Docker and iptables

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

On Linux, Docker manipulates iptables rules to provide network isolation. This is an implementation detail, and you should not modify the rules Docker inserts into your iptables policies.

Add iptables policies before Docker’s rules

All of Docker’s iptables rules are added to the DOCKER chain. Do not manipulate this table manually. If you need to add rules which load before Docker’s rules, add them to the DOCKER-USER chain. These rules are loaded before any rules Docker creates automatically.

Restrict connections to the Docker daemon

By default, all external source IPs are allowed to connect to the Docker daemon. To allow only a specific IP or network to access the containers, insert a negated rule at the top of the DOCKER filter chain. For example, the following rule restricts external access to all IP addresses except

$ iptables -I DOCKER-USER -i ext_if ! -s -j DROP

Please note that you will need to change ext_if to correspond with your host’s actual external interface. You could instead allow connections from a source subnet. The following rule only allows access from the subnet

$ iptables -I DOCKER-USER -i ext_if ! -s -j DROP

Finally, you can specify a range of IP addresses to accept using --src-range (Remember to also add -m iprange when using --src-range or --dst-range):

$ iptables -I DOCKER-USER -m iprange -i ext_if ! --src-range -j DROP

You can combine -s or --src-range with -d or --dst-range to control both the source and destination. For instance, if the Docker daemon listens on both and, you can make rules specific to and leave open.

iptables is complicated and more complicated rules are out of scope for this topic. See the HOWTO for a lot more information.

Prevent Docker from manipulating iptables

It is possible to set the iptables key to false in the Docker engine’s configuration file at /etc/docker/daemon.json, but this option is not appropriate for most users. It is not possible to completely prevent Docker from creating iptables rules, and creating them after-the-fact is extremely involved and beyond the scope of these instructions. Setting iptables to false will more than likely break container networking for the Docker engine.

For system integrators who wish to build the Docker runtime into other applications, explore the moby project.

Next steps

network, iptables