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Understanding nftables — The Modern Firewall Framework for Linux | by Elysium Celeste | Aug, 2023


In the world of Linux networking and security, iptables has been the go-to packet filtering and firewall utility for a long time. However, as the need for more flexibility, performance, and ease of use grew, a new framework called nftables emerged as the successor to iptables. In this article, we’ll explore nftables, its advantages over iptables, and why it has become the modern choice for managing packet filtering and firewall rules in Linux.

  1. The Limitations of iptables:
    While iptables has been a reliable tool for managing network traffic and enforcing security policies, it has some limitations that became apparent over time. One of the main issues with iptables was the complexity that arose when dealing with more advanced rules. As rule sets grew, managing them became increasingly challenging, leading to potential misconfigurations and security vulnerabilities.
  2. Introducing nftables:
    Nftables was introduced as a solution to address the limitations of iptables. It provides a unified framework for packet filtering, NAT, and packet mangling, streamlining the process of defining and managing rules. With nftables, users can create more expressive and concise rule sets, reducing complexity and enhancing readability.
  3. Improved Syntax and Flexibility:
    One of the key advantages of nftables is its improved syntax. The syntax is more straightforward and easier to understand, making it accessible to both newcomers and experienced administrators. Additionally, nftables allows users to define rules with higher-level abstractions, enabling more flexible and powerful rule configurations.
  4. Better Performance and Efficiency:
    Nftables offers significant performance improvements over iptables. It achieves this through optimized data structures and streamlined rule processing. The result is a more efficient firewall system that can handle higher traffic loads without sacrificing performance.
  5. Backward Compatibility:
    To ease the transition from iptables to nftables, the new framework provides backward compatibility. This means that iptables rules can be translated into nftables rules, allowing for a smooth migration process. As nftables gains popularity, the adoption of this backward compatibility helps ensure compatibility with existing systems.
  6. Integration with Netlink:
    Nftables leverages Netlink, a generic communication protocol used for interaction between user-space applications and the Linux kernel. Netlink enables efficient communication between nftables and the kernel, enhancing the overall performance and reliability of the framework.
  7. Adoption by Linux Distributions:
    As nftables proves to be a more efficient and user-friendly alternative to iptables, many Linux distributions have started to adopt nftables as the default packet filtering framework. While iptables remains functional and supported, nftables is becoming the recommended choice for managing network filtering rules.


Nftables represents a significant step forward in the world of Linux networking and security. Its improved syntax, flexibility, and performance make it a worthy successor to iptables. With its adoption increasing among Linux distributions, it is clear that nftables is the modern and recommended choice for managing packet filtering and firewall rules in Linux. As more users make the switch, the advantages of nftables will continue to solidify its place as the go-to framework for network security and traffic management.

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