Building a Transparent Firewall with Linux, Part IV

Arm your stealth firewall with a custom iptables script.

Note that on your system, sections may be listed “out of order”, for example, with one VLAN section near the top and another near the bottom. Commands within a given section need to be in the correct order, but the sections themselves do not, so don't worry!

Disabling OpenWrt's DHCP and Firewall System

You also have to disable OpenWrt's native DHCP and iptables systems. The need for disabling DHCP services is obvious: acting as a DHCP server wouldn't be very “transparent” behavior! So, disable it with these two commands:

root@sugartongs# /etc/init.d/dnsmasq disable
root@sugartongs# /etc/init.d/dnsmasq stop

OpenWrt's native iptables script (/etc/init.d/firewall) is fine if you want to use OpenWrt as a standard “Layer 3” (routing) firewall. Leaving this script enabled allows you to use the uci command and the file /etc/config/firewall to manage iptables in a manner very similar to how you manage network configuration and other OpenWrt system settings.

However, this system doesn't lend itself very well to running iptables in bridging mode—to use it that way, you'd need to hack the script extensively, which would be a bewildering task given the large number of custom tables it uses beyond “INPUT”, “OUTPUT” and “FORWARDING”. Therefore, disable it like this:

root@sugartongs# /etc/init.d/firewall disable
root@sugartongs# /etc/init.d/firewall stop

Now you can create a custom iptables script more suitable for a transparent firewall.

Example Network Topology

In order to write a firewall script, you need to consider your network's topology and how the transparent firewall fits in. Figure 1 shows the example home network I sketched out in Part II of this series, with a firewall cabled between the network's Internet uplink (via DSL router or cable modem) and its backbone (which collapses back to a wireless broadband router configured with Internet uplink and LAN on the same logical subnet).

Figure 1. Example Home Network

You could use a number of topologies instead. If you have only a few hosts on your internal network, and your Internet uplink device is already providing DHCP services, you could use your transparent firewall as your broadband router (though configuring WLAN on OpenWrt is outside this series' scope). If your cable modem or DSL router includes a switch and/or wireless LAN access point, you could connect some of your network nodes directly to that and use your transparent firewall to protect other devices.

I'm going to stick with the topology in Figure 1, however, for simplicity's sake. It should be clear enough how to customize my sample iptables script for whatever topology you choose. Let's take a closer look at Figure 1.

The first thing you should notice is that everything on this network resides on the same logical subnet ( except, of course, for the cable/DSL modem's WAN interface (the one connected to the Internet), which has the Internet-routable address That WAN address is strictly illustrative; in actual practice, WAN IP addresses in any residential Internet scenario are assigned by your Internet service provider, often automatically, so please don't attempt to set yours to!

Another important point is that on this example network, client PCs are assigned IP addresses via DHCP from the pool through My diagram doesn't indicate which host is providing DHCP services. Is it the cable/DSL modem, the broadband router or the Web proxy?

As a matter of fact, it doesn't matter! Because this entire network fabric is switched, DHCP requests will propagate freely, including through the transparent firewall. However, if the cable/DSL modem acts as the DHCP server, you will need to write rules on the firewall to allow DHCP through in both directions.


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