DenyHosts: Automated SSH Brute Force Response System

Posted by admin on September 2, 2007 under Tech Tips | Be the First to Comment

DenyHosts SSH

DenyHosts is a project that adds a protective layer to an SSH server by automatically blocking malicious hosts that use brute force or dictionary attacks. If you have SSH services enabled and accessible from the internet, you will likely have thousands of failed login attempts from several sources within a very short period of time. DenyHosts monitors all login attempts, and based on a customizable rule-set can block hosts from making further connections if an attack pattern is matched.

Using tcp_wrappers, the DenyHosts service elegantly manages entries in the /etc/hosts.deny file, adding and removing hosts when thresholds are crossed. e.g. Three failed logins with unknown user accounts; Three failed logins with root account; Five failed logins with known user accounts; Unblock host after a set period of time; etc. You can also specify whether DenyHosts blocks access to SSH or ALL services, thereby mitigating any other attack vectors the offender might try next.

A most valuable feature that makes DenyHosts even more attractive is the optional centralized reporting system. The service can be configured to report all abusive hosts to the DenyHosts collection server, and automatically import a list of IP addresses that others have reported. This network of intelligence gathering and incident response helps to thwart a large number of attacks before they happen, because the attackers (most of which are automated bots) are blocked before they have a chance to move on to other protected servers.Other useful features include email notification when hosts are blocked, and counter resets after successful authentication to prevent accidental blacklisting caused by fat fingered admins. :-)

For those of you using Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) and above, it is available in the Universe repository:

sudo apt-get install denyhosts

Edit and customize /etc/denyhosts.conf for your desired options, and restart the service:

sudo /etc/init.d/denyhosts restart

Ubuntu 6.06.1 LTS will need a manual installation, as it is not included in the repositories.

Be sure to check out the project at

Add A Comment