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Protect your Ubuntu SSH server with Denyhosts

As you know, SSH is a great way to remotely administer a server. However, there are some security issues to consider. For example brute force attacks to take control of the Ubuntu server machine.

But first we need to take in consideration the SSH config file sshd_config.

sudo nano /etc/ssh/sshd_config


An easy trick is by moving the listen port from 22 to some other randomly assigned port. Something above 20000 is perfect. This reduces the chance to show up that ssh server is running to port scanning.

The denyhosts package is a great python script used to prevent brute force hacking of your SSH server. Full details are available at http://denyhosts.sourceforge.net.

Denyhosts acts as a ideal dynamic blocker for SSH, and also for other services. It relies on the /etc/hosts.deny and hosts.allow. It dynamically builds a list of hosts that repeatedly connect to your server. By default the service will block connections from IP sources that are repeated attempting to connect and access your host. The denyhosts process is configured in /etc/denyhosts.conf.

Before we install DenyHosts, make sure we have pythone installed:

sudo python -V


It should say something like this:

Python 2.6.4rc2


If we do not have it, we install it by running:

sudo apt-get install python2.6


Then:

sudo apt-get install denyhosts


If you are installing it remotely, you will loose conectivity when the service is trying to start. You need to relogin to your ssh server.

Edit the denyhosts configuration file to suit your needs. You should keep in mind that this is a preconfigured file:

sudo nano /etc/denyhosts.conf


It should look something like this. These are default denyhosts config file settings:

############ THESE SETTINGS ARE REQUIRED ############

########################################################################
#
# SECURE_LOG: the log file that contains sshd logging info
# if you are not sure, grep "sshd:" /var/log/*
#
# The file to process can be overridden with the --file command line
# argument
#
# Redhat or Fedora Core:
#SECURE_LOG = /var/log/secure
#
# Mandrake, FreeBSD or OpenBSD:
#SECURE_LOG = /var/log/auth.log
#
# SuSE:
#SECURE_LOG = /var/log/messages
#
# Mac OS X (v10.4 or greater -
# also refer to: http://www.denyhosts.net/faq.html#macos
#SECURE_LOG = /private/var/log/asl.log
#
# Mac OS X (v10.3 or earlier):
#SECURE_LOG=/private/var/log/system.log
#
# Debian:
SECURE_LOG = /var/log/auth.log
########################################################################

########################################################################
#
# HOSTS_DENY: the file which contains restricted host access information
#
# Most operating systems:
HOSTS_DENY = /etc/hosts.deny
#
# Some BSD (FreeBSD) Unixes:
#HOSTS_DENY = /etc/hosts.allow
#
# Another possibility (also see the next option):
#HOSTS_DENY = /etc/hosts.evil
#######################################################################


########################################################################
#
# PURGE_DENY: removed HOSTS_DENY entries that are older than this time
# when DenyHosts is invoked with the --purge flag
#
# format is: i[dhwmy]
# Where 'i' is an integer (eg. 7)
# 'm' = minutes
# 'h' = hours
# 'd' = days
# 'w' = weeks
# 'y' = years
#
# never purge:
PURGE_DENY =
#
# purge entries older than 1 week
#PURGE_DENY = 1w
#
# purge entries older than 5 days
#PURGE_DENY = 5d
#######################################################################

#######################################################################
#
# PURGE_THRESHOLD: defines the maximum times a host will be purged.
# Once this value has been exceeded then this host will not be purged.
# Setting this parameter to 0 (the default) disables this feature.
#
# default: a denied host can be purged/re-added indefinitely
#PURGE_THRESHOLD = 0
#
# a denied host will be purged at most 2 times.
#PURGE_THRESHOLD = 2
#
#######################################################################


#######################################################################
#
# BLOCK_SERVICE: the service name that should be blocked in HOSTS_DENY
#
# man 5 hosts_access for details
#
# eg. sshd: 127.0.0.1 # will block sshd logins from 127.0.0.1
#
# To block all services for the offending host:
#BLOCK_SERVICE = ALL
# To block only sshd:
BLOCK_SERVICE = sshd
# To only record the offending host and nothing else (if using
# an auxilary file to list the hosts). Refer to:
# http://denyhosts.sourceforge.net/faq.html#aux
#BLOCK_SERVICE =
#
#######################################################################


#######################################################################
#
# DENY_THRESHOLD_INVALID: block each host after the number of failed login
# attempts has exceeded this value. This value applies to invalid
# user login attempts (eg. non-existent user accounts)
#
DENY_THRESHOLD_INVALID = 5
#
#######################################################################

#######################################################################
#
# DENY_THRESHOLD_VALID: block each host after the number of failed
# login attempts has exceeded this value. This value applies to valid
# user login attempts (eg. user accounts that exist in /etc/passwd) except
# for the "root" user
#
DENY_THRESHOLD_VALID = 10
#
#######################################################################

#######################################################################
#
# DENY_THRESHOLD_ROOT: block each host after the number of failed
# login attempts has exceeded this value. This value applies to
# "root" user login attempts only.
#
DENY_THRESHOLD_ROOT = 1
#
#######################################################################


#######################################################################
#
# DENY_THRESHOLD_RESTRICTED: block each host after the number of failed
# login attempts has exceeded this value. This value applies to
# usernames that appear in the WORK_DIR/restricted-usernames file only.
#
DENY_THRESHOLD_RESTRICTED = 1
#
#######################################################################


#######################################################################
#
# WORK_DIR: the path that DenyHosts will use for writing data to
# (it will be created if it does not already exist).
#
# Note: it is recommended that you use an absolute pathname
# for this value (eg. /home/foo/denyhosts/data)
#
WORK_DIR = /var/lib/denyhosts
#
#######################################################################

#######################################################################
#
# SUSPICIOUS_LOGIN_REPORT_ALLOWED_HOSTS
#
# SUSPICIOUS_LOGIN_REPORT_ALLOWED_HOSTS=YES|NO
# If set to YES, if a suspicious login attempt results from an allowed-host
# then it is considered suspicious. If this is NO, then suspicious logins
# from allowed-hosts will not be reported. All suspicious logins from
# ip addresses that are not in allowed-hosts will always be reported.
#
SUSPICIOUS_LOGIN_REPORT_ALLOWED_HOSTS=YES
######################################################################

######################################################################
#
# HOSTNAME_LOOKUP
#
# HOSTNAME_LOOKUP=YES|NO
# If set to YES, for each IP address that is reported by Denyhosts,
# the corresponding hostname will be looked up and reported as well
# (if available).
#
HOSTNAME_LOOKUP=YES
#
######################################################################


######################################################################
#
# LOCK_FILE
#
# LOCK_FILE=/path/denyhosts
# If this file exists when DenyHosts is run, then DenyHosts will exit
# immediately. Otherwise, this file will be created upon invocation
# and deleted upon exit. This ensures that only one instance is
# running at a time.
#
# Redhat/Fedora:
#LOCK_FILE = /var/lock/subsys/denyhosts
#
# Debian
LOCK_FILE = /var/run/denyhosts.pid
#
# Misc
#LOCK_FILE = /tmp/denyhosts.lock
#
######################################################################


############ THESE SETTINGS ARE OPTIONAL ############


#######################################################################
#
# ADMIN_EMAIL: if you would like to receive emails regarding newly
# restricted hosts and suspicious logins, set this address to
# match your email address. If you do not want to receive these reports
# leave this field blank (or run with the --noemail option)
#
# Multiple email addresses can be delimited by a comma, eg:
# ADMIN_EMAIL = foo@bar.com, bar@foo.com, etc@foobar.com
#
ADMIN_EMAIL = root@localhost
#
#######################################################################

#######################################################################
#
# SMTP_HOST and SMTP_PORT: if DenyHosts is configured to email
# reports (see ADMIN_EMAIL) then these settings specify the
# email server address (SMTP_HOST) and the server port (SMTP_PORT)
#
#
SMTP_HOST = localhost
SMTP_PORT = 25
#
#######################################################################

#######################################################################
#
# SMTP_USERNAME and SMTP_PASSWORD: set these parameters if your
# smtp email server requires authentication
#
#SMTP_USERNAME=foo
#SMTP_PASSWORD=bar
#
######################################################################

#######################################################################
#
# SMTP_FROM: you can specify the "From:" address in messages sent
# from DenyHosts when it reports thwarted abuse attempts
#
SMTP_FROM = DenyHosts
#
#######################################################################

#######################################################################
#
# SMTP_SUBJECT: you can specify the "Subject:" of messages sent
# by DenyHosts when it reports thwarted abuse attempts
SMTP_SUBJECT = DenyHosts Report
#
######################################################################

######################################################################
#
# SMTP_DATE_FORMAT: specifies the format used for the "Date:" header
# when sending email messages.
#
# for possible values for this parameter refer to: man strftime
#
# the default:
#
#SMTP_DATE_FORMAT = %a, %d %b %Y %H:%M:%S %z
#
######################################################################

######################################################################
#
# SYSLOG_REPORT
#
# SYSLOG_REPORT=YES|NO
# If set to yes, when denied hosts are recorded the report data
# will be sent to syslog (syslog must be present on your system).
# The default is: NO
#
#SYSLOG_REPORT=NO
#
#SYSLOG_REPORT=YES
#
######################################################################

######################################################################
#
# ALLOWED_HOSTS_HOSTNAME_LOOKUP
#
# ALLOWED_HOSTS_HOSTNAME_LOOKUP=YES|NO
# If set to YES, for each entry in the WORK_DIR/allowed-hosts file,
# the hostname will be looked up. If your versions of tcp_wrappers
# and sshd sometimes log hostnames in addition to ip addresses
# then you may wish to specify this option.
#
#ALLOWED_HOSTS_HOSTNAME_LOOKUP=NO
#
######################################################################

######################################################################
#
# AGE_RESET_VALID: Specifies the period of time between failed login
# attempts that, when exceeded will result in the failed count for
# this host to be reset to 0. This value applies to login attempts
# to all valid users (those within /etc/passwd) with the
# exception of root. If not defined, this count will never
# be reset.
#
# See the comments in the PURGE_DENY section (above)
# for details on specifying this value or for complete details
# refer to: http://denyhosts.sourceforge.net/faq.html#timespec
#
AGE_RESET_VALID=5d
#
######################################################################

######################################################################
#
# AGE_RESET_ROOT: Specifies the period of time between failed login
# attempts that, when exceeded will result in the failed count for
# this host to be reset to 0. This value applies to all login
# attempts to the "root" user account. If not defined,
# this count will never be reset.
#
# See the comments in the PURGE_DENY section (above)
# for details on specifying this value or for complete details
# refer to: http://denyhosts.sourceforge.net/faq.html#timespec
#
AGE_RESET_ROOT=25d
#
######################################################################

######################################################################
#
# AGE_RESET_RESTRICTED: Specifies the period of time between failed login
# attempts that, when exceeded will result in the failed count for
# this host to be reset to 0. This value applies to all login
# attempts to entries found in the WORK_DIR/restricted-usernames file.
# If not defined, the count will never be reset.
#
# See the comments in the PURGE_DENY section (above)
# for details on specifying this value or for complete details
# refer to: http://denyhosts.sourceforge.net/faq.html#timespec
#
AGE_RESET_RESTRICTED=25d
#
######################################################################


######################################################################
#
# AGE_RESET_INVALID: Specifies the period of time between failed login
# attempts that, when exceeded will result in the failed count for
# this host to be reset to 0. This value applies to login attempts
# made to any invalid username (those that do not appear
# in /etc/passwd). If not defined, count will never be reset.
#
# See the comments in the PURGE_DENY section (above)
# for details on specifying this value or for complete details
# refer to: http://denyhosts.sourceforge.net/faq.html#timespec
#
AGE_RESET_INVALID=10d
#
######################################################################


######################################################################
#
# RESET_ON_SUCCESS: If this parameter is set to "yes" then the
# failed count for the respective ip address will be reset to 0
# if the login is successful.
#
# The default is RESET_ON_SUCCESS = no
#
#RESET_ON_SUCCESS = yes
#
#####################################################################


######################################################################
#
# PLUGIN_DENY: If set, this value should point to an executable
# program that will be invoked when a host is added to the
# HOSTS_DENY file. This executable will be passed the host
# that will be added as its only argument.
#
#PLUGIN_DENY=/usr/bin/true
#
######################################################################


######################################################################
#
# PLUGIN_PURGE: If set, this value should point to an executable
# program that will be invoked when a host is removed from the
# HOSTS_DENY file. This executable will be passed the host
# that is to be purged as its only argument.
#
#PLUGIN_PURGE=/usr/bin/true
#
######################################################################

######################################################################
#
# USERDEF_FAILED_ENTRY_REGEX: if set, this value should contain
# a regular expression that can be used to identify additional
# hackers for your particular ssh configuration. This functionality
# extends the built-in regular expressions that DenyHosts uses.
# This parameter can be specified multiple times.
# See this faq entry for more details:
# http://denyhosts.sf.net/faq.html#userdef_regex
#
#USERDEF_FAILED_ENTRY_REGEX=
#
#
######################################################################




######### THESE SETTINGS ARE SPECIFIC TO DAEMON MODE ##########



#######################################################################
#
# DAEMON_LOG: when DenyHosts is run in daemon mode (--daemon flag)
# this is the logfile that DenyHosts uses to report its status.
# To disable logging, leave blank. (default is: /var/log/denyhosts)
#
DAEMON_LOG = /var/log/denyhosts
#
# disable logging:
#DAEMON_LOG =
#
######################################################################

#######################################################################
#
# DAEMON_LOG_TIME_FORMAT: when DenyHosts is run in daemon mode
# (--daemon flag) this specifies the timestamp format of
# the DAEMON_LOG messages (default is the ISO8061 format:
# ie. 2005-07-22 10:38:01,745)
#
# for possible values for this parameter refer to: man strftime
#
# Jan 1 13:05:59
#DAEMON_LOG_TIME_FORMAT = %b %d %H:%M:%S
#
# Jan 1 01:05:59
#DAEMON_LOG_TIME_FORMAT = %b %d %I:%M:%S
#
######################################################################

#######################################################################
#
# DAEMON_LOG_MESSAGE_FORMAT: when DenyHosts is run in daemon mode
# (--daemon flag) this specifies the message format of each logged
# entry. By default the following format is used:
#
# %(asctime)s - %(name)-12s: %(levelname)-8s %(message)s
#
# Where the "%(asctime)s" portion is expanded to the format
# defined by DAEMON_LOG_TIME_FORMAT
#
# This string is passed to python's logging.Formatter contstuctor.
# For details on the possible format types please refer to:
# http://docs.python.org/lib/node357.html
#
# This is the default:
#DAEMON_LOG_MESSAGE_FORMAT = %(asctime)s - %(name)-12s: %(levelname)-8s %(message)s
#
#
######################################################################


#######################################################################
#
# DAEMON_SLEEP: when DenyHosts is run in daemon mode (--daemon flag)
# this is the amount of time DenyHosts will sleep between polling
# the SECURE_LOG. See the comments in the PURGE_DENY section (above)
# for details on specifying this value or for complete details
# refer to: http://denyhosts.sourceforge.net/faq.html#timespec
#
#
DAEMON_SLEEP = 30s
#
#######################################################################

#######################################################################
#
# DAEMON_PURGE: How often should DenyHosts, when run in daemon mode,
# run the purge mechanism to expire old entries in HOSTS_DENY
# This has no effect if PURGE_DENY is blank.
#
DAEMON_PURGE = 1h
#
#######################################################################


######### THESE SETTINGS ARE SPECIFIC TO ##########
######### DAEMON SYNCHRONIZATION ##########


#######################################################################
#
# Synchronization mode allows the DenyHosts daemon the ability
# to periodically send and receive denied host data such that
# DenyHosts daemons worldwide can automatically inform one
# another regarding banned hosts. This mode is disabled by
# default, you must uncomment SYNC_SERVER to enable this mode.
#
# for more information, please refer to:
# http:/denyhosts.sourceforge.net/faq.html#sync
#
#######################################################################


#######################################################################
#
# SYNC_SERVER: The central server that communicates with DenyHost
# daemons. Currently, denyhosts.net is the only available server
# however, in the future, it may be possible for organizations to
# install their own server for internal network synchronization
#
# To disable synchronization (the default), do nothing.
#
# To enable synchronization, you must uncomment the following line:
#SYNC_SERVER = http://xmlrpc.denyhosts.net:9911
#
#######################################################################

#######################################################################
#
# SYNC_INTERVAL: the interval of time to perform synchronizations if
# SYNC_SERVER has been uncommented. The default is 1 hour.
#
#SYNC_INTERVAL = 1h
#
#######################################################################


#######################################################################
#
# SYNC_UPLOAD: allow your DenyHosts daemon to transmit hosts that have
# been denied? This option only applies if SYNC_SERVER has
# been uncommented.
# The default is SYNC_UPLOAD = yes
#
#SYNC_UPLOAD = no
#SYNC_UPLOAD = yes
#
#######################################################################


#######################################################################
#
# SYNC_DOWNLOAD: allow your DenyHosts daemon to receive hosts that have
# been denied by others? This option only applies if SYNC_SERVER has
# been uncommented.
# The default is SYNC_DOWNLOAD = yes
#
#SYNC_DOWNLOAD = no
#SYNC_DOWNLOAD = yes
#
#
#
#######################################################################

#######################################################################
#
# SYNC_DOWNLOAD_THRESHOLD: If SYNC_DOWNLOAD is enabled this parameter
# filters the returned hosts to those that have been blocked this many
# times by others. That is, if set to 1, then if a single DenyHosts
# server has denied an ip address then you will receive the denied host.
#
# See also SYNC_DOWNLOAD_RESILIENCY
#
#SYNC_DOWNLOAD_THRESHOLD = 10
#
# The default is SYNC_DOWNLOAD_THRESHOLD = 3
#
#SYNC_DOWNLOAD_THRESHOLD = 3
#
#######################################################################

#######################################################################
#
# SYNC_DOWNLOAD_RESILIENCY: If SYNC_DOWNLOAD is enabled then the
# value specified for this option limits the downloaded data
# to this resiliency period or greater.
#
# Resiliency is defined as the timespan between a hackers first known
# attack and its most recent attack. Example:
#
# If the centralized denyhosts.net server records an attack at 2 PM
# and then again at 5 PM, specifying a SYNC_DOWNLOAD_RESILIENCY = 4h
# will not download this ip address.
#
# However, if the attacker is recorded again at 6:15 PM then the
# ip address will be downloaded by your DenyHosts instance.
#
# This value is used in conjunction with the SYNC_DOWNLOAD_THRESHOLD
# and only hosts that satisfy both values will be downloaded.
# This value has no effect if SYNC_DOWNLOAD_THRESHOLD = 1
#
# The default is SYNC_DOWNLOAD_RESILIENCY = 5h (5 hours)
#
# Only obtain hackers that have been at it for 2 days or more:
#SYNC_DOWNLOAD_RESILIENCY = 2d
#
# Only obtain hackers that have been at it for 5 hours or more:
#SYNC_DOWNLOAD_RESILIENCY = 5h
#
#######################################################################



I recommend to restart Denyhosts after making any changes:

sudo /etc/init.d/denyhosts restart


After i have installed it, i already saw some ips which where trying to access ssh with root user (and other) in my "/var/log/auth.log" file.

You should take a look at this file, it easy to configure as every step is well documented.

The files to see the results are these:

The log for all authentifications:
sudo nano /var/log/auth.log


The log with all deny ips:
sudo nano /etc/hosts.deny


List of hosts that are allowed to access the system:
sudo nano /etc/hosts.allow


Resources: Ubuntugeek, Ubuntu forums 1, Ubuntu Forums 2, HowToForge.

5 comments:

luke kurtis said...

This was a very useful tutorial. Thank you!

Speedy Gonzales said...

You welcome! Great to hear I could help another Ubuntu lover.

shauky said...

Thanks.

Speedy Gonzales said...

you're welcome!

Max said...

Thanks for clear directions. Stopped attempts cold.

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