Things on a Heap

A Collection of Programming Ramblings by chjdev

Docker overrules UFW!

Docker, by default, directly manipulates iptables in order to work its network magic. It thus completely circumvents UFW rules! In this post I show strategies to deal with this.


While setting up my Docker server I noticed something weird. I started up all my containers to see if everything is building and running correctly, enabled ports 80 and 443 on my firewall, and everything worked fine. However, after disabling the ports again my server was still reachable. Even explicitly REJECT-ing the ports still kept them open! I’m using UFW as firewall to keep the base system as simple as possible.

Huh? What the hell is going on? Well, as we can see in the docs, Docker directly manipulates the systems iptables to forward trafffic to containers!

$ sudo iptables --list
Chain DOCKER (2 references)
target   prot opt source       destination
ACCEPT   tcp  --  anywhere     tcp dpt:https
ACCEPT   tcp  --  anywhere     tcp dpt:http

Well, I wasn’t aware that this completely circumvents rules set in UFW. UFW in turn (obviously) doesn’t show you the whole iptables state but only its subset of rules.


If you want to disable this behaviour you can disable it in your daemon.json (or via flags) and rely on the userland proxy:

  "iptables": false,
  "userland-proxy": true,

Now you face a different problem though. Since Docker uses bridged networking by default you now lose the original source IP, which, depending on your use-case, can be quite important, e.g. to log it as part of the access log of your web servers.

To solve this issue you have two options: switch the networking stack to host either globally or the involved containers (mixed linking of containers doesn’t work), or bite the bullet and deal with the iptables behaviour and disable the userland proxy. I opted for the latter because of the security implications of host networking. According to the docs:

Note that this does not let the container reconfigure the host network stack — that would require –privileged=true — but it does let container processes open low-numbered ports like any other root process. It also allows the container to access local network services like D-bus. This can lead to processes in the container being able to do unexpected things like restart your computer.

Also it is apparently the more canonical approach, with discussion of disabling the userland-proxy by default.

You have a question or found an issue?
Then head over to Github and open an Issue please!