Using Fail2Ban to refuse brute-force attacks

I have been using a quick and dirty shell script to update /etc/hosts.deny file when brute-force attack flows into my server. It was pretty effective but was not effective enough to block the break-in attempts immediately. Today, I found a better solution – Fail2Ban. It scans the system log files and bans brute-force attacks for a certain period.

Most examples use iptables, but I always prefer /etc/hosts.deny and I don’t even care about unbanning once a host is banned. Therefore, I added the following to /etc/fail2ban/jail.conf:

enabled  = true
filter   = sshd
action   = hostsdeny-nounban
           mail-whois[name=SSH, dest=ma[email protected]]
logpath  = /var/log/messages

enabled  = true
filter   = sshd-ddos
action   = hostsdeny-nounban
           mail-whois[name=SSH-DDoS, [email protected]]
logpath  = /var/log/messages

Please note that I defined a new action called hostsdeny-nounban, which doesn’t unban the attacker’s IP address once banned It’s /etc/fail2ban/action.d/hostsdeny-nounban.conf:

actionstart =
actionstop =
actioncheck =
actionban = IP=<ip> && grep -q "ALL: $IP" <file> || echo "ALL: $IP" >> <file>
actionunban =

file = /etc/hosts.deny

For more information, I’d recommend you to read the Gentoo HOWTO fail2ban.

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