Fail2ban and Web Services

One of the problems of running my own servers and hosting my own sites is that for some reason people like to hack them and try to guess passwords with SSH. Fail2ban solves this problem by allowing only a few failed login attempts before banning the offending server for a specified duration of time. This is enough to make it so brute force attacks on your websites can be detoured.

But I had another issue too in that I have several sites that are on wordpress (like this one) and some that are old Ruby on Rails applications that I don’t want to update. With the WordPress blogs I just keep getting hammered by people trying to guess the wordpress user and password and trying to login. This loads my server pretty hard. With the ruby on rails application I have people that keep creating a ton of users. Here is how I used fail2ban to make this nonsense stop.


Borrowing from this idea I implemented fail2ban I didn’t bother adding any plugins. If people keep trying to login after 3 attempts they are banned. This is implemented as follows:


failregex = <HOST>.*POST.*(wp-login\.php|xmlrpc\.php).* 200


enabled  = true
ignoreip = <my ip address>
port     = http,https
filter   = wordpress
logpath  = /var/log/nginx/access.log
maxretry = 3
bantime = 3600

And with a simple: systemctl restart fail2ban it was up and running. Here we see it worked great:

tail -f /var/log/fail2ban.log

2020-02-13 18:52:36,452 fail2ban.filter         [9753]: INFO    [wordpress] Found - 2020-02-13 18:52:36
2020-02-13 18:52:38,181 fail2ban.filter         [9753]: INFO    [wordpress] Found - 2020-02-13 18:52:38
2020-02-13 18:52:40,361 fail2ban.filter         [9753]: INFO    [wordpress] Found - 2020-02-13 18:52:40
2020-02-13 18:52:40,959 fail2ban.actions        [9753]: NOTICE  [wordpress] Ban

Awesome! Sorry my Romainan friend, looks like you are banned.

Web applications

My web application has a slightly different error message when someone keeps creating pages. The log looks like: - - [13/Feb/2020:19:55:44 -0700] "POST /users HTTP/1.0" 302 4365 "" "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/67.0.3396.87 Safari/537.36 OPR/54.0.2952.51"

To make this work, I need a regular expression that captures the essense of this post. This is for people who keep creating new people. Really in this silly family app we have, you only need to make one user. So let’s ban them if they make more than one user.


failregex = <HOST>.*POST.*(signup).*


enabled  = true
ignoreip = <my ip address>
port     = http,https
filter   = cw
logpath  = /var/log/apache2/other_vhosts_access.log
maxretry = 2
bantime = 36000

Yah! Now we’ve stopped people from adding a bunch of users to a webservice that really is only for my family, but you can make a login if you really want to :-).

In each case, fail2ban really just uses a regular expression to determine what to filter and who to ban. This flexibility makes it a great tool for securing many applications, not just SSH!