Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

My web server (apache2) is continually pounded by malicious bots, asking for URLs like these:

   /blog/tag/pnphpbb2//index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=posting&mode=quote/index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=viewtopic&p=34004/viewtopic.php?p=15&sid=be4c914eb746ac7c96beea717fdfc692/&highlight=../../../../../../../../../../../../../etc/passwd%00 HTTP Response 301

   //index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=posting&mode=quote/index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=viewtopic&p=34004/viewtopic.php?p=15&sid=be4c914eb746ac7c96beea717fdfc692/&highlight=../../../../../../../../../../../../../etc/passwd%00 HTTP Response 200

   /wiki/index.php/Main:Some_Wiki_Pagename//index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=posting&mode=quote/index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=viewtopic&p=34004/viewtopic.php?p=15&sid=be4c914eb746ac7c96beea717fdfc692/&highlight=../../../../../../../../../../../../../etc/passwd%00 HTTP Response 200

   /wiki/index.php//index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=posting&mode=quote/index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=viewtopic&p=34004/viewtopic.php?p=15&sid=be4c914eb746ac7c96beea717fdfc692/&highlight=../../../../../../../../../../../../../etc/passwd%00 HTTP Response 200

   /blog/2009/01/title-of-post-here//index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=posting&mode=quote/index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=viewtopic&p=34004/viewtopic.php?p=15&sid=be4c914eb746ac7c96beea717fdfc692/&highlight=../../../../../../../../../../../../../etc/passwd%00 HTTP Response 301

I'd like a nightly cron process to find any host requesting a "malicious" URL, and add them to an HTTP equivalent to hosts.deny.

I would imagine that there would be a set of regexps defining malicious URLs, and well as possibly some apache plugin to easily do the host denying (without having to do an httpd restart every night).

Does anything like this exist?

share|improve this question
And no, I don't have a PNphpBB installation, and I've checked that these aren't legitimate security holes in my server. – slacy Jun 5 '09 at 17:31
See also – slacy Jun 5 '09 at 17:31
It looks like two of these "malicious" URLs worked (response code 200). – David Jun 5 '09 at 19:41
Wouldn't this open you up to a nasty denial of service attack? If I access a URL on your ban list, anybody else using the same proxy as me now can't reach your site. – David Schwartz Oct 27 '11 at 9:32
@David: The 200 just means he gave them back a page. It's most likely an error page (though not an HTTP error) that says the request could not be understood or the like. (Because he's not running versions of those scripts that are vulnerable, but the scripts exist.) – David Schwartz Oct 27 '11 at 9:33
up vote 7 down vote accepted may do what you want.

share|improve this answer
Yes, that looks pretty good. Thanks! – slacy Jun 5 '09 at 17:40

fail2ban scans log files like /var/log/apache/error_log and bans IP that makes these automated scans based on regular expressions (called filters). By default it updates the firewall (iptables) to block the offending IP. It is very easy to write new actions and implementing one for updating a .htaccess should be quite simple, there are several examples available in the fail2ban distribution.

share|improve this answer

I'll second fail2ban. It works live, it can ban temporarily, and it can add IP addresses to your firewall so Apache doesn't have to waste time on it.

Even more efficient when coupled with the ipset netfilter module for iptables (which is faster for handling large amounts of addresses), and it can ban them instantly so they only get to make one or two requests before getting blocked.

If you really, really hate these people and are running Linux, you could also try to implement tarpitting for iptables (a quick search hasn't found any 2.6-compatible patches). This will accept the connection and then immediately set the window size to 0 (preventing data from being transferred), but also prevent the remote end from closing the connection at all, meaning whatever app is connecting will have to wait somewhere between three and twenty (!!) minutes before the connection times out on their end.

This is great for stopping portscanners as well, because it makes them take orders of magnitude longer than they normally would.

share|improve this answer
...wouldn't that tie up your server's resources just as much as an attackers... – Kzqai Jan 28 '13 at 15:15

If it's Apache 2.0, you can try mod_access:

In Apache 2.2, it's mod_authz_host:

It sure looks like you're going to have to signal Apache to reload its configuration to make changes in the module's configuration take effect, though.

Edit: Modsecurity looks like what you want, as opposed to building static deny configurations by grepping your log files and using one of the above. I'm gonna upvote that answer now.

share|improve this answer
Yes, it looks like mod_acess would allow me to manually deny access to these users, but I'm looking for something that automatically bans any IP address that's attempting to request a URL that matches a given set of regexps. In other words, if the URL matches ".*/etc/passwd.*" then permanently (and immediately) ban the requester. I guess I could create some manual URL rules for this myself and try them out, but I was hoping for something well maintained... – slacy Jun 5 '09 at 17:30

Another possibility is using mod_rewite to match the URL and sending the client a 403 (or whatever code you want). Example:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule ^/.*passwd.*/ - [L,NC,G]

Or for fun:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule ^/(.*passwd.*)/$1 [L,NC,R=301]
share|improve this answer
Regular expressions are pretty heavy, and executing them for every request is sub-optimal. Doing it just to redirect someone or block an IP address is inefficient. If nothing else, a 'Deny from' rule in a <Location> block is more efficient. – Dan Udey Jun 5 '09 at 22:12

I would certainly look at OSSEC. It detects these patterns and can block the ip addresses. It also looks for scans (multiple 404s for example) and block the offender IP.

And yes, it does that by default.


share|improve this answer

An example would be:

<Location />
   Order Deny,Allow
   Deny from
   Allow from all

I'd recommend having this in a separate file that you include from your main config and just rewrite this small fragment. You can do a reload to pick up the change, which doesn't stop your server like a restart would.

share|improve this answer
Yes, that's how to deny access, but I'm looking for something that detects bad behavior based on URL access patterns, and then denies specific IP addresses (or ranges) based on that. – slacy Jun 5 '09 at 17:32

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.