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How to configure fail2ban to protect Apache HTTP server

10/03/2016 Comments off

Protecting Apache HTTP server with fail2ban

fail2ban apacheFail2ban: An Apache HTTP server in production environments can be under attack in various different ways. Attackers may attempt to gain access to unauthorized or forbidden directories by using brute-force attacks or executing evil scripts. Some malicious bots may scan your websites for any security vulnerability, or collect email addresses or web forms to send spams to.

Apache HTTP server comes with comprehensive logging capabilities capturing various abnormal events indicative of such attacks. However, it is still non-trivial to systematically parse detailed Apache logs and react to potential attacks quickly (e.g., ban/unban offending IP addresses) as they are perpetrated in the wild. That is when fail2ban comes to the rescue, making a sysadmin‘s life easier.

fail2ban is an open-source intrusion prevention tool which detects various attacks based on system logs and automatically initiates prevention actions e.g., banning IP addresses with iptables, blocking connections via /etc/hosts.deny, or notifying the events via emails. fail2ban comes with a set of predefined « jails » which use application-specific log filters to detect common attacks. You can also write custom jails to deter any specific attack on an arbitrary application.

In this tutorial, I am going to demonstrate how you can configure fail2ban to protect your Apache HTTP server. I assume that you have Apache HTTP server and fail2ban already installed. Refer to another tutorial for fail2ban installation.

What is a Fail2ban Jail

Let me go over more detail on fail2ban jails. A jail defines an application-specific policy under which fail2ban triggers an action to protect a given application. fail2ban comes with several jails pre-defined in /etc/fail2ban/jail.conf, for popular applications such as Apache, Dovecot, Lighttpd, MySQL, Postfix, SSH, etc. Each jail relies on application-specific log filters (found in /etc/fail2ban/fileter.d) to detect common attacks. Let’s check out one example jail: SSH jail.

[ssh]
enabled = true
port = ssh
filter = sshd
logpath = /var/log/auth.log
maxretry = 6
banaction = iptables-multiport

This SSH jail configuration is defined with several parameters:

  • [ssh]: the name of a jail with square brackets.
  • enabled: whether the jail is activated or not.
  • port: a port number to protect (either numeric number of well-known name).
  • filter: a log parsing rule to detect attacks with.
  • logpath: a log file to examine.
  • maxretry: maximum number of failures before banning.
  • banaction: a banning action.

Any parameter defined in a jail configuration will override a corresponding fail2ban-wide default parameter. Conversely, any parameter missing will be assgined a default value defined in [DEFAULT] section.

Predefined log filters are found in /etc/fail2ban/filter.d, and available actions are in /etc/fail2ban/action.d.

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If you want to overwrite fail2ban defaults or define any custom jail, you can do so by creating /etc/fail2ban/jail.local file. In this tutorial, I am going to use /etc/fail2ban/jail.local.

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