Debian / IPv6 / ip6tables / arno-iptables-firewall

Gandi turned IPv6 on, on my virtual host and I’ve been playing catch up ever since.  I’d not spent much time looking at IPv6 other than a cursory glance and I sort of knew the basics.  But once they’d switched it on I had to put in a little bit of reading time.

Did I want the same hostname to resolve to both the IPv4 and IPv6 address, or did I want to use a different hostname for each?  What was I going to do about firewalls?  And a few other things.

Because the iptables documentation makes my brain bleed, I use an out-of-the-box firewall tool (arno-iptables-firewall) which I’ve found extremely useful.  However, the Debian stable version doesn’t support IPv6 configurations.

That left me with three choices.  Try and work out an ip6tables setup for myself, grab a different firewall product, or backport the latest version of arno-iptables-firewall to Debian Squeeze.  Backporting seemed like the most interesting option – so I did that.

Surprisingly it wasn’t as hard as I expected, although I did have to learn a bunch of Debian Package Management terminology in very short notice.  This post helped a ton.  Up until this point, IPv6 access to the server had been working fine, because there was nothing in the way 😉 A couple of connections with other servers had started using the IPv6 and I wanted to retain those.

I checked the config for the firewall, and restarted it.  Everything seemed okay.  However a few days later, another sysadmin got in touch and told me they could no longer get to the server on it’s IPv6 address.  It turned out I could, but only from another server on the same network, and after a little digging and investigation it became clear the issue was routing.

Turning the firewall on and off didn’t fix it, but it seemed like rebooting got it working, and as soon as I started arno-iptables-firewall the problem came back.  So, I stopped using the firewall for IPv6 and everything was okay.  Until overnight the problem came back on it’s own.

One of the key things about IPv6 is that it relies on ICMPv6 far more than IPv4 did.  One of the most important things, is that ICMP is used to do Neighbor Discovery.

Although the arno-iptables-firewall setup was set to allow ICMP through, I had missed one critical setting.  Gandi uses IPv6 stateless autoconfiguration to provide IPv6 information to the host.  This means the host continues to check how to route traffic.  The missed config stopped this information from arriving at the host, and as a result, the essential route to the outside world expired from the routing table.

If you’re uisng arno-iptables-firewall v2.0.0a, and your server uses stateless autoconfiguration, make sure you set the following two options,

# Only disable this if you're NOT using forwarding (required for NAT etc.) for
# increased security.
# Note: If enabled and IPV6 enabled, local IPv6 autoconf will be disabled.
# -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
# (EXPERT SETTING!) Only disable this if IP_FORWARDING is disabled and
# you do not use autoconf to obtain your IPv6 address.
# Note: This is ignored if IP_FORWARDING is enabled. (IPv6 Only)
# -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

By default, IP_FORWARDING will be set to 1, and that stops the IPV6_AUTO_CONFIGURATION setting from taking effect.  Once I switched IP_FORWARDING to 0, the route came back and everything has been fine since.


3 thoughts on “Debian / IPv6 / ip6tables / arno-iptables-firewall”

  1. a token of appreciation for this post… it saved my quite sometime while configuring ipv6 on my client !
    thanks !

    1. You’re welcome! A further tip – if you’re using stateless autoconfig with IPv6 you might find arno-iptables-firewall does *not* populate the IPv6 chains at reboot.

      It seems to depend on whether IPv6 is up and running (and whether there are ipv6 entries in /proc/sys) by the time arno starts. If there aren’t, it won’t initiate the IPv6 support and you’ll need to ‘/etc/init.d/arno-iptables-firewall restart’ after a reboot yourself.

      I’m trying to work out atm if this is something unique to the build I’ve got, or if it’s something more pervasive.

      Thanks for the comment.

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