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IIRC, string support for iptables requires a kernel recompile with patch-o-matic support to be built in. Check out the patch-o-matic (POM) section at the netfilter site (www.netfilter.org). They have specific instructions on how to build it in.
P-O-M string patch requires kernel < 2.6 and also kernel shd not be 2.4.9... I am also looking for some string filtering system, which works with kernel 2.6.9... If you find some options other than iptables, please let me know...