Posts Tagged ‘linux servers’

Scanning shared hosting servers to catch abusers, unwanted files, phishers, spammers and script kiddies with clamav

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Clamav scanning shared hosting servers to catch abusers, phishers, spammers, script kiddies etc.  logo

I’m responsible for some GNU/Linux servers which are shared hosting and therefore contain plenty of user accounts.
Every now and then our company servers gets suspended because of a Phishing websites, Spammers script kiddies and all the kind of abusers one can think of.

To mitigate the impact of the server existing unwanted users activities, I decided to use the Clamav Antivirus – open source virus scanner to look up for potentially dangerous files, stored Viruses, Spammer mailer scripts, kernel exploits etc.

The Hosting servers are running latest CentOS 5.5. Linux and fortunately CentOS is equipped with an RPM pre-packaged latest Clamav release which of the time of writting is ver. (0.97.2).

Installing Clamav on CentOS is a piece of cake and it comes to issuing:

[root@centos:/root]# yum -y install clamav

After the install is completed, I’ve used freshclam to update clamav virus definitions

[root@centos:/root]# freshclam
ClamAV update process started at Fri Aug 12 13:19:32 2011
main.cvd is up to date (version: 53, sigs: 846214, f-level: 53, builder: sven)
WARNING: getfile: daily-13357.cdiff not found on remote server (IP:
WARNING: getpatch: Can't download daily-13357.cdiff from
WARNING: getfile: daily-13357.cdiff not found on remote server (IP:
WARNING: getpatch: Can't download daily-13357.cdiff from
WARNING: getfile: daily-13357.cdiff not found on remote server (IP:
WARNING: getpatch: Can't download daily-13357.cdiff from
WARNING: Incremental update failed, trying to download daily.cvd
Downloading daily.cvd [100%]
daily.cvd updated (version: 13431, sigs: 173670, f-level: 60, builder: arnaud)
Downloading bytecode.cvd [100%]
bytecode.cvd updated (version: 144, sigs: 41, f-level: 60, builder: edwin)
Database updated (1019925 signatures) from (IP:

In my case the shared hosting hosted websites and FTP user files are stored in /home directory thus I further used clamscan in the following way to check report and log into file the scan results for our company hosted user content.

[root@centos:/root]# screen clamscan -r -i --heuristic-scan-precedence=yes --phishing-scan-urls=yes --phishing-cloak=yes --phishing-ssl=yes --scan-archive=no /home/ -l /var/log/clamscan.log
home/user1/mail/new/,S=14295: Heuristics.Phishing.Email.SpoofedDomain FOUND/home/user1/mail/new/,S=14260: Heuristics.Phishing.Email.SpoofedDomain FOUND/home/user1/mail/new/,S=22663: Heuristics.Phishing.Email.SpoofedDomain FOUND/home/user1/mail/new/,S=13114: Heuristics.Phishing.Email.SpoofedDomain FOUND/home/user1/mail/,S=8283:2,S: Heuristics.Phishing.Email.SSL-Spoof FOUND/home/user1/mail/,S=6935:2,S: Heuristics.Phishing.Email.SSL-Spoof FOUND

I prefer running the clamscan in a screen session, because it’s handier, if for example my ssh connection dies the screen session will preserve the clamscan cmd execution and I can attach later on to see how scan went.

clamscan of course is slower as it does not use Clamav antivirus daemon clamd , however I prefer running it without running the daemon, as having a permanently running clamd on the servers sometimes creates problems or hangs and it’s not really worthy to have it running since I’m intending to do a clamscan no more than once per month to see some potential users which might need to be suspended.

Also later on, after it finishes all possible problems are logged to /var/log/clamscan.log , so I can read the file report any time.

A good idea might also be to implement the above clamscan to be conducted, once per month via a cron job, though I’m still in doubt if it’s better to run it manually once per month to search for the malicious users content or it’s better to run it via cron schedule.

One possible pitfall with automating the above clamscan /home virus check up, might be the increased load it puts to the system. In some cases the Webserver and SQL server might be under a heavy load at the exactly same time the clamscan cron work is running, this might possible create severe issues for users websites, if it’s not monitored.
Thus I would probably go with running above clamscan manually each month and monitor the server performance.
However for people, who have “iron” system hardware and clamscan file scan is less likely to cause any issues, probably a cronjob would be fine. Here is sample cron job to run clamscan:

10 05 01 * * clamscan -r -i --heuristic-scan-precedence=yes --phishing-scan-urls=yes --phishing-cloak=yes --phishing-ssl=yes --scan-archive=no /home/ -l /var/log/clamscan.log >/dev/null 2>&1

I’m interested to hear if somebody already is using a clamscan to run on cron without issues, once I’m sure that running it on cron would not lead to server down-times, i’ll implement it via cron job.

Anyone having experience with running clamscan directory scan through crond? 🙂

How to auto restart CentOS Linux server with software watchdog (softdog) to reduce server downtime

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

How to auto restart centos with software watchdog daemon to mitigate server downtimes, watchdog linux artistic logo

I’m in charge of dozen of Linux servers these days and therefore am required to restart many of the servers with a support ticket (because many of the Data Centers where the servers are co-located does not have a web interface or IPKVM connected to the server for that purpose). Therefore the server restart requests in case of crash sometimes gets processed in few hours or in best case in at least half an hour.

I’m aware of the existence of Hardware Watchdog devices, which are capable to detect if a server is hanged and auto-restart it, however the servers I administrate does not have Hardware support for Watchdog timer.

Thanksfully there is a free software project called Watchdog which is easily configured and mitigates the terrible downtimes caused every now and then by a server crash and respective delays by tech support in Data Centers.

I’ve recently blogged on the topic of Debian Linux auto-restart in case of kernel panic , however now i had to conifgure watchdog on some dozen of CentOS Linux servers.

It appeared installation & configuration of Watchdog on CentOS is a piece of cake and comes to simply following few easy steps, which I’ll explain quickly in this post:

1. Install with yum watchdog to CentOS

[root@centos:/etc/init.d ]# yum install watchdog

2. Add to configuration a log file to log watchdog activities and location of the watchdog device

The quickest way to add this two is to use echo to append it in /etc/watchdog.conf:

[root@centos:/etc/init.d ]# echo 'file = /var/log/messages' >> /etc/watchdog.conf
echo 'watchdog-device = /dev/watchdog' >> /etc/watchdog.conf

3. Load the softdog kernel module to initialize the software watchdog via /dev/watchdog

[root@centos:/etc/init.d ]# /sbin/modprobe softdog

Initialization of softdog should be indicated by a line in dmesg kernel log like the one above:

[root@centos:/etc/init.d ]# dmesg |grep -i watchdog
Software Watchdog Timer: 0.07 initialized. soft_noboot=0 soft_margin=60 sec (nowayout= 0)

4. Include the softdog kernel module to load on CentOS boot up

This is necessery, because otherwise after reboot the softdog would not be auto initialized and without it being initialized, the watchdog daemon service could not function as it does automatically auto reboots the server if the /dev/watchdog disappears.

It’s better that the softdog module is not loaded via /etc/rc.local but the default CentOS methodology to load module from /etc/rc.module is used:

[root@centos:/etc/init.d ]# echo modprobe softdog >> /etc/rc.modules
[root@centos:/etc/init.d ]# chmod +x /etc/rc.modules

5. Start the watchdog daemon service

The succesful intialization of softdog in step 4, should have provided the system with /dev/watchdog, before proceeding with starting up the watchdog daemon it’s wise to first check if /dev/watchdog is existent on the system. Here is how:

[root@centos:/etc/init.d ]# ls -al /dev/watchdogcrw------- 1 root root 10, 130 Aug 10 14:03 /dev/watchdog

Being sure, that /dev/watchdog is there, I’ll start the watchdog service.

[root@centos:/etc/init.d ]# service watchdog restart

Very important note to make here is that you should never ever configure watchdog service to run on boot time with chkconfig. In other words the status from chkconfig for watchdog boot on all levels should be off like so:

[root@centos:/etc/init.d ]# chkconfig --list |grep -i watchdog
watchdog 0:off 1:off 2:off 3:off 4:off 5:off 6:off

Enabling the watchdog from the chkconfig will cause watchdog to automatically restart the system as it will probably start the watchdog daemon before the softdog module is initialized. As watchdog will be unable to read the /dev/watchdog it will though the system has hanged even though the system might be in a boot process. Therefore it will end up in an endless loops of reboots which can only be fixed in a linux single user mode!!! Once again BEWARE, never ever activate watchdog via chkconfig!

Next step to be absolutely sure that watchdog device is running it can be checked with normal ps command:

[root@centos:/etc/init.d ]# ps aux|grep -i watchdog
root@hosting1-fr [~]# ps axu|grep -i watch|grep -v greproot 18692 0.0 0.0 1816 1812 ? SNLs 14:03 0:00 /usr/sbin/watchdog
root 25225 0.0 0.0 0 0 ? ZN 17:25 0:00 [watchdog] <defunct>

You have probably noticed the defunct state of watchdog, consider that as absolutely normal, above output indicates that now watchdog is properly running on the host and waiting to auto reboot in case of sudden /dev/watchdog disappearance.

As a last step before, after being sure its initialized properly, it’s necessery to add watchdog to run on boot time via /etc/rc.local post init script, like so:

[root@centos:/etc/init.d ]# echo 'echo /sbin/service watchdog start' >> /etc/rc.local

Now enjoy, watchdog is up and running and will automatically restart the CentOS host 😉

How to configure ssh to automatically connect to non standard ssh port numbers (!port 22)

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

SSH Artistic Logo, don't give away your password

Today I’ve learned from a admin colleague, a handy tip.
I’m administrating some Linux servers which are configured on purpose not to run on the default ssh port number (22) and therefore each time I connect to a host I have to invoke the ssh command with -p PORT_NUMBER option.

This is not such a problem, however when one has to administrate a dozen of servers each of which is configured to listen for ssh connections on various port numbers, every now and then I had to check in my notes which was the correct ssh port number I’m supposed to connect to.

To get around this silly annoyance the ssh client has a feature, whether a number of ssh server hosts can be preconfigured from the ~/.ssh/config in order to later automatically recognize the port number to which the corresponding host will be connecting (whenever) using the ssh user@somehost without any -p argument specified.

In order to make the “auto detection” of the ssh port number, the ~/.ssh/config file should look something similar to:

hipo@noah:~$ cat ~/.ssh/config
Host home.*
User root
Port 2020
User root
Port 1212
User root
Port 2222
User root
Port 1234

The * specifies that all ssh-able subdomains belonging to my domain should be by default sshed to port 2020

Now I can simply use:

hipo@noah:~$ ssh

And I can connect without bothering to remember port numbers or dig into an old notes.
Hope this ssh tip is helpful.

Installing HTOP on CentOS 5.5 OpenVZ Linux server from source

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Htop Cool picture logo / htop on CentOS OpenVZ

Lately, I’m basicly using htop‘s nice colourful advanced Linux top command frontend in almost every server I manage, therefore I’ve almost abondoned top usage these days and in that reason I wanted to have htop installed on few of the OpenVZ CentOS 5.5 Linux servers at work.

I looked online but unfortunately I couldn’t find any rpm pre-built binary packages. The source rpm package I tried to build from dag wieers repository failed as well, so finally I went further and decided to install htop from source

Here is how I did it:

1. Install gcc and glibc-devel prerequired rpm packages

[root@centos ~]# yum install gcc glibc-devel

2. Download htop and compile from source

[root@centos src]# cd /usr/local/src
[root@centos src]# wget ""
Connecting to||:80... connected.
HTTP request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK
Length: 418767 (409K) [application/x-gzip]
Saving to: "download"

100%[======================================>] 418,767 417K/s in 1.0s
2011-07-22 13:30:28 (417 KB/s) – “download” saved [418767/418767]

[root@centos src]# mv download htop.tar.gz
[root@centos src]# tar -zxf htop.tar.gz
[root@centos src]# cd htop-0.9
[root@centos htop-0.9]# ./configure && make && make install

make install should install htop to /usr/local/bin/htop

That’s all folks! , now my OpenVZ CentOS server is equipped with the nifty htop tool 😉

How to load custom Kernel (tun) module in CentOS and RHEL Linux

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

kernel module load on boot in CentOS and Fedora

Just recently it was necessery to load up a tun kernel module on few CentOS Linux servers.

I’m using Debian on daily basis, and everybody that had even little of experience with Debian should already be aware about the existence of the handy:
/etc/modules file.
On Debian to enable a certain kernel module to load up on Linux boot, all necessery is to just place the kernel module name in /etc/modules.
For example loading the tun tunneling kernel module I issue the command:

debian:~# echo tun >> /etc/modules

I wondered if CentOS, also supports /etc/modules as it was necessery now to add this tun module to load up on CentOS’s boot.
After a bit of research I’ve figured out CentOS does not have support for adding modules names in /etc/modules , anyhow after consulting CentOS documentation on , I found CentOS and RHEL use /etc/rc.modules instead of Debian’s /etc/modules to load up any custom kernel modules not loaded by default during system boot.

Therefore instructing the RHEL Linux to load up my desired tun module in kernel on next boot was as easy as executing:

[root@centos ~]# echo 'modprobe tun' >> /etc/rc.modules
[root@centos ~]# chmod +x /etc/rc.modules

Now on next boot CentOS will load up the tun module in kernel. Achiving the same module load up is also possible through /etc/rc.local , but it’s not recommended way as /etc/rc.local would load up the kernel module after all of the rest init boot scripts complete and therefore will load up the module slightly later, at the final boot stage.

Speeding up Apache through apache2-mpm-worker and php5-cgi on Debian / How to improve Apache performance and decrease server memory consumption

Friday, March 18th, 2011

speeding up apache through apache2-mpm-worker and php5-cgi on Debian Linux / how to improve apache performance and decrease server responce time
By default most Apache running Linux servers on the Internet are configured to use with the mpm prefork apache module
Historically prefork apache module is the predecessor of the worker module therefore it's believed to be a way more tested and reliable, if you need a critical reliable webserver configuration.

However from my experience by so far with the Apache MPM Worker I can boldly say that many of the rumors concerning the unreliabity of apache2-mpm-worker are just myths.

The old way Apache handles connections e.g. the mod prefork is the well known way that high amount of the daemons on Linux and BSD are still realying on.
When prefork is a used by Apache, every new TCP/IP connection arriving at your Linux server on the Apache configured port let's say on port 80 is being served by Apache in a way that the Apache process (mother process) parent does fork a new Apache parent copy in order to serve the new request.
Thus by using the prefork Apache needs to fork new process (if it doesn't have already an empty forked one waiting for connections) and serve the HTTP request of the new client, after the request of the client is completed the newly forked Apache usually dies (even though it again depends on the way the Apache server is configured via the Apache configuration – apache2.conf / httpd.conf etc.).

Now you can imagine how slow and memory consuming it is that all the time the parent Apache process spawns new processes, kills old ones etc. in order to fulfill the client requests.

Now just to compare the Apace mpm prefork does not use the old forking way, but relies on a few Apache processes which handles all the requests without constantly being destroyed and recreated like with the prefork module.
This saves operations and system resources, threaded programming has already been proven to be more efficient way to handle tasks and is heavily adopted in GUI programming for instance in Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux Gnome, KDE etc.

There is plenty of information and statistical data which compares Apache running with prefork and respectively worker modules online.
As the goal of this article is not to went in depths with this kind of information I would not say more on it but let you explore online a bit more about them in case if you're interested.

The purpose of this article is to explain in short how to substitute the Apache2-MPM-Prefork and how your server performance could benefit out of the use of Apache2-MPM-Worker.
On Debian the default Apache process serving module in Apache 1.3x,Apache 2.0x and 2.2x is prefork thus the installation of apache2-mpm-worker is not "a standard way" to install Apache

Deciding to swith from the default Debian apache-mpm-prefork to apache-mpm-worker is quite a serious and responsible decision and in some cases might cause troubles, if you have decided to follow my article be sure to consider all the possible negative consequences of switching to the apache worker !

Now after having said a bunch of info which might be not necessary with the experienced system admin I'll continue on with the steps to install the apache2-mpm-worker.

1. Install the apache2-mpm-worker

debian:~# apt-get install apache2-mpm-worker php5-cgi
Reading state information... Done
The following packages were automatically installed and are no longer required:
The following packages will be REMOVED apache2-mpm-prefork libapache2-mod-php5
The following NEW packages will be installed apache2-mpm-worker
0 upgraded, 1 newly installed, 2 to remove and 46 not upgraded.
Need to get 0B/259kB of archives.After this operation, 6193kB disk space will be freed.

As you can notice in below's text confirmation which will appear you will have to remove the apache2-mpm-prefork and the apache2-mpm-worker modules before you can proceed to install the apache2-mpm-prefork.

You might ask yourself if I remove my installed libphp how would I be able to use my Apache with my PHP based websites? And why does the apt package manager requires the libapache2-mod-php5 to get removed.
The explanation is simple apache2-mpm-worker is not thread safe, in other words scripts which does use the php fork(); function would not work correctly with the Apache worker module and will probably be leading to PHP and Apache crashes.
Therefore in order to install the apache mod worker it's necessary that no libapache2-mod-php5 is existent on the system.
In order to have a PHP installed on the server again you will have to use the php5-cgi deb package, this is the reason in the above apt-get command I'm also requesting apt to install the php5-cgi package next to apache2-mpm-worker.

2. Enable the cgi and cgid apache modules

debian:~# a2enmod cgi
debian:~# a2enmod cgid

3. Activate the mod_actions apache modules

debian:~# cd /etc/apache2/mods-enabled
debian:~# ln -sf ../mods-available/actions.load
debian:~# ln -sf ../mods-available/actions.conf

4. Add configuration options in order to enable mod worker to use the newly installed php5-cgi

Edit /etc/apache2/mods-available/actions.conf vim, mcedit or nano (e.g. your editor of choice and add inside:

&ltIfModule mod_actions.c>
Action application/x-httpd-php /cgi-bin/php5

After completing all the above instructions, you might also need to edit your /etc/apache2/apache2.conf to tune up, how your Apache mpm worker will serve client requests.
Configuring the <IfModule mpm_worker_module> in apache2.conf is necessary to optimize your newly installed mpm_worker module for performance.

5. Configure the mod_worker_module in apache2.conf One example configuration for the mod worker is:

<IfModule mpm_worker_module>
StartServers 2
MaxClients 150
MinSpareThreads 25
MaxSpareThreads 75
ThreadsPerChild 25
MaxRequestsPerChild 0

Consider the fact that this configuration is just a sample and it's in no means configured for serving Apache requests for high load Apache servers and you need to further play with the values to have a good results on your server.

6. Check that all is fine with your Apache configurations and no syntax errors are encountered

debian:~# /usr/sbin/apache2ctl -t
Syntax OK

If you get something different from Syntax OK track the error and fix it before you're ready to restart the Apache server.

7. Now restart the Apache server

debian:~# /etc/init.d/apache2 restart

All should run fine and hopefully your PHP scripts should be interpreted just fine through the php5-cgi instead of the libapache2-mod-php5.
Using the /usr/bin/php5-cgi will increase with some percentage your server CPU load but on other hand will drasticly decrease the Webserver memory consumption.
That's quite logical because the libapache2-mod-hp5 is loaded once during apache server whether a new instance of /usr/bin/php5-cgi is invoked during each of Apache requests via the mod worker.

There is one serious security flow coming with php5-cgi, DoS against a server processing scripts through php5-cgi is much easier to be achieved.
An example for a denial attack which could affect a website running with mod worker and php5-cgi, could be simulated from a simple user with a web browser which holds up the f5 or ctrl + r browser page refresh buttons.
In that case whenever php5-cgi is used the CPU load would rise drastic, one possible solution to this denial of service issues is by installing and using libapache2-mod-evasive like so:

8. Install libapache2-mod-evasive

debian:~# apt-get install libapache2-mod-evasive
The Apache mod evasive module is a nice apache module to minimize HTTP DoS and brute force attacks.
Now with mod worker through the php5-cgi, your apache should start serving requests more efficiently than before.
For some performance reasons some might even want to try out the fastcgi with the worker to boost the Apache performance but as I have never tried that I can't say how reliable a a mod worker with a fastcgi would be.

N.B. ! If you have some specific php configurations within /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini you will have to set them also in /etc/php5/cgi/php.ini before you proceed with the above instructions to install Apache otherwise your PHP scripts might not work as expected.

Mod worker is also capable to work with the standard mod php5 Apache module, but if you decide to go this route you will have to recompile your PHP lib manually from source as in Debian this option is not possible with the default php library.
This installation worked fine on Debian Lenny but suppose the same installation should work fine on Debian Squeeze as well as Debian testing/unstable.
Feedback on the afore-described mod worker installation is very welcome!

Optimizing Linux TCP/IP Networking to increase Linux Servers Performance

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008


Some time ago I thought of ways to optimize my Linux Servers network performance.

Even though there are plenty of nice articles on the topic on how to better optimize Linux server performance by tunning up the kernel sysctl (variables).

Many of the articles I found was not structed in enough understandable way so I decided togoogle around and  found few interesting websites which gives a good overview on how one can speed up a bit and decrease overall server loads by simply tuning few basic kernel sysctl variables.

Below article is a product of my research on the topic on how to increase my GNU / Linux servers performance which are mostly running LAMP (Linux / Apache / MySQL / PHP) together with Qmail mail servers.

The article is focusing on Networking as networking is usual bottleneck for performance.
Below are the variables I found useful for optimizing the Linux kernel Network stack.

Implementing the variables might reduce your server load or if not decrease server load times and CPU utilization, they would at lease increase thoroughput so more users will be able to access your servers with (hopefully) less interruptions.
That of course would save you some Hardware costs and raise up your Servers efficiency.

Here are the variables themselves and some good example:

# = 0 ( Turn off IP Forwarding )

net.ipv4.conf.default.rp_filter = 1

# ( Control Source route verification )
net.ipv4.conf.default.accept_redirects = 0

# ( Disable ICMP redirects )
net.ipv4.conf.all.accept_redirects = 0 ( same as above )
net.ipv4.conf.default.accept_source_route = 0

# ( Disable IP source routing )
net.ipv4.conf.all.accept_source_route = 0
( - || - )net.ipv4.tcp_fin_timeout = 40

# ( Decrease FIN timeout ) - Useful on busy/high load
serversnet.ipv4.tcp_keepalive_time = 4000 ( keepalive tcp timeout )
net.core.rmem_default = 786426 - Receive memory stack size ( a good idea to increase it if your server receives big files )
net.ipv4.tcp_rmem = "4096 87380 4194304"
net.core.wmem_default = 8388608 ( Reserved Memory per connection )
net.core.wmem_max = 8388608
net.core.optmem_max = 40960
( maximum amount of option memory buffers )

# like a homework investigate by yourself what the variables below stand for :)
net.ipv4.tcp_max_tw_buckets = 360000
net.ipv4.tcp_reordering = 5
net.core.hot_list_length = 256
net.core.netdev_max_backlog = 1024


# Below are newly added experimental
#net.core.rmem_max = 16777216
#net.core.wmem_max = 16777216
##kernel.msgmni = 1024
##kernel.sem = 250 256000 32 1024


Also a good sysctl.conf file which one might want to substitite or use as a skele for some productive server is ready for download here

Even if you can't reap out great CPU reduction benefits from integrating above values or similar ones, your overall LAMP performance to end customers should increase – at some occasions dramatically, at others little bit but still noticable.

If you're unsure on exact kernel variable values to use check yourself what should be the best values that fits you according to your server Hardware – usually this is done by experimenting and reading the kernel documentation as provided for each one of uplisted variables.

Above sysctl.conf is natively created to run on Debian and on other distributions like CentOS, Fedora Slackware some values might either require slight modifications.

Hope this helps and gives you some idea of how network optimization in Linux is usually done. Happy (hacking) tweakening !