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A simple management framework for ip(6)tables based firewalls

Project description


fwgen is a small framework to simplify the management of ip(6)tables based firewalls, that also integrates ipset support and zones in a non-restrictive way. It is not an abstraction layer of the iptables syntax, so you still need to understand how to write iptables rules and how packets are processed through the iptables chains. This is the intended project scope to ensure all existing functionality is made available. fwgen does however help you create an efficient ruleset with very little effort.

fwgen is mainly targeted towards network gateways and hosts which are configured via configuration management systems, often with multiple interfaces and complex rulesets that very fast gets unmanagable or inefficient if not done right. It may not be worth the effort to install it if you just have a simple server where you want to allow a couple of incoming ports.

It has built-in mechanisms to make remote unattended deployment of linux firewalls much more robust. If any kind of errors is encountered the ruleset is automatically rolled back to the previous running one. To solve the other issue with remote deployment of firewalls, the one where you deploy a valid ruleset, but you have managed to cut your own access, fwgen can run user defined checks that can automatically verify that the host is remotely accessible before storing the new ruleset. If the check command fails the ruleset will be rolled back.

Advantages of using fwgen:

  • Integrates iptables, ip6tables and ipsets in a common management framework

  • Uses a simple config file in YAML format for easy and readable configuration

  • Separation of duties between the loading of firewall rules at boot (restore files) and the rule generation (fwgen). No complex code are executed during boot/ifup.

  • Firewall operations are atomic. It either applies correctly or not, without flushing your existing ruleset, potentially leaving you temporarily exposed.

  • Automatic rollback to previous ruleset if something goes wrong

  • Supports check commands to automatically roll back ruleset if check fails

  • Combines IPv4 and IPv6 in a single non-duplicated config

  • Automatically archives rulesets which later can be easily diffed or restored


  • Python 3 (only tested on 3.4 and later, but might work with earlier versions)

  • PyYAML

  • ipset


# Debian / Ubuntu
apt install ipset python3-yaml python3-pip -y
pip3 install fwgen --upgrade
# CentOS 7
rpm -ivh
yum install -y python34-pip
pip3 install fwgen --upgrade

PyYAML is pulled in as a dependency automatically via pip, but you may get a compiler error if you do not have the correct dependencies installed. It will still work however, just not as fast. I recommend using the distro packaged version if you have it available. In Debian’s case that is python3-yaml.

To ensure persistence you must have something that loads the ruleset at boot. An example systemd service is included in fwgen.service. As not all distros use systemd it is not enabled automatically, but a helper script is available to enable or update the service.

Installing from source

apt install python3-pip python3-venv
git clone
cd fwgen
python3 -m venv venv
. ./venv/bin/activate
pip3 install wheel
python3 clean --all bdist_wheel

# On your target host
apt install ipset python3-yaml python3-pip
pip3 install dist/<build>.whl --upgrade

Prepare configuration file

By default fwgen will give an error if the config file is missing. This is by design to prevent accidental application of the very restrictive default firewall settings, which basically only allows host internal traffic.

To create your initial config file you should run:

fwgen --create-config-dir

Update the config with your ruleset. It is by default located in /etc/fwgen/config.yml. Look at the example configuration for guidance. fwgen also has some built-in helper chains and defaults available for ease of use. See the default configuration for those.


To generate the new ruleset:

fwgen apply

To skip confirmation:

fwgen apply --no-confirm

In addition to rules defined in the config file you can add/override rules from command line. Add --log-level debug to see the resulting complete config.

fwgen --config-json '{"policy": {"filter": {"INPUT": "ACCEPT"}}}' apply

To temporarily clear the running ruleset without overwriting the saved persistent ruleset:

fwgen apply --no-save --clear

To list archived rulesets:

fwgen show archive

To view changes between currently running and archived ruleset:

fwgen show archive <index|name>

You can restore your saved or archived rulesets:

# Restores your currently saved ruleset
fwgen apply --restore

# Restores a ruleset from the archive
fwgen apply --archive <index|name>

To view the currently running configuration:

fwgen show running

For troubleshooting:

fwgen --log-level debug apply

For a complete list of the functionality, see:

fwgen --help

fwgen check server setup

If you want to make use of the firewall check commands a script is included, fwchk, intended to be hosted at the server performing the tests against your firewalls and called via SSH. As you do not want to allow remote firewalls to be able to execute arbitrary commands on the test server you should add some restrictions, and fwchk helps you enforcing those in a set of standardized checks.

Add a user for fwchk on the test server

adduser --system --group --shell /bin/bash fwchk

Put fwchk somewhere logical for ease of use

cd /usr/local/bin
wget -O fwchk
chmod +x fwchk

Add the ssh public key for the root user (normally found in /root/.ssh/ from each of the fwgen firewalls requesting the checks to /home/fwchk/.ssh/authorized_keys on the test server. To restrict the key usage to running the fwchks only, a set of restrictions should be included. Example:

command="fwchk",no-port-forwarding,no-x11-forwarding,no-agent-forwarding,no-pty ssh-rsa AAAAB3Nza....

Example fwgen config on the firewalls:

  # Available tests:
  #   tcp-test <target-ip> <target-port>
  #       Tests if a TCP port is open on the target
  #   ping-test <target-ip>
  #       Tests if the target is reachable by ping
  #   default-tests <target-ip>
  #       Test if TCP port 22 is open at the target and if it is reachable by ping
  - ssh -o ConnectTimeout=2 fwtest@<testhost> default-tests <fw-management-ip>
  - <cmd2>
  - <cmd3>

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