Ever take a look at your server’s auth logs and do a quick count of how many failed SSH login attempts you had on your server last week? Its very common to see hundreds, if not thousands of attempts in a very short period of time. Assuming you cannot use a firewall to restrict SSH access to only authorized IP addresses, how do you mitigate these brute force attacks?
There are many tools out there to help with this. One I like is fail2ban. This program scans through log files and takes action against events such as repeated failed login attempts, and blocks the offending IP address for a set period of time.
On CentOS systems, fail2ban can be installed from the EPEL repositories. If you do not have EPEL installed, you can get it setup by:
wget http://dl.fedoraproject.org/pub/epel/5/x86_64/epel-release-5-4.noarch.rpm sudo rpm -Uvh epel-release-5*.rpm
wget http://dl.fedoraproject.org/pub/epel/6/x86_64/epel-release-6-8.noarch.rpm sudo rpm -Uvh epel-release-6*.rpm
Now install fail2ban:
yum install fail2ban cp /etc/fail2ban/jail.conf /etc/fail2ban/jail.local
Now customize /etc/fail2ban/jail.local accordingly for your server. Posted below are some more commonly configured options for CentOS 6 servers. The defaults (at the time of this writing) should protect SSH by banning any 3 or greater failed login attempts for 5 minutes via iptables. So the defaults should be okay, but you may want to consider adding your workstations IP address to the ignore ip list below so you don’t lock yourself out by accident!
vi /etc/fail2ban/jail.local # "ignoreip" can be an IP address, a CIDR mask or a DNS host. Fail2ban will not # ban a host which matches an address in this list. Several addresses can be # defined using space separator. ignoreip = 127.0.0.1/8 # "bantime" is the number of seconds that a host is banned. bantime = 600 # A host is banned if it has generated "maxretry" during the last "findtime" # seconds. findtime = 600 # "maxretry" is the number of failures before a host get banned. maxretry = 3
Finally, set fail2ban to start at boot, and start service:
chkconfig fail2ban on service fail2ban start
As a quick side note, sometimes hosting providers will automatically install fail2ban for you. And depending on the host, they may configure it in such a way that it sends an email each time an IP address gets banned from SSH. This can quickly create a flood of email or email failures, especially if its not configured for a real email address.
If you have having issues like this and your fail2ban configuration was set to email you, you can prevent fail2ban from sending you emails for SSH bans by removing the line from the ssh-iptables block:
sendmail-whois[name=SSH, dest=root, [email protected]]
As a live example assuming it was previously configured, here is what it would look like before you make the change:
vim /etc/fail2ban/jail.conf ... [ssh-iptables] enabled = true filter = sshd action = iptables[name=SSH, port=ssh, protocol=tcp] sendmail-whois[name=SSH, dest=root, [email protected]] logpath = /var/log/secure maxretry = 5
And here is what it would look like after you make the change:
vim /etc/fail2ban/jail.conf ... [ssh-iptables] enabled = true filter = sshd action = iptables[name=SSH, port=ssh, protocol=tcp] logpath = /var/log/secure maxretry = 5
And be sure to restart fail2ban after the configuration update has been completed:
service fail2ban restart