18.7. IPTables and Connection Tracking

You can inspect and restrict connections to services based on their connection state. A module within iptables uses a method called connection tracking to store information about incoming connections. You can allow or deny access based on the following connection states:
  • NEW — A packet requesting a new connection, such as an HTTP request.
  • ESTABLISHED — A packet that is part of an existing connection.
  • RELATED — A packet that is requesting a new connection but is part of an existing connection. For example, FTP uses port 21 to establish a connection, but data is transferred on a different port (typically port 20).
  • INVALID — A packet that is not part of any connections in the connection tracking table.
You can use the stateful functionality of iptables connection tracking with any network protocol, even if the protocol itself is stateless (such as UDP). The following example shows a rule that uses connection tracking to forward only the packets that are associated with an established connection:
[root@myServer ~ ] # iptables -A FORWARD -m state --state ESTABLISHED,RELATED -j ACCEPT