UFW, fail2ban and blocking portscans oh my!

Using fail2ban and UFW together to block unwanted traffic

I just wanted to write down some issues I had as a reminder to myself and some notes that other people might find useful. I want to be able to setup some automatic host based firewall rules for some servers I look after so help mitigate any possible brute force attacks and general nastiness that you get on the internet. To do this I’m going to install UFW, fail2ban and setup some filters and actions in fail2ban to use information from UFW on Ubuntu 14.04.2.

what is it?


I’ve used fail2ban as a minimal method to stop brute force attacks. Basically it will read config files for different services and if someone enters in the wrong password too many times will firewall them from the server for a period of time. This wont stop someone from ‘eventually’ brute forcing poor passwords but it increases the time taken exponentially and hopefully they get bored and move onto softer targets.


I’ve started using UFW a little while ago. Normally I prefer to use shorewall but it can be a little complex to setup at times so for this post I’m going to focus just on UFW.

where to start

First you need to get UFW all installed and ready to go.

$ sudo apt-get -y install ufw fail2ban
$ sudo sed -i 's/IPV6=no/IPV6=yes/g' /etc/default/ufw
$ sudo ufw allow ssh
$ sudo ufw default deny incoming
$ sudo ufw default allow outgoing
$ sudo ufw logging low
$ sudo ufw disable
$ sudo ufw enable

The above should install UFW & fail2ban. In UFW it should enable IPv6 support, allow ssh and setup some default firewall direction rules. We also want to only log denined packets to the kernel logger. The last step gives it a restart (disable/enable).

Now if we generate some port open requests from another server to a port other than ssh we should see this:

$ sudo dmesg
[3071864.995451] [UFW BLOCK] IN=venet0 OUT= MAC= SRC= DST= LEN=48 TOS=0x00 PREC=0x00 TTL=46 ID=12308 PROTO=UDP SPT=40393 DPT=40104 LEN=28

Great! But you need this in a log file so fail2ban can use it. Lets take a look at our rsyslogd config:

[email protected]:/etc/rsyslog.d# ls -la *ufw*
-rw-r--r--   1 root root    94 May 28 01:31 20-ufw.conf
[email protected]:/etc/rsyslog.d# cat 20-ufw.conf
# Log kernel generated UFW log messages to file
:msg,contains,"[UFW " /var/log/ufw.log
[email protected]:/etc/rsyslog.d#

Great UFW has already setup a method to log UFW messages. But when I checked /var/log/ufw.log it didn’t exist. Restarting rsyslog didn’t seem to help. But then I noticed /etc/rsyslogd.conf:

#  /etc/rsyslog.conf    Configuration file for rsyslog.
#                       For more information see
#                       /usr/share/doc/rsyslog-doc/html/rsyslog_conf.html
#  Default logging rules can be found in /etc/rsyslog.d/50-default.conf

#### MODULES ####

$ModLoad imuxsock # provides support for local system logging
#$ModLoad imklog   # provides kernel logging support
#$ModLoad immark  # provides --MARK-- message capability

After enabling ‘$ModLoad imklog’ I get the following in /var/log/kern.log:

May 28 01:38:00 vps rsyslogd: imklog: cannot open kernel log (/proc/kmsg): Operation not permitted.

This appears due to rsyslog not opening /proc/kmsg before it drops it’s privs! This is now where we get into hacky area. Some people suggest using dd to mirror /proc/kmsg and getting rsyslogd to open that. Personally I just stopped rsyslog from dropping it’s privs all together.

Edit /etc/rsyslogd.conf and comment out the following:

$PrivDropToUser syslog
$PrivDropToGroup syslog

Now restart rsyslogd with ‘service rsyslog restart’.

Checking /var/log/ufw.log it now exists and it has some data in it for us to play with! Great! Lets move onto fail2ban.


fail2ban will insert iptables rules when it chooses to ban hosts. This can cause a problem with UFW so lets make fail2ban play nicely with UFW.

First lets setup a action rule that we can use to deny/allow users from being able to connect in:

echo '[Definition]
actionstart =
actionstop =
actioncheck =
actionban = ufw deny in from <ip>
actionunban = ufw delete deny in from <ip>' | sudo tee /etc/fail2ban/action.d/ufw.conf

While here you might want to edit your jail.conf file and update where required the actions of other services you want to monitor.

Now lets setup a filter for our log file to know when to ban a user:

echo '[Definition]
failregex = UFW BLOCK.* SRC=<HOST>
ignoreregex =' | sudo tee /etc/fail2ban/filter.d/portscan.conf

Now the clever amoung you will realise that UFW will block port ATTEMPTS which means that some nice fellow could craft some packets so that the connection attempt comes from hosts that should be allowed to connect.

Lets setup some whitelist rules to make sure our networks and hosts that should never be firewalled aren’t. In jail.conf you will find a ‘whitelist’ varible. Lets update this with all our friendly networks.

whilelist =

Ok now we just need to add a rule to tie it all together in our jail.conf file:

echo '[portscan]
enabled  = true
filter   = portscan
logpath  = /var/log/ufw.log
action   = ufw
maxretry = 5
' | tee -a /etc/fail2ban/jail.conf

And lastly don’t forget to reload fail2ban:

sudo service fail2ban restart