Jul 242007

I think everybody that runs an own Linux server with the SSH daemon listening on port 22 is sooner or later annoyed by the amount of password attacks done by bots somewhere out in the Internet. What can you do against it?

Blocking via iptables ‘recent’ module
How you can do this on a Gentoo system is described in the Gentoo Wiki here. Because it blocks the connection attempt only due to the number of tries within a certain time it is a very basic solution and needs quite a lot of testing to examine the good parameters for the ‘hitcount’ and ‘seconds’ arguments. You do not unintentionally want to block yourself when you only try to open several connections within a short time period. So not really the thing I recommend here.

Log parsing with sshguard
sshguard uses another approach. It parses the SSH log messages and searches for login failures. For example when you try to connect with a non-existent user sshguard catches it and creates an iptables deny rule. But also sshguard has a small design mistake. It wants you to create a sshguard chain in iptables and redirect all the traffic to the chain assuming that your default INPUT policy is ACCEPT. When it wants to block a host it runs iptables -A sshguard -s host-to-block -j DROP. In case you have your policy set to DROP you cannot configure the iptables to accept the allowed SSH traffic because else the blocking rules will not work anymore. I made a small patch to change the blocking command to insert the rule in first place of the chain. After you applied the patch you have to make sure that you setup your iptables the following way:

iptables -N sshguard
iptables -A sshguard -j ACCEPT
iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --dport ssh -j sshguard

Further you have to edit your system logger configuration file. Please read the documentation.

For all the lazy people I even made a Ebuild that also adds a second patch where you can disable the IPv6 ability of sshguard. You can find it here.

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