How To Set Up a Firewall with UFW on Debian 10
UFW, or Uncomplicated Firewall, is an interface to
iptables that is geared towards simplifying the process of configuring a firewall. While
iptables is a solid and flexible tool, it can be difficult for beginners to learn how to use it to properly configure a firewall. If you’re looking to get started securing your network and are not sure which tool to use, UFW may be the right choice for you.
This tutorial will show you how to set up a firewall with UFW on Debian 10.
To follow this tutorial, you will need one Debian 10 server with a
sudo non-root user, which you can set up by following Steps 1-3 in the Initial Server Setup with Debian 10 tutorial.
Step 1 – Installing UFW
Debian does not install UFW by default. If you followed the entire Initial Server Setup tutorial, you will have installed and enabled UFW. If not, install it now using
- sudo apt install ufw
We will set up UFW and enable it in the following steps.
Step 2 — Using IPv6 with UFW (Optional)
This tutorial is written with IPv4 in mind, but will work for IPv6 as long as you enable it. If your Debian server has IPv6 enabled, you will want to ensure that UFW is configured to support IPv6; this will ensure that UFW will manage firewall rules for IPv6 in addition to IPv4. To configure this, open the UFW configuration file
nano or your favorite editor:
- sudo nano /etc/default/ufw
Then make sure the value of
yes. It should look like this:
Save and close the file. Now when UFW is enabled, it will be configured to write both IPv4 and IPv6 firewall rules. Before enabling UFW, however, you will want to ensure that your firewall is configured to allow you to connect via SSH. Let’s start with setting the default policies.
Step 3 — Setting Up Default Policies
If you’re just getting started with your firewall, the first rules to define are your default policies. These rules handle traffic that does not explicitly match any other rules. By default, UFW is set to deny all incoming connections and allow all outgoing connections. This means anyone trying to reach your server would not be able to connect, while any application within the server would be able to reach the outside world.
Let’s set your UFW rules back to the defaults so we can be sure that you’ll be able to follow along with this tutorial. To set the defaults used by UFW, use these commands:
- sudo ufw default deny incoming
- sudo ufw default allow outgoing
These commands set the defaults to deny incoming and allow outgoing connections. These firewall defaults alone might suffice for a personal computer, but servers typically need to respond to incoming requests from outside users. We’ll look into that next.
Step 4 — Allowing SSH Connections
If we enabled our UFW firewall now, it would deny all incoming connections. This means that we will need to create rules that explicitly allow legitimate incoming connections — SSH or HTTP connections, for example — if we want our server to respond to those types of requests. If you’re using a cloud server, you will probably want to allow incoming SSH connections so you can connect to and manage your server.
To configure your server to allow incoming SSH connections, you can use this command:
- sudo ufw allow ssh
This will create firewall rules that will allow all connections on port
22, which is the port that the SSH daemon listens on by default. UFW knows what port
allow ssh means because it’s listed as a service in the
However, we can actually write the equivalent rule by specifying the port instead of the service name. For example, this command produces the same result as the one above:
- sudo ufw allow 22
If you configured your SSH daemon to use a different port, you will have to specify the appropriate port. For example, if your SSH server is listening on port
2222, you can use this command to allow connections on that port:
- sudo ufw allow 2222
Now that your firewall is configured to allow incoming SSH connections, you can enable it.
Step 5 — Enabling UFW
To enable UFW, use this command:
- sudo ufw enable
You will receive a warning that says the command may disrupt existing SSH connections. We already set up a firewall rule that allows SSH connections, so it should be fine to continue. Respond to the prompt with
y and hit
The firewall is now active. Run the
sudo ufw status verbose command to see the rules that you have set. The rest of this tutorial covers how to use UFW in more detail, including allowing and denying different types of connections.
Step 6 — Allowing Other Connections
At this point, you should allow all of the other connections that your server needs to function properly. The connections that you should allow depend on your specific needs. Luckily, you already know how to write rules that allow connections based on a service name or port; we already did this for SSH on port
22. You can also do this for:
- HTTP on port
80, which is what unencrypted web servers use. To allow this type of traffic, you would type
sudo ufw allow httpor
sudo ufw allow 80.
- HTTPS on port
443, which is what encrypted web servers use. To allow this type of traffic, you would type
sudo ufw allow httpsor
sudo ufw allow 443.
There are other ways to allow connections, however, aside from specifying a port or known service. We will discuss those next.
Specific Port Ranges
You can specify port ranges with UFW. For example, some applications use multiple ports instead of a single port.
For example, to allow
X11 connections, which use ports
6007, use these commands:
- sudo ufw allow 6000:6007/tcp
- sudo ufw allow 6000:6007/udp
When specifying port ranges with UFW, you must specify the protocol (
udp) that the rules should apply to. We haven’t mentioned this before because not specifying the protocol automatically allows both protocols, which is OK in most cases.
Specific IP Addresses
When working with UFW, you can also specify IP addresses. For example, if you want to allow connections from a specific IP address, such as a work or home IP address of
203.0.113.4, you need to specify
from and then the IP address:
- sudo ufw allow from 203.0.113.4
You can also specify a specific port that the IP address is allowed to connect to by adding
to any port followed by the port number. For example, if you want to allow
203.0.113.4 to connect to port
22 (SSH), use this command:
- sudo ufw allow from 203.0.113.4 to any port 22
If you want to allow a subnet of IP addresses, you can do so using CIDR notation to specify a netmask. For example, if you want to allow all of the IP addresses ranging from
203.0.113.254 you can use this command:
- sudo ufw allow from 203.0.113.0/24
Likewise, you may also specify the destination port that the subnet
203.0.113.0/24 is allowed to connect to. Again, we’ll use port
22 (SSH) as an example:
- sudo ufw allow from 203.0.113.0/24 to any port 22
Connections to a Specific Network Interface
If you want to create a firewall rule that only applies to a specific network interface, you can do so by specifying
allow in on, followed by the name of the network interface.
You may want to look up your network interfaces before continuing. To do so, use this command:
- ip addr
Output2: eth0: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST,UP,LOWER_UP> mtu 1500 qdisc pfifo_fast state . . . 3: eth1: <BROADCAST,MULTICAST> mtu 1500 qdisc noop state DOWN group default . . .
The highlighted output indicates the network interface names. They are typically named something like
If your server has a public network interface called
eth0, for example, you could allow HTTP traffic to it with this command:
- sudo ufw allow in on eth0 to any port 80
Doing so would allow your server to receive HTTP requests from the public internet.
Or, if you want your MySQL database server (port
3306) to listen for connections on the private network interface
eth1, you could use this command:
- sudo ufw allow in on eth1 to any port 3306
This would allow other servers on your private network to connect to your MySQL database.
Step 7 — Denying Connections
If you haven’t changed the default policy for incoming connections, UFW is configured to deny all incoming connections. Generally, this simplifies the process of creating a secure firewall policy by requiring you to create rules that explicitly allow specific ports and IP addresses through.
Sometimes you will want to deny specific connections based on the source IP address or subnet, however, perhaps because you know that your server is being attacked from there. Also, if you want to change your default incoming policy to allow (which is not recommended), you would need to create deny rules for any services or IP addresses that you don’t want to allow connections for.
To write deny rules, you can use the commands described above, replacing allow with deny.
For example, to deny HTTP connections, you could use this command:
- sudo ufw deny http
Or if you want to deny all connections from
203.0.113.4 you could use this command:
- sudo ufw deny from 203.0.113.4
Now let’s take a look at how to delete rules.
Step 8 — Deleting Rules
Knowing how to delete firewall rules is just as important as knowing how to create them. There are two ways to specify which rules to delete: by the rule number or by the rule itself. This is similar to how the rules were specified when they were created. We’ll start by explaining the delete by rule number method.
By Rule Number
If you’re using the rule number to delete firewall rules, the first thing you’ll want to do is get a list of your firewall rules. The UFW
status command has the
numbered option, which displays numbers next to each rule:
- sudo ufw status numbered
OutputStatus: active To Action From -- ------ ---- [ 1] 22 ALLOW IN 18.104.22.168/24 [ 2] 80 ALLOW IN Anywhere
If we decide that we want to delete rule
2, which allows HTTP connections on port
80, we can specify this in the following UFW
- sudo ufw delete 2
This will show a confirmation prompt, which you can answer with
y will then delete rule
2. Note that if you have IPv6 enabled, you will want to delete the corresponding IPv6 rule as well.
By Actual Rule
The alternative to rule numbers is to specify the actual rule to delete. For example, if you want to remove the
allow http rule, you could write it like this:
- sudo ufw delete allow http
You can also specify the rule with
allow 80 instead of the service name:
- sudo ufw delete allow 80
This method will delete both IPv4 and IPv6 rules, if they exist.
Step 9 — Checking UFW Status and Rules
At any time, you can check the status of UFW with this command:
- sudo ufw status verbose
If UFW is disabled, which is the default, you’ll see something like this:
If UFW is active, which it should be if you followed Step 3, the output will say that it’s active and will list any rules that you have set. For example, if the firewall is set to allow SSH (port
22) connections from anywhere, the output might look something like this:
OutputStatus: active To Action From -- ------ ---- 22/tcp ALLOW IN Anywhere
status command if you want to check how UFW has configured the firewall.
Step 10 — Disabling or Resetting UFW (optional)
If you decide you don’t want to use UFW, you can disable it with this command:
- sudo ufw disable
Any rules that you created with UFW will no longer be active. You can always run
sudo ufw enable if you need to activate it later.
If you already have UFW rules configured but you decide that you want to start over, you can use the reset command:
- sudo ufw reset
This will disable UFW and delete any rules that you have previously defined. Keep in mind that the default policies won’t change to their original settings if you modified them at any point. This should give you a fresh start with UFW.
Your firewall is now configured to allow (at least) SSH connections. Be sure to allow any other incoming connections that your server needs, while also limiting unnecessary connections. This will ensure that your server is both functional and secure.
To learn about more common UFW configurations, check out this tutorial on UFW Essentials: Common Firewall Rules and Commands.