This post is roughly 11 years old; originally published on November 26, 2012! The information presented here may be out of date and inaccurate.
I have several VPS hosts with different providers using different virtualisation platforms. Naturally I have OpenSSH running on these VPS hosts and deploy either DenyHosts or Fail2Ban to add an extra security layer to thwart SSH brute force attacks and other abuse.
DenyHosts blocks brute force attacks by adding offending IP addresses to
/etc/hosts.deny. It therefore requires the SSH server is configured with
tcp_wrappers. Arch Linux dropped support for tcp_wrappers
so DenyHosts is not suitable for Arch. Fail2Ban supports blocking via
tcp_wrappers and can also block offending hosts that are abusing services other than just
Here is a simple example for DenyHosts on Ubuntu Lucid 10.04 LTS Server.
sudo apt-get install denyhosts
That’s it. The default configuration will provide suitable prevention, but do
take a look at
/etc/denyhosts.conf for a full run down of all available options.
I use the defaults with the following exceptions:
PURGE_DENY = 5d
PURGE_THRESHOLD = 2
You might want to consider whitelisting some of your own IP address. Create a
/var/lib/denyhosts and list each of your
“trusted” IP addresses.
DenyHosts can be restarted by executing:
sudo /etc/init.d/denyhosts restart
Fail2Ban now supports systemd.
Configuration files are stored in
/etc/fail2ban. General configuration is
/etc/fail2ban/jail.conf, but this file might be overwritten in the future. To
preserve customisations, create
/etc/fail2ban/jail.local and add your local
configuration settings to it. In the example below some IP addresses are whitelisted
and the default backend is set to systemd:
ignoreip = 172.16.0.2/32
backend = systemd
Next create a custom sshd configuration in
which will temporarily ban offending IP addresses.
# fail2ban SSH
# block ssh after 3 unsuccessful login attempts for 10 minutes
enabled = true
action = iptables[chain=INPUT, protocol=tcp, port=22, name=sshd]
maxRetry = 3
findtime = 600
bantime = 600
port = 22
The ‘action’ creates DROP rule in iptables after 3 unsuccessful login attempts, valid for 10 minutes (bantime). Findtime defines time frame in which fail2ban will count failed login attempts from logs, so if one IP has 3 incorrect login attempts in last 10 minutes, it will be banned.
Enable and start the Fail2Ban daemon.
sudo systemctl enable fail2ban
sudo systemctl start fail2ban
Basic commands for fail2ban-client:
fail2ban-client start sshd
fail2ban-client stop sshd
fail2ban-client reload sshd
fail2ban-client status sshd
fail2ban-client set sshd unbanip 172.16.0.4
See the Arch Linux Fail2Ban Wiki page for more details.
DenyHosts and Fail2Ban do not provide complete protection against SSH brute force attacks. I employ other SSH best practice to better secure the SSH services I expose to the Internet, and so should you. The following is a good reference.
In the interests of fairness, other SSH brute force preventation tools are available.
Do you know any other tools that help prevent SSH brute force attacks?