Alpine Linux Stateful Firewall

By Ronald Valente. Published

A small consumer router/firewall doesn't cut it anymore. For a little bit more money you can have a much higher performing router that you control. To me, nothing beats the complete control of running your own firewall config and being able to handle and shape traffic as you please.

This guide will go over setting up the server. In subsequent posts I will go over the stateful rules in more detail as well as some DHCP/DNS configurations to help secure your home network.

Hardware Build

Before we dive into the OS install and configuration I want to take a moment to discuss hardware component selection...

For a stateful firewall the most important component is your CPU, more specifically the clock speed. While more cores wont hurt, your throughput will be directly correlated to your single-core clock speed. Next mort important is memory, you will want to ensure that you have enough RAM to handle your NAT translations. 8GB of RAM should be more than plenty to handle a home router setup.

Here is the list of Parts that I used for the router build. My objective in addition to speed was to have a very small, quiet, and cool running router. With the case that I selected, water cooling was basically required.

Here is a link to the parts that I used for this build. High Throughput Router

Alpine Install

Download Alpine

You will want to grab the latest version of Alpine Linux, at the time of writing it was 3.5.1.

For the router build, I followed the suggestion to use the alpine-extended-3.5.1-x86_64.iso. Ensure that you verify the SHA256 hash after you download the ISO.

SHA256 (4fa1eabb53166009589d269a045c4f22454aeb9ba9103e291be031b659852cb9)

Below is the answer file used to install Alpine. You do not need to automate the install, this is just here for documentation.

# Use US layout with US variant

# Set hostname to alpine-test

# Contents of /etc/network/interfaces
iface lo inet loopback

auto eth0
iface eth0 inet dhcp
  hostname fw

auto eth1
iface eth1 inet static

# Search domain of, Google public nameserver

# Set timezone to UTC

# set http/ftp proxy

# Add a random mirror

# Install Openssh
SSHDOPTS="-c openssh"

# Use Chrony
NTPOPTS="-c chrony"

# Use /dev/sda as a lvmsys disk
DISKOPTS="-m sys /dev/sda"


For the stateful firewall, we only need nftables in addition to the default install.

apk add nftables

If you want to enable logging of firewall events, add this to `/etc/modules` and ensure you reboot or modprobe it.

echo "ipt_LOG" | tee -a /etc/modules

Now last but not least, we need to tell the Kernel that it can forward IP packets between interfaces. Open /etc/sysctl.conf and add the following lines and then reboot.

net.ipv4.ip_forward = 1
vm.swappiness = 10


Last but not least, here is an example set of commented firewall rules to get you started.

#!/usr/sbin/nft -f

flush ruleset

# Interfaces and Networks
define wan = eth0
define lan = eth1

table ip filter {
  chain input {
    type filter hook input priority 0; policy drop;

    # Drop All Martians
    meta iif $wan ip saddr {,, } log counter drop

    # Drop and Log Invalid Connections
    ct state invalid log counter drop

    # Allow All Loopback Traffic
    meta iif lo ct state new accept

    # Allow LAN Inbound Traffic
    meta iif $lan ct state new accept

    # Respond to ICMP Echo Requests Only
    icmp type echo-request accept

    # established/related connections
    ct state established,related accept

  chain forward {
    type filter hook forward priority 0; policy drop;

    # Allow LAN Traffic out the WAN Interface
    meta iif $lan meta oif $wan accept

    # Allow Related Traffic
    meta iif $wan meta oif $lan ct state established,related accept

  chain output {
    type filter hook output priority 0; policy accept;

# The first packet in each flow will hit this table; none others will
table ip nat {
  chain prerouting {
    type nat hook prerouting priority -150;

  chain postrouting {
    type nat hook postrouting priority -150;
    oif $wan masquerade persistent