2.3. User-land setup

First of all, let's look at how we compile the iptables package. It's important to realize that for most part configuration and compilation of iptables goes hand in hand with the kernel configuration and compilation. Certain distributions comes with the iptables package preinstalled, one of these are Red Hat. However, in Red Hat it is disabled per default. We will check closer on how to enable it and take a look at other distributions further on in this chapter.

2.3.1. Compiling the user-land applications

First of all unpack the iptables package. Here, we have used the iptables 1.2.6a package and a vanilla 2.4 kernel. Unpack as usual, using bzip2 -cd iptables-1.2.6a.tar.bz2 | tar -xvf - (this can also be accomplished with the tar -xjvf iptables-1.2.6a.tar.bz2, which should do pretty much the same as the first command. However, this may not work with older versions of tar). The package should now be unpacked properly into a directory named iptables-1.2.6a. For more information read the iptables-1.2.6a/INSTALL file which contains pretty good information on compiling and getting the program to run.

After this, there you have the option of configuring and installing extra modules and options etcetera for the kernel.The step described here will only check and install standard patches that are pending for inclusion to the kernel, there are some even more experimental patches further along, which may only be available when you carry out other steps.


Some of these patches are highly experimental and may not be such a good idea to install them. However, there are heaps of extremely interesting matches and targets in this installation step so don't be afraid of at least looking at them.

To carry out this step we do something like this from the root of the iptables package:

make pending-patches KERNEL_DIR=/usr/src/linux/

The variable KERNEL_DIR should point to the actual place that your kernel source is located at. Normally this should be /usr/src/linux/ but this may vary, and most probably you will know yourself where the kernel source is available.


This only asks about certain patches that are just about to enter the kernel anyway. There might be more patches and additions that the developers of Netfilter are about to add to the kernel, but is a bit further away from actually getting there. One way to install these are by doing the following:

make most-of-pom KERNEL_DIR=/usr/src/linux/

The above command would ask about installing parts of what in Netfilter world is called patch-o-matic, but still skip the most extreme patches that might cause havoc in your kernel. Note that we say ask, because that's what these commands actually do. They ask you before anything is changed in the kernel source. To be able to install all of the patch-o-matic stuff you will need to run the following command:

make patch-o-matic KERNEL_DIR=/usr/src/linux/

Don't forget to read the help for each patch thoroughly before doing anything. Some patches will destroy other patches while others may destroy your kernel if used together with some patches from patch-o-matic etc.


You may totally ignore the above steps if you don't want to patch your kernel, it is in other words not necessary to do the above. However, there are some really interesting things in the patch-o-matic that you may want to look at so there's nothing bad in just running the commands and see what they contain.

After this you are finished doing the patch-o-matic parts of installation, you may now compile a new kernel making use of the new patches that you have added to the source. Don't forget to configure the kernel again since the new patches probably are not added to the configured options. You may wait with the kernel compilation until after the compilation of the user-land program iptables if you feel like it, though.

Continue by compiling the iptables user-land application. To compile iptables you issue a simple command that looks like this:

make KERNEL_DIR=/usr/src/linux/

The user-land application should now compile properly. If not, you are on your own, or you could subscribe to the Netfilter mailing list, where you have the chance of asking for help you with your problems. There are a few things that might go wrong with the installation of iptables, so don't panic if it won't work. Try to think logically about it and find out what's wrong, or get someone to help you.

If everything has worked smoothly, you're ready to install the binaries by now. To do this, you would issue the following command to install them:

make install KERNEL_DIR=/usr/src/linux/

Hopefully everything should work in the program now. To use any of the changes in the iptables user-land applications you should now recompile and reinstall your kernel and modules, if you hadn't done so before. For more information about installing the user-land applications from source, check the INSTALL file in the source which contains excellent information on the subject of installation.

2.3.2. Installation on Red Hat 7.1

Red Hat 7.1 comes preinstalled with a 2.4.x kernel that has Netfilter and iptables compiled in. It also contains all the basic user-land programs and configuration files that is needed to run it. However, the Red Hat people have disabled the whole thing by using the backward compatible ipchains module. Annoying to say the least, and a lot of people keep asking different mailing lists why iptables don't work. So, let's take a brief look at how to turn the ipchains module off and how to install iptables instead.


The default Red Hat 7.1 installation today comes with an hopelessly old version of the user-space applications, so you might want to compile a new version of the applications as well as install a new and custom compiled kernel before fully exploiting iptables.

First of all you will need to turn off the ipchains modules so it won't start in the future. To do this, you will need to change some filenames in the /etc/rc.d/ directory-structure. The following command should do it:

chkconfig --level 0123456 ipchains off

By doing this we move all the soft links that points to the /etc/rc.d/init.d/ipchains script to K92ipchains. The first letter which per default would be S, tells the initscripts to start the script. By changing this to K we tell it to Kill the service instead, or to not run it if it was not previously started. Now the service won't be started in the future.

However, to stop the service from actually running right now we need to run another command. This is the service command which can be used to work on currently running services. We would then issue the following command to stop the ipchains service:

service ipchains stop

Finally, to start the iptables service. First of all, we need to know which run-levels we want it to run in. Normally this would be in run-level 2, 3 and 5. These run-levels are used for the following things:

To make iptables run in these run-levels we would do the following commands:

chkconfig --level 235 iptables on

The above commands would in other words make the iptables service run in run-level 2, 3 and 5. If you'd like the iptables service to run in some other run-level you would have to issue the same command in those. However, none of the other run-levels should be used, so you should not really need to activate it for those run-levels. Level 1 is for single user mode, i.e, when you need to fix a screwed up box. Level 4 should be unused, and level 6 is for shutting the computer down.

To activate the iptables service, we just run the following command:

service iptables start

There are no rules in the iptables script. To add rules to an Red Hat 7.1 box, there is two common ways. Firstly, you could edit the /etc/rc.d/init.d/iptables script. This would have the undesired effect of deleting all the rules if you updated the iptables package by RPM. The other way would be to load the rule-set and then save it with the iptables-save command and then have it loaded automatically by the rc.d scripts.

First we will describe the how to set up iptables by cutting and pasting to the iptables init.d script. To add rules that are to be run when the computer starts the service, you add them under the start) section, or in the start() function. Note, if you add the rules under the start) section don't forget to stop the start() function in the start) section from running. Also, don't forget to edit a the stop) section either which tells the script what to do when the computer is going down for example, or when we are entering a run-level that doesn't require iptables. Also, don't forget to check out the restart section and condrestart. Note that all this work will probably be trashed if you have, for example, Red Hat Network automatically update your packages. It may also be trashed by updating from the iptables RPM package.

The second way of doing the set up would require the following: First of all, make and write a rule-set in a shell script file, or directly with iptables, that will meet your requirements, and don't forget to experiment a bit. When you find a set up that works without problems, or as you can see without bugs, use the iptables-save command. You could either use it normally, i.e. iptables-save > /etc/sysconfig/iptables, which would save the rule-set to the file /etc/sysconfig/iptables. This file is automatically used by the iptables rc.d script to restore the rule-set in the future. The other way is to save the script by doing service iptables save, which would save the script automatically to /etc/sysconfig/iptables. The next time you reboot the computer, the iptables rc.d script will use the command iptables-restore to restore the rule-set from the save-file /etc/sysconfig/iptables. Do not intermix these two methods, since they may heavily damage each other and render your firewall configuration useless.

When all of these steps are finished, you can deinstall the currently installed ipchains and iptables packages. This because we don't want the system to mix up the new iptables user-land application with the old preinstalled iptables applications. This step is only necessary if you are going to install iptables from the source package. It's not unusual that the new and the old package to get mixed up, since the rpm based installation installs the package in non-standard places and won't get overwritten by the installation for the new iptables package. To carry out the deinstallation, do as follows:

rpm -e iptables

And why keep ipchains lying around if you won't be using it any more? Removing it is done the same way as with the old iptables binaries, etc:

rpm -e ipchains

After all this has been completed, you will have finished with the update of the iptables package from source, having followed the source installation instructions. None of the old binaries, libraries or include files etc should be lying around any more.