On brute force stupidity

Everyone who’s ever managed any internet-facing server is aware of the ridiculous amount of brute force SSH login attempts by all kinds of botnets. Some folks decide to move their SSHD to a non-standard port, some rely on complicated shenanigans like port knocking, and some use tools like fail2ban. I’m unfortunate enough to manage a little over a dozen servers, so I decided to have some fun with fail2ban.

enabled = true
banaction = %(banaction_allports)s
enabled = true

My configuration is pretty straightforward. You fuck up, you get banned. You fuck up repeatedly, you get banned for a longer time. Nothing special there. Given that I’m running a similar config on many boxes, I decided to compile some data relating to the origins of login attempts. This data was collected over a period of ~2 months on ~12 servers.

Here’s a quick plot of the number of times a certain IP address was banned. Only the top 100 abusers are included, because the chart has a very long tail indeed. I removed the IP addresses from the X-axis because there’s no way to include them without turning into a black blob.

It should be immediately obvious that a relatively small number of IP addresses is responsible for a metric fuckton of unwelcome activity. Remember that this represents the number of times an IP was banned. Left unchecked, the number of attempts increases by orders of magnitude.

The top offender (and the only one whose full IP address I’ll publish) is It’s part of a Chinese subnet. It managed to get banned a staggering 4466 number of times. More than the next 5 abusers combined.

As the following chart illustrates, a whopping 76% of these IP addresses belong to Chinese subnets.

I daresay the internet would be a slightly better place if those 100 machines were permanently disconnected. It’s likely they’re just unsuspecting folks with compromised machines. But I for one am permanently firewalling all of them on any box I have access to.

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