fw3 NAT Configurations

The fw3 application has extensive support for NAT filterning. NAT is a powerful feature and is credited with extending the life of the IPv4 protocol.

As with other firewall section, this section will not delve into NAT background and theory. Some useful links for this are:


See Netfilter Management for analyzing the netfilter rules and investigating conntrack sessions.

This section contains typical uses of the fw3 NAT features

The goal of this rule is to redirect all WAN-side SSH access on port 2222 to a the SSH (22) port of a single LAN-side station.

config redirect
       option target          DNAT
       option src             wan
       option dest            lan
       option proto           tcp
       option src_dport       2222
       option dest_ip
       option dest_port       22
       option enabled         1

To test from a WAN-side station (STA1), SSH on port 2222 to a non-existent IPv4 address on the LAN-side network:

ssh -p 2222 hostname; cat /proc/version

When the rule is enabled STA2 will reply with its hostname and kernel version. When the rule is disabled, the connection is refused.

The passionate reader will ask “So what netfilter rules does this create?”

iptables -t nat -A zone_wan_prerouting -p tcp -m tcp --dport 2222 -m comment --comment "!fw3: @redirect[0]" -j DNAT --to-destination
iptables -t nat -A zone_lan_prerouting -p tcp -s -d -m tcp --dport 2222 -m comment --comment "!fw3: @redirect[0] (reflection)" -j DNAT --to-destination

The first rule matches packets coming in the WAN-side if on TCP port 2222 and jumps to the DNAT filter to translate the destination to The second rule matches packets coming in from the LAN-side to the WAN-side if on TCP port 2222. The DNAT target uses the same –to-destination parameters as the first rule to find the “reflection” in the conntrack table.

The next thought of the passionate reader is “So what is IN the conntrack table?”

ipv4     2 tcp      6 117 TIME_WAIT src= dst= sport=51390 dport=2222 packets=21 bytes=4837 src= dst= sport=22 dport=51390 packets=23 bytes=4063 [ASSURED] mark=0 use=2

This record shows the WAN-side src=STA1 and dst= and the reverse direction LAN-side src=STA2:22 src=STA1.

This redirect rule will cause the router to translate the WAN-side source of to the LAN-side STA2 and route the ICMP echo to it. The rule is reflexive in that STA2 will be translated by to on the WAN-side.

config redirect
        option src      wan
        option src_dip
        option proto    icmp
        option dest     lan
        option dest_ip
        option target   DNAT
	option name     DNAT-ICMP-WAN-LAN
	option enabled  1

All redirection requires some form of NAT and connection tracking. For public servers behind the firewall the DNAT target is used to translate the public IP address on the WAN-side to the private address of the server in the LAN-side.

:!: Due to the high visibility of a public server, it may warrant putting it/them in a fw3 DMZ.

config redirect
        option target DNAT
        option src wan
        option src_dport 25
        option proto tcp
        option family ipv4
        option dest lan
        option dest_ip
        option dest_port 2525
        option name DNAT-MAIL-SERVER
        option enabled 1

In this example, STA2 is running an email server (e.g. postfix) listening on port 2525 for incoming email.

This redirect rule states: any incoming traffic from the wan on port 25, redirect to STA1 port 2525.

To verify what is going on dump /proc/net/nf_conntrack to observe the dynamic connnection for incoming traffic. There can be quite a few conntrack records in it so we will search on just the ones using port 2525:

ipv4     2 tcp      6 7436 ESTABLISHED src= dst= sport=41370 dport=25 packets=4 bytes=229 src= dst= sport=2525 dport=41370 packets=3 bytes=164 [ASSURED] mark=0 use=2

The connection is coming from STA1 port 25 to the DUT and is translated to STA2 on port 2525 with a response destination to STA1.

The relevant traffic matches the DNAT conntrack state which is allowed to traverse zones by OpenWrt firewall, so no extra permissive rules are required.

The goal of this rule is to translate the source IP address from a real station to a fictitious one on port 8080.

config redirect
        option target           SNAT
        option src              lan
        option dest             wan
	option proto            tcp
        option src_ip 
        option src_dip
        option dest_port        8080
	option enabled          1

To test:

  1. use netcat to listen on the STA1, the WAN-side station: nc -l 8080
  2. use netcat to connect on the STA2, the LAN-side station: nc -v 8080

Type something on the LAN-side station and see it echoed on the WAN-side station. Check the connection on the WAN-side station using netstat -ntap and see the line:

tcp 0 0 ESTABLISHED 16746/nc

The WAN-side station shows the SNAT address connecting to it on port 8080!

When used alone, Source NAT is used to restrict a computer's access to the internet while allowing it to access a few services by forwarding what appears to be a few local services, e.g. NTP, to the internet. While DNAT hides the local network from the internet, SNAT hides the internet from the local network.

This is the most used and useful NAT function. It translates a local private network on the LAN-side to a single public address/port num on the WAN-side and then the reverse. It is the default firewall configuration for every IPv4 router. As a result it is a very simple fw3 configuration

The LAN-side uses a private network. The router translates the private addresses to the router address:port and the netfilter conntrack module manages the connection.

The masquerade is set on the WAN-side

config zone
	option name 'wan'
	list network 'wan'
	option masq '1'

Simple, no?

The router will generally get its WAN ip address from the upstream DHCP server and be the DHCP server (and usually DNS server) for LAN stations. The network configuration file defines the private network and the dhcp configuration file defines how the OpenWrt router assigns LAN-side IPv4 addresses.

When MASQUERADE is enabled, all forwarded traffic between WAN and LAN is translated. Essentially, there is very little that can go wrong with the MASQUERADE firewall rules.

Dump /proc/net/nf_conntrack to inspect the current MASQUERADE connections. The following connection tracks SSH (22) access from STA1 to STA2.

ipv4     2 tcp      6 4615 ESTABLISHED src= dst= sport=60446 dport=22 packets=27 bytes=1812 src= dst= sport=22 dport=60446 packets=21 bytes=2544 [ASSURED] mark=0 use=2

:!: MASQUERADE supports two or more private LAN zones

:!: not tested

The following rule redirects all LAN-side HTTP traffic through an external proxy at listening on port 3128. It assumes the lan address to be - this is needed to masquerade redirected traffic towards the proxy.

config redirect
        option src              lan
        option proto            tcp
        option src_ip           !
        option src_dport        80
        option dest_ip
        option dest_port        3128
        option target           DNAT

config redirect
        option dest             lan
        option proto            tcp
        option src_dip
        option dest_ip
        option dest_port        3128
        option target           SNAT
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  • Last modified: 2021/02/11 02:58
  • by vgaetera