Ruleset debug/tracing

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Since nftables v0.6 and linux kernel 4.6, ruleset debug/tracing is supported.

This is an equivalent of the old iptables method -J TRACE, but with some great improvements.

The steps to enable debug/tracing is the following:

  • give support in your ruleset for it (set nftrace in any of your rules)
  • monitor the trace events from the nft tool

Enabling nftrace

To enable nftrace in a packet, use a rule with this statement:

meta nftrace set 1

After all, nftrace is part of the metainformation of a packet.

Of course, you may only enable nftrace for a given matching packet. In the example below, we only enable nftrace for tcp packets:

ip protocol tcp meta nftrace set 1

Adjusting nftrace to only your subset of desired packets is key to properly debug the ruleset, otherwise you may get a lot of debug/tracing information which may be overwhelming.

Use a chain to enable tracing

The recommended way to enable tracing is to add a chain for this purpose.

Register a trace_chain to enable tracing. If you already have a prerouting chain, then make sure your trace_chain priority comes before your existing prerouting chain.

% nft add chain filter trace_chain { type filter hook prerouting priority -301\; }
% nft add rule filter trace_chain meta nftrace set 1

This example assumes you have an existing raw prerouting chain (at priority -300), hence, this is registering a trace chain right before this chain (at priority -301).

Once you are done with rule tracing, you can just delete this chain to disable it:

% nft delete chain filter trace_chain

monitoring tracing events

In nftables, getting the debug/tracing events is a bit different from the iptables world. Now, we have an event-based monitor for the kernel to notify the nft tool.

The basic syntax is:

% nft monitor trace

Each trace event is assigned an 'id' for you to easily follow different packets in the same trace session.

Complete example

Here is complete example of this debug/tracing mechanism in work.

Assuming you have this ruleset:

table ip filter {
        chain input {
                type filter hook input priority filter; policy drop;
                ct state established,related counter packets 2 bytes 292 accept
                ct state new tcp dport 22 counter packets 0 bytes 0 accept
        }
}

Load this ruleset:

% nft -f ruleset.nft

Then, add a chain that enables tracing:

% nft add chain ip filter trace_chain { type filter hook prerouting priority -1\; }

This registers the trace_chain before the existing input chain.

And the rule to enable the tracing:

% nft add rule ip filter trace_chain meta nftrace set 1

Simple tracing test, by pinging one host:

% ping -c 1 8.8.8.8

You run on a different terminal:

% nft monitor trace
trace id a95ea7ef ip filter trace_chain packet: iif "enp0s25" ether saddr 00:0d:b9:4a:49:3d ether daddr 3c:97:0e:39:aa:20 ip saddr 8.8.8.8 ip daddr 192.168.2.118 ip dscp cs0 ip ecn not-ect ip ttl 115 ip id 0 ip length 84 icmp type echo-reply icmp code net-unreachable icmp id 9253 icmp sequence 1 @th,64,96 24106705117628271805883024640 
trace id a95ea7ef ip filter trace_chain rule meta nftrace set 1 (verdict continue)
trace id a95ea7ef ip filter trace_chain verdict continue 
trace id a95ea7ef ip filter trace_chain policy accept 
trace id a95ea7ef ip filter input packet: iif "enp0s25" ether saddr 00:0d:b9:4a:49:3d ether daddr 3c:97:0e:39:aa:20 ip saddr 8.8.8.8 ip daddr 192.168.2.118 ip dscp cs0 ip ecn not-ect ip ttl 115 ip id 0 ip length 84 icmp type echo-reply icmp code net-unreachable icmp id 9253 icmp sequence 1 @th,64,96 24106705117628271805883024640 
trace id a95ea7ef ip filter input rule ct state established,related counter packets 168 bytes 53513 accept (verdict accept)

The trace id uniquely identifies a packet. The trace describes the packet entering the chain initially.

trace id a95ea7ef ip filter trace_chain packet: iif "enp0s25" ether saddr 00:0d:b9:4a:49:3d ether daddr 3c:97:0e:39:aa:20 ip saddr 8.8.8.8 ip daddr 192.168.2.118 ip dscp cs0 ip ecn not-ect ip ttl 115 ip id 0 ip length 84 icmp type echo-reply icmp code net-unreachable icmp id 9253 icmp sequence 1 @th,64,96 24106705117628271805883024640

Then, the packet travel through the ruleset.