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This article is a tutorial for turning a computer into an internet gateway/router. It focuses on security, since the gateway is connected directly to the Internet. It should not run any services available to the outside world. Towards the LAN, it should only run gateway specific services. It should not run httpd, ftpd, samba, nfsd, etc. as those belong on a server in the LAN as they introduce security flaws.

This article does not attempt to show how to set up a shared connection between 2 PCs using cross-over cables. For a simple internet sharing solution, see Internet Share.

Hardware Requirements

  • At least 1 GB of hard drive space. The base install will take up around 500MB of space and if you want to use a caching web proxy, you will need to reserve space for the cache as well.
  • At least two physical network interfaces: a gateway connects two networks with each other. You will need to be able to connect those networks to the same physical computer. One interface must connect to the external network, while the other connects to the internal network.
  • A hub, switch or UTP cable: You need a way to connect the other computers to the gateway


Conventions in this guide will be to use non-realistic interface names, to avoid confusion about which interface is which.

  • intern0: the network card connected to the LAN. On an actual computer it will probably have the name enp2s0, enp1s1, etc.
  • extern1: the network card connected to the external network (or WAN). It will probably have the name enp2s0, enp1s1, etc.


Note: For a full installation guide, see the Official Arch Linux Install Guide.

A fresh install of Arch Linux is the easiest to start from, as no configuration changes have been made and there is a minimal amount of packages installed. This is helpful when attempting to reduce security risk.


For security purposes, /var, /tmp and /home should be separate from the / partition. This prevents disk space from being completely used up by log files, daemons or the unprivileged user. It also allows different mount options for those partitions. If you have already partitioned your drive, the gparted livecd can be used to resize, move, or create new partitions.

Your home and root partitions can be much smaller than a regular install since this is not a desktop machine. /var should be the largest partition—it is where databases, logs and long-term caches are stored. If you have a lot of RAM, mounting /tmp as tmpfs is a good idea, so making a disk partition for it during the initial install is unnecessary. Note that /tmp is mounted as tmpfs by default in Arch.


After creation of non-root account you are recommended to install sudo and disable root login.

Network interface configuration

Persistent naming and Interface renaming

Systemd automatically chooses unique interface names for all your interfaces. These are persistent and will not change when you reboot. If you would like to rename interface to user friendlier names read Network_Configuration#Device_names.

IP configuration

Now you will need to configure the network interfaces. The best way to do so is using netctl profiles. You will need to create two profiles.

Note: If you will be connecting to the Internet only via PPPoE (you have one WAN port) you do not need to setup or enable the extern0-profile. See below for more information on configuring PPPoE.
  • /etc/netctl/extern0-profile
Description='Public Interface.'
  • /etc/netctl/intern0-profile
Description='Private Interface'
Note: The example configuration above assumes a full subnet. If you are building the gateway for a small amount of people, you will want to change the CIDR suffix to accommodate a smaller range.

Next up is to set up the interfaces with netctl.

# netctl enable extern0-profile
# netctl enable intern0-profile

ADSL connection

Using rp-pppoe, we can connect an ADSL modem to the extern1 of the firewall and have Arch manage the connection. Make sure you put the modem in bridged mode though (either half-bridge or RFC1483), otherwise the modem will act as a router too.

# pacman -S rp-pppoe

It should be noted that if you use only PPPoE to connect to the internet (ie. you do not have other WAN port, except for the one that connects to your modem) you do not need to set up the extern0-profile as our external pseudo-interface will be ppp0.

PPPoE configuration

You can use netctl to setup the pppoe connection. To get started

# cp /etc/netctl/examples/pppoe /etc/netctl/

and start editing. For the interface configuration choose the interface that connects to the modem. If you only connect to the internet through PPPoE this will probably be extern0. Fill in the rest of the fields with your ISP information. See the pppoe section in netctl.profile man page for more information on the fields.


We will use dnsmasq, a DNS and DHCP daemon for the LAN. It was specifically designed for small sites. To get it, install dnsmasq from the official repositories.

Dnsmasq needs to be configured to be a DHCP server. To do this:

Edit /etc/dnsmasq.conf:

interface=intern0 # make dnsmasq listen for requests only on intern0 (our LAN)
expand-hosts      # add a domain to simple hostnames in /etc/hosts    # allow fully qualified domain names for DHCP hosts (needed when
                  # "expand-hosts" is used)
dhcp-range=,,,1h # defines a DHCP-range for the LAN: 
                  # from to .255 with a subnet mask of and a
                  # DHCP lease of 1 hour (change to your own preferences)

Somewhere below, you will notice you can also add "static" DHCP leases, i.e. assign an IP-address to the MAC-address of a computer on the LAN. This way, whenever the computer requests a new lease, it will get the same IP. That is very useful for network servers with a DNS record. You can also deny certain MAC's from obtaining an IP.

Now start dnsmasq:

# systemctl start dnsmasq.service

Connection sharing

Time to tie the two network interfaces to each other.


Simple stateful firewall documents the setup of an iptables firewall and NAT.


Shorewall, an iptables frontend, can be used as an easier alternative.

# pacman -S shorewall

Shorewall configuration

See Shorewall for Shorewall configuration.


Now that the installation has been performed, it is necessary to remove as many packages as possible. Since we are making a gateway, keeping unneeded packages only "bloats" the system, and increases the number of security risks.

First, check for obsolete/deprecated packages (likely after a fresh install and massive series of updates):

$ pacman -Qm

Review the list of explicitly installed packages that are not dependencies and remove any that are unneeded. Having only needed packages installed is an important security consideration.

$ pacman -Qet

Completely remove the packages you do not need along with their configuration files and dependencies:

# pacman -Rsn package1 package2 package3


You should review the logrotate configuration to make sure the box is not brought down by lack of diskspace due to logging.

Logrotate is installed by default, so you will not have to install it.

Optional additions


The above configuration of shorewall does not include UPnP support. Use of UPnP is discouraged as it may make the gateway vulnerable to attacks from within the LAN. However, some applications such as MSN require this to function correctly.

Read the Shorewall guide on UPnP for more information

Remote administration

OpenSSH can be used to administer your router remotely. This is useful for running it "headless" (no monitor or input devices).

Caching web proxy

See Squid or Polipo for the setup of a web proxy to speed up browsing and/or adding an extra layer of security.

Time server

To use the router as a time server, see Network Time Protocol.

Then, configure shorewall or iptables to allow NTP traffic in and out.

Content filtering

Install and configure DansGuardian or Privoxy if you need a content filtering solution.

Traffic shaping

Traffic shaping is very useful, especially when you are not the only one on the LAN. The idea is to assign a priority to different types of traffic. Interactive traffic (ssh, online gaming) probably needs the highest priority, while P2P traffic can do with the lowest. Then there is everything in between.

Traffic shaping with shorewall

Read Shorewall's Traffic Shaping/Control guide.

Here is my config as an example:

  • /etc/shorewall/tcdevices : here is where you define the interface you want to have shaped and its rates. I have got a ADSL connection with a 4MBit down/256KBit up profile.
ppp0        4mbit        256kbit 
  • /etc/shorewall/tcclasses : here you define the minimum (rate) and maximum (ceil) throughput per class. You will assign each one to a type of traffic to shape.
# interactive traffic (ssh)
ppp0            1       full    full    0
# online gaming
ppp0            2       full/2  full    5
# http
ppp0            3       full/4  full    10
# rest
ppp0            4       full/6  full    15              default
  • /etc/shorewall/tcrules : this file contains the types of traffic and the class it belongs to.
1       tcp     ssh
2       udp     27000:28000
3       tcp     http
3       tcp     https

I have split it up my traffic in 4 groups:

  1. interactive traffic or ssh: although it takes up almost no bandwidth, it is very annoying if it lags due to leechers on the LAN. This get the highest priority.
  2. online gaming: needless to say you ca not play when your ping sucks. ;)
  3. webtraffic: can be a bit slower
  4. everything else: every sort of download, they are the cause of the lag anyway.

Intrusion detection and prevention with snort

See Snort.

See also