Network Filters

This page provides an introduction to libvirt's network filters, their goals, concepts and XML format.

Goals and background

The goal of the network filtering XML is to enable administrators of a virtualized system to configure and enforce network traffic filtering rules on virtual machines and manage the parameters of network traffic that virtual machines are allowed to send or receive. The network traffic filtering rules are applied on the host when a virtual machine is started. Since the filtering rules cannot be circumvented from within the virtual machine, it makes them mandatory from the point of view of a virtual machine user.

The network filter subsystem allows each virtual machine's network traffic filtering rules to be configured individually on a per interface basis. The rules are applied on the host when the virtual machine is started and can be modified while the virtual machine is running. The latter can be achieved by modifying the XML description of a network filter.

Multiple virtual machines can make use of the same generic network filter. When such a filter is modified, the network traffic filtering rules of all running virtual machines that reference this filter are updated.

Network filtering support is available since 0.8.1 (Qemu, KVM)

Concepts

The network traffic filtering subsystem enables configuration of network traffic filtering rules on individual network interfaces that are configured for certain types of network configurations. Supported network types are

The interface XML is used to reference a top-level filter. In the following example, the interface description references the filter clean-traffic.

  ...
  <devices>
    <interface type='bridge'>
      <mac address='00:16:3e:5d:c7:9e'/>
      <filterref filter='clean-traffic'/>
    </interface>
  </devices>
  ...

Network filters are written in XML and may either contain references to other filters, contain rules for traffic filtering, or hold a combination of both. The above referenced filter clean-traffic is a filter that only contains references to other filters and no actual filtering rules. Since references to other filters can be used, a tree of filters can be built. The clean-traffic filter can be viewed using the command virsh nwfilter-dumpxml clean-traffic.

As previously mentioned, a single network filter can be referenced by multiple virtual machines. Since interfaces will typically have individual parameters associated with their respective traffic filtering rules, the rules described in a filter XML can be parameterized with variables. In this case, the variable name is used in the filter XML and the name and value are provided at the place where the filter is referenced. In the following example, the interface description has been extended with the parameter IP and a dotted IP address as value.

  ...
  <devices>
    <interface type='bridge'>
      <mac address='00:16:3e:5d:c7:9e'/>
      <filterref filter='clean-traffic'>
        <parameter name='IP' value='10.0.0.1'/>
      </filterref>
    </interface>
  </devices>
  ...

In this particular example, the clean-traffic network traffic filter will be instantiated with the IP address parameter 10.0.0.1 and enforce that the traffic from this interface will always be using 10.0.0.1 as the source IP address, which is one of the purposes of this particular filter.

Filtering chains

Filtering rules are organized in filter chains. These chains can be thought of as having a tree structure with packet filtering rules as entries in individual chains (branches).
Packets start their filter evaluation in the root chain and can then continue their evaluation in other chains, return from those chains back into the root chain or be dropped or accepted by a filtering rule in one of the traversed chains.
Libvirt's network filtering system automatically creates individual root chains for every virtual machine's network interface on which the user chooses to activate traffic filtering. The user may write filtering rules that are either directly instantiated in the root chain or may create protocol-specific filtering chains for efficient evaluation of protocol-specific rules. The following chains exist:

Since 0.9.8 multiple chains evaluating the mac, stp, vlan, arp, rarp, ipv4, or ipv6 protocol can be created using the protocol name only as a prefix in the chain's name. This for examples allows chains with names arp-xyz or arp-test to be specified and have ARP protocol packets evaluated in those chains.

The following filter shows an example of filtering ARP traffic in the arp chain.

<filter name='no-arp-spoofing' chain='arp' priority='-500'>
  <uuid>f88f1932-debf-4aa1-9fbe-f10d3aa4bc95</uuid>
  <rule action='drop' direction='out' priority='300'>
    <mac match='no' srcmacaddr='$MAC'/>
  </rule>
  <rule action='drop' direction='out' priority='350'>
    <arp match='no' arpsrcmacaddr='$MAC'/>
  </rule>
  <rule action='drop' direction='out' priority='400'>
    <arp match='no' arpsrcipaddr='$IP'/>
  </rule>
  <rule action='drop' direction='in' priority='450'>
    <arp opcode='Reply'/>
    <arp match='no' arpdstmacaddr='$MAC'/>
  </rule>
  <rule action='drop' direction='in' priority='500'>
    <arp match='no' arpdstipaddr='$IP'/>
  </rule>
  <rule action='accept' direction='inout' priority='600'>
    <arp opcode='Request'/>
  </rule>
  <rule action='accept' direction='inout' priority='650'>
    <arp opcode='Reply'/>
  </rule>
  <rule action='drop' direction='inout' priority='1000'/>
</filter>

The consequence of putting ARP-specific rules in the arp chain, rather than for example in the root chain, is that packets for any other protocol than ARP do not need to be evaluated by ARP protocol-specific rules. This improves the efficiency of the traffic filtering. However, one must then pay attention to only put filtering rules for the given protocol into the chain since any other rules will not be evaluated, i.e., an IPv4 rule will not be evaluated in the ARP chain since no IPv4 protocol packets will traverse the ARP chain.

Filtering chain priorities

All chains are connected to the root chain. The order in which those chains are accessed is influenced by the priority of the chain. The following table shows the chains that can be assigned a priority and their default priorities.

Chain (prefix) Default priority
stp-810
mac-800
vlan-750
ipv4-700
ipv6-600
arp-500
rarp-400

A chain with a lower priority value is accessed before one with a higher value.
Since 0.9.8 the above listed chains can be assigned custom priorities by writing a value in the range [-1000, 1000] into the priority (XML) attribute in the filter node. The above example filter shows the default priority of -500 for arp chains.

Usage of variables in filters

Two variables names have so far been reserved for usage by the network traffic filtering subsystem: MAC and IP.

MAC is the MAC address of the network interface. A filtering rule that references this variable will automatically be instantiated with the MAC address of the interface. This works without the user having to explicitly provide the MAC parameter. Even though it is possible to specify the MAC parameter similar to the IP parameter above, it is discouraged since libvirt knows what MAC address an interface will be using.

The parameter IP represents the IP address that the operating system inside the virtual machine is expected to use on the given interface. The IP parameter is special in so far as the libvirt daemon will try to determine the IP address (and thus the IP parameter's value) that is being used on an interface if the parameter is not explicitly provided but referenced. For current limitations on IP address detection, consult the section on limitations on how to use this feature and what to expect when using it.

The above-shown network filer no-arp-spoofing is an example of a network filter XML referencing the MAC and IP variables.

Note that referenced variables are always prefixed with the $ (dollar) sign. The format of the value of a variable must be of the type expected by the filter attribute in the XML. In the above example, the IP parameter must hold a dotted IP address in decimal numbers format. Failure to provide the correct value type will result in the filter not being instantiatable and will prevent a virtual machine from starting or the interface from attaching when hotplugging is used. The types that are expected for each XML attribute are shown below.

Since 0.9.8 variables can contain lists of elements, e.g., the variable IP can contain multiple IP addresses that are valid on a particular interface. The notation for providing multiple elements for the IP variable is:

  ...
  <devices>
    <interface type='bridge'>
      <mac address='00:16:3e:5d:c7:9e'/>
      <filterref filter='clean-traffic'>
        <parameter name='IP' value='10.0.0.1'/>
        <parameter name='IP' value='10.0.0.2'/>
        <parameter name='IP' value='10.0.0.3'/>
      </filterref>
    </interface>
  </devices>
  ...

This then allows filters to enable multiple IP addresses per interface. Therefore, with the list of IP address shown above, the following rule will create 3 individual filtering rules, one for each IP address.

  ...
  <rule action='accept' direction='in' priority='500'>
    <tcp srpipaddr='$IP'/>
  </rule>
  ...

Since 0.9.10 it is possible to access individual elements of a variable holding a list of elements. A filtering rule like the following accesses the 2nd element of the variable DSTPORTS.

  ...
  <rule action='accept' direction='in' priority='500'>
    <udp dstportstart='$DSTPORTS[1]'/>
  </rule>
  ...

Since 0.9.10 it is possible to create filtering rules that instantiate all combinations of rules from different lists using the notation of $VARIABLE[@<iterator ID>]. The following rule allows a virtual machine to receive traffic on a set of ports, which are specified in DSTPORTS, from the set of source IP address specified in SRCIPADDRESSES. The rule generates all combinations of elements of the variable DSTPORT with those of SRCIPADDRESSES by using two independent iterators to access their elements.

  ...
  <rule action='accept' direction='in' priority='500'>
    <ip srcipaddr='$SRCIPADDRESSES[@1]' dstportstart='$DSTPORTS[@2]'/>
  </rule>
  ...

In an example we assign concrete values to SRCIPADDRESSES and DSTPORTS

  SRCIPADDRESSES = [ 10.0.0.1, 11.1.2.3 ]
  DSTPORTS = [ 80, 8080 ]

Accessing the variables using $SRCIPADDRESSES[@1] and $DSTPORTS[@2] would then result in all combinations of addresses and ports being created:

  10.0.0.1, 80
  10.0.0.1, 8080
  11.1.2.3, 80
  11.1.2.3, 8080

Accessing the same variables using a single iterator, for example by using the notation $SRCIPADDRESSES[@1] and $DSTPORTS[@1], would result in parallel access to both lists and result in the following combinations:

  10.0.0.1, 80
  11.1.2.3, 8080

Further, the notation of $VARIABLE is short-hand for $VARIABLE[@0]. The former notation always assumes the iterator with Id '0'.

Automatic IP address detection

The detection of IP addresses used on a virtual machine's interface is automatically activated if the variable IP is referenced but no value has been assigned to it. Since 0.9.13 the variable CTRL_IP_LEARNING can be used to specify the IP address learning method to use. Valid values are any, dhcp, or none.

The value any means that libvirt may use any packet to determine the address in use by a virtual machine, which is the default behavior if the variable CTRL_IP_LEARNING is not set. This method will only detect a single IP address on an interface. Once a VM's IP address has been detected, its IP network traffic will be locked to that address, if for example IP address spoofing is prevented by one of its filters. In that case the user of the VM will not be able to change the IP address on the interface inside the VM, which would be considered IP address spoofing. When a VM is migrated to another host or resumed after a suspend operation, the first packet sent by the VM will again determine the IP address it can use on a particular interface.
A value of dhcp specifies that libvirt should only honor DHCP server-assigned addresses with valid leases. This method supports the detection and usage of multiple IP address per interface. When a VM is resumed after a suspend operation, still valid IP address leases are applied to its filters. Otherwise the VM is expected to again use DHCP to obtain new IP addresses. The migration of a VM to another physical host requires that the VM again runs the DHCP protocol.

Use of CTRL_IP_LEARNING=dhcp (DHCP snooping) provides additional anti-spoofing security, especially when combined with a filter allowing only trusted DHCP servers to assign addresses. To enable this, set the variable DHCPSERVER to the IP address of a valid DHCP server and provide filters that use this variable to filter incoming DHCP responses.

When DHCP snooping is enabled and the DHCP lease expires, the VM will no longer be able to use the IP address until it acquires a new, valid lease from a DHCP server. If the VM is migrated, it must get a new valid DHCP lease to use an IP address (e.g., by bringing the VM interface down and up again).

Note that automatic DHCP detection listens to the DHCP traffic the VM exchanges with the DHCP server of the infrastructure. To avoid denial-of-service attacks on libvirt, the evaluation of those packets is rate-limited, meaning that a VM sending an excessive number of DHCP packets per second on an interface will not have all of those packets evaluated and thus filters may not get adapted. Normal DHCP client behavior is assumed to send a low number of DHCP packets per second. Further, it is important to setup appropriate filters on all VMs in the infrastructure to avoid them being able to send DHCP packets. Therefore VMs must either be prevented from sending UDP and TCP traffic from port 67 to port 68 or the DHCPSERVER variable should be used on all VMs to restrict DHCP server messages to only be allowed to originate from trusted DHCP servers. At the same time anti-spoofing prevention must be enabled on all VMs in the subnet.

If CTRL_IP_LEARNING is set to none, libvirt does not do IP address learning and referencing IP without assigning it an explicit value is an error.

The following XML provides an example for the activation of IP address learning using the DHCP snooping method:

    <interface type='bridge'>
      <source bridge='virbr0'/>
      <filterref filter='clean-traffic'>
        <parameter name='CTRL_IP_LEARNING' value='dhcp'/>
      </filterref>
    </interface>

Reserved Variables

The following table lists reserved variables in use by libvirt.

Variable Name Semantics
MAC The MAC address of the interface
IP The list of IP addresses in use by an interface
IPV6 Not currently implemented: the list of IPV6 addresses in use by an interface
DHCPSERVER The list of IP addresses of trusted DHCP servers
DHCPSERVERV6 Not currently implemented: The list of IPv6 addresses of trusted DHCP servers
CTRL_IP_LEARNING The choice of the IP address detection mode

Element and attribute overview

The root element required for all network filters is named filter with two possible attributes. The name attribute provides a unique name of the given filter. The chain attribute is optional but allows certain filters to be better organized for more efficient processing by the firewall subsystem of the underlying host. Currently the system only supports the chains root, ipv4, ipv6, arp and rarp.

References to other filters

Any filter may hold references to other filters. Individual filters may be referenced multiple times in a filter tree but references between filters must not introduce loops (directed acyclic graph).

The following shows the XML of the clean-traffic network filter referencing several other filters.

<filter name='clean-traffic'>
  <uuid>6ef53069-ba34-94a0-d33d-17751b9b8cb1</uuid>
  <filterref filter='no-mac-spoofing'/>
  <filterref filter='no-ip-spoofing'/>
  <filterref filter='allow-incoming-ipv4'/>
  <filterref filter='no-arp-spoofing'/>
  <filterref filter='no-other-l2-traffic'/>
  <filterref filter='qemu-announce-self'/>
</filter>

To reference another filter, the XML node filterref needs to be provided inside a filter node. This node must have the attribute filter whose value contains the name of the filter to be referenced.

New network filters can be defined at any time and may contain references to network filters that are not known to libvirt, yet. However, once a virtual machine is started or a network interface referencing a filter is to be hotplugged, all network filters in the filter tree must be available. Otherwise the virtual machine will not start or the network interface cannot be attached.

Filter rules

The following XML shows a simple example of a network traffic filter implementing a rule to drop traffic if the IP address (provided through the value of the variable IP) in an outgoing IP packet is not the expected one, thus preventing IP address spoofing by the VM.

<filter name='no-ip-spoofing' chain='ipv4'>
  <uuid>fce8ae33-e69e-83bf-262e-30786c1f8072</uuid>
  <rule action='drop' direction='out' priority='500'>
    <ip match='no' srcipaddr='$IP'/>
  </rule>
</filter>

A traffic filtering rule starts with the rule node. This node may contain up to three attributes

The above example indicates that the traffic of type ip will be associated with the chain 'ipv4' and the rule will have priority 500. If for example another filter is referenced whose traffic of type ip is also associated with the chain 'ipv4' then that filter's rules will be ordered relative to the priority 500 of the shown rule.

A rule may contain a single rule for filtering of traffic. The above example shows that traffic of type ip is to be filtered.

Supported protocols

The following sections enumerate the list of protocols that are supported by the network filtering subsystem. The type of traffic a rule is supposed to filter on is provided in the rule node as a nested node. Depending on the traffic type a rule is filtering, the attributes are different. The above example showed the single attribute srcipaddr that is valid inside the ip traffic filtering node. The following sections show what attributes are valid and what type of data they are expecting. The following datatypes are available:



Every attribute except for those of type IP_MASK or IPV6_MASK can be negated using the match attribute with value no. Multiple negated attributes may be grouped together. The following XML fragment shows such an example using abstract attributes.

[...]
  <rule action='drop' direction='in'>
    <protocol match='no' attribute1='value1' attribute2='value2'/>
    <protocol attribute3='value3'/>
  </rule>
[...]

Rules perform a logical AND evaluation on all values of the given protocol attributes. Thus, if a single attribute's value does not match the one given in the rule, the whole rule will be skipped during evaluation. Therefore, in the above example incoming traffic will only be dropped if the protocol property attribute1 does not match value1 AND the protocol property attribute2 does not match value2 AND the protocol property attribute3 matches value3.

MAC (Ethernet)

Protocol ID: mac
Note: Rules of this type should go into the root chain.

Attribute Datatype Semantics
srcmacaddrMAC_ADDRMAC address of sender
srcmacmaskMAC_MASKMask applied to MAC address of sender
dstmacaddrMAC_ADDRMAC address of destination
dstmacmaskMAC_MASKMask applied to MAC address of destination
protocolidUINT16 (0x600-0xffff), STRINGLayer 3 protocol ID
comment (Since 0.8.5)STRINGtext with max. 256 characters

Valid Strings for protocolid are: arp, rarp, ipv4, ipv6

[...]
<mac match='no' srcmacaddr='$MAC'/>
[...]
VLAN (802.1Q) (Since 0.9.8)

Protocol ID: vlan
Note: Rules of this type should go either into the root or vlan chain.

Attribute Datatype Semantics
srcmacaddrMAC_ADDRMAC address of sender
srcmacmaskMAC_MASKMask applied to MAC address of sender
dstmacaddrMAC_ADDRMAC address of destination
dstmacmaskMAC_MASKMask applied to MAC address of destination
vlanidUINT16 (0x0-0xfff, 0 - 4095)VLAN ID
encap-protocolUINT16 (0x03c-0xfff), StringEncapsulated layer 3 protocol ID
comment STRINGtext with max. 256 characters

Valid Strings for encap-protocol are: arp, ipv4, ipv6

STP (Spanning Tree Protocol) (Since 0.9.8)

Protocol ID: stp
Note: Rules of this type should go either into the root or stp chain.

Attribute Datatype Semantics
srcmacaddrMAC_ADDRMAC address of sender
srcmacmaskMAC_MASKMask applied to MAC address of sender
typeUINT8Bridge Protocol Data Unit (BPDU) type
flagsUINT8BPDU flag
root-priorityUINT16Root priority (range start)
root-priority-hiUINT16Root priority range end
root-addressMAC_ADDRESSRoot MAC address
root-address-maskMAC_MASKRoot MAC address mask
root-costUINT32Root path cost (range start)
root-cost-hiUINT32Root path cost range end
sender-priorityUINT16Sender priority (range start)
sender-priority-hiUINT16Sender priority range end
sender-addressMAC_ADDRESSBPDU sender MAC address
sender-address-maskMAC_MASKBPDU sender MAC address mask
portUINT16Port identifier (range start)
port_hiUINT16Port identifier range end
msg-ageUINT16Message age timer (range start)
msg-age-hiUINT16Message age timer range end
max-ageUINT16Maximum age timer (range start)
max-age-hiUINT16Maximum age timer range end
hello-timeUINT16Hello time timer (range start)
hello-time-hiUINT16Hello time timer range end
forward-delayUINT16Forward delay (range start)
forward-delay-hiUINT16Forward delay range end
commentSTRINGtext with max. 256 characters
ARP/RARP

Protocol ID: arp or rarp
Note: Rules of this type should either go into the root or arp/rarp chain.

Attribute Datatype Semantics
srcmacaddrMAC_ADDRMAC address of sender
srcmacmaskMAC_MASKMask applied to MAC address of sender
dstmacaddrMAC_ADDRMAC address of destination
dstmacmaskMAC_MASKMask applied to MAC address of destination
hwtypeUINT16Hardware type
protocoltypeUINT16Protocol type
opcodeUINT16, STRINGOpcode
arpsrcmacaddrMAC_ADDRSource MAC address in ARP/RARP packet
arpdstmacaddrMAC_ADDRDestination MAC address in ARP/RARP packet
arpsrcipaddrIP_ADDRSource IP address in ARP/RARP packet
arpsrcipmask (Since 1.2.3)IP_MASKSource IP mask
arpdstipaddrIP_ADDRDestination IP address in ARP/RARP packet
arpdstipmask (Since 1.2.3)IP_MASKDestination IP mask
comment (Since 0.8.5)STRINGtext with max. 256 characters
gratuitous (Since 0.9.2)BOOLEANboolean indicating whether to check for gratuitous ARP packet

Valid strings for the Opcode field are: Request, Reply, Request_Reverse, Reply_Reverse, DRARP_Request, DRARP_Reply, DRARP_Error, InARP_Request, ARP_NAK

IPv4

Protocol ID: ip
Note: Rules of this type should either go into the root or ipv4 chain.

Attribute Datatype Semantics
srcmacaddrMAC_ADDRMAC address of sender
srcmacmaskMAC_MASKMask applied to MAC address of sender
dstmacaddrMAC_ADDRMAC address of destination
dstmacmaskMAC_MASKMask applied to MAC address of destination
srcipaddrIP_ADDRSource IP address
srcipmaskIP_MASKMask applied to source IP address
dstipaddrIP_ADDRDestination IP address
dstipmaskIP_MASKMask applied to destination IP address
protocolUINT8, STRINGLayer 4 protocol identifier
srcportstartUINT16Start of range of valid source ports; requires protocol
srcportendUINT16End of range of valid source ports; requires protocol
dstportstartUINT16Start of range of valid destination ports; requires protocol
dstportendUINT16End of range of valid destination ports; requires protocol
dscpUINT8 (0x0-0x3f, 0 - 63)Differentiated Services Code Point
comment (Since 0.8.5)STRINGtext with max. 256 characters

Valid strings for protocol are: tcp, udp, udplite, esp, ah, icmp, igmp, sctp

IPv6

Protocol ID: ipv6
Note: Rules of this type should either go into the root or ipv6 chain.

Attribute Datatype Semantics
srcmacaddrMAC_ADDRMAC address of sender
srcmacmaskMAC_MASKMask applied to MAC address of sender
dstmacaddrMAC_ADDRMAC address of destination
dstmacmaskMAC_MASKMask applied to MAC address of destination
srcipaddrIPV6_ADDRSource IPv6 address
srcipmaskIPV6_MASKMask applied to source IPv6 address
dstipaddrIPV6_ADDRDestination IPv6 address
dstipmaskIPV6_MASKMask applied to destination IPv6 address
protocolUINT8Layer 4 protocol identifier
srcportstartUINT16Start of range of valid source ports; requires protocol
srcportendUINT16End of range of valid source ports; requires protocol
dstportstartUINT16Start of range of valid destination ports; requires protocol
dstportendUINT16End of range of valid destination ports; requires protocol
type(Since 1.2.12)UINT8ICMPv6 type; requires protocol to be set to icmpv6
typeend(Since 1.2.12)UINT8ICMPv6 type end of range; requires protocol to be set to icmpv6
code(Since 1.2.12)UINT8ICMPv6 code; requires protocol to be set to icmpv6
code(Since 1.2.12)UINT8ICMPv6 code end of range; requires protocol to be set to icmpv6
comment (Since 0.8.5)STRINGtext with max. 256 characters

Valid strings for protocol are: tcp, udp, udplite, esp, ah, icmpv6, sctp

TCP/UDP/SCTP

Protocol ID: tcp, udp, sctp
Note: The chain parameter is ignored for this type of traffic and should either be omitted or set to root.

Attribute Datatype Semantics
srcmacaddrMAC_ADDRMAC address of sender
srcipaddrIP_ADDRSource IP address
srcipmaskIP_MASKMask applied to source IP address
dstipaddrIP_ADDRDestination IP address
dstipmaskIP_MASKMask applied to destination IP address
srcipfromIP_ADDRStart of range of source IP address
srciptoIP_ADDREnd of range of source IP address
dstipfromIP_ADDRStart of range of destination IP address
dstiptoIP_ADDREnd of range of destination IP address
srcportstartUINT16Start of range of valid source ports
srcportendUINT16End of range of valid source ports
dstportstartUINT16Start of range of valid destination ports
dstportendUINT16End of range of valid destination ports
dscpUINT8 (0x0-0x3f, 0 - 63)Differentiated Services Code Point
comment (Since 0.8.5)STRINGtext with max. 256 characters
state (Since 0.8.5)STRINGcomma separated list of NEW,ESTABLISHED,RELATED,INVALID or NONE
flags (Since 0.9.1)STRINGTCP-only: format of mask/flags with mask and flags each being a comma separated list of SYN,ACK,URG,PSH,FIN,RST or NONE or ALL
ipset (Since 0.9.13)STRINGThe name of an IPSet managed outside of libvirt
ipsetflags (Since 0.9.13)IPSETFLAGSflags for the IPSet; requires ipset attribute



ICMP

Protocol ID: icmp
Note: The chain parameter is ignored for this type of traffic and should either be omitted or set to root.

Attribute Datatype Semantics
srcmacaddrMAC_ADDRMAC address of sender
srcmacmaskMAC_MASKMask applied to MAC address of sender
dstmacaddrMAC_ADDRMAC address of destination
dstmacmaskMAC_MASKMask applied to MAC address of destination
srcipaddrIP_ADDRSource IP address
srcipmaskIP_MASKMask applied to source IP address
dstipaddrIP_ADDRDestination IP address
dstipmaskIP_MASKMask applied to destination IP address
srcipfromIP_ADDRStart of range of source IP address
srciptoIP_ADDREnd of range of source IP address
dstipfromIP_ADDRStart of range of destination IP address
dstiptoIP_ADDREnd of range of destination IP address
typeUINT16ICMP type
codeUINT16ICMP code
dscpUINT8 (0x0-0x3f, 0 - 63)Differentiated Services Code Point
comment (Since 0.8.5)STRINGtext with max. 256 characters
state (Since 0.8.5)STRINGcomma separated list of NEW,ESTABLISHED,RELATED,INVALID or NONE
ipset (Since 0.9.13)STRINGThe name of an IPSet managed outside of libvirt
ipsetflags (Since 0.9.13)IPSETFLAGSflags for the IPSet; requires ipset attribute



IGMP, ESP, AH, UDPLITE, 'ALL'

Protocol ID: igmp, esp, ah, udplite, all
Note: The chain parameter is ignored for this type of traffic and should either be omitted or set to root.

Attribute Datatype Semantics
srcmacaddrMAC_ADDRMAC address of sender
srcmacmaskMAC_MASKMask applied to MAC address of sender
dstmacaddrMAC_ADDRMAC address of destination
dstmacmaskMAC_MASKMask applied to MAC address of destination
srcipaddrIP_ADDRSource IP address
srcipmaskIP_MASKMask applied to source IP address
dstipaddrIP_ADDRDestination IP address
dstipmaskIP_MASKMask applied to destination IP address
srcipfromIP_ADDRStart of range of source IP address
srciptoIP_ADDREnd of range of source IP address
dstipfromIP_ADDRStart of range of destination IP address
dstiptoIP_ADDREnd of range of destination IP address
dscpUINT8 (0x0-0x3f, 0 - 63)Differentiated Services Code Point
comment (Since 0.8.5)STRINGtext with max. 256 characters
state (Since 0.8.5)STRINGcomma separated list of NEW,ESTABLISHED,RELATED,INVALID or NONE
ipset (Since 0.9.13)STRINGThe name of an IPSet managed outside of libvirt
ipsetflags (Since 0.9.13)IPSETFLAGSflags for the IPSet; requires ipset attribute



TCP/UDP/SCTP over IPV6

Protocol ID: tcp-ipv6, udp-ipv6, sctp-ipv6
Note: The chain parameter is ignored for this type of traffic and should either be omitted or set to root.

Attribute Datatype Semantics
srcmacaddrMAC_ADDRMAC address of sender
srcipaddrIPV6_ADDRSource IP address
srcipmaskIPV6_MASKMask applied to source IP address
dstipaddrIPV6_ADDRDestination IP address
dstipmaskIPV6_MASKMask applied to destination IP address
srcipfromIPV6_ADDRStart of range of source IP address
srciptoIPV6_ADDREnd of range of source IP address
dstipfromIPV6_ADDRStart of range of destination IP address
dstiptoIPV6_ADDREnd of range of destination IP address
srcportstartUINT16Start of range of valid source ports
srcportendUINT16End of range of valid source ports
dstportstartUINT16Start of range of valid destination ports
dstportendUINT16End of range of valid destination ports
dscpUINT8 (0x0-0x3f, 0 - 63)Differentiated Services Code Point
comment (Since 0.8.5)STRINGtext with max. 256 characters
state (Since 0.8.5)STRINGcomma separated list of NEW,ESTABLISHED,RELATED,INVALID or NONE
flags (Since 0.9.1)STRINGTCP-only: format of mask/flags with mask and flags each being a comma separated list of SYN,ACK,URG,PSH,FIN,RST or NONE or ALL
ipset (Since 0.9.13)STRINGThe name of an IPSet managed outside of libvirt
ipsetflags (Since 0.9.13)IPSETFLAGSflags for the IPSet; requires ipset attribute



ICMPv6

Protocol ID: icmpv6
Note: The chain parameter is ignored for this type of traffic and should either be omitted or set to root.

Attribute Datatype Semantics
srcmacaddrMAC_ADDRMAC address of sender
srcipaddrIPV6_ADDRSource IPv6 address
srcipmaskIPV6_MASKMask applied to source IPv6 address
dstipaddrIPV6_ADDRDestination IPv6 address
dstipmaskIPV6_MASKMask applied to destination IPv6 address
srcipfromIPV6_ADDRStart of range of source IP address
srciptoIPV6_ADDREnd of range of source IP address
dstipfromIPV6_ADDRStart of range of destination IP address
dstiptoIPV6_ADDREnd of range of destination IP address
typeUINT16ICMPv6 type
codeUINT16ICMPv6 code
dscpUINT8 (0x0-0x3f, 0 - 63)Differentiated Services Code Point
comment (Since 0.8.5)STRINGtext with max. 256 characters
state (Since 0.8.5)STRINGcomma separated list of NEW,ESTABLISHED,RELATED,INVALID or NONE
ipset (Since 0.9.13)STRINGThe name of an IPSet managed outside of libvirt
ipsetflags (Since 0.9.13)IPSETFLAGSflags for the IPSet; requires ipset attribute



ESP, AH, UDPLITE, 'ALL' over IPv6

Protocol ID: esp-ipv6, ah-ipv6, udplite-ipv6, all-ipv6
Note: The chain parameter is ignored for this type of traffic and should either be omitted or set to root.

Attribute Datatype Semantics
srcmacaddrMAC_ADDRMAC address of sender
srcipaddrIPV6_ADDRSource IPv6 address
srcipmaskIPV6_MASKMask applied to source IPv6 address
dstipaddrIPV6_ADDRDestination IPv6 address
dstipmaskIPV6_MASKMask applied to destination IPv6 address
srcipfromIPV6_ADDRStart of range of source IP address
srciptoIPV6_ADDREnd of range of source IP address
dstipfromIPV6_ADDRStart of range of destination IP address
dstiptoIPV6_ADDREnd of range of destination IP address
dscpUINT8 (0x0-0x3f, 0 - 63)Differentiated Services Code Point
comment (Since 0.8.5)STRINGtext with max. 256 characters
state (Since 0.8.5)STRINGcomma separated list of NEW,ESTABLISHED,RELATED,INVALID or NONE
ipset (Since 0.9.13)STRINGThe name of an IPSet managed outside of libvirt
ipsetflags (Since 0.9.13)IPSETFLAGSflags for the IPSet; requires ipset attribute



Advanced Filter Configuration Topics

The following sections discuss advanced filter configuration topics.

Connection tracking

The network filtering subsystem (on Linux) makes use of the connection tracking support of iptables. This helps in enforcing the directionality of network traffic (state match) as well as counting and limiting the number of simultaneous connections towards a VM. As an example, if a VM has TCP port 8080 open as a server, clients may connect to the VM on port 8080. Connection tracking and enforcement of directionality then prevents the VM from initiating a connection from (TCP client) port 8080 to the host back to a remote host. More importantly, tracking helps to prevent remote attackers from establishing a connection back to a VM. For example, if the user inside the VM established a connection to port 80 on an attacker site, then the attacker will not be able to initiate a connection from TCP port 80 back towards the VM. By default the connection state match that enables connection tracking and then enforcement of directionality of traffic is turned on.
The following shows an example XML fragment where this feature has been turned off for incoming connections to TCP port 12345.

   [...]
    <rule direction='in' action='accept' statematch='false'>
      <tcp dstportstart='12345'/>
    </rule>
   [...]

This now allows incoming traffic to TCP port 12345, but would also enable the initiation from (client) TCP port 12345 within the VM, which may or may not be desirable.

Limiting Number of Connections

To limit the number of connections a VM may establish, a rule must be provided that sets a limit of connections for a given type of traffic. If for example a VM is supposed to be allowed to only ping one other IP address at a time and is supposed to have only one active incoming ssh connection at a time, the following XML fragment can be used to achieve this.

  [...]
  <rule action='drop' direction='in' priority='400'>
    <tcp connlimit-above='1'/>
  </rule>
  <rule action='accept' direction='in' priority='500'>
    <tcp dstportstart='22'/>
  </rule>
  <rule action='drop' direction='out' priority='400'>
    <icmp connlimit-above='1'/>
  </rule>
  <rule action='accept' direction='out' priority='500'>
    <icmp/>
  </rule>
  <rule action='accept' direction='out' priority='500'>
    <udp dstportstart='53'/>
  </rule>
  <rule action='drop' direction='inout' priority='1000'>
    <all/>
  </rule>
  [...]

Note that the rule for the limit has to logically appear before the rule for accepting the traffic.
An additional rule for letting DNS traffic to port 22 go out the VM has been added to avoid ssh sessions not getting established for reasons related to DNS lookup failures by the ssh daemon. Leaving this rule out may otherwise lead to fun-filled debugging joy (symptom: ssh client seems to hang while trying to connect).

Lot of care must be taken with timeouts related to tracking of traffic. An ICMP ping that the user may have terminated inside the VM may have a long timeout in the host's connection tracking system and therefore not allow another ICMP ping to go through for a while. Therefore, the timeouts have to be tuned in the host's sysfs, i.e.,

  echo 3 > /proc/sys/net/netfilter/nf_conntrack_icmp_timeout

sets the ICMP connection tracking timeout to 3 seconds. The effect of this is that once one ping is terminated, another one can start after 3 seconds.
Further, we want to point out that a client that for whatever reason has not properly closed a TCP connection may cause a connection to be held open for a longer period of time, depending to what timeout the TCP established state timeout has been set to on the host. Also, idle connections may time out in the connection tracking system but can be reactivated once packets are exchanged. However, a newly initiated connection may force an idle connection into TCP backoff if the number of allowed connections is set to a too low limit, the new connection is established and hits (not exceeds) the limit of allowed connections and for example a key is pressed on the old ssh session, which now has become unresponsive due to its traffic being dropped. Therefore, the limit of connections should be rather high so that fluctuations in new TCP connections don't cause odd traffic behavior in relation to idle connections.

Command line tools

The libvirt command line tool virsh has been extended with life-cycle support for network filters. All commands related to the network filtering subsystem start with the prefix nwfilter. The following commands are available:

Pre-existing network filters

The following is a list of example network filters that are automatically installed with libvirt.

Name Description
no-arp-spoofing Prevent a VM from spoofing ARP traffic; this filter only allows ARP request and reply messages and enforces that those packets contain the MAC and IP addresses of the VM.
allow-dhcp Allow a VM to request an IP address via DHCP (from any DHCP server)
allow-dhcp-server Allow a VM to request an IP address from a specified DHCP server. The dotted decimal IP address of the DHCP server must be provided in a reference to this filter. The name of the variable must be DHCPSERVER.
no-ip-spoofing Prevent a VM from sending of IP packets with a source IP address different from the one in the packet.
no-ip-multicast Prevent a VM from sending IP multicast packets.
clean-traffic Prevent MAC, IP and ARP spoofing. This filter references several other filters as building blocks.

Note that most of the above filters are only building blocks and require a combination with other filters to provide useful network traffic filtering. The most useful one in the above list is the clean-traffic filter. This filter itself can for example be combined with the no-ip-multicast filter to prevent virtual machines from sending IP multicast traffic on top of the prevention of packet spoofing.

Writing your own filters

Since libvirt only provides a couple of example networking filters, you may consider writing your own. When planning on doing so there are a couple of things you may need to know regarding the network filtering subsystem and how it works internally. Certainly you also have to know and understand the protocols very well that you want to be filtering on so that no further traffic than what you want can pass and that in fact the traffic you want to allow does pass.

The network filtering subsystem is currently only available on Linux hosts and only works for Qemu and KVM type of virtual machines. On Linux it builds upon the support for ebtables, iptables and ip6tables and makes use of their features. From the above list of supported protocols the following ones are implemented using ebtables:

All other protocols over IPv4 are supported using iptables, those over IPv6 are implemented using ip6tables.

On a Linux host, all traffic filtering instantiated by libvirt's network filter subsystem first passes through the filtering support implemented by ebtables and only then through iptables or ip6tables filters. If a filter tree has rules with the protocols mac, stp, vlan arp, rarp, ipv4, or ipv6 ebtables rules will automatically be instantiated.
The role of the chain attribute in the network filter XML is that internally a new user-defined ebtables table is created that then for example receives all arp traffic coming from or going to a virtual machine if the chain arp has been specified. Further, a rule is generated in an interface's root chain that directs all ipv4 traffic into the user-defined chain. Therefore, all ARP traffic rules should then be placed into filters specifying this chain. This type of branching into user-defined tables is only supported with filtering on the ebtables layer.
Since 0.9.8 multiple chains for the same protocol can be created. For this the name of the chain must have a prefix of one of the previously enumerated protocols. To create an additional chain for handling of ARP traffic, a chain with name arp-test can be specified.
As an example, it is possible to filter on UDP traffic by source and destination ports using the ip protocol filter and specifying attributes for the protocol, source and destination IP addresses and ports of UDP packets that are to be accepted. This allows early filtering of UDP traffic with ebtables. However, once an IP or IPv6 packet, such as a UDP packet, has passed the ebtables layer and there is at least one rule in a filter tree that instantiates iptables or ip6tables rules, a rule to let the UDP packet pass will also be necessary to be provided for those filtering layers. This can be achieved with a rule containing an appropriate udp or udp-ipv6 traffic filtering node.

Example custom filter

As an example we want to now build a filter that fulfills the following list of requirements:

The requirement to prevent spoofing is fulfilled by the existing clean-traffic network filter, thus we will reference this filter from our custom filter.
To enable traffic for TCP ports 22 and 80 we will add 2 rules to enable this type of traffic. To allow the VM to send ping traffic we will add a rule for ICMP traffic. For simplicity reasons we allow general ICMP traffic to be initiated from the VM, not just ICMP echo request and response messages. To then disallow all other traffic to reach or be initiated by the VM we will then need to add a rule that drops all other traffic. Assuming our VM is called test and the interface we want to associate our filter with is called eth0, we name our filter test-eth0. The result of these considerations is the following network filter XML:

<filter name='test-eth0'>
  <!-- reference the clean traffic filter to prevent
       MAC, IP and ARP spoofing. By not providing
       and IP address parameter, libvirt will detect the
       IP address the VM is using. -->
  <filterref filter='clean-traffic'/>

  <!-- enable TCP ports 22 (ssh) and 80 (http) to be reachable -->
  <rule action='accept' direction='in'>
    <tcp dstportstart='22'/>
  </rule>

  <rule action='accept' direction='in'>
    <tcp dstportstart='80'/>
  </rule>

  <!-- enable general ICMP traffic to be initiated by the VM;
       this includes ping traffic -->
  <rule action='accept' direction='out'>
    <icmp/>
  </rule>

  <!-- enable outgoing DNS lookups using UDP -->
  <rule action='accept' direction='out'>
    <udp dstportstart='53'/>
  </rule>

  <!-- drop all other traffic -->
  <rule action='drop' direction='inout'>
    <all/>
  </rule>

</filter>

Note that none of the rules in the above XML contain the IP address of the VM as either source or destination address, yet the filtering of the traffic works correctly. The reason is that the evaluation of the rules internally happens on a per-interface basis and the rules are evaluated based on the knowledge about which (tap) interface has sent or will receive the packet rather than what their source or destination IP address may be.

An XML fragment for a possible network interface description inside the domain XML of the test VM could then look like this:

   [...]
    <interface type='bridge'>
      <source bridge='mybridge'/>
      <filterref filter='test-eth0'/>
    </interface>
   [...]

To more strictly control the ICMP traffic and enforce that only ICMP echo requests can be sent from the VM and only ICMP echo responses be received by the VM, the above ICMP rule can be replaced with the following two rules:

  <!-- enable outgoing ICMP echo requests-->
  <rule action='accept' direction='out'>
    <icmp type='8'/>
  </rule>

  <!-- enable incoming ICMP echo replies-->
  <rule action='accept' direction='in'>
    <icmp type='0'/>
  </rule>

Second example custom filter

In this example we now want to build a similar filter as in the example above, but extend the list of requirements with an ftp server located inside the VM. Further, we will be using features that have been added in version 0.8.5. The requirements for this filter are:

The additional requirement of allowing an ftp server to be run inside the VM maps into the requirement of allowing port 21 to be reachable for ftp control traffic as well as enabling the VM to establish an outgoing tcp connection originating from the VM's TCP port 20 back to the ftp client (ftp active mode). There are several ways of how this filter can be written and we present 2 solutions.

The 1st solution makes use of the state attribute of the TCP protocol that gives us a hook into the connection tracking framework of the Linux host. For the VM-initiated ftp data connection (ftp active mode) we use the RELATED state that allows us to detect that the VM-initiated ftp data connection is a consequence of ( or 'has a relationship with' ) an existing ftp control connection, thus we want to allow it to let packets pass the firewall. The RELATED state, however, is only valid for the very first packet of the outgoing TCP connection for the ftp data path. Afterwards, the state to compare against is ESTABLISHED, which then applies equally to the incoming and outgoing direction. All this is related to the ftp data traffic originating from TCP port 20 of the VM. This then leads to the following solution (since 0.8.5 (Qemu, KVM, UML)):

<filter name='test-eth0'>
  <!-- reference the clean traffic filter to prevent
       MAC, IP and ARP spoofing. By not providing
       and IP address parameter, libvirt will detect the
       IP address the VM is using. -->
  <filterref filter='clean-traffic'/>

  <!-- enable TCP port 21 (ftp-control) to be reachable -->
  <rule action='accept' direction='in'>
    <tcp dstportstart='21'/>
  </rule>

  <!-- enable TCP port 20 for VM-initiated ftp data connection
       related to an existing ftp control connection -->
  <rule action='accept' direction='out'>
    <tcp srcportstart='20' state='RELATED,ESTABLISHED'/>
  </rule>

  <!-- accept all packets from client on the ftp data connection -->
  <rule action='accept' direction='in'>
    <tcp dstportstart='20' state='ESTABLISHED'/>
  </rule>

  <!-- enable TCP ports 22 (ssh) and 80 (http) to be reachable -->
  <rule action='accept' direction='in'>
    <tcp dstportstart='22'/>
  </rule>

  <rule action='accept' direction='in'>
    <tcp dstportstart='80'/>
  </rule>

  <!-- enable general ICMP traffic to be initiated by the VM;
       this includes ping traffic -->
  <rule action='accept' direction='out'>
    <icmp/>
  </rule>

  <!-- enable outgoing DNS lookups using UDP -->
  <rule action='accept' direction='out'>
    <udp dstportstart='53'/>
  </rule>

  <!-- drop all other traffic -->
  <rule action='drop' direction='inout'>
    <all/>
  </rule>

</filter>

Before trying out a filter using the RELATED state, you have to make sure that the appropriate connection tracking module has been loaded into the host's kernel. Depending on the version of the kernel, you must run either one of the following two commands before the ftp connection with the VM is established.

    modprobe nf_conntrack_ftp   # where available  or

    modprobe ip_conntrack_ftp   # if above is not available

If other protocols than ftp are to be used in conjunction with the RELATED state, their corresponding module must be loaded. Modules exist at least for the protocols ftp, tftp, irc, sip, sctp, and amanda.

The 2nd solution makes uses the state flags of connections more than the previous solution did. In this solution we take advantage of the fact that the NEW state of a connection is valid when the very first packet of a traffic flow is seen. Subsequently, if the very first packet of a flow is accepted, the flow becomes a connection and enters the ESTABLISHED state. This allows us to write a general rule for allowing packets of ESTABLISHED connections to reach the VM or be sent by the VM. We write specific rules for the very first packets identified by the NEW state and for which ports they are acceptable. All packets for ports that are not explicitly accepted will be dropped and therefore the connection will not go into the ESTABLISHED state and any subsequent packets be dropped.

<filter name='test-eth0'>
  <!-- reference the clean traffic filter to prevent
       MAC, IP and ARP spoofing. By not providing
       and IP address parameter, libvirt will detect the
       IP address the VM is using. -->
  <filterref filter='clean-traffic'/>

  <!-- let the packets of all previously accepted connections reach the VM -->
  <rule action='accept' direction='in'>
    <all state='ESTABLISHED'/>
  </rule>

  <!-- let the packets of all previously accepted and related connections be sent from the VM -->
  <rule action='accept' direction='out'>
    <all state='ESTABLISHED,RELATED'/>
  </rule>

  <!-- enable traffic towards port 21 (ftp), 22 (ssh) and 80 (http) -->
  <rule action='accept' direction='in'>
    <tcp dstportstart='21' dstportend='22' state='NEW'/>
  </rule>

  <rule action='accept' direction='in'>
    <tcp dstportstart='80' state='NEW'/>
  </rule>

  <!-- enable general ICMP traffic to be initiated by the VM;
       this includes ping traffic -->
  <rule action='accept' direction='out'>
    <icmp state='NEW'/>
  </rule>

  <!-- enable outgoing DNS lookups using UDP -->
  <rule action='accept' direction='out'>
    <udp dstportstart='53' state='NEW'/>
  </rule>

  <!-- drop all other traffic -->
  <rule action='drop' direction='inout'>
    <all/>
  </rule>

</filter>

Limitations

The following sections list (current) limitations of the network filtering subsystem.

VM Migration

VM migration is only supported if the whole filter tree that is referenced by a virtual machine's top level filter is also available on the target host. The network filter clean-traffic for example should be available on all libvirt installations of version 0.8.1 or later and thus enable migration of VMs that for example reference this filter. All other custom filters must be migrated using higher layer software. It is outside the scope of libvirt to ensure that referenced filters on the source system are equivalent to those on the target system and vice versa.

Migration must occur between libvirt installations of version 0.8.1 or later in order not to lose the network traffic filters associated with an interface.

VLAN filtering on Linux

VLAN (802.1Q) packets, if sent by a virtual machine, cannot be filtered with rules for protocol IDs arp, rarp, ipv4 and ipv6 but only with protocol IDs mac and vlan. Therefore, the example filter clean-traffic will not work as expected.