Rules that allow packets to be filtered by the kernel are put in place
by running the iptables command. When using the
iptables command, specify the following options:
Packet Type — Dictates what
type of packets the command filters.
Packet Source/Destination — Dictates
which packets the command filters based on the source or destination
of the packet.
Target — Dictates what action is
taken on packets matching the above criteria.
The options used with given iptables rule must
be grouped logically, based on the purpose and conditions of the overall
rule, in order for the rule to be valid.
A powerful aspect of iptables is that multiple
tables can be used to decide the fate of a particular packet. Thanks
to the extensible nature of iptables, specialized
tables can be created and stored in the
directory, where <kernel-version>
corresponds to the version kernel number.
The default table, named filter, contains the
standard built-in INPUT, OUTPUT, and FORWARD chains. This is similar
to the standard chains in use with
ipchains. However, by default,
iptables also includes two additional tables that
perform specific packet filtering jobs. The nat table
can be used to modify the source and destination addresses recorded in
packets, and the mangle table alters packets in
Each table contains default chains that perform necessary tasks based
on the purpose of the table, although new chains can be added to any
Many iptables commands have the following
In this example, the
allows the user to select a table other than the default
filter table to use with the command. The
dictates a specific action to perform, such as appending or deleting
the rule specified by the
option. Following the
pairs of parameters and options that define what will happen when a
packet matches the rule.
When looking at the structure of an iptables
command, it is important to remember that, unlike most other commands,
the length and complexity of an iptables command
can change based on its purpose. A simple command to remove a rule
from a chain can be very short, while a command designed to filter
packets from a particular subnet using a variety of specific
parameters and options can be rather lengthy. When creating
iptables commands it is helpful to recognize that
some parameters and options may create the need for other parameters
and options to further specify the previous option's request. In order
to construct a valid rule, this must continue until every parameter
and option that requires another set of options is satisfied.
Type iptables -h to see a comprehensive list of
iptables command structures.
Commands tell iptables to perform a specific
action. Only one command is allowed per iptables
command string. With the exception of the help command, all commands
are written in upper-case characters.
The iptables commands are as follows:
-A — Appends the iptables
rule to the end of the specified chain. This is the command used
to simply add a rule when rule order in the chain does not matter.
-C — Checks a particular rule before
adding it to the user-specified chain. This command can help you
construct complicated iptables rules by
prompting you for additional parameters and options.
-D — Deletes a rule in a particular
chain by number (such as 5 for the fifth rule in
a chain). You can also type the entire rule, and
iptables will delete the rule in the chain that
-E — Renames a user-defined chain. This
does not affect the structure of the table.
-F — Flushes the selected chain, which
effectively deletes every rule in the the chain. If no chain is
specified, this command flushes every rule from every chain.
-h — Provides a list of command
structures, as well as a quick summary of command parameters and
-I — Inserts a rule in a chain at a
point specified by a user-defined integer value. If no number is
specified, iptables will place the command at
the top of the chain.
Be aware of which option (-A or
-I) is used when adding a rule. The order of
the rules within a chain are important for determining which
rules apply to which packets.
-L — Lists all of the rules in the chain
specified after the command. To list all rules in all chains in
the default filter table, do not specify a chain
or table. Otherwise, the following syntax should be used to list
the rules in a specific chain in a particular table:
iptables -L <chain-name> -t <table-name>
Powerful options for the -L command that provide
rule numbers and allow more verbose rule descriptions, among
others, are described in Section 16.3.7 Listing Options.
-N — Creates a new chain with a
-P — Sets the default policy for a
particular chain, so that when packets traverse an entire chain
without matching a rule, they will be sent on to a particular
target, such as ACCEPT or DROP.
-R — Replaces a rule in a particular
chain. The rule's number must be specified after the chain's
name. The first rule in a chain corresponds to rule number one.
-X — Deletes a user-specified
chain. Deleting a built-in chain for any table is not allowed.
-Z — Zeros the byte and packet counters in
all chains for a particular table.
Once certain iptables commands are specified,
including those used to add, append, delete, insert, or replace rules
within a particular chain, parameters are required to construct a
packet filtering rule.
-c — Resets the counters for a
particular rule. This parameter accepts the PKTS
and BYTES options to specify what counter to
-d — Sets the destination hostname, IP
address, or network of a packet that will match the rule. When
matching a network, the following IP address/netmask formats are
— Where N.N.N.N is the IP
address range and M.M.M.M is the
— Where N.N.N.N is the IP
address range and M is the netmask.
-f — Applies this rule only to
By using the ! option after this parameter,
only unfragmented packets will be matched.
-i — Sets the incoming network
interface, such as eth0 or
ppp0. With iptables, this
optional parameter may only be used with the INPUT and FORWARD
chains when used with the filter table and the
PREROUTING chain with the nat and
This parameter also supports the following special options:
! — Tells this parameter not to match,
meaning that any specified interfaces are specifically
excluded from this rule.
+ — A wildcard character used to match
all interfaces which match a particular string. For example,
the parameter -i eth+ would apply this rule
to any Ethernet interfaces but exclude any other interfaces,
such as ppp0.
If the -i parameter is used but no interface
is specified, then every interface is affected by the rule.
-j — Tells iptables
to jump to a particular target when a packet matches a particular
rule. Valid targets to be used after the -j
option include the standard options, ACCEPT,
DROP, QUEUE, and
RETURN, as well as extended options that are
available through modules loaded by default with the Red Hat Linux
iptables RPM package, such as
LOG, MARK, and
REJECT, among others. See the
iptables man page for more information on these
and other targets.
You may also direct a packet matching this rule to a
user-defined chain outside of the current chain so that other
rules can be applied to the packet.
If no target is specified, the packet moves past the rule with no
action taken. However, the counter for this rule is still
increased by one, as the packet matched the specified rule.
-o — Sets the outgoing network
interface for a rule and may only be used with OUTPUT and FORWARD
chains in the filter table, and the POSTROUTING
chain in the nat and mangle
tables. This parameter's options are the same as those of the
incoming network interface parameter (-i).
-p — Sets the IP protocol for the rule,
which can be either icmp, tcp,
udp, or all, to match every
supported protocol. In addition, any protocols listed in
/etc/protocols may also be used. If this
option is omitted when creating a rule, the all
option is the default.
-s — Sets the source for a particular
packet using the same syntax as the destination
16.3.5. Match Options
Different network protocols provide specialized matching options which
may be set in specific ways to match a particular packet using that
protocol. Of course, the protocol must first be specified in the
iptables command, by using -p tcp
<protocol-name> is the target
protocol), to make the options for that protocol available.
220.127.116.11. TCP Protocol
These match options are available for the TCP protocol (-p
--dport — Sets the destination port for
the packet. Use either a network service name (such as
www or smtp), port number, or
range of port numbers to configure this option. To browse the
names and aliases of network services and the port numbers they
use, view the /etc/services file. The
--destination-port match option is synonymous
To specify a specific range of port numbers, separate the two
numbers with a colon (:), such as
-p tcp --dport 3000:3200. The largest
range is 0:65535.
Use an exclamation point character (!) after
the --dport option to tell
iptables to match all packets which
do not use that network service or port.
--sport — Sets the source port of the
packet using the same options as --dport. The
--source-port match option is synonymous with
--syn — Applies to all TCP packets
designed to initiate communication, commonly called
SYN packets. Any packets that carry a
data payload are not touched. Placing an exclamation point
character (!) as a flag after the
--syn option causes all non-SYN packets to be
--tcp-flags — Allows TCP packets with
specific bits, or flags, set to be matched with a rule. The
--tcp-flags match option accepts two
parameters. The first parameter is the mask, which sets the
flags to be examined in the packet. The second parameter refers
to the flag that must be set in order to match.
The possible flags are:
For example, an iptables rule which contains
-p tcp --tcp-flags ACK,FIN,SYN SYN will only match
TCP packets that have the SYN flag set and the ACK and FIN flags
Using the exclamation point character (!) after
--tcp-flags reverses the effect of the match
--tcp-option — Attempts to match with
TCP-specific options that can be set within a particular
packet. This match option can also be reversed with the
exclamation point character (!).
18.104.22.168. UDP Protocol
These match options are available for the UDP protocol (-p
--dport — Specifies the destination port
of the UDP packet, using the service name, port number, or range
of port numbers. The --destination-port match
option is synonymous with --dport.
Refer to the --dport match option in Section 22.214.171.124 TCP Protocol for ways to use this
--sport — Specifies the source port of
the UDP packet, using the service name, port number, or range of
port numbers. The --source-port match option is
synonymous with --sport. Refer to the
--sport match option in Section 126.96.36.199 TCP Protocol for ways to use this
188.8.131.52. ICMP Protocol
These match options are available for the Internet Control
Message Protocol (ICMP) (-p icmp):
--icmp-type — Sets the name or number of
the ICMP type to match with the rule. A list of valid ICMP names
can be seen by typing the iptables -p icmp -h
184.108.40.206. Modules with Additional Match Options
Additional match options are also available through modules
loaded by the iptables command. To use a match
option module, load the module by name using the -m
option, such as -m
<module-name> with the name of the
A large number of modules are available by default. It is even
possible to create your own modules to provide additional match
Many modules exist, but only the most popular modules are discussed
limit module — Allows limit to be
placed on how many packets are matched to a particular
rule. This is especially beneficial when logging rule matches so
that a flood of matching packets will not fill up the system
logs with repetitive messages or use up system resources.
The limit module enables the following options:
--limit — Sets the number of matches for
a particular range of time, specified with a number and time
modifier arranged in a
format. For example, using --limit 5/hour only
lets a rule match five times in a single hour.
If a number and time modifier are not used, the default value of
3/hour is assumed.
--limit-burst — Sets a limit on the
number of packets able to match a rule at one time. This option
should be used in conjunction with the --limit
option, and it accepts a number to set the burst threshold.
If no number is specified, only five packets are initially able
to match the rule.
state module — Enables state
The state module enables the following options:
--state — match a packet with the following
ESTABLISHED — The matching packet is
associated with other packets in an established connection.
INVALID — The matching packet cannot be
tied to a known connection.
NEW — The matching packet is either
creating a new connection or is part of a two-way connection not
RELATED — The matching packet is starting
a new connection related in some way to an existing connection.
These connection states can be used in combination with
one another by separating them with commas, such as
-m state --state INVALID,NEW.
mac module — Enables hardware MAC
The mac module enables the following option:
--mac-source — Matches a MAC
address of the network interface card that sent the packet. To
exclude a MAC address from a rule, place an exclamation point
(!) after the --mac-source match
To view other match options available through modules, refer to
the iptables man page.
16.3.6. Target Options
Once a packet has matched a particular rule, the rule can direct the
packet to a number of different targets that decide its fate and,
possibly, take additional actions. Each chain has a default target,
which is used if none of the rules on that chain match a packet or if
none of the rules which match the packet specify a target.
The following are the standard targets:
<user-defined-chain> with the
name of a user-defined chain within the table. This target passes
the packet to the target chain.
ACCEPT — Allows the packet to
successfully move on to its destination or another chain.
DROP — Drops the packet without
responding to the requester. The system that sent the packet is
not notified of the failure.
QUEUE — The packet is queued for
handling by a user-space application.
RETURN — Stops checking the packet
against rules in the current chain. If the packet with a
RETURN target matches a rule in a chain called
from another chain, the packet is returned to the first chain to
resume rule checking where it left off. If the
RETURN rule is used on a built-in chain and the
packet cannot move up to its previous chain, the default target
for the current chain decides what action to take.
There are many extended target modules, most of which only apply to
specific tables or situations. A couple of the most popular target
modules included by default in Red Hat Linux are:
LOG — Logs all packets that match this
rule. Since the packets are logged by the kernel, the
/etc/syslog.conf file determines where these
log entries are written. By default, they are placed in the
Various options can be used after the LOG
target to specify the way in which logging occurs:
--log-level — Sets the priority level
of a logging event. A list of priority levels can be found in
the syslog.conf man page.
--log-ip-options — Any options set in
the header of a IP packet is logged.
--log-prefix — Places a string of up to
29 characters before the log line when it is written. This is
useful for writing syslog filters for use in conjunction with
--log-tcp-options — Any options set in
the header of a TCP packet are logged.
--log-tcp-sequence — Writes the TCP
sequence number for the packet in the log.
REJECT — Sends an error packet back to
the remote system and drops the packet.
The REJECT target accepts
<type> is the rejection type)
which allows more detailed information to be sent back with the
error packet. The message
port-unreachable is the default
given if no other option is used. For a full list of
that can be used, see the iptables man page.
Other target extensions, including several that are useful for IP
masquerading using the nat table or with packet
alteration using the mangle table, can be found in
the iptables man page.
16.3.7. Listing Options
The default list command, iptables -L, provides a
very basic overview of the default filter table's current chains.
Additional options provide more information:
-v — Display verbose output, such as the number of
packets and bytes each chain has seen, the number of packets and
bytes each rule has matched, and which interfaces apply to a
-x — Expands numbers into their exact
values. On a busy system, the number of packets and bytes seen by
a particular chain or rule may be abbreviated using
M (millions), and
G (billions) at the end of the
number. This option forces the full number to be displayed.
-n — Displays IP addresses and port
numbers in numeric format, rather than the default hostname and
network service format.
--line-numbers — Lists rules in each
chain next to their numeric order in the chain. This option is
useful when attempting to delete a specific rule in a chain, or to
locate where to insert a rule within a chain.