enable masquerading.

  • Similar to ufw, the first step is to enable IPv4 packet forwarding by editing /etc/sysctl.conf and uncomment the following line


    If you wish to enable IPv6 forwarding also uncomment:

  • Next, execute the sysctl command to enable the new settings in the configuration file:

    sudo sysctl -p
  • IP Masquerading can now be accomplished with a single iptables rule, which may differ slightly based on your network configuration:

    sudo iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -s -o ppp0 -j MASQUERADE

    The above command assumes that your private address space is and that your Internet-facing device is ppp0. The syntax is broken down as follows:

    • -t nat -- the rule is to go into the nat table

    • -A POSTROUTING -- the rule is to be appended (-A) to the POSTROUTING chain

    • -s -- the rule applies to traffic originating from the specified address space

    • -o ppp0 -- the rule applies to traffic scheduled to be routed through the specified network device

    • -j MASQUERADE -- traffic matching this rule is to "jump" (-j) to the MASQUERADE target to be manipulated as described above

  • Also, each chain in the filter table (the default table, and where most or all packet filtering occurs) has a default policy of ACCEPT, but if you are creating a firewall in addition to a gateway device, you may have set the policies to DROP or REJECT, in which case your masqueraded traffic needs to be allowed through the FORWARD chain for the above rule to work:

    sudo iptables -A FORWARD -s -o ppp0 -j ACCEPT
    sudo iptables -A FORWARD -d -m state --state ESTABLISHED,RELATED -i ppp0 -j ACCEPT

    The above commands will allow all connections from your local network to the Internet and all traffic related to those connections to return to the machine that initiated them.

  • If you want masquerading to be enabled on reboot, which you probably do, edit /etc/rc.local and add any commands used above. For example add the first command with no filtering:

    iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -s -o ppp0 -j MASQUERADE


Firewall logs are essential for recognizing attacks, troubleshooting your firewall rules, and noticing unusual activity on your network. You must include logging rules in your firewall for them to be generated, though, and logging rules must come before any applicable terminating rule (a rule with a target that decides the fate of the packet, such as ACCEPT, DROP, or REJECT).

If you are using ufw, you can turn on logging by entering the following in a terminal:

sudo ufw logging on

To turn logging off in ufw, simply replace on with off in the above command.

If using iptables instead of ufw, enter:

sudo iptables -A INPUT -m state --state NEW -p tcp --dport 80 -j LOG --log-prefix "NEW_HTTP_CONN: "

A request on port 80 from the local machine, then, would generate a log in dmesg that looks like this:

[4304885.870000] NEW_HTTP_CONN: IN=lo OUT= MAC=00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00:00:08:00 SRC= DST= LEN=60 TOS=0x00 PREC=0x00 TTL=64 ID=58288 DF PROTO=TCP SPT=53981 DPT=80 WINDOW=32767 RES=0x00 SYN URGP=0

The above log will also appear in /var/log/messages, /var/log/syslog, and /var/log/kern.log. This behavior can be modified by editing /etc/syslog.conf appropriately or by installing and configuring ulogd and using the ULOG target instead of LOG. The ulogd daemon is a userspace server that listens for logging instructions from the kernel specifically for firewalls, and can log to any file you like, or even to a PostgreSQL or MySQL database. Making sense of your firewall logs can be simplified by using a log analyzing tool such as fwanalog, fwlogwatch, or lire.

Other Tools

There are many tools available to help you construct a complete firewall without intimate knowledge of iptables. For the GUI-inclined:

  • Firestarter is quite popular and easy to use.

  • fwbuilder is very powerful and will look familiar to an administrator who has used a commercial firewall utility such as Checkpoint FireWall-1.

If you prefer a command-line tool with plain-text configuration files:

  • Shorewall is a very powerful solution to help you configure an advanced firewall for any network.

  • ipkungfu should give you a working firewall "out of the box" with zero configuration, and will allow you to easily set up a more advanced firewall by editing simple, well-documented configuration files.

  • fireflier is designed to be a desktop firewall application. It is made up of a server (fireflier-server) and your choice of GUI clients (GTK or QT), and behaves like many popular interactive firewall applications for Windows.


  • The Ubuntu Firewall wiki page contains information on the development of ufw.

  • Also, the ufw manual page contains some very useful information: man ufw.

  • See the packet-filtering-HOWTO for more information on using iptables.

  • The nat-HOWTO contains further details on masquerading.