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Chapter 11. Iptables targets and jumps

The target/jumps tells the rule what to do with a packet that is a perfect match with the match section of the rule. There are a couple of basic targets, the ACCEPT and DROP targets, which we will deal with first. However, before we do that, let us have a brief look at how a jump is done.

The jump specification is done in exactly the same way as in the target definition, except that it requires a chain within the same table to jump to. To jump to a specific chain, it is of course a prerequisite that that chain exists. As we have already explained, a user-defined chain is created with the -N command. For example, let's say we create a chain in the filter table called tcp_packets, like this:

iptables -N tcp_packets

We could then add a jump target to it like this:

iptables -A INPUT -p tcp -j tcp_packets

We would then jump from the INPUT chain to the tcp_packets chain and start traversing that chain. When/If we reach the end of that chain, we get dropped back to the INPUT chain and the packet starts traversing from the rule one step below where it jumped to the other chain (tcp_packets in this case). If a packet is ACCEPTed within one of the sub chains, it will be ACCEPT'ed in the superset chain also and it will not traverse any of the superset chains any further. However, do note that the packet will traverse all other chains in the other tables in a normal fashion. For more information on table and chain traversing, see the Traversing of tables and chains chapter.

Targets on the other hand specify an action to take on the packet in question. We could for example, DROP or ACCEPT the packet depending on what we want to do. There are also a number of other actions we may want to take, which we will describe further on in this section. Jumping to targets may incur different results, as it were. Some targets will cause the packet to stop traversing that specific chain and superior chains as described above. Good examples of such rules are DROP and ACCEPT. Rules that are stopped, will not pass through any of the rules further on in the chain or in superior chains. Other targets, may take an action on the packet, after which the packet will continue passing through the rest of the rules. A good example of this would be the LOG, ULOG and TOS targets. These targets can log the packets, mangle them and then pass them on to the other rules in the same set of chains. We might, for example, want this so that we in addition can mangle both the TTL and the TOS values of a specific packet/stream. Some targets will accept extra options (What TOS value to use etc), while others don't necessarily need any options - but we can include them if we want to (log prefixes, masquerade-to ports and so on). We will try to cover all of these points as we go through the target descriptions. Let us have a look at what kinds of targets there are.

11.1. ACCEPT target

This target needs no further options. As soon as the match specification for a packet has been fully satisfied, and we specify ACCEPT as the target, the rule is accepted and will not continue traversing the current chain or any other ones in the same table. Note however, that a packet that was accepted in one chain might still travel through chains within other tables, and could still be dropped there. There is nothing special about this target whatsoever, and it does not require, nor have the possibility of, adding options to the target. To use this target, we simply specify -j ACCEPT.


Works under Linux kernel 2.3, 2.4, 2.5 and 2.6.

  Published under the terms fo the GNU General Public License Design by Interspire