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I can use the Security & Privacy preference pane to enable and disable the firewall, but how can I do it with the command line - something with defaults write maybe?

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Enable the application firewall via

defaults write /Library/Preferences/com.apple.alf globalstate -int 1

(0 to disable), and restart the services

launchctl unload /System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.alf.useragent.plist
launchctl unload /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.alf.agent.plist

launchctl load /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.alf.agent.plist
launchctl load /System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.alf.useragent.plist

The application firewall can be controlled with the /usr/libexec/ApplicationFirewall/socketfilterfw binary.

See here for further information.

Note that the application firewall is entirely different from the BSD packet filter, that can be configured with the ipfw command line utility.

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You need to sudo the unload & load of the daemon (/System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.alf.agent.plist); otherwise it'll try to unload & load them from the user launchd, which won't work right. Do not, however, sudo the commands for the useragent. –  Gordon Davisson Sep 10 '12 at 13:51
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