FreeBSD and Blacklists in Go (or: My First Steps in Golang)

Published: · Modified: · d2f29ce

Some people might remember my first attempt to download and validate ip addresses from public abuser blacklists in order to apply them onto the FreeBSD firewall ipfw. This first attempt worked well; but it was a bit buggt though. I might fix these bugs and publish the script on; it is nice and worked well.

But why am I writing this? I wanted to learn Go for quite a long time. Since I am member of the Syncthing team on Github it is a shame for me that I cannot write any Go code. So this is my first try to fix this issue. I decided to rewrite this little Python script in Go and deploy it on my servers!

So, what it does is the same as the Python script. It fetches the preconfigured ip blacklists, it validates the ip addresses properly and after I have made 384224093284032142 percent sure that the program has not downloaded any malicous code, the ip addresses are applied to ipfw.

I have read a lot about the Go programming language and I really like the concurrency capabilities and the complete toolchain. Also, Golang compiles to statically linked binaries, such that I do not have to deal with any deploying issues as in Python any more. Additionally, it is very easy to cross-compile for other operating system by just setting (at max) two environment variables.

Go as Beginner

Download a Webpage via HTTP

So, I began with reimplementing of the downloading part of my Python script. Golang comes with a cool stdlib that seems to be comparably “battaries included” as Python’s stdlib is. There is a sophisticated implementation of http available and it works like this:

import (
	"net/http"  // <1>

func fetch(link string) string {
	resp, err := http.Get(link)  // <2>
	if err != nil {
		log.Fatalln("HTTP GET failed; Terminating worker.")
	defer resp.Body.Close()  // <3>

	body, err := ioutil.ReadAll(resp.Body)  // <4>
	if err != nil {
		log.Fatalln("Reading body failed; Terminating worker.")

	return string(body)  // <5>
  1. I regard this as the same as the Python import stuff. It imports some package which is then available as pkgname.method(). The compiler will yell at you when you import unused packages. It will educate you as much as possible. You will hate that!
  2. File a http GET request. If something fails, err is not nil. This style of error handling is pretty cool in Go. Almost every function returns some error interface that is indented to be used by the caller to detect errors.
  3. That one is pretty cool; I love defers. A defered function call is scheduled by the runtime to be executed right after the current function returns. It is pretty easy to do some and foo.close() stuff, because it is not neccessary to issue the close call in every program (error) path. By using defer foo.close() immediately after the corresponding call it is guaranteed that the foo.close() call happens always after the current function returns; in every code path!
  4. Read out the content of the body and store it in the body variable, which is returned by the function after everything finished without errors.
  5. IIRC the body contains bytes now; in order to return a string datatype it must be casted to string by a call to string().

Parse and Validate IP Addresses

That one is really important. As my “script” is intended to be run under root, and it issues shell commands in order to alter firewall rules, it is really important to make sure that it only extracts ip addresses from the relevant webpages; this is called input sanitizing. In my Python script I wrote some map() foo and used the standard library to validate the ip addresses. Since Go has no map() and I am not yet that experienced, I decided to use some regex magic to extract the relevant strings and use the Go standard library to validate those strings as well. IMO I am on the safe side using this way.

Not sharing the code would be boring, so here as another code snippet; I have omitted the IPv6 address handling, since I have not tested this yet (it is on sourcehut, though):

import (

// Regular expressions stolen from:
// Regexes slightly modified to use non capturing groups.
var (
	ipv4RE     = regexp.MustCompile(`(?:(?:25[0-5]|2[0-4][0-9]|1[0-9]{2}|[1-9][0-9]|[0-9])\.){3}(?:25[0-5]|2[0-4][0-9]|1[0-9]{2}|[1-9][0-9]|[0-9])`)
	ipv4CIDRRE = regexp.MustCompile(`(?:(?:25[0-5]|2[0-4][0-9]|1[0-9]{2}|[1-9][0-9]|[0-9])\.){3}(?:25[0-5]|2[0-4][0-9]|1[0-9]{2}|[1-9][0-9]|[0-9])\/(?:3[0-2]|[1-2][0-9]|[0-9])`)

func extractIPsAndNetworks(rawStr string) (string, error) {
	// We do some sort of duplicated work here, but it is sane to filter the ip
	// address strings out of the untrusted output first, and then afterwards
	// do some parsing, to validate that the ip is actually correct and makes
	// sense as well. Also, we may be able to do some further checks in the future...
	addrStr := ipv4CIDRRE.FindString(rawStr)

	// Let's try all the different, ugly regexes and hope that they actually match...
	if addrStr == "" {
		addrStr = ipv4RE.FindString(rawStr)

	if addrStr == "" {
		return "", errors.New("Not a valid ip address.")

	// Not really necessary, as we have done all that regex foo before,
	// but it introduces one more layer of sanity check and enables
	// further checks using the methods from the go stdlib.
	if addr := net.ParseIP(addrStr); addr != nil {
		return addr.String(), nil

	if _, network, err := net.ParseCIDR(addrStr); err == nil {
		// We don't need the addr, so let's only return the network.
		return network.String(), nil

	return "", errors.New("Not a valid ip address.")

NOTE: I do double checks here. The first check is done with the gigantic regular expression, the second check is performed using the Golang standard library. IMO this is safer, as first, the potential ip addresses are extracted from some untrusted input data. Second, those extracted strings are validated again by the Go standard library net package. Since I am going to use this program as root (in order to alter my firewall rules), I feel more comfortable with an additional layer of security.

This time I leave out the black bubbles in the code, since the code is already commented sufficiently. To sum up, this method returns either a string with a valid ip address or nil and an error, sich that the caller can check if something bad happened.

Spawning Processes

The next task of our small programm is to spawn a subprocess (to be concrete: ipfw list and so on) in order to alter the firewall rules of the relevant server. In recent Python versions I am used to something like this:

import subprocess['ls', '-l', '-a'])

That’s pretty easy and I like the simplicity, especially when I want to implement simple scripts, that spawn some other programs. In C it is usually I bit more cumbersome (but manageable); to come to the point, I was a bit worried about subprocess handling in Go. Maybe my ported programm looks really nice, but the subprocess handling is so ugly that I do not want to ever finish porting… I found out that Go does a good job here! Spawning subprocesses is rather easy.

The job of spawning subprocesses in Go envolves writing a bit more code as the Python version does, but it is also really easy. The official documentation gives a few examples and it works basically like this:

import (

func ipfwPrepare() {
	// Scan if there is already a firewall table.
	out, err := exec.Command("ipfw", "list").Output()
	if err != nil {
		log.Fatal("ipfw command failed!")

	// ...

The stdout is captured in the out variable; the return code (“error” code) is available in err. So, errors can be handled using the well known Go snippet if err != nil { ... }. If you are not interested in the stdout of the subprocess, the call to .Output() can be replaced with .Run(), like this:

	err = exec.Command("ipfw", "-qf", "table", "5", "flush").Run()
	if err != nil {
		log.Fatal("Flushing table failed!")

If more customization is needed, the command struct, created by exec.Command(), can be used to gain even more control about the created subprocess. Everything can be found in the documentation.

Advanced Go Foo

How is that stuff connected to do something useful? Go is quite good at this job. There is a common pattern to spawn workers as Go-Routines; the routines can then be connected using a shared channel in the main program loop. It basically looks like this:

func mainLoop() {
	log.Println("Starting mainLoop().")

	nWorker := 0  // <1>
	ipAddresses := make(chan string, 100000)
	done := make(chan bool)

	// Fetch, parse and validate blacklists
	for _, link := range defaultBlacklists {  // <2>
		if debug {
			log.Println("Starting fetch worker.")
		nWorker += 1
		go fetchBlacklist(link, ipAddresses, done)

	// Receive ip strings from channel; afterwards, add them to the
	// appropriate firewall tables.
	i := 0
	for nWorker > 0 {  // <3>
		select {
		case ipAddr := <-ipAddresses:
		case <-done:
			if debug {
				log.Println("A fetch worker is done.")
			nWorker -= 1


	log.Printf("Added %d addresses to firewall using %s backend.", i, firewallBackend)

The trick is to pass two channels to the worker functions. One channel to receive data and another channel to receive a bool, that the worker has finished. Go provides a mechanism to evaluate channels easily in a nonblocking way: select.

  1. Declare variables. We need a counter for the currently executing goroutines and, as mentioned before, two channels to receive data.
  2. In this loop the worker goroutines fetchBlacklist are started. The two channels are passed to these functions and the worker counter nWorker is incremented.
  3. That’s the main loop of the program. We run the mainloop as long as the nWorker variable is greater than 0; in other words as long as workers are being executed. The mainloop contains a selcet block which is used to read from multiple channels in a nonblocking way. If he output channel ipAddresses contains data, it is assigned to a local variable and further processed. If a worker terminates, it writes true to the done channel which causes the nWorker counter to be decremented.

What’s next?

I seem to like Golang a lot and I think it might become my new day to day programming language (as Python was). So, for practicing purposes, I started a project called i3gostatus. It aims to be a complete implementation for a i3status bar. Basically, it is port of i3pystatus in Go.