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Using IPTables to Prevent SSH Brute Force Attacks


If you have a server with a world facing ssh server, you’ve probably seen brute force attacks in your logs. Some machine starts hammering your ssh server, trying all sorts of logins (staff, root, a, admin, etc…) over and over and over again.

This is bad on a lot of fronts.

I use two simple iptables rules to block any IP address who has made more than 3 ssh connections or attempted connections within the past 3 minutes. So your would-be brute force attacker, gets three tries, and then is locked out for a minimum of three minutes. However, since 99% of the attacks are run by an automated bot, it will either: give up after the connection is refused multiple times, or it will keep hammering away on the closed door, which keeps the running count of attempted connections in the past 3 minutes over 3, keeping the door closed.


iptables -I INPUT -i eth1 -p tcp -m tcp --dport 22 -m state --state NEW -m recent --set --name DEFAULT --rsource

Then run:

iptables -I INPUT -i eth1 -p tcp -m tcp --dport 22 -m state --state NEW -m recent --update --seconds 180 --hitcount 4 --name DEFAULT --rsource -j DROP

I’d also recommend using the script in my post on blocking IP addresses using iptables to deal with any persistent folks, or people poking too hard on your web site, or other services.

NOTE: This settings are enabled only for current session, so if you want to enable iptable at boot you have to go in webmin -> Networking -> Linux Firewall and enable the setting for active at boot.

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