Netfilter Kernel Module

Learning Objectives

The learning objectives for Netfilter Kernel Module are:

  • Learn about kernel modules
  • Understand how packets are filtered
  • Understand how networking concepts are applied at a low level


  • Understand how netfilter could be used to block packets
  • Understand how the concepts you leared in CS 341 apply to the kernel
  • Log incoming packets from google
  • Have a proc endpoint to display how many times each of google’s IP ranges sent a packet
  • Optional: Implement something extra (more statistics or some actual filtering)

Part 1 - Making a kernel module (optional) #

There’s two main components to making a kernel module, an initializer and an exit handler. The initializer will run when the module is loaded and the exit handler will run when the module is unloaded.

To accomplish this, either create two functions named init_module and cleanup_module or create two functions with any names (foo and bar) and call module_init and module_exit on the initializer and exit handler respectively (module_init(foo), module_init(bar)).

Additionally, we will need to specify a module license (you don’t have to, but the compiler will warn you if you don’t). We’ll stick to GPL, so include the line:


in your code.

Since it is cumbersome to use debuggers with kernel modules (there are kernel debuggers, but we won’t use them today), we will rely on logging for outputing debug info. Unlike with a normal program, you do not have a stdout/stdin channel so there is no way to have a “default” output stream for non-logging purposes. To log information you will use printk (It works almost exactly like printf). To view the log either view the contents of files in /var/log or use the program dmesg. I prefer to use dmesg -wH since that shows a stream of output with human readable timestamps.

To complete part 1, write a kernel module in filter.c and using printk write “hello world” to the log.

Part 2 - Making a netfilter module #

In this part we will experiment with netfilter - a way of filtering packets at the kernel level. To accomplish this, we’ll need to setup a few things.

We’ll need a global variable to keep track of our netfilter options, we’ll need to initialize those options in our init callback, and finally, we’ll need to register/unregister our netfilter hook at init/exit.

// global:
static struct nf_hook_ops netfilter_ops;

// in init
  netfilter_ops.hook = main_hook; // What is main_hook? = PF_INET;
  netfilter_ops.hooknum = 0; // We want to run the hook before routing packets
  // We want this hook to run before other currently installed hooks
  netfilter_ops.priority = NF_IP_PRI_FIRST;
  //                    v init_net is a variable exported by the netfilter header
  nf_register_net_hook(&init_net, &netfilter_ops); // register the hook

// in exit
nf_unregister_net_hook(&init_net, &netfilter_ops); // unregister the hook

These options will create a netfilter that will filter incoming packets. You can find details online about how to filter outbound packets.

In this example main_hook is the function that actually implements the functionality of the module. More generally, it needs to be a function with the following signature:

static unsigned int main_hook(void *priv, struct sk_buff *skb,
                              const struct nf_hook_state *state);

The static isn’t strictly necessary, but it’s good practice to declare everything in your module as static besides your init and cleanup.

The only parameter we’ll be using is skb. We want to extract the source ip of packets we are recieving. You can do that with the following lines of code:

  struct iphdr *ip_header = (struct iphdr *)skb_network_header(skb);
  unsigned int src_ip = (unsigned int)ip_header->saddr;

Using the google ranges provided in filter.h find the index of the range the incoming packet belongs to and log it. If you’d like to also view the human readable ip in your log, use the format specifier %pI4 in printk and pass in a pointer to the ip address.

Finally you’ll want to return NF_ACCEPT to allow the packet to continue on it’s journey through the network stack. If you wanted to block the packet instead, use NF_DROP. Try playing around with those options to block specific google ranges. Warning: dropping all packets will result in the kernel module also dropping your ssh connection to your vm! If this happens, let one of us know so that we can reset your vm.

To test this, run dmesg -wH in one terminal and in other terminals, try commands like:

wget && rm index.html
ping [ something that isn't owned by google ]

and check your dmesg log for updates.

Part 3 - Using proc for output #

Now, we’re going to create an endpoint in /proc that will allow you to view statistics about the packets you’ve intercepted. To accomplish this, create a global array that will store in the ith index, the number of times the ith range sent a packet.

In order to prevent race conditions, we’ll need to lock access to this array. While there are spinlocks in the kernel, we’ll be using a mutex today for learning purposes.

You’ll need to create a mutex with mutex_init and destroy it with mutex_destroy. Locking and unlocking are provided by mutex_(un)lock.

Revise the lecture slides for more info about how to use a mutex in the kernel and how that is different from a spinlock.

To create your proc endpoint, you can use the following code:

Implementing proc_fs endpoint #

Here is some sample code for implementing read. In this code, range_count is an array of size_ts such that the ith element of the array contains the number of packets recieved from range i.

static char message[1024];
ssize_t filter_read(struct file *f, char __user *u, size_t req, loff_t *off) {
  int message_offset;
  int i;

  message_offset = 0;
  for (i = 0; i < google_range_count; i++) {
    message_offset +=
        snprintf(message + message_offset, sizeof(message) - message_offset,
                 "range %d (%pI4 - %pI4): %zu\n", i, google_ranges[i].start,
                 google_ranges[i].end, range_count[i]);
    if(message_offset >= 1024)

  if (*off > message_offset)
    return 0;
  if(req > message_offset - *off)
    req = message_offset - *off;

  copy_to_user(u, message+*off, req);
  *off += req;
  return req;
struct file_operations fops = {
    .read = filter_read,

struct proc_dir_entry *filterdir;

// in init
  filterdir = proc_mkdir(filter", NULL); // Creates  /proc/filter/
  proc_create("status", 0666, filterdir, &fops); // creates /proc/filter/status
// in exit
  remove_proc_entry("status", filterdir);
  remove_proc_entry("filter", NULL);

Try experimenting with write. Maybe enable or disable the filter with a write to a proc endpoint or try allowing a user to add in new ranges.

Submission Instructions #

Please read details on Academic Integrity fully. These are shared by all assignments in CS 341.

We will be using GitHub as our hand-in system this semester. Our grading system will checkout your most recent (pre-deadline) commit for grading. Therefore, to hand in your code, all you have to do is commit and push to your Github repository.

To check out the provided code for assignments-notorious_netfilter from the class repository, go to your cs341 directory (the one you checked out for “know your tools”) and run:

git pull release master

If you run ls you will now see a assignments-notorious_netfilter folder, where you can find this assignment! To commit your changes (send them to us), type:

git add assignments-notorious_netfilter
git commit -m "assignments-notorious_netfilter submission"
git push origin master

Your repository directory can be viewed from a web browser from the following URL: where NETID is your University NetID. It is important to check that the files you expect to be graded are present and up to date in your remote git copy.

Assignment Feedback #

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