30 January, 2015


The last few years (2010-2015), I have been using a command line log-compiler tool I made, called "sshlog", to monitor incoming SSH-logins, both accepted and failed.

It is basically a crude administration-tool (server-side) for remote use on mobile devices and tablets. In combination with "DenyHosts" (python-program for blocking IPs that carry out repetitive and malicious ssh-bruteforce attempts), it proved to be a very solid security-framework.

That is, until January this year.

Suddenly sshlog reported that there weren't made any malicious ssh-connections the last month, andDenyHosts did not add any new IPs since december last year. Weird...

While log-surfing and manually executing my sshlog-algorithm on my system-logs, I noticed there HAD been malicious ssh-bruteforcing (like usual)... but none of the offending addresses had been added to the blacklist because 'auth.log' was full of warnings about unresolvable hostnames in '/etc/hosts.deny'.

After checking out /etc/hosts.deny, it became apparent that DenyHosts had been adding random canonical hostnames (which, in turn, requires DNS resolving of the IP-addresses) instead of legitimate IP-addresses.

I made my discovery thanks to this repeating error in /etc/hosts.deny:

warning: /etc/hosts.deny, line xxxx: can't verify hostname: getaddrinfo(<some-dynamic-ip>, AF_INET)


Firstly, I had to stop DenyHosts, then I had to manually 'sed' all the IP-addresses that had been added as canonical hostnames from the DenyHosts config-files, then from /etc/hosts.deny and lastly start DenyHosts up again...

The whole ordeal was apparently caused by none other than... myself -_-

I had enabled DenyHosts to do hostname-lookups for blocked IP-addresses :P *Doh!* which in turn forced DenyHosts to add dynamic hostnames to /etc/hosts.deny, no matter if they were legitimate addresses or not.

Fact is; many of these malicious SSH auto-dialers use dynamic IP-addresses that won't resolve as legitimate addresses in DNS (no registered reverse-lookup, or similar), thus, they are added to '/etc/hosts.deny' with (invalid) canonical hostnames that don't correspond to legitimate MAC and IP-address pairs.

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