Maximal protection against SSH attacks. If your server has to stay with open SSH (Secure Shell) port open to the world

Brute Force Attack SSH screen, Script kiddie attacking
If you’re a a remote Linux many other Unix based OSes, you have defitenily faced the security threat of many failed ssh logins or as it’s better known a brute force attack

During such attacks your /var/log/messages or /var/log/auth gets filled in with various failed password logs like for example:

Feb 3 20:25:50 linux sshd[32098]: Failed password for invalid user oracle from 95.154.249.193 port 51490 ssh2
Feb 3 20:28:30 linux sshd[32135]: Failed password for invalid user oracle1 from 95.154.249.193 port 42778 ssh2
Feb 3 20:28:55 linux sshd[32141]: Failed password for invalid user test1 from 95.154.249.193 port 51072 ssh2
Feb 3 20:30:15 linux sshd[32163]: Failed password for invalid user test from 95.154.249.193 port 47481 ssh2
Feb 3 20:33:20 linux sshd[32211]: Failed password for invalid user testuser from 95.154.249.193 port 51731 ssh2
Feb 3 20:35:32 linux sshd[32249]: Failed password for invalid user user from 95.154.249.193 port 38966 ssh2
Feb 3 20:35:59 linux sshd[32256]: Failed password for invalid user user1 from 95.154.249.193 port 55850 ssh2
Feb 3 20:36:25 linux sshd[32268]: Failed password for invalid user user3 from 95.154.249.193 port 36610 ssh2
Feb 3 20:36:52 linux sshd[32274]: Failed password for invalid user user4 from 95.154.249.193 port 45514 ssh2
Feb 3 20:37:19 linux sshd[32279]: Failed password for invalid user user5 from 95.154.249.193 port 54262 ssh2
Feb 3 20:37:45 linux sshd[32285]: Failed password for invalid user user2 from 95.154.249.193 port 34755 ssh2
Feb 3 20:38:11 linux sshd[32292]: Failed password for invalid user info from 95.154.249.193 port 43146 ssh2
Feb 3 20:40:50 linux sshd[32340]: Failed password for invalid user peter from 95.154.249.193 port 46411 ssh2
Feb 3 20:43:02 linux sshd[32372]: Failed password for invalid user amanda from 95.154.249.193 port 59414 ssh2
Feb 3 20:43:28 linux sshd[32378]: Failed password for invalid user postgres from 95.154.249.193 port 39228 ssh2
Feb 3 20:43:55 linux sshd[32384]: Failed password for invalid user ftpuser from 95.154.249.193 port 47118 ssh2
Feb 3 20:44:22 linux sshd[32391]: Failed password for invalid user fax from 95.154.249.193 port 54939 ssh2
Feb 3 20:44:48 linux sshd[32397]: Failed password for invalid user cyrus from 95.154.249.193 port 34567 ssh2
Feb 3 20:45:14 linux sshd[32405]: Failed password for invalid user toto from 95.154.249.193 port 42350 ssh2
Feb 3 20:45:42 linux sshd[32410]: Failed password for invalid user sophie from 95.154.249.193 port 50063 ssh2
Feb 3 20:46:08 linux sshd[32415]: Failed password for invalid user yves from 95.154.249.193 port 59818 ssh2
Feb 3 20:46:34 linux sshd[32424]: Failed password for invalid user trac from 95.154.249.193 port 39509 ssh2
Feb 3 20:47:00 linux sshd[32432]: Failed password for invalid user webmaster from 95.154.249.193 port 47424 ssh2
Feb 3 20:47:27 linux sshd[32437]: Failed password for invalid user postfix from 95.154.249.193 port 55615 ssh2
Feb 3 20:47:54 linux sshd[32442]: Failed password for www-data from 95.154.249.193 port 35554 ssh2
Feb 3 20:48:19 linux sshd[32448]: Failed password for invalid user temp from 95.154.249.193 port 43896 ssh2
Feb 3 20:48:46 linux sshd[32453]: Failed password for invalid user service from 95.154.249.193 port 52092 ssh2
Feb 3 20:49:13 linux sshd[32458]: Failed password for invalid user tomcat from 95.154.249.193 port 60261 ssh2
Feb 3 20:49:40 linux sshd[32464]: Failed password for invalid user upload from 95.154.249.193 port 40236 ssh2
Feb 3 20:50:06 linux sshd[32469]: Failed password for invalid user debian from 95.154.249.193 port 48295 ssh2
Feb 3 20:50:32 linux sshd[32479]: Failed password for invalid user apache from 95.154.249.193 port 56437 ssh2
Feb 3 20:51:00 linux sshd[32492]: Failed password for invalid user rds from 95.154.249.193 port 45540 ssh2
Feb 3 20:51:26 linux sshd[32501]: Failed password for invalid user exploit from 95.154.249.193 port 53751 ssh2
Feb 3 20:51:51 linux sshd[32506]: Failed password for invalid user exploit from 95.154.249.193 port 33543 ssh2
Feb 3 20:52:18 linux sshd[32512]: Failed password for invalid user postgres from 95.154.249.193 port 41350 ssh2
Feb 3 21:02:04 linux sshd[32652]: Failed password for invalid user shell from 95.154.249.193 port 54454 ssh2
Feb 3 21:02:30 linux sshd[32657]: Failed password for invalid user radio from 95.154.249.193 port 35462 ssh2
Feb 3 21:02:57 linux sshd[32663]: Failed password for invalid user anonymous from 95.154.249.193 port 44290 ssh2
Feb 3 21:03:23 linux sshd[32668]: Failed password for invalid user mark from 95.154.249.193 port 53285 ssh2
Feb 3 21:03:50 linux sshd[32673]: Failed password for invalid user majordomo from 95.154.249.193 port 34082 ssh2
Feb 3 21:04:43 linux sshd[32684]: Failed password for irc from 95.154.249.193 port 50918 ssh2
Feb 3 21:05:36 linux sshd[32695]: Failed password for root from 95.154.249.193 port 38577 ssh2
Feb 3 21:06:30 linux sshd[32705]: Failed password for bin from 95.154.249.193 port 53564 ssh2
Feb 3 21:06:56 linux sshd[32714]: Failed password for invalid user dev from 95.154.249.193 port 34568 ssh2
Feb 3 21:07:23 linux sshd[32720]: Failed password for root from 95.154.249.193 port 43799 ssh2
Feb 3 21:09:10 linux sshd[32755]: Failed password for invalid user bob from 95.154.249.193 port 50026 ssh2
Feb 3 21:09:36 linux sshd[32761]: Failed password for invalid user r00t from 95.154.249.193 port 58129 ssh2
Feb 3 21:11:50 linux sshd[537]: Failed password for root from 95.154.249.193 port 58358 ssh2

This brute force dictionary attacks often succeed where there is a user with a weak a password, or some old forgotten test user account.
Just recently on one of the servers I administrate I have catched a malicious attacker originating from Romania, who was able to break with my system test account with the weak password tset .

Thanksfully the script kiddie was unable to get root access to my system, so what he did is he just started another ssh brute force scanner to crawl the net and look for some other vulnerable hosts.

As you read in my recent example being immune against SSH brute force attacks is a very essential security step, the administrator needs to take on a newly installed server.

The easiest way to get read of the brute force attacks without using some external brute force filtering software like fail2ban can be done by:

1. By using an iptables filtering rule to filter every IP which has failed in logging in more than 5 times

To use this brute force prevention method you need to use the following iptables rules:
linux-host:~# /sbin/iptables -I INPUT -p tcp --dport 22 -i eth0 -m state -state NEW -m recent -set
linux-host:~# /sbin/iptables -I INPUT -p tcp --dport 22 -i eth0 -m state -state NEW
-m recent -update -seconds 60 -hitcount 5 -j DROP

This iptables rules will filter out the SSH port to an every IP address with more than 5 invalid attempts to login to port 22

2. Getting rid of brute force attacks through use of hosts.deny blacklists

sshbl – The SSH blacklist, updated every few minutes, contains IP addresses of hosts which tried to bruteforce into any of currently 19 hosts (all running OpenBSD, FreeBSD or some Linux) using the SSH protocol. The hosts are located in Germany, the United States, United Kingdom, France, England, Ukraine, China, Australia, Czech Republic and setup to report and log those attempts to a central database. Very similar to all the spam blacklists out there.

To use sshbl you will have to set up in your root crontab the following line:

*/60 * * * * /usr/bin/wget -qO /etc/hosts.deny http://www.sshbl.org/lists/hosts.deny

To set it up from console issue:

linux-host:~# echo '*/60 * * * * /usr/bin/wget -qO /etc/hosts.deny http://www.sshbl.org/lists/hosts.deny' | crontab -u root -

These crontab will download and substitute your system default hosts with the one regularly updated on sshbl.org , thus next time a brute force attacker which has been a reported attacker will be filtered out as your Linux or Unix system finds out the IP matches an ip in /etc/hosts.deny

The /etc/hosts.deny filtering rules are written in a way that only publicly known brute forcer IPs will only be filtered for the SSH service, therefore other system services like Apache or a radio, tv streaming server will be still accessible for the brute forcer IP.

It’s a good practice actually to use both of the methods 😉
Thanks to Static (Multics) a close friend of mine for inspiring this article.

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6 Responses to “Maximal protection against SSH attacks. If your server has to stay with open SSH (Secure Shell) port open to the world”

  1. Ron says:
    Firefox 5.0.1 Firefox 5.0.1 Mac OS X  10.6 Mac OS X 10.6
    Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10.6; rv:5.0.1) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/5.0.1

    Great info, thanks for posting it. I just discovered a tool called sshguard, at http://www.sshguard.net/ and I was wondering if you know anything about it.
    Cheers,
    Ron

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    • admin says:
      Epiphany 2.30.6 Epiphany 2.30.6 Debian GNU/Linux x64 Debian GNU/Linux x64
      Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux x86_64; en-us) AppleWebKit/531.2+ (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.0 Safari/531.2+ Debian/squeeze (2.30.6-1) Epiphany/2.30.6

      No I don’t know this one, but it looks something similar to fail2ban. If you try it and have experience with it I’ll be glad to know about it.

      Thx!
      see ya around

      View CommentView Comment
  2. Andrew says:
    Google Chrome 24.0.1312.56 Google Chrome 24.0.1312.56 Windows 7 x64 Edition Windows 7 x64 Edition
    Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 6.1; WOW64) AppleWebKit/537.17 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/24.0.1312.56 Safari/537.17

    Getting a error:

    Bad argument `NEW’
    Try `iptables -h’ or ‘iptables –help’ for more information.

    View CommentView Comment
  3. Matt says:
    Firefox 41.0 Firefox 41.0 Mac OS X  10.10 Mac OS X 10.10
    Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10.10; rv:41.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/41.0

    Why not just use Fail2Ban? Easy to install and does all this for you. For many different apps. No need to reinvent the wheel.

    View CommentView Comment
    • admin says:
      Google Chrome 45.0.2454.85 Google Chrome 45.0.2454.85 Mac OS X  10.8.5 Mac OS X 10.8.5
      Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10_8_5) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/45.0.2454.85 Safari/537.36

      Hi Matt,


      Reason is fail2ban could cause you sometimes troubles in case of DoS, where simply filtering the main IPs might work and the article’s goal is to show
      the principle fail2ban makes it.

      I’ve seen servers where when fail2ban is enabled causes big troubles especially if it is enabled for some non SSH protocol, so if you can do it without fail2ban in my opionion its better.

      But yeah you’re right sometimes you just need fail2ban.

      Regards,

      Georgi

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