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I'm using Ubuntu 12.04 on an Amazon EC2 instance and new to the sysadmin side of things. I'm working on a little project of my own and I'm already starting to get targeted by bots (at least I hope they're bots).

I'm using PHP and in my error logs I noticed w00tw00t romanian anti-sec and /w00tw00t.at.blackhats.romanian.anti-sec:. I googled and I found several results such as this and this which both state it's most likely just some bots. They were looking for variations of PHPMyAdmin, PMA, MyAdmin. From what I can tell, they did not find anything and only got some 404 errors. As far as PHPMyAdmin goes, I'm using an alias and I have access restricted to a couple of IP addresses.

Currently I'm running UFW and I have these rules

To                         Action      From
--                         ------      ----
80                         ALLOW       Anywhere
443                        ALLOW       Anywhere
22                         ALLOW       MY.IP.ADDRESS1
22                         ALLOW       MY.IP.ADDRESS2
22                         ALLOW       MY.IP.ADDRESS3
80                         ALLOW       Anywhere (v6)
443                        ALLOW       Anywhere (v6)

All of the tutorials I've seen on UFW just say how to set it up, not suggestions on the configuration itself. Basically I use SFTP and SSH (with a key pair) to work on my server. Are there any rules that are a must have that I am missing?

marked as duplicate by Andrew, Dave M, Ward, Katherine Villyard, Rex Feb 11 '14 at 15:31

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I don't see how you would possibly use UFW to avoid these types of attacks.

If everything but 80/443 is denied to public access and you have specified only a few specific IPs for ssh access, then the problem lies with your application, not the network configuration.

Don't even touch firewall rules in this instance.

You need to protect yourself from:

  • Weak passwords
  • Obvious "Admin page" links, ie. website.com/admin, website.com/phpmyadmin
  • Passwords embedded in your code
  • SQL injections and other various web code/database vulnerabilities.

To further your server security, you can make Apache run chroot'ed, so that it is separated from the core system by a virtual layer.

You could also implement FIM(file integrity management) to ensure that files that aren't meant to change don't get changed (example: the apache/php config)

or you could write a script to log all commands run by root/apache, and send it out by email periodically.

Things like that are what you should look at once you've set up your firewall (which you have done)

  • I just meant now that I know someone is knocking on my server's door, I want to protect other aspects that UFW can cover that I may not have thought of (because as I stated I'm new). Sorry, I guess it was just poor wording on my part. I have have an alias set up for PHPMyAdmin and strong passwords. I'm confident in my application's code as far as injections an XSS go. I've never done any extensive firewall setup so I'm just looking for tips. Thanks for your help. – user1104854 Feb 10 '14 at 1:31
  • No problems, like I said, in this instance don't worry about UFW. You have it set up correctly. If you need extra security you need to look at other things, for example you could implement FIM(file integrity management) to ensure that files that aren't meant to change don't get changed (example: the apache/php config) or you could write a script to log all commands run by root/apache, and send it out by email periodically. – Vasili Syrakis Feb 10 '14 at 1:35
  • Thanks again! How can I view access logs (the IP address) of those attempts that I mentioned above? I checked auth.log but that's just for SSH, not other ports. My PHP error logs didn't state any IP addresses, just the URLs they tried to access. Is it wise to block these IP's in UFW? – user1104854 Feb 10 '14 at 1:38
  • You typically won't find that kind of information from PHP, since PHP is not something that a person logs into or authenticates into. If you wanted to log that kind of information out of PHP, you would need to code some kind of logging function in your application, so that any form submissions that require a password are logged to a file on your system. Of course, such a function itself would also have to be secure, so this might just add to the complication. – Vasili Syrakis Feb 10 '14 at 1:45
  • The auth.log I was referring to is done automatically by Ubuntu, not PHP. I know how to log the IP addresses and the URL which is being access with PHP, but I was just wondering if ubuntu does it automatically so that I don't have to create a script. It does it for SSH so I figured it might do that for other connections too. – user1104854 Feb 10 '14 at 1:54

Probably the best way to protect yourself from control panel scanning is to not run a web control panel. If you can avoid doing that, you can totally ignore these attacks.

Another thing you can do to protect yourself from common attacks is to set up a VPN, and restrict access to administrative services (SSH, control panels, etc.) to IP addresses on that VPN. Use your firewall to make sure such traffic actually does come from the VPN and is not spoofed (eg. discard traffic bound for the VPN interface from the WAN).

If you use strong passwords, keep your applications up to date, use least-privilege users for daemons, and follow best practices like those, you have nothing to worry about from these types of automated attacks at all.

Keep in mind that there is no set of magic firewall rules, and a firewall can't protect you from a great deal of things. They were designed to keep "internal" services inaccessible to the public WAN (see my point about the VPN), and you can use them to discard certain types of traffic that would otherwise breach a security boundary, but they don't work at the application layer and you can't use this to secure your web applications.

  • If by web control panel you mean something like C-Panel, I don't use that. My service is through Amazon (EC2), but I access everything through SSH and SFTP. I appreciate your advice. I'm new to the sysadmin side of things and just looking for tips from experienced people. Thank you! – user1104854 Feb 10 '14 at 2:02
  • Great! If you avoid using cpanel, phpmyadmin, and stuff like that, you will be a lot more secure than most of the people who end up hosting spambots and malware. – Falcon Momot Feb 10 '14 at 2:03
  • I use PHPMyAdmin, but I have an alias set up to a very obscure URL and access is only granted to the couple IP's that are also in my allowed list of UFW connections. I think once I get everything in place I'll end up disabling/removing PHPMyAdmin, but I'm still doing a bit of development (as far as PHP goes), so the GUI interface is quite handy at the moment. – user1104854 Feb 10 '14 at 2:05
  • “Probably the best way to protect yourself from control panel scanning is to not run a web control panel. If you can avoid doing that, you can totally ignore these attacks.” Not really. I never run web control panel servers yet I have to secure servers anyway using iptables and mod_security. If you run ANY public server, some basic protection is needed, but—as I elaborate in my answer—ufw and iptables are not enough & might be the wrong tools for the job entirely. – JakeGould Feb 10 '14 at 2:30
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    There's nothing magic about those strings. I can write a control panel with any name I want, and there is no need for everyone in the world who doesn't have it installed to filter against queries for it. You can ignore automated vuln scans that target software you do not run. – Falcon Momot Feb 10 '14 at 3:11

All seeing w00tw00t traffic in your logs means exactly what you are seeing: You are bring probed by a script of some sort. I would not make that big a deal of it, but if you are truly concerned then using iptables & ufw won’t really help.

Since it seems like you are running a web server, I would recommend using ModSecurity instead.

Ubuntu has a package in the repo for ModSecurity, but it’s core ruleset (CRS) is out of date. So I would recommend downloading that here.

Which leads us down a rabbit hole of: ModSecurity is not that easy to setup for novices. I have done it tons of times, but even when it is running there are issues you need to be aware of. Like the fact that since ModSecurity operates heuristically & monitors web traffic, then sometimes expected behavior on your web server will be blocked due to a “false positive” popping up.

Which is all to say, you might be in a scenario where you really do not need to worry about anything yet. Web servers—and every server—is scanned all the time. Depending on what you are doing with that server, the best & most real security is to ensure your front-facing applications are secure. And if you are coding your own PHP codebase, you can be pretty much assured you are safe.

If you are using some off-the-shelf software like WordPress or Joomla!, my best advice is to do this: Simply place Apache web authorization passwords on the administration URLs/paths for your CMS. Seriously, this is one of the best security measures out there. Scripts that probe sites generally look for flaws in the scripting (PHP, Perl, Ruby, etc…) coding but by placing an Apacce web authorization password in place, you have pretty much blocked a good chunk of the of the scripts out there. The negative of this approach is now you have to remember your password for the CMS as well as the Apache password, but that is a trivial inconvenience compared to having your system compromised.

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    Thanks for your advice. I'll stick with UFW for now, but I think I'll set up a test micro instance to set up and get the hang of ModSecurity. I appreciate your help! – user1104854 Feb 10 '14 at 2:03

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