How to Install and Configure Fail2ban on CentOS 8?

Protecting the server from possible attacks is a basic task of any sysadmin. This is not as easy as it seems but it is possible if you learn how to install and configure Fail2ban on CentOS 8. The following guide will be very useful for this purpose.

Fail2Ban

Fail2ban is a Python tool that scans log files like /var/log/auth.log and bans IP addresses conducting too many failed login attempts. It does this by updating system firewall rules to reject new connections from those IP addresses, for a configurable amount of time.

By default, Fail2ban is considered Out-the-box as it includes some settings that allow it to read many log files and apply protection rules.

Widely used by many sysadmins, Fail2ban can reduce the risk of SSH attacks although the developers caution that other security measures are required to be truly protected. However, with Fail2ban we can have another layer of security and make the server a little more secure.

One detail that cannot be overlooked is that Fail2ban is opensource so you can be sure that its source code does not contain backdoors or malicious code.

Install Fail2ban on CentOS 8

Despite its popularity, Fail2ban is not included in the official CentOS 8 repositories. However, this is not a problem to install it.

So, in a terminal environment, try to update the operating system

sudo dnf update

Fail2ban is present in the EPEL repository. This repository although external to CentOS 8 is considered by many as a fundamental repository because of the large number of packages it has. Also, it is considered quite secure and will help us with this process.

So, add it to the running system.

sudo dnf install epel-release

Once the package is installed and the repository is added to the system, we can install Fail2ban:

sudo dnf install fail2ban

Fail2ban is handled as a system service, so we have to start it with the command systemctl

sudo systemctl start fail2ban

It is a good idea to start it with the system as another service.

sudo systemctl enable fail2ban

And you can check the status of the service to see if it has been started correctly.

sudo systemctl status fail2ban

Now with Fail2ban installed, we can configure it according to our needs.

Configuring Fail2ban on CentOS 8

Before performing some configurations it is convenient to know a few things about how Fail2ban manages its configuration files.

By default, the directory where the Fail2ban configuration files reside is /etc/fail2ban/ and there will be two files that we do not have to modify, /etc/fail2ban/jail.conf and /etc/fail2ban/jail.d/00-firewalld.conf.

Therefore, the recommended way to make configurations is to copy the entire contents of jail.conf into a file called jail.local in the same directory. This is because the .local files will overwrite the .conf files. It is also possible to create the file from the scratch.

Whether you copy the contents of jail.conf or start from scratch you can add your own settings.

For example, some basic configurations to do with Fail2ban can be:

  • Bantime: Time in seconds that the IP will be banned.
  • Maxretry: Number of retries allowed before being banned.
  • Findtime: If the host makes the maxretry in the amount of time expressed in findtime, then it will be banned.
  • Banaction: Action that the system will do when banning the host.
  • Backend: Where fail2ban logs are taken from.

Also with the ignoreip value you can define an IP address or a range that Fail2ban will ignore.

Protecting SSH with Fail2ban

One of the most important services to protect is SSH. To do so, you can add to the configuration file jail.local the value jail.local.

[ssh]
enabled = true
port = ssh
filter = sshd
logpath = /var/log/auth.log

This way, you can protect SSH quickly and easily.

To apply all changes, restart the Fail2ban service.

sudo systemctl restart fail2ban

Conclusion

In this post, you have learned how to configure Fail2ban to further secure your server from attacks against system services. You can consult the official Fail2ban documentation where you can find many different configurations.

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