18.5. FORWARD and NAT Rules

Most ISPs provide only a limited number of publicly routable IP addresses to the organizations they serve.
Administrators must, therefore, find alternative ways to share access to Internet services without giving public IP addresses to every node on the LAN. Using private IP addresses is the most common way of allowing all nodes on a LAN to properly access internal and external network services.
Edge routers (such as firewalls) can receive incoming transmissions from the Internet and route the packets to the intended LAN node. At the same time, firewalls/gateways can also route outgoing requests from a LAN node to the remote Internet service.
This forwarding of network traffic can become dangerous at times, especially with the availability of modern cracking tools that can spoof internal IP addresses and make the remote attacker's machine act as a node on your LAN.
To prevent this, iptables provides routing and forwarding policies that can be implemented to prevent abnormal usage of network resources.
The FORWARD chain allows an administrator to control where packets can be routed within a LAN. For example, to allow forwarding for the entire LAN (assuming the firewall/gateway is assigned an internal IP address on eth1), use the following rules:
[root@myServer ~ ] # iptables -A FORWARD -i eth1 -j ACCEPT
[root@myServer ~ ] # iptables -A FORWARD -o eth1 -j ACCEPT
This rule gives systems behind the firewall/gateway access to the internal network. The gateway routes packets from one LAN node to its intended destination node, passing all packets through its eth1 device.

Note

By default, the IPv4 policy in Red Hat Enterprise Linux kernels disables support for IP forwarding. This prevents machines that run Red Hat Enterprise Linux from functioning as dedicated edge routers. To enable IP forwarding, use the following command:
[root@myServer ~ ] # sysctl -w net.ipv4.ip_forward=1
This configuration change is only valid for the current session; it does not persist beyond a reboot or network service restart. To permanently set IP forwarding, edit the /etc/sysctl.conf file as follows:
Locate the following line:
net.ipv4.ip_forward = 0
Edit it to read as follows:
net.ipv4.ip_forward = 1
Use the following command to enable the change to the sysctl.conf file:
[root@myServer ~ ] # sysctl -p /etc/sysctl.conf

18.5.1. Postrouting and IP Masquerading

Accepting forwarded packets via the firewall's internal IP device allows LAN nodes to communicate with each other; however they still cannot communicate externally to the Internet.
To allow LAN nodes with private IP addresses to communicate with external public networks, configure the firewall for IP masquerading, which masks requests from LAN nodes with the IP address of the firewall's external device (in this case, eth0):
[root@myServer ~ ] # iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -o eth0 -j MASQUERADE
This rule uses the NAT packet matching table (-t nat) and specifies the built-in POSTROUTING chain for NAT (-A POSTROUTING) on the firewall's external networking device (-o eth0).
POSTROUTING allows packets to be altered as they are leaving the firewall's external device.
The -j MASQUERADE target is specified to mask the private IP address of a node with the external IP address of the firewall/gateway.