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Shorewall and FTP

Tom Eastep

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover, and with no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled “GNU Free Documentation License”.

2006-01-27


Table of Contents

FTP Protocol
Linux FTP connection-tracking
FTP on Non-standard Ports
Rules

Caution

This article applies to Shorewall 3.0 and later. If you are running a version of Shorewall earlier than Shorewall 3.0.0 then please see the documentation for that release.

FTP Protocol

FTP transfers involve two TCP connections. The first control connection goes from the FTP client to port 21 on the FTP server. This connection is used for logon and to send commands and responses between the endpoints. Data transfers (including the output of “ls” and “dir” commands) requires a second data connection. The data connection is dependent on the mode that the client is operating in:

Passive Mode

(often the default for web browsers) -- The client issues a PASV command. Upon receipt of this command, the server listens on a dynamically-allocated port then sends a PASV reply to the client. The PASV reply gives the IP address and port number that the server is listening on. The client then opens a second connection to that IP address and port number.

Active Mode

(often the default for line-mode clients) -- The client listens on a dynamically-allocated port then sends a PORT command to the server. The PORT command gives the IP address and port number that the client is listening on. The server then opens a connection to that IP address and port number; the source port for this connection is 20 (ftp-data in /etc/services).

You can see these commands in action using your linux ftp command-line client in debugging mode. Note that my ftp client defaults to passive mode and that I can toggle between passive and active mode by issuing a “passive” command:

[teastep@wookie Shorewall]$ ftp ftp1.shorewall.net
Connected to lists.shorewall.net.
220-=(<*>)=-.:. (( Welcome to PureFTPd 1.0.12 )) .:.-=(<*>)=-
220-You are user number 1 of 50 allowed.
220-Local time is now 10:21 and the load is 0.14. Server port: 21.
220 You will be disconnected after 15 minutes of inactivity.
500 Security extensions not implemented
500 Security extensions not implemented
KERBEROS_V4 rejected as an authentication type
Name (ftp1.shorewall.net:teastep): ftp
331-Welcome to ftp.shorewall.net
331-
331 Any password will work
Password:
230 Any password will work
Remote system type is UNIX.
Using binary mode to transfer files.
ftp> debug
Debugging on (debug=1).
ftp> ls
---> PASV
227 Entering Passive Mode (192,168,1,193,195,210)
---> LIST
150 Accepted data connection
drwxr-xr-x    5 0        0            4096 Nov  9  2002 archives
drwxr-xr-x    2 0        0            4096 Feb 12  2002 etc
drwxr-sr-x    6 0        50           4096 Feb 19 15:24 pub
226-Options: -l
226 3 matches total
ftp> passive
Passive mode off.
ftp> ls
---> PORT 192,168,1,3,142,58
200 PORT command successful
---> LIST
150 Connecting to port 36410
drwxr-xr-x    5 0        0            4096 Nov  9  2002 archives
drwxr-xr-x    2 0        0            4096 Feb 12  2002 etc
drwxr-sr-x    6 0        50           4096 Feb 19 15:24 pub
226-Options: -l
226 3 matches total
ftp>

Things to notice:

  1. The commands that I issued are strongly emphasized.

  2. Commands sent by the client to the server are preceded by --->

  3. Command responses from the server over the control connection are numbered.

  4. FTP uses a comma as a separator between the bytes of the IP address; and

  5. When sending a port number, FTP sends the MSB then the LSB and separates the two bytes by a comma. As shown in the PORT command, port 142,58 translates to 142*256+58 = 36410.

Linux FTP connection-tracking

Given the normal loc->net policy of ACCEPT, passive mode access from local clients to remote servers will always work but active mode requires the firewall to dynamically open a “hole” for the server's connection back to the client. Similarly, if you are running an FTP server in your local zone then active mode should always work but passive mode requires the firewall to dynamically open a “hole” for the client's second connection to the server. This is the role of FTP connection-tracking support in the Linux kernel.

Where any form of NAT (SNAT, DNAT, Masquerading) on your firewall is involved, the PORT commands and PASV responses may also need to be modified by the firewall. This is the job of the FTP nat support kernel function.

Including FTP connection-tracking and NAT support normally means that the modules “ip_conntrack_ftp” and “ip_nat_ftp” need to be loaded. Shorewall automatically loads these “helper” modules from /lib/modules/<kernel-version>/kernel/net/ipv4/netfilter/ and you can determine if they are loaded using the “lsmod” command. The <kernel-version> may be obtained by typing

uname -r

Example 1. 

[root@lists etc]# lsmod
Module                  Size  Used by    Not tainted
autofs                 12148   0  (autoclean) (unused)
ipt_TOS                 1560  12  (autoclean)
ipt_LOG                 4120   5  (autoclean)
ipt_REDIRECT            1304   1  (autoclean)
ipt_REJECT              3736   4  (autoclean)
ipt_state               1048  13  (autoclean)
ip_nat_irc              3152   0  (unused)
ip_nat_ftp              3888   0  (unused)
ip_conntrack_irc        3984   1
ip_conntrack_ftp        5008   1
ipt_multiport           1144   2  (autoclean)
ipt_conntrack           1592   0  (autoclean)
iptable_filter          2316   1  (autoclean)
iptable_mangle          2680   1  (autoclean)
iptable_nat            20568   3  (autoclean) [ipt_REDIRECT ip_nat_irc ip_nat_ftp]
ip_conntrack           26088   5  (autoclean) [ipt_REDIRECT ipt_state ip_nat_irc
                                              ip_nat_ftp ip_conntrack_irc ip_conntrack_ftp
                                              ipt_conntrack iptable_nat]
ip_tables              14488  12  [ipt_TOS ipt_LOG ipt_REDIRECT ipt_REJECT ipt_state
                                  ipt_multiport ipt_conntrack iptable_filter
                                  iptable_mangle iptable_nat]
tulip                  42464   0  (unused)
e100                   50596   1
keybdev                 2752   0  (unused)
mousedev                5236   0  (unused)
hid                    20868   0  (unused)
input                   5632   0  [keybdev mousedev hid]
usb-uhci               24684   0  (unused)
usbcore                73280   1  [hid usb-uhci]
ext3                   64704   2
jbd                    47860   2  [ext3]
[root@lists etc]#

If you want Shorewall to load these modules from an alternate directory, you need to set the MODULESDIR variable in /etc/shorewall/shorewall.conf to point to that directory.

FTP on Non-standard Ports

The above discussion about commands and responses makes it clear that the FTP connection-tracking and NAT helpers must scan the traffic on the control connection looking for PASV and PORT commands as well as PASV responses. If you run an FTP server on a nonstandard port or you need to access such a server, you must therefore let the helpers know by specifying the port in /etc/shorewall/modules entries for the helpers.

Caution

You must have modularized FTP connection tracking support in order to use FTP on a non-standard port.

Example 2. if you run an FTP server that listens on port 49 or you need to access a server on the internet that listens on that port then you would have:

loadmodule ip_conntrack_ftp ports=21,49
loadmodule ip_nat_ftp ports=21,49           # NOTE: This is not necessary with kernel 2.6.11 and later!

Note

you MUST include port 21 in the ports list or you may have problems accessing regular FTP servers.

If there is a possibility that these modules might be loaded before Shorewall starts, then you should include the port list in /etc/modules.conf:

options ip_conntrack_ftp ports=21,49
options ip_nat_ftp ports=21,49           # NOTE: This is not necessary with kernel 2.6.11 and later!

Important

Once you have made these changes to /etc/shorewall/modules and/or /etc/modules.conf, you must either:

  1. Unload the modules and restart shorewall:

    rmmod ip_nat_ftp; rmmod ip_conntrack_ftp; shorewall restart
  2. Reboot

Rules

Warning

If you run an FTP server behind your firewall and your server offers a method of specifying the external IP address of your firewall, DON'T USE THAT FEATURE OF YOUR SERVER. Using that option will defeat the purpose of the ftp helper modules and can result in a server that doesn't work.

If the policy from the source zone to the destination zone is ACCEPT and you don't need DNAT (see FAQ 30) then you need no rule.

Otherwise, for FTP you need exactly one rule:

#ACTION      SOURCE     DESTINATION    PROTO     PORT(S)    SOURCE      ORIGINAL
#                                                           PORT(S)     DESTINATION
ACCEPT or    <source>   <destination>  tcp       21         -           <external IP addr> if
DNAT                                                                    ACTION = DNAT

You need an entry in the ORIGINAL DESTINATION column only if the ACTION is DNAT, you have multiple external IP addresses and you want a specific IP address to be forwarded to your server.

Note that you do NOT need a rule with 20 (ftp-data) in the PORT(S) column. If you post your rules on the mailing list and they show 20 in the PORT(S) column, I will know that you haven't read this article and I will either ignore your post or tell you to RTFM.

Shorewall includes an FTP macro that simplifies creation of FTP rules. The macro source is in /usr/share/shorewall/macro.FTP. Using the macro is the preferred way to generate the rules described above. Here are a couple of examples.

Example 3. Server running behind a Masquerading Gateway

Suppose that you run an FTP server on 192.168.1.5 in your local zone using the standard port (21). You need this rule:

#ACTION      SOURCE     DESTINATION     PROTO     PORT(S)    SOURCE      ORIGINAL
#                                                            PORT(S)     DESTINATION
FTP/DNAT      net       loc:192.168.1.5

Example 4. Allow your DMZ FTP access to the Internet

#ACTION      SOURCE     DESTINATION     PROTO     PORT(S)    SOURCE      ORIGINAL
#                                                            PORT(S)     DESTINATION
FTP/ACCEPT   dmz        net

Note that the FTP connection tracking in the kernel cannot handle cases where a PORT command (or PASV reply) is broken across two packets or is misssing the ending <cr>/<lf>. When such cases occur, you will see a console message similar to this one:

Apr 28 23:55:09 gateway kernel: conntrack_ftp: partial PORT 715014972+1

I see this problem occasionally with the FTP server in my DMZ. My solution is to add the following rule:

#ACTION      SOURCE     DESTINATION     PROTO     PORT(S)    SOURCE      ORIGINAL
#                                                            PORT(S)     DESTINATION
ACCEPT:info  dmz        net             tcp       -          20

The above rule accepts and logs all active mode connections from my DMZ to the net.