Packet filtering and firewalls

On Linux, Docker manipulates iptables rules to provide network isolation. While this is an implementation detail and you should not modify the rules Docker inserts into your iptables policies, it does have some implications on what you need to do if you want to have your own policies in addition to those managed by Docker.

If you're running Docker on a host that is exposed to the Internet, you will probably want to have iptables policies in place that prevent unauthorized access to containers or other services running on your host. This page describes how to achieve that, and what caveats you need to be aware of.

Add iptables policies before Docker's rules

Docker installs two custom iptables chains named DOCKER-USER and DOCKER, and it ensures that incoming packets are always checked by these two chains first. These chains are part of the FORWARD chain.

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

Other rules added to the FORWARD chain, either manually, or by another iptables-based firewall, are evaluated after the DOCKER-USER and DOCKER chains. This means that if you publish a port through Docker, this port gets published no matter what rules your firewall has configured. If you want rules to apply even when a port gets published through Docker, you must add these rules to the DOCKER-USER chain.

Match the original IP and ports for requests

When packets arrive to the DOCKER-USER chain, they have already passed through a Destination Network Address Translation (DNAT) filter. That means that the iptables flags you use can only match internal IP addresses and ports of containers.

If you want to match traffic based on the original IP and port in the network request, you must use the conntrack iptables extension. For example:

$ sudo iptables -I DOCKER-USER -p tcp -m conntrack --ctstate ESTABLISHED,RELATED -j ACCEPT
$ sudo iptables -I DOCKER-USER -p tcp -m conntrack --ctorigsrc --ctorigdstport 80 -j ACCEPT


Using the conntrack extension may result in degraded performance.

Restrict connections to the Docker host

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

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

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.

Docker on a router

Docker also sets the policy for the FORWARD chain to DROP. If your Docker host also acts as a router, this will result in that router not forwarding any traffic anymore. If you want your system to continue functioning as a router, you can add explicit ACCEPT rules to the DOCKER-USER chain to allow it:

$ iptables -I DOCKER-USER -i src_if -o dst_if -j ACCEPT

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.

Setting the default bind address for containers

By default, the Docker daemon binds published container ports to the address. When you publish a container's ports as follows:

docker run -p 8080:80 nginx

This publishes port 8080 to all network interfaces on the host, potentially making them available to the outside world. Unless you've disabled IPv6 at the kernel level, the port gets published on both IPv4 and IPv6.

You can change the default binding address for published container ports so that they're only accessible to the Docker host by default. To do that, you can configure the daemon to use the loopback address ( instead. To do so, configure the "ip" key in the daemon.json configuration file:

  "ip": ""

This changes the default binding address to for published container ports on the default bridge network. Restart the daemon for this change to take effect. Alternatively, you can use the dockerd --ip flag when starting the daemon.


Changing the default bind address doesn't have any effect on Swarm services. Swarm services are always exposed on the network interface.

To configure this setting for user-defined bridge networks, use the driver option when you create the network.

$ docker network create mybridge \
  -o ""

Integration with firewalld

If you are running Docker with firewalld on your system with --iptables enabled, Docker automatically creates a firewalld zone called docker and inserts all the network interfaces it creates (for example, docker0) into the docker zone to allow seamless networking.

Docker and ufw

Uncomplicated Firewall (ufw) is a frontend that ships with Debian and Ubuntu, and it lets you manage firewall rules. Docker and ufw use iptables in ways that make them incompatible with each other.

When you publish a container's ports using Docker, traffic to and from that container gets diverted before it goes through the ufw firewall settings. Docker routes container traffic in the nat table, which means that packets are diverted before it reaches the INPUT and OUTPUT chains that ufw uses. Packets are routed before the firewall rules can be applied, effectively ignoring your firewall configuration.