Stéfan van der Walt

VPN-only access to the internet

· linux

tl;dr A firewall setup that allows traffic to leave only via the VPN

A few days ago, I noticed that my outbound email wasn’t being delivered—it seems as if my ISP blocks access to some outbound ports. An easy workaround is to route traffic through the work VPN, but knowing myself I’d forget to switch it on, leaving my outbound mail stranded.

I needed a way of blocking any access to the internet, unless it was leaving through the VPN (since I was sure I’d notice that pretty quickly).

I’d have preferred to use firewalld, which is neatly integrated into Ubuntu, but as of 01/24/2015 it doesn’t allow filtering outbound traffic1. What follows, then, is a simple approach implementing the following rule:

Block wifi traffic unless it goes to either the local network or the VPN.

Create a script (I called it ~/scripts/fw-up) that sets up the firewall:


# Clear any existing rules
iptables -F

# Allow outbound DNS
iptables -A OUTPUT -p udp --dport 53 -j ACCEPT
iptables -A INPUT -p udp --sport 53 -j ACCEPT

# Allow TCP access to the work VPN
# Replace X.Y below with your VPN address range
iptables -A OUTPUT -p tcp -d X.Y.0.0/16 -o wlan1 -j ACCEPT

# Allow any traffic destined for the vpn to go out
iptables -A OUTPUT -o vpn0 -j ACCEPT

# Allow local traffic
iptables -A OUTPUT -p tcp -o wlan1 -d -j ACCEPT
iptables -A OUTPUT -p tcp -o wlan1 -d -j ACCEPT
iptables -A OUTPUT -p tcp -o wlan1 -d -j ACCEPT

# Drop everything else on the wifi
iptables -A OUTPUT -p tcp -o wlan1 -j DROP

Make sure the script is set to executable (chmod +x fw-up).

Add a symlink to if-up.d to ensure that the firewall gets built whenever the network is reconfigured:

sudo ln -s ~/scripts/fw-up /etc/network/if-up.d/iptables

Now, whenever you connect to a wifi hotspot, internet traffic will be blocked until you fire up your VPN. If, on occasion, you need to work without the VPN, simply raze the firewall:

sudo iptables -F

Update: Typically, you wouldn’t want the firewall to go up when connecting to the wireless at work, so I added the following conditional in the fw-up script:

iptables -F

if [[ `iwgetid -r` != 'WorkSSID' ]]; then
   # Firewall rules go here

  1. The idea would be to set up a zone, say vpn_only, and to assign your home wifi SSID to it. A direct rule that blocks any non-VPN traffic can then be added to the new zone (this should be possible soon, and is on the firewalld TODO list).