4.5. UDP connections

UDP connections are in them selves not stateful connections, but rather stateless. There are several reasons why, mainly because they don't contain any connection establishment or connection closing; most of all they lack sequencing. Receiving two UDP datagrams in a specific order does not say anything about which order in which they where sent. It is, however, still possible to set states on the connections within the kernel. Let's have a look at how a connection can be tracked and how it might look in conntrack.

As you can see, the connection is brought up almost exactly in the same way as a TCP connection. That is, from the user-land point of view. Internally, conntrack information looks quite a bit different, but intrinsically the details are the same. First of all, let's have a look at the entry after the initial UDP packet has been sent.

udp      17 20 src= dst= sport=137 dport=1025 \
     [UNREPLIED] src= dst= sport=1025 \
     dport=137 use=1

As you can see from the first and second values, this is an UDP packet. The first is the protocol name, and the second is protocol number. This is just the same as for TCP connections. The third value marks how many seconds this state entry has to live. After this, we get the values of the packet that we have seen and the future expectations of packets over this connection reaching us from the initiating packet sender. These are the source, destination, source port and destination port. At this point, the [UNREPLIED] flag tells us that there's so far been no response to the packet. Finally, we get a brief list of the expectations for returning packets. Do note that the latter entries are in reverse order to the first values. The timeout at this point is set to 30 seconds, as per default.

udp      17 170 src= dst= sport=137 \
     dport=1025 src= dst= sport=1025 \
     dport=137 use=1

At this point the server has seen a reply to the first packet sent out and the connection is now considered as ESTABLISHED. This is not shown in the connection tracking, as you can see. The main difference is that the [UNREPLIED] flag has now gone. Moreover, the default timeout has changed to 180 seconds - but in this example that's by now been decremented to 170 seconds - in 10 seconds' time, it will be 160 seconds. There's one thing that's missing, though, and can change a bit, and that is the [ASSURED] flag described above. For the [ASSURED] flag to be set on a tracked connection, there must have been a small amount of traffic over that connection.

udp      17 175 src= dst= sport=1025 \
     dport=53 src= dst= sport=53 \
     dport=1025 [ASSURED] use=1

At this point, the connection has become assured. The connection looks exactly the same as the previous example, except for the [ASSURED] flag. If this connection is not used for 180 seconds, it times out. 180 Seconds is a comparatively low value, but should be sufficient for most use. This value is reset to its full value for each packet that matches the same entry and passes through the firewall, just the same as for all of the internal states.