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I'm very new to network administration, so please regard that I'm not that experienced yet.

I have a Ubuntu root server with plesk panel.

Yesterday my friends and I noticed that the quality of speech on our TS3 got very bad. I sent some pings to the server and there was a very high packet loss. After that i googled a bit and found out that there is a auth.log. I downloaded it and scrolled a bit around, then I found this:

May 13 10:01:27 rs204941 sshd[9351]: input_userauth_request: invalid user student [preauth]
May 13 10:01:27 rs204941 sshd[9351]: pam_unix(sshd:auth): check pass; user unknown
May 13 10:01:27 rs204941 sshd[9351]: pam_unix(sshd:auth): authentication failure; logname= uid=0 euid=0 tty=ssh ruser= rhost= 
May 13 10:01:29 rs204941 sshd[9351]: Failed password for invalid user student from port 39806 ssh2
May 13 10:01:29 rs204941 sshd[9351]: Received disconnect from 11: Bye Bye [preauth]
May 13 10:01:31 rs204941 sshd[9353]: Invalid user student from

It seems like someone tried to log in over SSH many times. I scrolled a bit around, and saw, that this someone tries to use many different usernames: student, tech, psi, news,...

Hundreds of these logins were displayed in the file.

I looked up the traffic statistics at the website of my datacenter. It was only at 17MB per hour. I have a 100Mbit Backbone, so the data transfer itself seems not to be the problem.

At the moment i cannot get acces to the server in any way.

My Question is: how can i get acces again, how can i surpress this attack and prevent following attacks?

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Still learning my stuff in this department.... But wouldn't this be a good use for port knocking? –  mjrider May 13 '14 at 11:54

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

How to gain access?

It's not clear why you can't access your account.

If your machine is under attack or high load, you should talk to your provider about restricting access (IP Restrictions) or taking the server offline (disconnect from the Internet).

You might also require out of band access which your provider may be able to help with.

If somebody has compromised your server you may need to restore from backups or use a recovery image.

How to prevent attacks on your server, in particular SSH

best way to prevent brute force logons?

Don't let them get to your machine in the first place! There are plenty of ways to stop brute force attempts before they get to your host, or even at the SSH level.

Having said that, protecting your Operating System with something like fail2ban is a great idea. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fail2ban

Fail2ban is similar to DenyHosts ... but unlike DenyHosts which focuses on SSH, fail2ban can be configured to monitor any service that writes login attempts to a log file, and instead of using /etc/hosts.deny only to block IP addresses/hosts, fail2ban can use Netfilter/iptables and TCP Wrappers /etc/hosts.deny.

There are a number of important security techniques you should consider to help prevent brute force logins:


  • Don't allow root to login
  • Don't allow ssh passwords (use private key authentication)
  • Don't listen on every interface
  • Create a network interface for SSH (e.g eth1), which is different to the interface you serve requests from (e.g eth0)
  • Don't use common usernames
  • Use an allow list, and only allow users that require SSH Access
  • If you require Internet Access...Restrict Access to a finite set of IPs. One static IP is ideal, however locking it down to x.x.0.0/16 is better than
  • If possible find a way to connect without Internet Access, that way you can deny all internet traffic for SSH (e.g with AWS you can get a direct connection that bypasses the Internet, it's called Direct Connect)
  • Use software like fail2ban to catch any brute force attacks
  • Make sure OS is always up to date, in particular security and ssh packages


  • Make sure your application is always up to date, in particular security packages
  • Lock down your application 'admin' pages. Many of the advice above applies to the admin area of your application too.
  • Password Protect your admin area, something like htpasswd for web console will project any underlying application vulnerabilities and create an extra barrier to entry
  • Lock down file permissions. 'Upload folders' are notorious for being entry points of all sorts of nasty stuff.
  • Consider putting your application behind a private network, and only exposing your front-end load balancer and a jumpbox (this is a typical setup in AWS using VPCs)
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I have installed Fail2ban via help.ubuntu.com/community/Fail2ban It seems to be very powerfull and user-friendly(Mail notifications,...) –  boujama May 13 '14 at 12:05
I got a message from my datacenter: There was a floodattack(what is this?) and this made the connection very bad for many servers. It was not a attack on my server especially. –  boujama May 13 '14 at 12:11
See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UDP_flood_attack –  Drew Khoury May 13 '14 at 13:49
Interesting. So it seems that my datacenter was the target of the attack. But to know I got bruteforced besides this, is very good too. And Fail2ban is really a good tool. I will read about Iptables and SSH Config the next days and try to make it much more safe. –  boujama May 13 '14 at 14:07
apt-get install fail2ban. It is the second thing I apt install after: apt-get install git-core etckeeper –  Dan Garthwaite May 13 '14 at 14:41

I am using SSHGuard http://www.sshguard.net to protect ssh, it just works.

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