Nftables families

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nftables families are a new concept introduced with this technology which was previously missing in the iptables world. You may already know that the nftables framework is designed to work with all typical address families (IPv4, IPv6, ARP). In the past, all the families were handled by different tools: iptables, ip6tables, arptables, ebtables.

Please note that what traffic/packets you see and at which point in the network stack depends on the chain hook you are using. You can create tables/chains/sets/rules in any family with the nft command line interface, out of the box, no need for different tools. Additional families may be added in the future for extended nftables functionalities.

ip

Tables of this family will see IPv4 traffic/packets. The iptables tool was the equivalent in the old x_tables world.

ip6

Tables of this family will see IPv6 traffic/packets. The ip6tables tool was the equivalent in the old x_tables world.

inet

Tables of this family will see both IPv4/IPv6 traffic/packets, designed to improve dual stack support. Mixing iptables and ip6tables rules in the same box was the equivalent in the old x_tables world.

Both IPv4/IPv6 packets will traverse the same rules. Rules for IPv4 packets won't affect IPv6 packets. Rules for both L3 protocol will affect both.

Examples:

# this rule only affects IPv4 packets
add rule inet filter input ip saddr 1.1.1.1 counter accept 
# this rule only affects IPv6 packets
add rule inet filter input ip6 daddr fe00::2 counter accept
# these rules affects both IPv4/IPv6 packets
add rule inet filter input ct state established,related counter accept
add rule inet filter input udp dport 53 accept

arp

Tables of this family will see ARP-level (i.e, L2) traffic, before any L3 handling is done by the kernel. The arptables tool was the equivalent in the old x_tables world.

bridge

Tables of this family will see traffic/packets traversing bridges (i.e. switching). No assumptions are made about L3 protocols. The ebtables tool was the equivalent in the old x_tables world. Also, some old x_tables modules such as physdev will eventually be served natively from this family.

Note that there is no nf_conntrack integration for this family. However this may change in the future.

netdev

This family provides the ingress hook, that allows you to classify packets that the driver has just passed up to the networking stack. This means you see all network traffic for your NIC getting in. No assumptions are made about L2 and L3 protocols, therefore you can filter ARP traffic from here.

Note that there is no equivalent in the old iptables world, this is a new feature available since 4.2 for nftables.

This location is ideal to drop packets that result from DDOS attacks given this is very early in the packet path. Dropping packets from here is much more efficient than from the classic prerouting chain, by a factor of 2x.

You can also use this new ingress hook for load balancing, including Direct Server Return (DSR), that has been reported to be 10x faster.