I am using iptables's logging feature to debug my network activity. I use certain prefix with --log-prefix parameter to uniquely identify messages in kernel log belonging to iptables output, for example ::IPT::LOG::.

How can I configure rsyslog to redirect messages tagged that way into a separate log file? Man page for rsyslog looks too cryptic to me.


2 Answers 2


In addition on selector-based filtering, rsyslogd can filter on patterns found in log message properties. To accomplish what you are trying to do, you can create a property-based filter to match the string you are using in your iptables rules. If you were to use --log-prefix "unique_prefix: " in your iptables rule, you would need to add this to rsyslog.conf:

:msg,startswith,"unique_prefix" /var/log/iptables

This rule will test log messages for your prefix and send them to /var/log/iptables (in addition to wherever else rsyslog is configured to send them). If you need to have the messages appear in /var/log/iptables but not elsewhere, place the new rule above others, and follow it with a line containing & ~. Complete example:

:msg,startswith,"unique_prefix" /var/log/iptables
& ~
# The rest of my rules appear below
# ...
*.info;mail.none;authpriv.none;cron.none                /var/log/messages

Rsyslog rules can have multiple actions. Subsequent actions are defined on new lines beginning with an ampersand (&). In the example above, the first rule has two actions: send output to /var/log/iptables, and then discard message (~). See rsyslog docs on actions and filters for more information on the rules in this answer

Edited to use startswith rather than contains for performance considerations. Since the iptables --log-prefix is indeed a prefix, and thus will be at the start of the message.

  • 1
    So in this case output will go to the both log files? How can I also indeed redirect the messages, so they don't appear in syslog, but in iptables' log only?
    – mbaitoff
    Jul 5, 2011 at 1:31
  • Added more complete example and information about rule actions
    – Eli Heady
    Jul 5, 2011 at 12:01
  • On my Debian (7 or 8) systems, the msg doesn't start with the log prefix. So I needed this regex instead : :msg, regex, "^\[ *[0-9]*\.[0-9]*\] MyPrefix" to match Jan 23 18:11:35 myhost kernel: [607552.301334] MyPrefix IN=...
    – mivk
    Jan 23, 2016 at 17:17

My experience, given the nature of how the rsyslog.conf file is parsed, the additional configuration lines in /etc/rsyslog.conf must be before all other configuration lines. If added to the end of the file, the ip-tables logging will still be appended to /var/log/messages and also re-directed to the /var/log/iptables.log file.

  • 1
    Well that was useful! I was wondering why I still have 'iptables' rubbish in system log in addition to dedicated log.
    – mbaitoff
    Dec 19, 2011 at 5:34

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