Graphical tools for firewall configuration


Firewall Builder (fwbuilder) [5] is a dinosaur among the firewall graphical configuration tools with more than 10 years of continuous development history. Accordingly, the software is well positioned on the market and can be found in the repositories of almost all major Linux distributions. Fwbuilder manages firewall systems across platforms and is therefore also suitable for use in heterogeneous environments with Cisco firewalls and BSD's Packet Filter (PF) [17], in addition to iptables.

On Linux, fwbuilder configures iptables with automatic rule validation; it even supports IPv6. The installation adds fwbuilder to the menu structure of the respective desktop. On first launch, you will see two windows: In addition to the configuration window, the routine also calls a smaller Quick Start Guide that introduces the most important functions of the program to new firewall administrators.

In the straightforward configuration window (Figure 6) is a menu at the top with a buttonbar below for quick launching of the most important functions. On the left is a tree view with various objects. On the right, two buttons let you create a new ruleset or import an existing ruleset. A third button calls the system's web browser and opens the Quick Start Guide [18] on the project page.

Figure 6: Fwbuilder has an intuitive interface.


Clicking the Create new firewall button opens a dialog that helps you to define new rules with a wizard. The wizard already has templates with useful settings for default firewalls; additional protection rules can be implemented easily.

The objects on the left in the program window contain rulesets and can be organized and extended as object libraries. Interfaces or services also appear as objects. First, you specify a new object name and then tell the routine which firewall – typically iptables for current Linux distributions – and which operating system to expect host-side. Because the firewall selection list correlates with that of the operating systems, the software usually automatically enters the appropriate operating system correctly when you choose a firewall. In the dialog box, you then specify whether you want to use preconfigured rulesets.

Clicking on Next takes you to the next dialog. If you want to create the objects manually, the dialog reveals which physical interfaces the system includes. You can search for interfaces via SNMP if it is installed on the host. In the following dialog, define the individual interfaces including the respective mode for IP address assignment. After a final click on Finish, the software creates the new object library (Figure 7).

Figure 7: Graphically presented rules make it easier to manage the firewall.

The program window now splits into three areas, with the right pane broken down into a pane for rulesets and another for processing steps, in which you can change individual settings (e.g., for the interfaces). The ruleset is based on iptable syntax; you can extend it by clicking on the green plus symbol in the top left corner of the list. As is usual with iptables, new rules require that all packets are rejected first.

You can drag individual objects from the segment with the object libraries and drop them at the desired position in the ruleset. Fwbuilder then automatically adapts the rule to your specifications. If objects are still missing in the library (e.g., if a user adds additional hardware to a host computer), admins can add them at a later time.

Once all rulesets are in place, you need to compile the rules to match the syntax of the respective firewall. The supported host systems range from Linux through various BSD derivatives to Cisco and HP appliances and have very different syntaxes. To proceed, click on the hammer icon in the upper-right corner of the rule list. In the last step, the compiled firewall is transferred to the host system using SSH and SCP (Figure 8). However, if fwbuilder is already running on the host system on which it acts as the firewall, you can click on the Compile and install this firewall button.

Figure 8: Fwbuilder is very flexible in terms of supported host systems.

You can subsequently compare modified or supplemented rules with the original rulesets to filter out inconsistencies. To do this, select Tools | Find Conflicting Objects in Two Files and specify the files with the rulesets. The software then automatically checks these for inconsistent entries. This is especially useful wherever very complex rule sets and mutual dependencies can cause the admin inadvertently to misconfigure objects when changing the rules.


The relatively new Gufw project [6] sees itself as a graphical front end for the Uncomplicated Firewall (UFW) [19], which acts as the default defense for Ubuntu and its derivatives. Gufw and UFW are now available for most of the major Linux distributions and are also included in their software repositories. Like fwbuilder, the dynamic duo UFW and Gufw require netfilter and iptables on the system and can handle both IPv4 and IPv6. Unlike fwbuilder, Gufw does not work across platforms. However, the GUI can be used to manage UFWs on remote computers.

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