fail2ban installation and configuration notes

Haidong Ji 2018-01-18 10:41

A couple of days ago one web site I volunteer to manage was under DDOS attack. I installed and configured fail2ban to protect us from future similar attacks. Here are some notes. The server is the RedHat/Fedora/CentOS variety, as you can tell from commands listed below. Please translate them to your distro’s corresponding commands as needed.

  • Installation is easy:
    sudo yum install fail2ban

    To make fail2ban starts automatically after a reboot, run this:

    sudo systemctl enable fail2ban

  • Configuring is relatively easy. It’s recommended that you create your own jail configuration file, using the jail.conf from the installation as a starting point. Three things are noteworthy from my experience:
    1. Make sure that you provide the correct log file. For web server, there are typically one access log file and one error log file. Ensure that you feed the right log file when using a particular filter;
    2. On this server, fail2ban didn’t properly expand the log and file names when I put wildcard characters in them. I got around that by listing them one by one.
    3. In the jail.conf file, no default banaction was defined. I added the following line:
    banaction = iptables-multiport
  • To write your own custom filter, make sure you put a sample log entry inside the filter file as a comment. Use the following command to debug your filter:
    sudo fail2ban-regex /path2testLogfile/test.log /etc/fail2ban/filter.d/my-filter.conf
    Here is a filter that I wrote:
    [Definition]

    failregex = ^-.*”POST \/component\/mailto\/\?tmpl=component\&link=aHR0cHM6.*”$

    ignoreregex =

  • After getting your jail.local ready, run the following command to debug any potential issues. I’ve found that if you have issues with your jail or filter files, “sudo systemctl start fail2ban” doesn’t always give you a good enough error message. Use this instead:

    sudo /usr/bin/fail2ban-client -x start

    You may need to start/stop a couple of times. To stop, run

    sudo /usr/bin/fail2ban-client -x stop

  • After debugging, before you finally start fail2ban service, it’s better to search the current access/error log and see if there is a match to the filter you defined. If yes, then take a note of its IP address and the last time it appears in the log file. Then start fail2ban by running
    sudo systemctl enable fail2ban
  • To verify that it works, run iptables -S and if it catches one offender and puts it in jail, you should see it in the output. Now go back to the access/error log and ensure there is no entry from that IP address since the last timestamp.

Good luck in protecting your servers!

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