Policy Objects: Introduction

A new feature, policy objects, will be part of the next firewalld feature release (v0.9.0). This is a major feature that has been in the works for almost a full year. It is significant because it closes one of the long standing gaps in firewalld’s functionality: forward and output filtering.


With some exceptions (e.g. masquerade, forward-ports) firewalld was previously limited to being an end-station firewall. This meant you could not use it to filter traffic flowing between virtual machines, containers, and zones. A subset of that functionality was available by using the direct interface and writing your own iptables rules, but it wasn’t a great user experience.

What is needed is a way to apply a policy for traffic flowing between zones. Then the user can attach firewalld’s primitives: services, ports, rich rules, etc. to the policy. The end result is something that provides a very similar user interface to zones, but is much more powerful.

What does it look like?

Manipulating policies is very similar to zones. This was a deliberate design decision to make them approachable for existing firewalld users.

Here are some examples for adding features to a policy:

# firewall-cmd --policy mypolicy --add-service ssh
# firewall-cmd --policy mypolicy --add-port 1234/tcp
# firewall-cmd --policy mypolicy --add-masquerade

This example shows the settings of the built-in policy allow-host-ipv6.

# firewall-cmd --info-policy allow-host-ipv6
allow-host-ipv6 (active)
  priority: -15000
  target: CONTINUE
  ingress-zones: ANY
  egress-zones: HOST
  masquerade: no
  rich rules:
       rule family="ipv6" icmp-type name="neighbour-advertisement" accept
       rule family="ipv6" icmp-type name="neighbour-solicitation" accept
       rule family="ipv6" icmp-type name="router-advertisement" accept
       rule family="ipv6" icmp-type name="redirect" accept

Relationship to Zones

Policies are applied to traffic flowing between zones in a stateful unidirectional manner. This allows different policies depending on the direction of traffic.

+----------+     policyA     +----------+
|          |  <------------  |          |
| libvirt  |                 |  public  |
|          |  ------------>  |          |
+----------+     policyB     +----------+

This diagram shows policyA that applies to traffic flowing from the public zone to the libvirt zone. policyB applies to traffic flowing from the internal zone to the public zone.

The configuration changes necessary to result in the diagram above are:

# firewall-cmd --permanent --new-policy policyA
# firewall-cmd --permanent --policy policyA --add-ingress-zone public
# firewall-cmd --permanent --policy policyA --add-egress-zone libvirt

# firewall-cmd --permanent --new-policy policyB
# firewall-cmd --permanent --policy policyB --add-ingress-zone libvirt
# firewall-cmd --permanent --policy policyB --add-egress-zone public

Manipulating Policies

Policies must be created by the user.

# firewall-cmd --permanent --new-policy mypolicy

Ingress and Egress Zones

As shown in the diagram above policies exists between zones. This means a set of ingress and egress zones must be defined before the policy becomes active. In this context an ingress zone is the zone from which the packet originated. The egress zone is the zone to which the packet is destined.

This example makes mypolicy apply to traffic flowing from the public zone to the internal zone:

# firewall-cmd --permanent --policy mypolicy --add-ingress-zone public
# firewall-cmd --permanent --policy mypolicy --add-egress-zone internal

The ingress and egress zone list can also be manipulated in the runtime configuration. It is also valid to use multiple zones in the ingress and egress zone lists.

# firewall-cmd --policy mypolicy --add-ingress-zone public
# firewall-cmd --policy mypolicy --add-ingress-zone external

Making a policy go inactive is done by emptying the ingress and/or the egress zone list.

# firewall-cmd --policy mypolicy --remove-ingress-zone internal


Multiple policies can be applied to the same set of traffic. Therefore it’s useful to have a priority to sort the policies by precedence.

# firewall-cmd --permanent --policy mypolicy --set-priority -500

The following rules apply to policy priorities:

  1. policies with negative priorities apply before rules in zones
  2. policies with positive priorities apply after rules in zones
    • This is especially important to understand because many zones have catch all accept/drop/reject. This applies to zone with a --set-target that is not default.
  3. priority 0 is reserved and not usable

Default Target

Policies have a --set-target option just like zones. This is a catch-all at the end of the policy’s rules. The default is CONTINUE which means packets will be subject to rules in following policies and zones. Other values are: ACCEPT, DROP, and REJECT.

# firewall-cmd --permanent --policy mypolicy --set-target CONTINUE

Symbolic Zones

There are a couple of symbolic zones for use in the ingress and egress zone lists: HOST, and ANY. HOST is used to allow policies for traffic originating from or destined to the host running firewalld. ANY is used to apply a policy to all current and future zones. ANY is effectively a wildcard for all zones.

This example, creates a policy that applies to traffic originating from the host running firewalld and is destined to any zone. Or said differently traffic in the OUTPUT chain.

# firewall-cmd --permanent --new-policy myOutputPolicy
# firewall-cmd --permanent --policy myOutputPolicy --add-ingress-zone HOST
# firewall-cmd --permanent --policy myOutputPolicy --add-egress-zone ANY

Man Pages

There are new man pages for policies.

Default Policies

At present firewalld ships with a single built-in policy: allow-host-ipv6. This policy is active by default and allows a subset of ICMPv6 necessary for bootstrapping IPv6 connectivity.