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Setting up a debian router

Από Skytales
Μετάβαση σε: πλοήγηση, αναζήτηση

During some digital security seminars, there was the need to set up an internal network with internet access for the participants. An old laptop was used to act as the router between the lan and the internet. Since there was no wired internet connection available, the laptop-router was configured to be able to connect to the internet either via a wifi or through GSM network.

The laptop turned router used was named tool. It will thus be referred as such in the rest of this article.

Note: Tool had no hard drive. The installation was done on a USB stick, using a 32 bit debian installation. That gives the advantage of it being portable, so that practically any laptop could take tool's role, with minimal if any configuration.



Setting up tool so that it will:

  • Have its ethernet interface (eth0) connected to the LAN.
  • Connect to the internet using WIFI or GSM.
  • Route traffic between LAN and internet.
  • Act as firewall and perform necessary NAT.
  • Act as a DHCP server for the LAN.
  • Act as a DNS server for the LAN.
  • Operate a simple anonymous read-only ftp server for sharing files inside the LAN.
  • Act as a transparent HTTP cache proxy (not implemented yet).

Installing and preparing the operating system on tool

The operating system of choice was Debian Wheezy, 32-bit, running a 3.2+ Linux kernel. (Initially Debian Squeeze was tried, but failed to recognize some wifi and GSM cards). I did a bare installation, no desktop environment, only standard system utilities.

hostname: toole domain: lan

Setting up the repos

In addition to 'free', 'contrib' and 'non-free' repos were enabled in /etc/apt/sources.list in order to access all necessary firmware for the large variety of wifi cards.

 apt-get update
 apt-get upgrade

Installing firmware

 apt-get install firmware-linux* firmware-atheros firmware-iwlwifi firmware-ralink firmware-realtek


  • Tool will be remotely managed via SSH (openssh-server)
  • Tool will be a firewall (iptables)
  • Tool will be a DHCP server and caching DNS proxy (dnsmasq)
  • Tool will connect to WIFI and GSM networks (network-manager)
  • Tool will be an FTP server (proftpd)
  • Some participants didn't have ftp clients, so a web server was set up to share the ftp files (apache2)
  • Python3 is needed for a script.
  • NTP for network time auto configuration.
  • resolvconf will be installed to manage editing of /etc/resolv.conf
 apt-get install openssh-server dnsmasq ntp network-manager proftpd apache2 python3 resolvconf

SSH server

/etc/ssh/sshd_config can be edited to only allow pubkey auth or enforce listening only on LAN address. The latter is optional because it will be enforced through iptables.

Setting up networking


Edit /etc/network/interfaces as following:

 # the loopback interface
 auto lo
 iface lo inet loopback
 # setting up the LAN interface (eth0)
 auto eth0
 iface eth0 inet static
 # make internal wifi card unmanageable by network manager, will use wlan1 instead which is an external stronger one
 iface wlan0 inet static


We need network-manager to manage wireless and GSM. Network-manager is usually used by desktop environments. It also has a cli interface called nmcli.

However, nmcli doesn't support the creation of new connections. In order to create a new connection, one option is to first create it in a linux machine running some network-manager interface and then transfer the configuration file to tool. Another is to attempt to write the conf file by hand. The third is to use a script.

Network-manager connection information is stored in separate files inside /etc/NetworkManager/system-connections .

What I did is:

  • Use a script to create new wifi network connections.
  • Transfer the GSM connection file that was initially created through a nm gui of another computer.
The GSM connection

A vodafone pay on demand internet packet was used. I created the connection file in a nm gui in another computer. The file was stored as /etc/NetworkManager/system-connections/VodOD , owned by root:root with 600 perms.

 id=Vodafone Mobile Broadband On Demand 1
the script

I stole a python3 script from checkbox and edited a bit as follows:

 #!/usr/bin/env python3
 import sys
 import os
 import time
 from subprocess import (
 from uuid import uuid4
 from argparse import ArgumentParser
 CONNECTIONS_PATH = '/etc/NetworkManager/system-connections/'
 def connection_section(ssid, uuid):
     if not uuid:
         uuid = uuid4()
     connection = """
     """ % (ssid, uuid)
     wireless = """
 mode=infrastructure""" % (ssid)
     return connection + wireless
 def security_section(security, key):
     # Add security field to 802-11-wireless section
     wireless_security = """
     if security.lower() == 'wpa':
         wireless_security += """
         """ % key
     elif security.lower() == 'wep':
         wireless_security += """
         """ % key
     return wireless_security
 def ip_sections():
     ip = """
     return ip
 def block_until_created(connection, retries, interval):
     while retries > 0:
         nmcli_con_list = check_output(['nmcli', 'con', 'list'], universal_newlines=True)
         if connection in nmcli_con_list:
             print("Connection %s registered" % connection)
         retries = retries - 1
     if retries <= 0:
         print("Failed to register %s." % connection, file=sys.stderr)
             nmcli_con_up = check_call(['nmcli', 'con', 'up', 'id', connection])
             print("Connection %s activated." % connection)
         except CalledProcessError as error:
             print("Failed to activate %s." % connection, file=sys.stderr)
 def main():
     parser = ArgumentParser()
                       help="The SSID to connect to.")
     parser.add_argument('-S', '--security',
                       help=("The type of security to be used "
                             "by the connection. One of wpa and wep. "
                             "No security will be used "
                             "if nothing is specified."))
     parser.add_argument('-K', '--key',
                       help="The encryption key required by the router.")
     parser.add_argument('-U', '--uuid',
                       help="""The uuid to assign to the connection for use by
                             NetworkManager. One will be generated if not
                             specified here.""")
     parser.add_argument('-R', '--retries',
                       help="""The number of times to attempt bringing up the
                               connection until it is confirmed as active.""",
     parser.add_argument('-I', '--interval',
                       help=("The time to wait between attempts to detect the "
                             "registration of the connection."),
     args = parser.parse_args()
     connection_info = connection_section(args.ssid, args.uuid)
         # Set security options
         if not args.key:
             print("You need to specify a key using --key "
                   "if using wireless security.", file=sys.stderr)
         connection_info += security_section(, args.key)
     elif args.key:
         print("You specified an encryption key "
               "but did not give a security type using --security.", file=sys.stderr)
     #except CalledProcessError:
         print("Could not unblock wireless devices with rfkill.", file=sys.stderr)
         # Don't fail the script if unblock didn't work though
     connection_info += ip_sections()
     # NetworkManager replaces forward-slashes in SSIDs with asterisks
     connection_file = args.ssid.replace('/', '*')
         connection_file = open(CONNECTIONS_PATH + connection_file, 'w')
         os.fchmod(connection_file.fileno(), 0o600)
     except IOError:
         print("Can't write to " + CONNECTIONS_PATH + args.ssid
               + ". Is this command being run as root?", file=sys.stderr)
     block_until_created(args.ssid, args.retries, args.interval)
 if __name__ == "__main__":

I saved that script as and did a chmod u+x .

setting up the firewall

 touch /etc/network/if-pre-up.d/iptables
 chmod 755 /etc/network/if-pre-up.d/iptables

Add the following to /etc/network/if-pre-up.d/iptables

 ## disabling IP forwarding
 echo 0 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward
 ## flushing iptables
 chains=`cat /proc/net/ip_tables_names`
 for i in $chains; do
   iptables -t $i -F
   iptables -t $i -X
   iptables -t $i -Z
 ## setting default policy for INPUT,OUTPUT,FORWARD
 iptables -P INPUT DROP
 iptables -P OUTPUT ACCEPT
 iptables -P FORWARD DROP
 ## setting up NAT
 iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -o $wlanif -j MASQUERADE
 iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -o $pppif -j MASQUERADE
 ## FORWARD chain
 # allow forwarding coming from lan interface and subnet
 iptables -A FORWARD -i $ethif -j ACCEPT
 # allow forwarding of established incoming traffic from outside 
 iptables -A FORWARD -i $wlanif -m state --state ESTABLISHED,RELATED -j ACCEPT
 iptables -A FORWARD -i $pppif -m state --state ESTABLISHED,RELATED -j ACCEPT
 ## INPUT chain
 # allow loopback traffic
 iptables -A INPUT -i lo -j ACCEPT
 # allow internal traffic 
 iptables -A INPUT -i $ethif -j ACCEPT
 # allow established incoming traffic from outside 
 iptables -A INPUT -i $wlanif -m state --state ESTABLISHED,RELATED -j ACCEPT
 iptables -A INPUT -i $pppif -m state --state ESTABLISHED,RELATED -j ACCEPT
 ## enabling IP forwarding
 echo 1 > /proc/sys/net/ipv4/ip_forward

This script will be called upon activation of eth0 during boot.

ppp0 is the interface that will be created by the gsm modem. In this scenario eth0 is connected to LAN, wlan1 to wifi's, but these can be changed in the configuration section in the beginning of the script.

setting up dnsmasq

dnsmasq is a DHCP server and dns forwarder. My /etc/dnsmasq.conf file without the comments:


Using tool

Boot tool and either log in locally or via ssh.

To connect via ssh just connect to tool's eth0 port (directly or through preconfigured switch/ap) and obtain address from DHCP, then ssh tool.

Use nmcli to manage connections. Read the man page. Some usefull commands:

  • nmcli nm : network-manager status
  • nmcli nm wifi [on|off] : see wifi status, optionally enable/disable
  • nmcli nm wwan [on|off] : see wwan (mobile) status, optionally enable/disable
  • nmcli dev : list available network devices (anything defined in /etc/network/interfaces is unmanageable by nm)
  • nmcli con : list available connections
  • nmcli con status : list active connections (doesn't include connections configured in /etc/network/interfaces)
  • nmcli con up id MyConnection

Try using -p, or perhaps even doing:

 alias nmcli="nmcli -p"

Network manager has the following preference:

  1. wired
  2. wireless
  3. mobile

In our case, wired isn't handled by nm. So nm will route traffic via wifi if available, mobile eitherwise.

Connect to GSM

GSM connection conf file must be manually created or transfer. In my case it was called VodOD. To enable it

 nmcli nm wwan on
 nmcli con up id VodOD

Then check with

 nmcli con status

If GSM needs a password to be enabled (internet on demand with prepayed cards), you should be able to do it from any computer connected to LAN.

Connect to new wireless network


 iwlist wlan1 scan



(try also nm-tool | grep Strength) to list available networks. Use to create connection. Example:

 ./ -S wpa -K mykey myssid
  • -S wpa for wpa or wpa2
  • -S wep for wep
  • no -S for unencrypted wifi

Connection will be created and set up. Edit config file in /etc/NetworkManager/system-connections and remove autoconnect=false if you need it to connect automatically.