From iptables to UFW: 5 things to note

June 11, 2017

When I migrated a droplet from Ubuntu 14.04 to 16.04, the tutorials clearly implied that I should use UFW.

UFW, the Uncomplicated Firewall, lives up to its name. From what I read, it does everything I need, in a much simpler way than iptables.

What surprised me was everything those tutorials did NOT say…

No configuration files?

Tutorials will encourage you to open some ports:

$ sudo ufw allow 22
$ sudo ufw allow 80
$ sudo ufw allow 443   # you know, the usual...

and turn on UFW:

$ sudo ufw enable

How does that even work?

It turns out that every command reaches into UFW’s configuration files, under /etc/ufw/*.rules, and adjusts them accordingly. You wouldn’t normally edit those files manually.

Yes, your config will survive a reboot.

Once you enable UFW (above), and you understand that the config files were written for you, it’s not overly surprising to see why your firewall will come back up after a reboot.

In fact, this is a refreshing change from the bad old days.

Check your rules … before it’s too late.

After you enable UFW, if you haven’t locked yourself out, you can review its rules:

$ sudo ufw status numbered

Status: active

     To                         Action      From
     --                         ------      ----
[ 1] 22                         ALLOW IN    Anywhere
[ 2] 80                         ALLOW IN    Anywhere
[ 3] 443                        ALLOW IN    Anywhere
[ 4] 22 (v6)                    ALLOW IN    Anywhere (v6)
[ 5] 80 (v6)                    ALLOW IN    Anywhere (v6)
[ 6] 443 (v6)                   ALLOW IN    Anywhere (v6)

But what about before turning everything on?

I had to go look for it – this feature was added later on:

$ sudo ufw show added
Added user rules (see 'ufw status' for running firewall):
ufw allow 22
ufw allow 80
ufw allow 443

New rules are applied live.

If you change the rules:

$ sudo ufw delete 3     # close down port 443, see above

it’s going to be applied now. You won’t have to restart UFW. As always, the configuration files will also be updated.

Application provide their own UFW profiles

If you install NGINX, it will drop a file in /etc/ufw/applications.d:

[Nginx HTTP]
title=Web Server (Nginx, HTTP)
description=Small, but very powerful and efficient web server
ports=80/tcp

[Nginx HTTPS]
title=Web Server (Nginx, HTTPS)
description=Small, but very powerful and efficient web server
ports=443/tcp

[Nginx Full]
title=Web Server (Nginx, HTTP + HTTPS)
description=Small, but very powerful and efficient web server
ports=80,443/tcp

and you can see the inventory of profiles:

$ sudo ufw app list
Available applications:
  Nginx Full
  Nginx HTTP
  Nginx HTTPS
  OpenSSH

You can use a profile to configure UFW:

$ sudo ufw allow "Nginx Full"

There are 2 advantages to this:

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