Protecting SSH against brute force attacks

Running a public AWS instance is always asking for unexpected trouble from script kiddies and bots trying to find a vector in to compromise your server.
Sshguard (www.sshguard.net) monitors your log and alters your IPtables firewall accordingly to help keep persistent brute force attackers at bay.

1. Download the latest version from http://www.sshguard.net @ http://freshmeat.net/urls/6ff38f7dc039f95efec2859eefe17d3a

wget -O sshguard-1.5.tar.bz2

http://freshmeat.net/urls/6ff38f7dc039f95efec2859eefe17d3a

2. Unpack

tar jxvf sshguard-1.5.tar.bz2

3. Configure + Make

cd sshguard-1.5
./configure --with-firewall=iptables
make

4. Install (to /usr/local/sbin/sshguard)

sudo make install

5. /etc/init.d/sshguard (chmod 0755)

! /bin/sh
# this is a concept, elaborate to your taste
case $1 in
start)
/usr/local/sbin/sshguard -a 4 -b 5:/var/sshguard/blacklist.db -l
     /var/log/auth.log &
;;
stop)
killall sshguard
;;
*)
echo "Use start or stop"
exit 1
;;
esac

6. /etc/iptables.up.rules

# Firewall
*filter
:FORWARD ACCEPT [0:0]
:OUTPUT ACCEPT [0:0]
:INPUT DROP [0:0]
-N sshguard
-A INPUT -m conntrack --ctstate RELATED,ESTABLISHED -j ACCEPT
-A INPUT -p tcp --dport http -j ACCEPT
-A INPUT -p tcp --dport ftp-data -j ACCEPT
-A INPUT -p tcp --dport ftp -j ACCEPT
-A INPUT -p tcp --dport ssh -j sshguard
-A INPUT -p udp --source-port 53 -d 0/0 -j ACCEPT
-A OUTPUT -j ACCEPT
-A INPUT -j DROP
COMMIT
# Completed

7. Read in the IPtables rules

iptables-restore < /etc/iptables.up.rules

8. Start Sshguard

mkdir /var/sshguard&&/etc/init.d/sshguard start

Verification

tail -f /var/log/auth.log
iptables -L -n

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5 comments on “Protecting SSH against brute force attacks

    • Yes, this doesn’t preclude any extra defences… but sometimes the origin IP of your SSH client isn’t consistent – think non-static (DHCP) assigned address on an ADSL line, or 20+ support staff accessing AWS instances from home (where the route of your SSH won’t go over your VPN session unless you hopped from an internal trusted box).

  1. i use fail2ban to do just this. the beauty about this app is that it can monitor multiple services/log files and be provided with regex to match hostnames and authentication failures.

    failregex = ^%(__prefix_line)s(?:error: PAM: )?Authentication failure for .* from \s*$

    action = iptables[name=SSH, port=22, protocol=tcp]
    sendmail-whois[name=SSH, dest=my@email.addre.ss, sender=fail2ban@server.hostname]

    works very well.

  2. I’m getting an error during the install. I config in the directory “–with-firewall=iptables” which works fine, then I go to install with “make install” and get a bunch of “Entering directory, nothing to be done for …, leaving directory” and no file is present for /etc/init.d/sshguard. I wonder why this is….

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