6.5. Targets/Jumps

The target/jumps tells the rule what to do with a packet that is a perfect match with the match section of the rule. There are a couple of basic targets, the ACCEPT and DROP targets, which we will deal with first. However, before we do that, let us have a brief look at how a jump is done.

The jump specification is done in exactly the same way as in the target definition, except that it requires a chain within the same table to jump to. To jump to a specific chain, it is of course a prerequisite that that chain exists. As we have already explained, a user-defined chain is created with the -N command. For example, let's say we create a chain in the filter table called tcp_packets, like this:

iptables -N tcp_packets

We could then add a jump target to it like this:

iptables -A INPUT -p tcp -j tcp_packets

We would then jump from the INPUT chain to the tcp_packets chain and start traversing that chain. When/If we reach the end of that chain, we get dropped back to the INPUT chain and the packet starts traversing from the rule one step below where it jumped to the other chain (tcp_packets in this case). If a packet is ACCEPTed within one of the sub chains, it will be ACCEPT'ed in the superset chain also and it will not traverse any of the superset chains any further. However, do note that the packet will traverse all other chains in the other tables in a normal fashion. For more information on table and chain traversing, see the Traversing of tables and chains chapter.

Targets on the other hand specify an action to take on the packet in question. We could for example, DROP or ACCEPT the packet depending on what we want to do. There are also a number of other actions we may want to take, which we will describe further on in this section. Jumping to targets may incur different results, as it were. Some targets will cause the packet to stop traversing that specific chain and superior chains as described above. Good examples of such rules are DROP and ACCEPT. Rules that are stopped, will not pass through any of the rules further on in the chain or in superior chains. Other targets, may take an action on the packet, after which the packet will continue passing through the rest of the rules. A good example of this would be the LOG, ULOG and TOS targets. These targets can log the packets, mangle them and then pass them on to the other rules in the same set of chains. We might, for example, want this so that we in addition can mangle both the TTL and the TOS values of a specific packet/stream. Some targets will accept extra options (What TOS value to use etc), while others don't necessarily need any options - but we can include them if we want to (log prefixes, masquerade-to ports and so on). We will try to cover all of these points as we go through the target descriptions. Let us have a look at what kinds of targets there are.

6.5.1. ACCEPT target

This target needs no further options. As soon as the match specification for a packet has been fully satisfied, and we specify ACCEPT as the target, the rule is accepted and will not continue traversing the current chain or any other ones in the same table. Note however, that a packet that was accepted in one chain might still travel through chains within other tables, and could still be dropped there. There is nothing special about this target whatsoever, and it does not require, nor have the possibility of, adding options to the target. To use this target, we simply specify -j ACCEPT.

6.5.2. DNAT target

The DNAT target is used to do Destination Network Address Translation, which means that it is used to rewrite the Destination IP address of a packet. If a packet is matched, and this is the target of the rule, the packet, and all subsequent packets in the same stream will be translated, and then routed on to the correct device, host or network. This target can be extremely useful, for example, when you have an host running your web server inside a LAN, but no real IP to give it that will work on the Internet. You could then tell the firewall to forward all packets going to its own HTTP port, on to the real web server within the LAN. We may also specify a whole range of destination IP addresses, and the DNAT mechanism will choose the destination IP address at random for each stream. Hence, we will be able to deal with a kind of load balancing by doing this.

Note that the DNAT target is only available within the PREROUTING and OUTPUT chains in the nat table, and any of the chains called upon from any of those listed chains. Note that chains containing DNAT targets may not be used from any other chains, such as the POSTROUTING chain.

Table 6-16. DNAT target

Exampleiptables -t nat -A PREROUTING -p tcp -d --dport 80 -j DNAT --to-destination
ExplanationThe --to-destination option tells the DNAT mechanism which Destination IP to set in the IP header, and where to send packets that are matched. The above example would send on all packets destined for IP address to a range of LAN IP's, namely through 10. Note, as described previously, that a single stream will always use the same host, and that each stream will randomly be given an IP address that it will always be Destined for, within that stream. We could also have specified only one IP address, in which case we would always be connected to the same host. Also note that we may add a port or port range to which the traffic would be redirected to. This is done by adding, for example, an :80 statement to the IP addresses to which we want to DNAT the packets. A rule could then look like --to-destination for example, or like --to-destination if we wanted to specify a port range. As you can see, the syntax is pretty much the same for the DNAT target, as for the SNAT target even though they do two totally different things. Do note that port specifications are only valid for rules that specify the TCP or UDP protocols with the --protocol option.

Since DNAT requires quite a lot of work to work properly, I have decided to add a larger explanation on how to work with it. Let's take a brief example on how things would be done normally. We want to publish our website via our Internet connection. We only have one IP address, and the HTTP server is located on our internal network. Our firewall has the external IP address $INET_IP, and our HTTP server has the internal IP address $HTTP_IP and finally the firewall has the internal IP address $LAN_IP. The first thing to do is to add the following simple rule to the PREROUTING chain in the nat table:

iptables -t nat -A PREROUTING --dst $INET_IP -p tcp --dport 80 -j DNAT \
--to-destination $HTTP_IP

Now, all packets from the Internet going to port 80 on our firewall are redirected (or DNAT'ed) to our internal HTTP server. If you test this from the Internet, everything should work just perfect. So, what happens if you try connecting from a host on the same local network as the HTTP server? It will simply not work. This is a problem with routing really. We start out by dissect what happens in a normal case. The external box has IP address $EXT_BOX, to maintain readability.

  1. Packet leaves the connecting host going to $INET_IP and source $EXT_BOX.

  2. Packet reaches the firewall.

  3. Firewall DNAT's the packet and runs the packet through all different chains etcetera.

  4. Packet leaves the firewall and travels to the $HTTP_IP.

  5. Packet reaches the HTTP server, and the HTTP box replies back through the firewall, if that is the box that the routing database has entered as the gateway for $EXT_BOX. Normally, this would be the default gateway of the HTTP server.

  6. Firewall Un-DNAT's the packet again, so the packet looks as if it was replied to from the firewall itself.

  7. Reply packet travels as usual back to the client $EXT_BOX.

Now, we will consider what happens if the packet was instead generated by a client on the same network as the HTTP server itself. The client has the IP address $LAN_BOX, while the rest of the machines maintain the same settings.

  1. Packet leaves $LAN_BOX to $INET_IP.

  2. The packet reaches the firewall.

  3. The packet gets DNAT'ed, and all other required actions are taken, however, the packet is not SNAT'ed, so the same source IP address is used on the packet.

  4. The packet leaves the firewall and reaches the HTTP server.

  5. The HTTP server tries to respond to the packet, and sees in the routing databases that the packet came from a local box on the same network, and hence tries to send the packet directly to the original source IP address (which now becomes the destination IP address).

  6. The packet reaches the client, and the client gets confused since the return packet does not come from the host that it sent the original request to. Hence, the client drops the reply packet, and waits for the "real" reply.

The simple solution to this problem is to SNAT all packets entering the firewall and leaving for a host or IP that we know we do DNAT to. For example, consider the above rule. We SNAT the packets entering our firewall that are destined for $HTTP_IP port 80 so that they look as if they came from $LAN_IP. This will force the HTTP server to send the packets back to our firewall, which Un-DNAT's the packets and sends them on to the client. The rule would look something like this:

iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -p tcp --dst $HTTP_IP --dport 80 -j SNAT \
--to-source $LAN_IP

Remember that the POSTROUTING chain is processed last of the chains, and hence the packet will already be DNAT'ed once it reaches that specific chain. This is the reason that we match the packets based on the internal address.


This last rule will seriously harm your logging, so it is really advisable not to use this method, but the whole example is still a valid one for all of those who can't afford to set up a specific DMZ or alike. What will happen is this, packet comes from the Internet, gets SNAT'ed and DNAT'ed, and finally hits the HTTP server (for example). The HTTP server now only sees the request as if it was coming from the firewall, and hence logs all requests from the internet as if they came from the firewall.

This can also have even more severe implications. Take a SMTP server on the LAN, that allows requests from the internal network, and you have your firewall set up to forward SMTP traffic to it. You have now effectively created an open relay SMTP server, with horrenduously bad logging!

You will in other words be better off solving these problems by either setting up a separate DNS server for your LAN, or to actually set up a separate DMZ, the latter being preferred if you have the money.

You think this should be enough by now, and it really is, unless considering one final aspect to this whole scenario. What if the firewall itself tries to access the HTTP server, where will it go? As it looks now, it will unfortunately try to get to its own HTTP server, and not the server residing on $HTTP_IP. To get around this, we need to add a DNAT rule in the OUTPUT chain as well. Following the above example, this should look something like the following:

iptables -t nat -A OUTPUT --dst $INET_IP -p tcp --dport 80 -j DNAT \
--to-destination $HTTP_IP

Adding this final rule should get everything up and running. All separate networks that do not sit on the same net as the HTTP server will run smoothly, all hosts on the same network as the HTTP server will be able to connect and finally, the firewall will be able to do proper connections as well. Now everything works and no problems should arise.


Everyone should realize that these rules only effects how the packet is DNAT'ed and SNAT'ed properly. In addition to these rules, you may also need extra rules in the filter table (FORWARD chain) to allow the packets to traverse through those chains as well. Don't forget that all packets have already gone through the PREROUTING chain, and should hence have their destination addresses rewritten already by DNAT.

6.5.3. DROP target

The DROP target does just what it says, it drops packets dead and will not carry out any further processing. A packet that matches a rule perfectly and is then Dropped will be blocked. Note that this action might in certain cases have an unwanted effect, since it could leave dead sockets around on either host. A better solution in cases where this is likely would be to use the REJECT target, especially when you want to block port scanners from getting too much information, such on as filtered ports and so on. Also note that if a packet has the DROP action taken on it in a subchain, the packet will not be processed in any of the main chains either in the present or in any other table. The packet is in other words totally dead. As we've seen previously, the target will not send any kind of information in either direction, nor to intermediaries such as routers.

6.5.4. LOG target

The LOG target is specially designed for logging detailed information about packets. These could for example be considered as illegal. Or, logging can be used purely for bug hunting and error finding. The LOG target will return specific information on packets, such as most of the IP headers and other information considered interesting. It does this via the kernel logging facility, normally syslogd. This information may then be read directly with dmesg, or from the syslogd logs, or with other programs or applications. This is an excellent target to use in debug your rule-sets, so that you can see what packets go where and what rules are applied on what packets. Note as well that it could be a really great idea to use the LOG target instead of the DROP target while you are testing a rule you are not 100% sure about on a production firewall, since a syntax error in the rule-sets could otherwise cause severe connectivity problems for your users. Also note that the ULOG target may be interesting if you are using really extensive logging, since the ULOG target has support direct logging to MySQL databases and suchlike.


Note that if you get undesired logging direct to consoles, this is not an iptables or Netfilter problem, but rather a problem caused by your syslogd configuration - most probably /etc/syslog.conf. Read more in man syslog.conf for information about this kind of problem.

The LOG target currently takes five options that could be of interest if you have specific information needs, or want to set different options to specific values. They are all listed below.

Table 6-17. LOG target options

Exampleiptables -A FORWARD -p tcp -j LOG --log-level debug
ExplanationThis is the option to tell iptables and syslog which log level to use. For a complete list of log levels read the syslog.conf manual. Normally there are the following log levels, or priorities as they are normally referred to: debug, info, notice, warning, warn, err, error, crit, alert, emerg and panic. The keyword error is the same as err, warn is the same as warning and panic is the same as emerg. Note that all three of these are deprecated, in other words do not use error, warn and panic. The priority defines the severity of the message being logged. All messages are logged through the kernel facility. In other words, setting kern.=info /var/log/iptables in your syslog.conf file and then letting all your LOG messages in iptables use log level info, would make all messages appear in the /var/log/iptables file. Note that there may be other messages here as well from other parts of the kernel that uses the info priority. For more information on logging I recommend you to read the syslog and syslog.conf man-pages as well as other HOWTOs etc.
Exampleiptables -A INPUT -p tcp -j LOG --log-prefix "INPUT packets"
ExplanationThis option tells iptables to prefix all log messages with a specific prefix, which can the easily be combined with grep or other tools to track specific problems and output from different rules. The prefix may be up to 29 letters long, including white-spaces and other special symbols.
Exampleiptables -A INPUT -p tcp -j LOG --log-tcp-sequence
ExplanationThis option will log the TCP Sequence numbers, together with the log message. The TCP Sequence number are special numbers that identify each packet and where it fits into a TCP sequence, as well as how the stream should be reassembled. Note that this option constitutes a security risk if the logs are readable by unauthorized users, or by the world for that matter. As does any log that contains output from iptables.
Exampleiptables -A FORWARD -p tcp -j LOG --log-tcp-options
ExplanationThe --log-tcp-options option logs the different options from the TCP packet headers and can be valuable when trying to debug what could go wrong, or what has actually gone wrong. This option does not take any variable fields or anything like that, just as most of the LOG options don't.
Exampleiptables -A FORWARD -p tcp -j LOG --log-ip-options
ExplanationThe --log-ip-options option will log most of the IP packet header options. This works exactly the same as the --log-tcp-options option, but instead works on the IP options. These logging messages may be valuable when trying to debug or track specific culprits, as well as for debugging - in just the same way as the previous option.

6.5.5. MARK target

The MARK target is used to set Netfilter mark values that are associated with specific packets. This target is only valid in the mangle table, and will not work outside there. The MARK values may be used in conjunction with the advanced routing capabilities in Linux to send different packets through different routes and to tell them to use different queue disciplines (qdisc), etc. For more information on advanced routing, check out the Linux Advanced Routing and Traffic Control HOW-TO. Note that the mark value is not set within the actual package, but is an value that is associated within the kernel with the packet. In other words, you can not set a MARK for a packet and then expect the MARK still to be there on another host. If this is what you want, you will be better off with the TOS target which will mangle the TOS value in the IP header.

Table 6-18. MARK target options

Exampleiptables -t mangle -A PREROUTING -p tcp --dport 22 -j MARK --set-mark 2
ExplanationThe --set-mark option is required to set a mark. The --set-mark match takes an integer value. For example, we may set mark 2 on a specific stream of packets, or on all packets from a specific host and then do advanced routing on that host, to decrease or increase the network bandwidth, etc.

6.5.6. MASQUERADE target

The MASQUERADE target is used basically the same as the SNAT target, but it does not require any --to-source option. The reason for this is that the MASQUERADE target was made to work with, for example, dial-up connections, or DHCP connections, which gets dynamic IP addresses when connecting to the network in question. This means that you should only use the MASQUERADE target with dynamically assigned IP connections, which we don't know the actual address of at all times. If you have a static IP connection, you should instead use the SNAT target.

When you masquerade a connection, it means that we set the IP address used on a specific network interface instead of the --to-source option, and the IP address is automatically grabbed from the information about the specific interface. The MASQUERADE target also has the effect that connections are forgotten when an interface goes down, which is extremely good if we, for example, kill a specific interface. If we would have used the SNAT target, we may have been left with a lot of old connection tracking data, which would be lying around for days, swallowing up worth-full connection tracking memory. This is in general the correct behavior when dealing with dial-up lines that are probable to be assigned a different IP every time it is brought up. In case we are assigned a different IP, the connection is lost anyways, and it is more or less idiotic to keep the entry around.

It is still possible to use the MASQUERADE target instead of SNAT even though you do have an static IP, however, it is not favorable since it will add extra overhead, and there may be inconsistencies in the future which will thwart your existing scripts and render them "unusable".

Note that the MASQUERADE target is only valid within the POSTROUTING chain in the nat table, just as the SNAT target. The MASQUERADE target takes one option specified below, which is optional.

Table 6-19. MASQUERADE target

Exampleiptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -p TCP -j MASQUERADE --to-ports 1024-31000
ExplanationThe --to-ports option is used to set the source port or ports to use on outgoing packets. Either you can specify a single port like --to-ports 1025 or you may specify a port range as --to-ports 1024-3000. In other words, the lower port range delimiter and the upper port range delimiter separated with a hyphen. This alters the default SNAT port-selection as described in the SNAT target section. The --to-ports option is only valid if the rule match section specifies the TCP or UDP protocols with the --protocol match.

6.5.7. MIRROR target

The MIRROR target is an experimental and demonstration target only, and you are warned against using it, since it may result in really bad loops hence, among other things, resulting in serious Denial of Service. The MIRROR target is used to invert the source and destination fields in the IP header, and then to retransmit the packet. This can cause some really funny effects, and I'll bet that thanks to this target not just one red faced cracker has cracked his own box by now. The effect of using this target is stark, to say the least. Let's say we set up a MIRROR target for port 80 at computer A. If host B were to come from yahoo.com, and try to access the HTTP server at host A, the MIRROR target would return the yahoo host's own web page (since this is where it came from).

Note that the MIRROR target is only valid within the INPUT, FORWARD and PREROUTING chains, and any user-defined chains which are called from those chains. Also note that outgoing packets resulting from the MIRROR target are not seen by any of the normal chains in the filter, nat or mangle tables, which could give rise to loops and other problems. This could make the target the cause of unforeseen headaches. For example, a host might send a spoofed packet to another host that uses the MIRROR command with a TTL of 255, at the same time spoofing its own packet, so as to seem as if it comes from a third host that uses the MIRROR command. The packet will then bounce back and forth incessantly, for the number of hops there are to be completed. If there is only 1 hop, the packet will jump back and forth 240-255 times. Not bad for a cracker, in other words, to send 1500 bytes of data and eat up 380 kbyte of your connection. Note that this is a best case scenario for the cracker or script kiddie, whatever we want to call them.

6.5.8. QUEUE target

The QUEUE target is used to queue packets to User-land programs and applications. It is used in conjunction with programs or utilities that are extraneous to iptables and may be used, for example, with network accounting, or for specific and advanced applications which proxy or filter packets. We will not discuss this target in depth, since the coding of such applications is out of the scope of this tutorial. First of all it would simply take too much time, and secondly such documentation does not have anything to do with the programming side of Netfilter and iptables. All of this should be fairly well covered in the Netfilter Hacking HOW-TO.

6.5.9. REDIRECT target

The REDIRECT target is used to redirect packets and streams to the machine itself. This means that we could for example REDIRECT all packets destined for the HTTP ports to an HTTP proxy like squid, on our own host. Locally generated packets are mapped to the address. In other words, this rewrites the destination address to our own host for packets that are forwarded, or something alike. The REDIRECT target is extremely good to use when we want, for example, transparent proxying, where the LAN hosts do not know about the proxy at all.

Note that the REDIRECT target is only valid within the PREROUTING and OUTPUT chains of the nat table. It is also valid within user-defined chains that are only called from those chains, and nowhere else. The REDIRECT target takes only one option, as described below.

Table 6-20. REDIRECT target

Exampleiptables -t nat -A PREROUTING -p tcp --dport 80 -j REDIRECT --to-ports 8080
ExplanationThe --to-ports option specifies the destination port, or port range, to use. Without the --to-ports option, the destination port is never altered. This is specified, as above, --to-ports 8080 in case we only want to specify one port. If we would want to specify an port range, we would do it like --to-ports 8080-8090, which tells the REDIRECT target to redirect the packets to the ports 8080 through 8090. Note that this option is only available in rules specifying the TCP or UDP protocol with the --protocol matcher, since it wouldn't make any sense anywhere else.

6.5.10. REJECT target

The REJECT target works basically the same as the DROP target, but it also sends back an error message to the host sending the packet that was blocked. The REJECT target is as of today only valid in the INPUT, FORWARD and OUTPUT chains or their sub chains. After all, these would be the only chains in which it would make any sense to put this target. Note that all chains that use the REJECT target may only be called by the INPUT, FORWARD, and OUTPUT chains, else they won't work. There is currently only one option which controls the nature of how this target works, though this may in turn take a huge set of variables. Most of them are fairly easy to understand, if you have a basic knowledge of TCP/IP.

Table 6-21. REJECT target

Exampleiptables -A FORWARD -p TCP --dport 22 -j REJECT --reject-with tcp-reset
ExplanationThis option tells the REJECT target what response to send to the host that sent the packet that we are rejecting. Once we get a packet that matches a rule in which we have specified this target, our host will first of all send the associated reply, and the packet will then be dropped dead, just as the DROP target would drop it. The following reject types are currently valid: icmp-net-unreachable, icmp-host-unreachable, icmp-port-unreachable, icmp-proto-unreachable, icmp-net-prohibited and icmp-host-prohibited. The default error message is to send an port-unreachable to the host. All of the above are ICMP error messages and may be set as you wish. You can find further information on their various purposes in the appendix ICMP types. There is also the option echo-reply, but this option may only be used in conjunction with rules which would match ICMP ping packets. Finally, there is one more option called tcp-reset, which may only be used together with the TCP protocol. The tcp-reset option will tell REJECT to send an TCP RST packet in reply to the sending host. TCP RST packets are used to close open TCP connections gracefully. For more information about the TCP RST read RFC 793 - Transmission Control Protocol. As stated in the iptables man page, this is mainly useful for blocking ident probes which frequently occur when sending mail to broken mail hosts, that won't otherwise accept your mail.

6.5.11. RETURN target

The RETURN target will cause the current packet to stop traveling through the chain where it hit the rule. If it is the subchain of another chain, the packet will continue to travel through the superior chains as if nothing had happened. If the chain is the main chain, for example the INPUT chain, the packet will have the default policy taken on it. The default policy is normally set to ACCEPT, DROP or similar.

For example, let's say a packet enters the INPUT chain and then hits a rule that it matches and that tells it to --jump EXAMPLE_CHAIN. The packet will then start traversing the EXAMPLE_CHAIN, and all of a sudden it matches a specific rule which has the --jump RETURN target set. It will then jump back to the INPUT chain. Another example would be if the packet hit a --jump RETURN rule in the INPUT chain. It would then be dropped to the default policy as previously described, and no more actions would be taken in this chain.

6.5.12. SNAT target

The SNAT target is used to do Source Network Address Translation, which means that this target will rewrite the Source IP address in the IP header of the packet. This is what we want, for example, when several hosts have to share an Internet connection. We can then turn on ip forwarding in the kernel, and write an SNAT rule which will translate all packets going out from our local network to the source IP of our own Internet connection. Without doing this, the outside world would not know where to send reply packets, since our local networks mostly use the IANA specified IP addresses which are allocated for LAN networks. If we forwarded these packets as is, no one on the Internet would know that they where actually from us. The SNAT target does all the translation needed to do this kind of work, letting all packets leaving our LAN look as if they came from a single host, which would be our firewall.

The SNAT target is only valid within the nat table, within the POSTROUTING chain. This is in other words the only chain in which you may use SNAT. Only the first packet in a connection is mangled by SNAT, and after that all future packets using the same connection will also be SNATted. Furthermore, the initial rules in the POSTROUTING chain will be applied to all the packets in the same stream.

Table 6-22. SNAT target

Exampleiptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -p tcp -o eth0 -j SNAT --to-source
ExplanationThe --to-source option is used to specify which source the packet should use. This option, at its simplest, takes one IP address which we want to use for the source IP address in the IP header. If we want to balance between several IP addresses, we can use a range of IP addresses, separated by a hyphen. The --to--source IP numbers could then, for instance, be something like in the above example: The source IP for each stream that we open would then be allocated randomly from these, and a single stream would always use the same IP address for all packets within that stream. We can also specify a range of ports to be used by SNAT. All the source ports would then be confined to the ports specified. The port bit of the rule would then look like in the example above, :1024-32000. This is only valid if -p tcp or -p udp was specified somewhere in the match of the rule in question. iptables will always try to avoid making any port alterations if possible, but if two hosts try to use the same ports, iptables will map one of them to another port. If no port range is specified, then if they're needed, all source ports below 512 will be mapped to other ports below 512. Those between source ports 512 and 1023 will be mapped to ports below 1024. All other ports will be mapped to 1024 or above. As previously stated, iptables will always try to maintain the source ports used by the actual workstation making the connection. Note that this has nothing to do with destination ports, so if a client tries to make contact with an HTTP server outside the firewall, it will not be mapped to the FTP control port.

6.5.13. TOS target

The TOS target is used to set the Type of Service field within the IP header. The TOS field consists of 8 bits which are used to help in routing packets. This is one of the fields that can be used directly within iproute2 and its subsystem for routing policies. Worth noting, is that that if you handle several separate firewalls and routers, this is the only way to propagate routing information within the actual packet between these routers and firewalls. As previously noted, the MARK target - which sets a MARK associated with a specific packet - is only available within the kernel, and can not be propagated with the packet. If you feel a need to propagate routing information for a specific packet or stream, you should therefore set the TOS field, which was developed for this.

There are currently a lot of routers on the Internet which do a pretty bad job at this, so as of now it may prove to be a bit useless to attempt TOS mangling before sending the packets on to the Internet. At best the routers will not pay any attention to the TOS field. At worst, they will look at the TOS field and do the wrong thing. However, as stated above, the TOS field can most definitely be put to good use if you have a large WAN or LAN with multiple routers. You then in fact have the possibility of giving packets different routes and preferences, based on their TOS value - even though this might be confined to your own network.


The TOS target is only capable of setting specific values, or named values on packets. These predefined TOS values can be found in the kernel include files, or more precisely, the Linux/ip.h file. The reasons are many, and you should actually never need to set any other values; however, there are ways around this limitation. To get around the limitation of only being able to set the named values on packets, you can use the FTOS patch available at the Paksecured Linux Kernel patches site maintained by Matthew G. Marsh. However, be cautious with this patch! You should not need to use any other than the default values, except in extreme cases.


Note that this target is only valid within the mangle table and can not be used outside it.


Also note that some old versions (1.2.2 or below) of iptables provided a broken implementation of this target which did not fix the packet checksum upon mangling, hence rendered the packets bad and in need of retransmission. That in turn would most probably lead to further mangling and the connection never working.

The TOS target only takes one option as described below.

Table 6-23. TOS target

Exampleiptables -t mangle -A PREROUTING -p TCP --dport 22 -j TOS --set-tos 0x10
ExplanationThe --set-tos option tells the TOS mangler what TOS value to set on packets that are matched. The option takes a numeric value, either in hex or in decimal value. As the TOS value consists of 8 bits, the value may be 0-255, or in hex 0x00-0xFF. Note that in the standard TOS target you are limited to using the named values available (which should be more or less standardized), as mentioned in the previous warning. These values are Minimize-Delay (decimal value 16, hex value 0x10), Maximize-Throughput (decimal value 8, hex value 0x08), Maximize-Reliability (decimal value 4, hex value 0x04), Minimize-Cost (decimal value 2, hex 0x02) or Normal-Service (decimal value 0, hex value 0x00). The default value on most packets is Normal-Service, or 0. Note that you can, of course, use the actual names instead of the actual hex values to set the TOS value; in fact this is generally to be recommended, since the values associated with the names may be changed in future. For a complete listing of the "descriptive values", do an iptables -j TOS -h. This listing is complete as of iptables 1.2.5 and should hopefully remain so for a while.

6.5.14. TTL target

The TTL target is used to modify the Time To Live field in the IP header. One useful application of this is to change all Time To Live values to the same value on all outgoing packets. One reason for doing this is if you have a bully ISP which don't allow you to have more than one machine connected to the same Internet connection, and who actively pursue this. Setting all TTL values to the same value, will effectively make it a little bit harder for them to notify that you are doing this. We may then reset the TTL value for all outgoing packets to a standardized value, such as 64 as specified in Linux kernel.

For more information on how to set the default value used in Linux, read the ip-sysctl.txt, which you may find within the Other resources and links appendix.

The TTL target is only valid within the mangle table, and nowhere else. It takes 3 options as of writing this, all of them described below in the table.

Table 6-24. TTL target

Exampleiptables -t mangle -A PREROUTING -i eth0 -j TTL --ttl-set 64
ExplanationThe --ttl-set option tells the TTL target which TTL value to set on the packet in question. A good value would be around 64 somewhere. It's not too long, and it is not too short. Do not set this value too high, since it may affect your network and it is a bit immoral to set this value to high, since the packet may start bouncing back and forth between two mis-configured routers, and the higher the TTL, the more bandwidth will be eaten unnecessary in such a case. This target could be used to limit how far away our clients are. A good case of this could be DNS servers, where we don't want the clients to be too far away.
Exampleiptables -t mangle -A PREROUTING -i eth0 -j TTL --ttl-dec 1
ExplanationThe --ttl-dec option tells the TTL target to decrement the Time To Live value by the amount specified after the --ttl-dec option. In other words, if the TTL for an incoming packet was 53 and we had set --ttl-dec 3, the packet would leave our host with a TTL value of 49. The reason for this is that the networking code will automatically decrement the TTL value by 1, hence the packet will be decremented by 4 steps, from 53 to 49. This could for example be used when we want to limit how far away the people using our services are. For example, users should always use a close-by DNS, and hence we could match all packets leaving our DNS server and then decrease it by several steps. Of course, the --set-ttl may be a better idea for this usage.
Exampleiptables -t mangle -A PREROUTING -i eth0 -j TTL --ttl-inc 1
ExplanationThe --ttl-inc option tells the TTL target to increment the Time To Live value with the value specified to the --ttl-inc option. This means that we should raise the TTL value with the value specified in the --ttl-inc option, and if we specified --ttl-inc 4, a packet entering with a TTL of 53 would leave the host with TTL 56. Note that the same thing goes here, as for the previous example of the --ttl-dec option, where the network code will automatically decrement the TTL value by 1, which it always does. This may be used to make our firewall a bit more stealthy to trace-routes among other things. By setting the TTL one value higher for all incoming packets, we effectively make the firewall hidden from trace-routes. Trace-routes are a loved and hated thing, since they provide excellent information on problems with connections and where it happens, but at the same time, it gives the hacker/cracker some good information about your upstreams if they have targeted you. For a good example on how this could be used, see the Ttl-inc.txt script.

6.5.15. ULOG target

The ULOG target is used to provide user-space logging of matching packets. If a packet is matched and the ULOG target is set, the packet information is multicasted together with the whole packet through a netlink socket. One or more user-space processes may then subscribe to various multicast groups and receive the packet. This is in other words a more complete and more sophisticated logging facility that is only used by iptables and Netfilter so far, and it contains much better facilities for logging packets. This target enables us to log information to MySQL databases, and other databases, making it much simpler to search for specific packets, and to group log entries. You can find the ULOGD user-land applications at the ULOGD project page.

Table 6-25. ULOG target

Exampleiptables -A INPUT -p TCP --dport 22 -j ULOG --ulog-nlgroup 2
ExplanationThe --ulog-nlgroup option tells the ULOG target which netlink group to send the packet to. There are 32 netlink groups, which are simply specified as 1-32. If we would like to reach netlink group 5, we would simply write --ulog-nlgroup 5. The default netlink group used is 1.
Exampleiptables -A INPUT -p TCP --dport 22 -j ULOG --ulog-prefix "SSH connection attempt: "
ExplanationThe --ulog-prefix option works just the same as the prefix value for the standard LOG target. This option prefixes all log entries with a user-specified log prefix. It can be 32 characters long, and is definitely most useful to distinguish different log-messages and where they came from.
Exampleiptables -A INPUT -p TCP --dport 22 -j ULOG --ulog-cprange 100
ExplanationThe --ulog-cprange option tells the ULOG target how many bytes of the packet to send to the user-space daemon of ULOG. If we specify 100 as above, we would copy 100 bytes of the whole packet to user-space, which would include the whole header hopefully, plus some leading data within the actual packet. If we specify 0, the whole packet will be copied to user-space, regardless of the packets size. The default value is 0, so the whole packet will be copied to user-space.
Exampleiptables -A INPUT -p TCP --dport 22 -j ULOG --ulog-qthreshold 10
ExplanationThe --ulog-qthreshold option tells the ULOG target how many packets to queue inside the kernel before actually sending the data to user-space. For example, if we set the threshold to 10 as above, the kernel would first accumulate 10 packets inside the kernel, and then transmit it outside to the user-space as one single netlink multi part message. The default value here is 1 because of backward compatibility, the user-space daemon did not know how to handle multi-part messages previously.