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iptables guide to firewalld - Introduction

When the introduction of firewalld as the default firewall happened (Its introduction was in 2011, but I believe it showed up first in CentOS 7.), the author continued to use iptables. There were two reasons for this. First, the documentation available at the time for firewalld used simplistic rules and did not show how firewalld was securing the server down to the IP level. Second, the author had over a decade of experience with iptables and it was easier to continue using that instead of learning firewalld.

This document aims to address the limitations of most firewalld references and, to force the author to use firewalld to mimic those more granular firewall rules.

From the manual page: "firewalld provides a dynamically managed firewall with support for network/firewall zones to define the trust level of network connections or interfaces. It supports IPv4, IPv6 firewall settings, Ethernet bridges and a separation of runtime and permanent configuration options. It also supports an interface for services or applications to add firewall rules directly."

firewalld is actually a front end to the netfilter and nftables Kernel sub-systems in Rocky Linux.

This guide focuses on applying rules from an iptables firewall to a firewalld firewall. If you are really at the beginning of your firewall journey, this document might help you more. Consider reading both documents to get the most out of firewalld.

Prerequisites and assumptions

  • Throughout this document, the assumption is that you are the root user or have elevated privileges with sudo.
  • A passing knowledge of firewall rules, particularly iptables or at minimum, you want to learn something about firewalld.
  • You feel comfortable entering commands at the command line.
  • All of the examples here deal with IPv4 IPs.


To really get your head around firewalld, you need to understand the use of zones. Zones provide the granularity of the firewall rule sets.

firewalld has several built-in zones:

zone example use
drop drops incoming connections without reply - allows only outgoing packets.
block rejects incoming connections with an icmp-host-prohibited message for IPv4 and icmp6-adm-prohibited for IPv6 - only network connections initiated within this system are possible.
public for use in public areas - accepts only selected incoming connections.
external accepts only selected incoming connections for use on external networks with masquerading enabled.
dmz only selected incoming connections are accepted for publicly accessible computers on your demilitarized zone with limited access to your internal network.
work for computers in work areas - accepts only selected incoming connections.
home for use in home areas - accepts only selected incoming connections
internal for your internal network device access - accepts only selected incoming connections.
trusted accepts all network connections.


firewall-cmd is the command line program for managing the firewalld daemon.

To list existing zones on your system, type:

firewall-cmd --get-zones


Remember to check the status of your firewall, if the firewalld-cmd returns you an error, with either:

the firewall-cmd command:

$ firewall-cmd --state

the systemctl command:

$ systemctl status firewalld

The author does not like most of these zone names. drop, block, public, and trusted are perfectly clear, but some are not good enough for perfect granular security. Take this iptables rule section as an example:

iptables -A INPUT -p tcp -m tcp -s --dport 22 -j ACCEPT

Here you are allowing a single IP address for SSH (port 22) into the server. If you decide to use the built-in zones, you could use "trusted" for this. First, you add the IP to the zone and second, you apply the rule to the zone:

firewall-cmd --zone=trusted --add-source= --permanent
firewall-cmd --zone trusted --add-service=ssh --permanent

But what if, on this server, you also have an intranet that is accessible to only the IP blocks assigned to your organization? Would you now apply the "internal" zone to that rule? The author prefers to create a zone that deals with the admin users' IPs (those allowed to secure-shell into the server).

Adding zones

To add a zone, you need to use the firewall-cmd with the --new-zone parameter. You are going to add "admin" (for administrative) as a zone:

firewall-cmd --new-zone=admin --permanent


The author uses the --permanent flag a great deal throughout. For testing, it is recommended to add the rule without the --permanent flag, test it, and if it works as expected, then use the firewall-cmd --runtime-to-permanent to move the rule live prior to running firewall-cmd --reload. If the risk is low (in other words, you will not lock yourself out), you can add the --permanent flag as done here.

Before using this zone, you need to reload the firewall:

firewall-cmd --reload


A note about custom zones: If you need to add a zone that will be a trusted zone, but will only contain a particular source IP or interface and no protocols or services, and the "trusted" zone does not work for you, probably because you have already used it for something else, etc. You can add a custom zone to do this, but you must change the target of the zone from "default" to "ACCEPT" (REJECT or DROP can also be used, depending on your goals). Here is an example using a bridge interface (lxdbr0 in this case) on an LXD machine.

First, you add the zone and reload so that you can use it:

firewall-cmd --new-zone=bridge --permanent
firewall-cmd --reload

Next, you change the target of the zone from "default" to "ACCEPT" (note that the "--permanent" option is required for changing a target) then assign the interface, and reload:

firewall-cmd --zone=bridge --set-target=ACCEPT --permanent
firewall-cmd --zone=bridge --add-interface=lxdbr0 --permanent
firewall-cmd --reload

This tells the firewall that you:

  1. are changing the target of the zone to ACCEPT
  2. are adding the bridge interface "lxdbr0" to the zone
  3. reloading the firewall

All of this says that you accept all traffic from the bridge interface.

Listing zones

Before going any further, you need to examine the process of listing zones. You get a single production column rather than a tabular output provided by iptables -L. List a zone with the command firewall-cmd --zone=[zone_name] --list-all. Here is what this looks like when you list out the newly created "admin" zone:

firewall-cmd --zone=admin --list-all

  target: default
  icmp-block-inversion: no
  forward: no
  masquerade: no
  rich rules:

You can list out the active zones on your system by using this command:

firewall-cmd --get-active-zones

Important: Active Zones

A zone can only be in an active state if it has one of these two conditions:

  1. The zone is assigned to a network interface.
  2. The zone is assigned source IPs or network ranges.

Removing an IP and service from a zone

If you followed the earlier instruction to add an IP to the "trusted" zone, you must remove it now. Remember our note about using the --permanent flag? This is a good place to avoid using it while doing proper testing before taking this rule live:

firewall-cmd --zone=trusted --remove-source=

You also want to remove the service SSH from the zone:

firewall-cmd --zone=trusted --remove-service ssh

Then test. You want to ensure that you have a way in via ssh from another zone before doing the final two steps. (See Warning below!). If you have made no other changes, the "public" zone will still have SSH allowed, as it is there by default.

Once you are satisfied, move the runtime rules to permanent:

firewall-cmd --runtime-to-permanent

and reload:

firewall-cmd --reload


Hold off on that last instruction If you are working on a remote server or VPS! NEVER remove the ssh service from a remote server unless you have another way to access the shell (see below).

Suppose you lock yourself out of ssh access via the firewall. In that case, you will need to (in the worst-case scenarios) fix your server in person, contact support, or possibly reinstall the OS from your control panel (depending on whether the server is physical or virtual).

Using a new zone - Adding administrative IPs

Now just repeat our original steps using the "admin" zone:

firewall-cmd --zone=admin --add-source=
firewall-cmd --zone admin --add-service=ssh

List the zone to ensure that the zone looks correct and has the service properly added:

firewall-cmd --zone=admin --list-all

Test your rule to ensure it works. To test:

  1. SSH as root, or your sudo capable user, from your source IP (above it is (use the root user because you are going to run commands on the host that require it. If using your sudo user, remember to sudo -s once connected.)
  2. Once connected, run tail /var/log/secure and you will get output that looks similar to this:
Feb 14 22:02:34 serverhostname sshd[9805]: Accepted password for root from port 42854 ssh2
Feb 14 22:02:34 serverhostname sshd[9805]: pam_unix(sshd:session): session opened for user root by (uid=0)

This shows that the source IP for our SSH connection is the same IP that you just added to the "admin" zone. You will be safe to move this rule permanent:

firewall-cmd --runtime-to-permanent

When you have finished adding rules, reload:

firewall-cmd --reload

You might require other services added to the "admin" zone, but SSH is the most logical for now.


By default the "public" zone has the ssh service enabled; this can be a security liability. Once you have your administrative zone created, assigned to ssh, and tested, you can remove the service from the public zone.

If you have more than one administrative IP that you need to add (quite likely), just add it to the sources for the zone. In this case, you are adding an IP to the "admin" zone:

firewall-cmd --zone=admin --add-source= --permanent


Keep in mind that if you are working on a remote server or VPS, and have an internet connection that does not always use the same IP, you may want to open your ssh service to a range of IP addresses used by your internet service provider or geographical region. This, again, is so you do not get locked out by your own firewall.

Many ISPs charge extra for dedicated IP addresses, if they are offered at all, so it is a real concern.

The examples here assume that you are using IPs on your own private network to access a server that is also local.

ICMP rules

Examine another line in our iptables firewall that you want to emulate in firewalld - the ICMP rule:

iptables -A INPUT -p icmp -m icmp --icmp-type 8 -s -j ACCEPT

For the newbies among us, ICMP is a data transfer protocol designed for error reporting. It tells you when problems connecting to a machine exist.

In reality, you will probably leave ICMP open to all of our local IPs (in this case Our "public" and "admin" zones will have ICMP on by default, so the first thing to do to limit ICMP to that one network address is to block these requests on "public" and "admin" .

Again, this is for demonstration purposes. You will definitely want your administrative users to have ICMP to your servers, and they probably still will, because they are members of the LAN network IP.

To turn off ICMP on the "public" zone:

firewall-cmd --zone=public --add-icmp-block={echo-request,echo-reply} --permanent

Do the same thing on our "trusted" zone:

firewall-cmd --zone=trusted --add-icmp-block={echo-request,echo-reply} --permanent

Here is an introduction to something new: The curly braces "{}" allow us to specify more than one parameter. As always, after making changes like this, you need to reload:

firewall-cmd --reload

Testing by using ping from a disallowed IP will give you:

PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.
From icmp_seq=1 Packet filtered
From icmp_seq=2 Packet filtered
From icmp_seq=3 Packet filtered

Web server ports

Here is the iptables script for publicly allowing http and https, the protocols you will need to serve web pages:

iptables -A INPUT -p tcp -m tcp --dport 80 -j ACCEPT
iptables -A INPUT -p tcp -m tcp --dport 443 -j ACCEPT

And here is the firewalld equivalent that you have probably seen many times before:

firewall-cmd --zone=public --add-service=http --add-service=https --permanent

That is fine, but what if you are running for example, a Nextcloud service on http/https and you only wanted your trusted network to have access to it? It is not unusual! This sort of thing happens all the time, and just publicly allowing traffic, without considering who actually needs access, is a huge security risk.

You cannot actually use the "trusted" zone information that you have used above. That was for testing. You have to assume that you have at minimum our LAN IP block added to "trusted". That will look like this:

firewall-cmd --zone=trusted --add-source= --permanent

Add the services to the zone:

firewall-cmd --zone=trusted --add-service=http --add-service=https --permanent

If you had added those services to the "public" zone, you need to remove them:

firewall-cmd --zone=public --remove-service=http --remove-service=https --permanent


firewall-cmd --reload

FTP ports

Returning to the iptables script. You have the following rules dealing with FTP:

iptables -A INPUT -p tcp -m tcp --dport 20-21 -j ACCEPT
iptables -A INPUT -p tcp -m tcp --dport 7000-7500 -j ACCEPT

This portion of the script deals with the standard FTP ports (20 and 21) and some additional passive ports. FTP servers such as VSFTPD often need these sort of rules. Generally, this sort of rule will be on a publicly facing web server, and is there for allowing ftp connections from your customers.

No ftp-data service (port 20) exists in firewalld. The ports 7000 through 7500 listed here are for passive FTP connections, and again, these do not exist as a service in firewalld. You could switch to SFTP, which simplifies the port-allow rules here and is likely the recommended way.

This demonstrates the conversion of a set of iptables rules to firewalld. To get around all of these issues, you can do the following.

First, add the ftp service to the zone that is also hosting the web services. This is probably going to be "public" in this example:

firewall-cmd --zone=public --add-service=ftp --permanent

Add the ftp-data port:

firewall-cmd --zone=public --add-port=20/tcp --permanent

Add the passive connection ports:

firewall-cmd --zone=public --add-port=7000-7500/tcp --permanent

Then reload:

firewall-cmd --reload

Database ports

If you are dealing with a web server, you are almost certainly dealing with a database. You handle access to that database with the same care that you apply to other services. If access is not needed from the world, apply your rule to something other than "public". The other consideration is, do you need to offer access at all? Again, this probably depends on your environment. Where the author was previously employed, a hosted web server was in use for our customers. Many had Wordpress sites, and none of them really needed or requested access to any front-end for MariaDB. If a customer needed more access, our solution was the creation of an LXD container for their web server, building a firewall the way the customer wanted, and leaving them responsible for what happened on that server. Still, if your server is public, you might need to offer access to phpmyadmin or some other front-end to MariaDB. In this case, you need to concern yourself with the password requirements for the database and set the database user to something other than defaults. For the author, password length is the primary consideration when creating passwords.

Password security is a discussion for another document dealing with that. The assumption is that you have a good password policy for your database access and the iptables line in your firewall dealing with the database looks like this:

iptables -A INPUT -p tcp -m tcp --dport=3600 -j ACCEPT

In this case, add the service to the "public" zone for a firewalld conversion:

firewall-cmd --zone=public --add-service=mysql --permanent

Postgresql considerations

Postgresql uses its service port. Here is an IP tables rule example:

iptables -A INPUT -p tcp -m tcp --dport 5432 -s -j ACCEPT

While it is less common on publicly facing web servers, it might be more common as an internal resource. The same security considerations apply. If you have a server on your trusted network ( in our example), you might not want or need to give access to everyone on that network. Postgresql has an access list available for the more granular access rights. Our firewalld rule would look something like this:

firewall-cmd --zone=trusted --add-service=postgresql

DNS ports

Having a private or public DNS server also means taking precautions in the rules you write to protect those services. If you have a private DNS server, with iptables rules that looked like this (note that most DNS services are UDP, rather than TCP, but not always):

iptables -A INPUT -p udp -m udp -s --dport 53 -j ACCEPT

then allowing only your "trusted" zone will be correct. You have already setup your "trusted" zone's sources. All you need to do is to add the service to the zone:

firewall-cmd --zone=trusted --add-service=dns

With a public facing DNS server, you would just need to add the same service to the "public" zone:

firewall-cmd --zone=public --add-service=dns

More on listing rules


You can list all of the rules if you like, by listing the nftables rules. It is ugly, and I do not recommend it, but if you really must, you can do a nft list ruleset.

One thing not done much so far is to list the rules. This is something that you can do by zone. Here are examples with the zones you have used. Note that you can list the zone before you move a rule permanent too, which is a good idea.

firewall-cmd --list-all --zone=trusted

Here you can see what you applied above:

trusted (active)
  target: ACCEPT
  icmp-block-inversion: no
  services: dns
  forward: no
  masquerade: no
  icmp-blocks: echo-reply echo-request
  rich rules:

This is applicable to any zone. For instance, here is the "public" zone so far:

firewall-cmd --list-all --zone=public

  target: default
  icmp-block-inversion: no
  services: cockpit dhcpv6-client ftp http https
  ports: 20/tcp 7000-7500/tcp
  forward: no
  masquerade: no
  icmp-blocks: echo-reply echo-request
  rich rules:

Note that you have removed SSH access from services and blocked ICMP "echo-reply" and "echo-request".

In your "admin" zone so far, it looks like this:

firewall-cmd --list-all --zone=admin

  admin (active)
  target: default
  icmp-block-inversion: no
  services: ssh
  forward: no
  masquerade: no
  rich rules:

It appears that firewalld handles the following iptables rule internally by default:

iptables -A INPUT -m state --state ESTABLISHED,RELATED -j ACCEPT


By default, firewalld will listen on all available interfaces. On a bare-metal server with many interfaces facing many network gateways, it will be necessary for you to assign an interface to a zone based on the network it faces.

Interfaces are not added in our examples, because the lab uses LXD for testing. In this case, you only have one interface to work with. Say that your "public" zone needs configuration to use Ethernet port enp3s0 as this port has the public IP on it, and say that your "trusted" and "admin" zones are on the LAN interface, which might be enp3s1.

To assign these zones to the appropriate interface, you use the following commands:

firewall-cmd --zone=public --change-interface=enp3s0 --permanent
firewall-cmd --zone=trusted --change-interface=enp3s1 --permanent
firewall-cmd --zone=admin --change-interface=enp3s1 --permanent
firewall-cmd --reload

Common firewall-cmd commands

You have used some commands already. Here are a few more common commands and what they do:

Command Result
firewall-cmd --list-all-zones similar to firewall-cmd --list-all --zone=[zone] except it lists all of the zones and their contents.
firewall-cmd --get-default-zone shows the default zone, which is "public" unless you change it.
firewall-cmd --list-services --zone=[zone] shows all of the services enabled for the zone.
firewall-cmd --list-ports --zone=[zone] shows all ports open on the zone.
firewall-cmd --get-active-zones shows the active zones on the system, their active interfaces, services, and ports.
firewall-cmd --get-services shows all available services possible for use.
firewall-cmd --runtime-to-permanent if you have entered many rules without the --permanent option, do this before reloading.

A great many firewall-cmd options are not covered here, but this gives you the most used commands.


Since firewalld is the recommended and included firewall with Rocky Linux, it is a good idea to get your head around how it works. Simplistic rules, included in the documentation for applying services using firewalld, often do not consider the server's use and offer no options other than publicly allowing the service. This is a drawback with security holes that just do not need to be there.

When you see these instructions, think about what your server's use and whether the service needs to be open to the world. If not, consider applying more granularity in your rules as described above.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive guide to firewalld, but rather a starting point.

Author: Steven Spencer

Contributors: wsoyinka, Antoine Le Morvan, Ezequiel Bruni, qyecst, Ganna Zhyrnova