Ubuntu’s Uncomplicated Firewall (UFW)

Posted by gmendoza on September 20, 2008 under Tech Tips | 11 Comments to Read

Introduced first in Ubuntu 8.04, UFW is Ubuntu’s “uncomplicated firewall”, a remarkably easy to use tool for creating simple iptables firewall rules. The goal behind UFW is to make it easy for administrators and even third party packages to work with firewall rules in a clean and consistent manner. When UFW is enabled, the default set of rules work very well for the average server or desktop platform, as it blocks all non-essential inbound network access without hobbling certain types of useful protocols and return traffic.

In the following example, we will set up a very simple firewall adequate for almost anyone.

First, let’s check the status of UFW, and the currently installed iptables rule set. The following displays that UFW is disabled and that there are no rules for iptables INPUT chain.

Check firewall status

sudo ufw status
Firewall not loaded

sudo iptables -L INPUT -n | column -t
Chain             INPUT  (policy  DROP)
target            prot   opt      source     destination

Enable UFW

Now, let’s enable UFW and examine the change to iptables’ INPUT chain.

sudo ufw enable
Firewall started and enabled on system startup

sudo iptables -L INPUT -n | column -t
Chain             INPUT  (policy  DROP)
target            prot   opt      source     destination
ufw-before-input  all    --
ufw-after-input   all    --

The default policy was changed to drop all traffic, and two new chains are referenced. For a much better understanding of what the default rules are, take a look at the files “/etc/ufw/before.rules” and “/etc/ufw/after.rules“.

Connection Tracking

For your convenience, UFW also enables some very useful connection tracking rules, which intelligently inspect outbound application traffic and dynamically allows the return traffic for you. By default, TCP, UDP, FTP and IRC connection tracking modules are loaded, but others may be added to the IPT_MODULES variable in the file “/etc/default/ufw“.

For example, I sometimes need to use TFTP for sending and receiving firmware to and from routers. So I typically add “nf_conntrack_tftp” to the variable IPT_MODULES.

IPT_MODULES="nf_conntrack_ftp nf_nat_ftp nf_conntrack_irc nf_nat_irc nf_conntrack_tftp"

Remember to reload UFW so that the conntrack module is loaded.

sudo /etc/init.d/ufw restart

Allowing inbound services

If your system runs server applications such as DNS, SSH, TFTP and web, then you can add them to your firewall rules using these very simple commands. If you don’t run servers on your machine, this step can be skipped.

sudo ufw allow 53
sudo ufw allow 22/tcp
sudo ufw allow 69/udp
sudo ufw allow 80/tcp

Notice that the first command I used did not specify UDP or TCP. When omitted, UFW adds both protocols. DNS uses TCP for larger DNS exchanges like zone transfers and huge replies, so you’ll probably want both.

UFW displays the results very nicely.

sudo ufw status
Firewall loaded

To                         Action  From
--                         ------  ----
53:tcp                     ALLOW   Anywhere
53:udp                     ALLOW   Anywhere
22:tcp                     ALLOW   Anywhere
69:udp                     ALLOW   Anywhere
80:tcp                     ALLOW   Anywhere

SYN cookies and more

UFW can be used to load kernel options, too. These are defined in “/etc/ufw/sysctl.conf“. For example, I wanted to enable SYN cookies which was added to thwart certain TCP DoS attacks. Modify the following line to 1 in order to enable the feature.


Logging can suck

Okay, if you’re on a busy network and don’t want to fill up your syslog, you might want to disable UFW’s logging.

sudo ufw logging off

And really that’s all there is to it. Be sure to check out the man page for some more examples and features you may be interested in.

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