FireHOL is a Bash script. To run its configuration file, FireHOL first defines a set of functions and variables and then it "sources" (runs inline) its configuration file to be executed by BASH.
The keywords interface, client, server, router, etc. are all BASH functions that are executed by BASH when and if they appear in the configuration file. Using shared variables these functions share some state information that allows them to know, for example, that a client command appears within an interface and not within a router and that the name given to an interface that has not been used before.
Instead of running iptables commands directly, each of these functions (i.e. FireHOL) just writes the generated iptables commands to a temporary file. This is done to prevent altering a running firewall before ensuring that the syntax of the configuration file is correct. So, a complete run of the configuration file actually produces all the iptables commands for the firewall, written to a temporary file (script). Even the iptables commands given within the configuration file use the same concept (they just generate iptables commands in this script).
Finally, this script (the generated iptables commands) has to be run, but before doing so, FireHOL saves the running firewall to another temporary file. The saved firewall will be automatically restored if some of the generated iptables commands produces an error. Such an error is possible when for example, you specify an invalid IP address or hostname, or an invalid argument to some parameter that gets passed to iptables as-is.
iptables-restore to install your new firewall in one go. This is very quick and does not need to clear down your existing firewall before adding updated rules.
This mode is the default in version 3.x, optional in version 2.x and not available in version 1.x.
Rules are inserted by
iptables commands one a a time. By default during this process (including the possible restoration of the old firewall), FireHOL allows all traffic to reach its destination until the firewall is activated.
The two-way checking of packets means any rogue connection will be instantly severed once the firewall is active.
This has been done to prevent a lock-out situation where you are SSHing to the server to alter its firewall, and suddenly you loose the connection. To control this behaviour, set the ACTIVATION variables.
This mode is the default in version 2.x and not available in 1.x.
Note you can still can lock yourself out if your new firewall denies your connection after it is loaded. To prevent accidents when updating remote firewalls consider using the try command to start the firewall.
If no error has been seen, FireHOL deletes all temporary files generated and exits.
In case there was an error, FireHOL will make the most to restore your previous firewall and will present you details about the error and its line number in the original configuration file.