How To Set Up a Firewall Using FirewallD on CentOS 7


Firewalld is a complete firewall solution available by default on CentOS 7 servers. In this guide, we will cover how to set up a firewall for your server and show you the basics of managing the firewall with the firewall-cmd administrative tool (if you'd rather use iptables with CentOS, follow this guide).


Basic Concepts in Firewalld

Before we begin talking about how to actually use the firewall-cmd utility to manage your firewall configuration, we should get familiar with a few basic concepts that the tool introduces.


The firewalld daemon manages groups of rules using entities called "zones". Zones are basically sets of rules dictating what traffic should be allowed depending on the level of trust you have in the networks your computer is connected to. Network interfaces are assigned a zone to dictate the behavior that the firewall should allow.

For computers that might move between networks frequently (like laptops), this kind of flexibility provides a good method of changing your rules depending on your environment. You may have strict rules in place prohibiting most traffic when operating on a public WiFi network, while allowing more relaxed restrictions when connected to your home network. For a server, these zones are not as immediately important because the network environment rarely, if ever, changes.

Regardless of how dymaic your network environment may be, it is still useful to be familiar with the general idea behind each of the pre-defined zones for firewalld. In order from least trusted to most trusted, the pre-defined zones within firewalld are:

  • drop: The lowest level of trust. All incoming connections are dropped without reply and only outgoing connections are possible.
  • block: Similar to the above, but instead of simply dropping connections, incoming requests are rejected with an icmp-host-prohibited or icmp6-adm-prohibited message.
  • public: Represents public, untrusted networks. You don't trust other computers but may allow selected incoming connections on a case-by-case basis.
  • external: External networks in the event that you are using the firewall as your gateway. It is configured for NAT masquerading so that your internal network remains private but reachable.
  • internal: The other side of the external zone, used for the internal portion of a gateway. The computers are fairly trustworthy and some additional services are available.
  • dmz: Used for computers located in a DMZ (isolated computers that will not have access to the rest of your network). Only certain incoming connections are allowed.
  • work: Used for work machines. Trust most of the computers in the network. A few more services might be allowed.
  • home: A home environment. It generally implies that you trust most of the other computers and that a few more services will be accepted.
  • trusted: Trust all of the machines in the network. The most open of the available options and should be used sparingly.

To use the firewall, we can create rules and alter the properties of our zones and then assign our network interfaces to whichever zones are most appropriate.

Rule Permanence

In firewalld, rules can be designated as either permanent or immediate. If a rule is added or modified, by default, the behavior of the currently running firewall is modified. At the next boot, the old rules will be reverted.

Most firewall-cmd operations can take the --permanent flag to indicate that the non-ephemeral firewall should be targeted. This will affect the rule set that is reloaded upon boot. This separation means that you can test rules in your active firewall instance and then reload if there are problems. You can also use the --permanent flag to build out an entire set of rules over time that will all be applied at once when the reload command is issued.


Turning on the Firewall

Before we can begin to create our firewall rules, we need to actually turn the daemon on. The systemdunit file is called firewalld.service. We can start the daemon for this session by typing:

  • sudo systemctl start firewalld.service

We can verify that the service is running and reachable by typing:

  • firewall-cmd --state

This indicates that our firewall is up and running with the default configuration.

At this point, we will not enable the service. Enabling the service would cause the firewall to start up at boot. We should wait until we have created our firewall rules and had an opportunity to test them before configuring this behavior. This can help us avoid being locked out of the machine if something goes wrong.


Getting Familiar with the Current Firewall Rules

Before we begin to make modifications, we should familiarize ourselves with the default environment and rules provided by the daemon.

Exploring the Defaults

We can see which zone is currently selected as the default by typing:

  • firewall-cmd --get-default-zone

Since we haven't given firewalld any commands to deviate from the default zone, and none of our interfaces are configured to bind to another zone, that zone will also be the only "active" zone (the zone that is controlling the traffic for our interfaces). We can verify that by typing:

  • firewall-cmd --get-active-zones
  interfaces: eth0 eth1

Here, we can see that we have two network interfaces being controlled by the firewall (eth0 and eth1). They are both currently being managed according to the rules defined for the public zone.

How do we know what rules are associated with the public zone though? We can print out the default zone's configuration by typing:

  • firewall-cmd --list-all
public (default, active)
  interfaces: eth0 eth1
  services: dhcpv6-client ssh
  masquerade: no
  rich rules:

We can tell from the output that this zone is both the default and active and that the eth0 and eth1interfaces are associated with this zone (we already knew all of this from our previous inquiries). However, we can also see that this zone allows for the normal operations associated with a DHCP client (for IP address assignment) and SSH (for remote administration).

Exploring Alternative Zones

Now we have a good idea about the configuration for the default and active zone. We can find out information about other zones as well.

To get a list of the available zones, type:

  • firewall-cmd --get-zones
block dmz drop external home internal public trusted work

We can see the specific configuration associated with a zone by including the --zone= parameter in our --list-all command:

  • firewall-cmd --zone=home --list-all
  services: dhcpv6-client ipp-client mdns samba-client ssh
  masquerade: no
  rich rules:

You can output all of the zone definitions by using the --list-all-zones option. You will probably want to pipe the output into a pager for easier viewing:

  • firewall-cmd --list-all-zones | less

Selecting Zones for your Interfaces

Unless you have configured your network interfaces otherwise, each interface will be put in the default zone when the firewall is booted.

Changing the Zone of an Interface for the Current Session

You can transition an interface between zones during a session by using the --zone= parameter in combination with the --change-interface= parameter. As with all commands that modify the firewall, you will need to use sudo.

For instance, we can transition our eth0 interface to the "home" zone by typing this:

  • sudo firewall-cmd --zone=home --change-interface=eth0


Whenever you are transitioning an interface to a new zone, be aware that you are probably modifying the services that will be operational. For instance, here we are moving to the "home" zone, which has SSH available. This means that our connection shouldn't drop. Some other zones do not have SSH enabled by default and if your connection is dropped while using one of these zones, you could find yourself unable to log back in.


We can verify that this was successful by asking for the active zones again:

  • firewall-cmd --get-active-zones
  interfaces: eth0
  interfaces: eth1

If the firewall is completely restarted, the interface will revert to the default zone:

  • sudo systemctl restart firewalld.service
  • firewall-cmd --get-active-zones
  interfaces: eth0 eth1

Changing the Zone of your Interface Permanently

Interfaces will always revert to the default zone if they do not have an alternative zone defined within their configuration. On CentOS, these configurations are defined within the /etc/sysconfig/network-scriptsdirectory with files of the format ifcfg-interface.

To define a zone for the interface, open up the file associated with the interface you'd like to modify. We'll demonstrate making the change we showed above permanent:

  • sudo nano /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0

At the bottom of the file, set the ZONE= variable to the zone you wish to associate with the interface. In our case, this would be the "home" interface:

. . .


Save and close the file.

To implement your changes, you'll have to restart the network service, followed by the firewall service:

  • sudo systemctl restart network.service
  • sudo systemctl restart firewalld.service

After your firewall restarts, you can see that your eth0 interface is automatically placed in the "home" zone:

  • firewall-cmd --get-active-zones
  interfaces: eth0
  interfaces: eth1

Make sure to revert these changes if this is not the actual zone you'd like to use for this interface.

Adjusting the Default Zone

If all of your interfaces can best be handled by a single zone, it's probably easier to just select the best default zone and then use that for your configuration.

You can change the default zone with the --set-default-zone= parameter. This will immediately change any interface that had fallen back on the default to the new zone:

  • sudo firewall-cmd --set-default-zone=home
  interfaces: eth0 eth1

Setting Rules for your Applications

The basic way of defining firewall exceptions for the services you wish to make available is easy. We'll run through the basic idea here.

Adding a Service to your Zones

The easiest method is to add the services or ports you need to the zones you are using. Again, you can get a list of the available services with the --get-services option:

  • firewall-cmd --get-services
RH-Satellite-6 amanda-client bacula bacula-client dhcp dhcpv6 dhcpv6-client dns ftp high-availability http https imaps ipp ipp-client ipsec kerberos kpasswd ldap ldaps libvirt libvirt-tls mdns mountd ms-wbt mysql nfs ntp openvpn pmcd pmproxy pmwebapi pmwebapis pop3s postgresql proxy-dhcp radius rpc-bind samba samba-client smtp ssh telnet tftp tftp-client transmission-client vnc-server wbem-https

You can get more details about each of these services by looking at their associated .xml file within the /usr/lib/firewalld/services directory. For instance, the SSH service is defined like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
  <description>Secure Shell (SSH) is a protocol for logging into and executing commands on remote machines. It provides secure encrypted communications. If you plan on accessing your machine remotely via SSH over a firewalled interface, enable this option. You need the openssh-server package installed for this option to be useful.</description>
  <port protocol="tcp" port="22"/>

You can enable a service for a zone using the --add-service= parameter. The operation will target the default zone or whatever zone is specified by the --zone= parameter. By default, this will only adjust the current firewall session. You can adjust the permanent firewall configuration by including the --permanentflag.

For instance, if we are running a web server serving conventional HTTP traffic, we can allow this traffic for interfaces in our "public" zone for this session by typing:

  • sudo firewall-cmd --zone=public --add-service=http

You can leave out the --zone= if you wish to modify the default zone. We can verify the operation was successful by using the --list-all or --list-services operations:

  • firewall-cmd --zone=public --list-services
dhcpv6-client http ssh

Once you have tested that everything is working as it should, you will probably want to modify the permanent firewall rules so that your service will still be available after a reboot. We can make our "public" zone change permanent by typing:

  • sudo firewall-cmd --zone=public --permanent --add-service=http

You can verify that this was successful by adding the --permanent flag to the --list-servicesoperation. You need to use sudo for any --permanent operations:

  • sudo firewall-cmd --zone=public --permanent --list-services
dhcpv6-client http ssh

Your "public" zone will now allow HTTP web traffic on port 80. If your web server is configured to use SSL/TLS, you'll also want to add the https service. We can add that to the current session and the permanent rule-set by typing:

  • sudo firewall-cmd --zone=public --add-service=https
  • sudo firewall-cmd --zone=public --permanent --add-service=https

What If No Appropriate Service Is Available?

The firewall services that are included with the firewalld installation represent many of the most common requirements for applications that you may wish to allow access to. However, there will likely be scenarios where these services do not fit your requirements.

In this situation, you have two options.

Opening a Port for your Zones

The easiest way to add support for your specific application is to open up the ports that it uses in the appropriate zone(s). This is as easy as specifying the port or port range, and the associated protocol for the ports you need to open.

For instance, if our application runs on port 5000 and uses TCP, we could add this to the "public" zone for this session using the --add-port= parameter. Protocols can be either tcp or udp:

  • sudo firewall-cmd --zone=public --add-port=5000/tcp

We can verify that this was successful using the --list-ports operation:

  • firewall-cmd --list-ports

It is also possible to specify a sequential range of ports by separating the beginning and ending port in the range with a dash. For instance, if our application uses UDP ports 4990 to 4999, we could open these up on "public" by typing:

  • sudo firewall-cmd --zone=public --add-port=4990-4999/udp

After testing, we would likely want to add these to the permanent firewall. You can do that by typing:

  • sudo firewall-cmd --zone=public --permanent --add-port=5000/tcp
  • sudo firewall-cmd --zone=public --permanent --add-port=4990-4999/udp
  • sudo firewall-cmd --zone=public --permanent --list-ports
4990-4999/udp 5000/tcp

Defining a Service

Opening ports for your zones is easy, but it can be difficult to keep track of what each one is for. If you ever decommission a service on your server, you may have a hard time remembering which ports that have been opened are still required. To avoid this situation, it is possible to define a service.

Services are simply collections of ports with an associated name and description. Using services is easier to administer than ports, but requires a bit of upfront work. The easiest way to start is to copy an existing script (found in /usr/lib/firewalld/services) to the 

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