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Distributed SSH Brute Force Attempts on the rise again

Published: 2010-06-18
Last Updated: 2011-01-25 00:03:41 UTC
by Adrien de Beaupre (Version: 1)
13 comment(s)

SSH brute force attempts seem to be on the rise again, at the SANS Internet Storm Center we have received a number of reports that a number of networks are seeing them. The source IP addresses vary with each new attempted username in the wordlist, which would indicate that the attempts are distributed through botnet(s). It only takes a single user with a weak password for a breach to occur, then with that foothold escalation and further attacks are likely next. This is certainly not a new phenomenon, however I think it is a good time to raise awareness about it once again.

Reader xemaps wrote in with this log snippet:

"Whole day my server has been targeted by a botnet, attacker also changed ip each new dictionary user."

Jun 17 23:02:03 pro sshd[17444]: Invalid user mailer from 217.37.x.x
Jun 17 23:03:24 pro sshd[17460]: Invalid user mailer from 87.66.x.x
Jun 17 23:05:27 pro sshd[17617]: Invalid user mailman from 89.97.x.x
Jun 17 23:09:30 pro sshd[17639]: Invalid user mailtest from 62.2.x.x
Jun 17 23:15:44 pro sshd[17894]: Invalid user maker from 83.236.x.x
Jun 17 23:16:47 pro sshd[17925]: Invalid user mama from 84.73.x.x

Reader Ingvar wrote in with a similar pattern:

"On my home system I have seen these login attempts that start with user "aaa" and goes on alphabetically from over 1000 different hosts around the world (judging from the DenyHosts reports). Normally I only see single-digit attempts per day."

Jun 17 02:14:56 MyHost sshd[808]: error: PAM: authentication error for illegal user aaa from 151.100.x.x
Jun 17 02:23:11 MyHost sshd[870]: error: PAM: authentication error for illegal user aabakken from 150.254.x.x
Jun 17 02:24:57 MyHost sshd[875]: error: PAM: authentication error for illegal user aapo from 173.33.x.x
Jun 17 02:35:23 MyHost sshd[885]: error: PAM: authentication error for illegal user abakus from 121.160.x.x
Jun 17 02:37:32 MyHost sshd[895]: error: PAM: authentication error for illegal user abas from 190.200.x.x
Jun 17 02:38:18 MyHost sshd[900]: error: PAM: authentication error for illegal user abc from 193.251.x.x

Last year ISC Handler Rick wrote up a diary for Cyber Security Awareness Month - Day 17 - Port 22/SSH about SSH brute force attempts and some safeguards that can be implemented. Here is a brief summary:

  • Deploy the SSH server on a port other than 22/TCP
  • Deploy one of the SSH brute force prevention tools
  • Disallow remote root logins
  • Set PasswordAuthentication to "no" and use keys
  • If you must use passwords, ensure that they are all complex
  • Use AllowGroups to limit access to a specific group of users
  • Use as a chroot jail for SSH if possible
  • Limit the IP ranges that can connect to SSH

If you have any comments, additional examples of safeguards, or additional information please let us know here.

Cheers,
Adrien de Beaupré
Intru-shun.ca Inc.










 

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