Bash Script Update UFW Rule for Dynamic Host

If you are a road warrior and need access to your servers how do you update your firewall rules? A simple bash script like this one will update your UFW firewall rules so you can access your server wherever you are.

Let me start by saying we didn’t write this, but one of our techs found it from This Tech Blog and we use it so frequently, we want to document it for others.

Option 1: Update UFW by Hand

We are going to assume you have UFW running and enabled for the rest of this article!

Option 2: Automate UFW Updates With a Script!!

  • Register a Dynamic Hostname
  • Write the Bash Script
  • Create Dynamic Host Object for UFW
  • Add Cron Job
  • Verify Owner/Permissions
  • Install Dynamic Host Updater on Client
  • Verify Your Script is Working on Server

The rest of this article will detail the steps above to automate your UFW bash script to update firewall rules based on your dynamic host.

Register a Dynamic Hostname

There are several free services for dynamic DNS. The way we do it is to register at least two dynamic hosts. One dynamic host is tied to the router, so when we are in the office, that IP is registered. If that IP happens to change, it will be updated for all of the computers at that location. The second dynamic host is used by installing the client on the laptop. Now when that laptop uses any hotspot, it is also allowed into the network. We are using Dyn DNS but you can use any service so long as it’s regularly updated and easy to use.

We use Dyn DNS because the routers are typically setup to use it as a default Dynamic DNS.

You’ll need to install the client on your travel machine so it can register whenever the laptop travels to a new network.

Your server will also need “dig” installed. If it’s not installed “which dig”, then you can install it easily:

Write the Bash Shell Script

Set Execute Permissions On The Script

We need this Bash script to execute at regular intervals. In order for to execute, we need our script to have execute permissions (and later we’ll add a cron job too).

As for the group and owner, only root can normally update UFW. So, unless you modify your wheel group or otherwise give your user permissions to specifically edit UFW, you’ll need to use root as the owner of the script and all files. For security practices, this isn’t the greatest idea and will fail some audits. More importantly, it would be better to update your user to have UFW permissions and then run all of the job, file permissions etc as that owner.

An even better practice is to give a special user priveledges to ONLY touch UFW or automate certain tasks and then run said tasks as that owner. To keep it simple for documentation purposes, we’ll pretend that root is fine for our audits.

Create Dynamic Host Object for UFW

This object is simply a file storing the most recently found IP of your dynamic host. We’ll create and preload it with the data it needs, but this isn’t necessary:

In addition, make sure the object is readable and writable so our UFW script can make changes to it:

Create the Dynamic Host Database

This is a simple text file stating what ports to open for each dynamic host. You can have multiple lines in it, 1 line per host. In the following example we are saying “TCP 22 should be open from”:

Test the Script Manually

You should be able to run the script manually at this point and then verify your UFW logs and rules to see them update.

You can view your UFW rules with the following command before and after testing your script:

ufw status numbered
ufw status numbered

Add Cron Job

Now that you have a scripts, temporary objects, and a dynamic host database all working… you need to setup the script to run on autopilot. Use the crontab -e command to edit the cronjob. Remember it must as a job on the user that owns the script and that user must have permission to edit UFW rules!

You can verify the job is setup in cron by looking at the cron jobs. We are hiding the messages and keeping the errors to syslog using the reroute to dev null:

Verify Your Script is Working on Server

If it’s all working you should get an updated UFW status, and see an entry in syslog about the UFW changes:

To verify recent CRON jobs, view your syslog:

3 thoughts on “Bash Script Update UFW Rule for Dynamic Host

  • January 20, 2020 at 3:36 am

    In line 11 you better use “… /ufw status…” instead of “…/ufw status numbered…” otherwise there will be some errors on other distributions.

    • January 20, 2020 at 9:45 am

      Thank you – which distros choke on the numbered portion?

  • September 3, 2020 at 4:11 pm

    Thank you for the script, very useful. I had to move the ufw-dynamic-ips.allow list from /var/tmp to /etc/ufw because of the 30 day cleaning. Before moving I had old ips not being removed from ufw.


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