Increased abuse activity on my server

William Dudley wfdudley at
Wed Mar 7 23:48:08 UTC 2018

Fortunately, I don't open the "funny" port on the server.  I use the
firewall to redirect traffic on the funny port
to port 22 on the server.  So it only looks funny from outside the
firewall.  Inside, the freebsd box is
just responding to port 22 as usual.

I think that sorts out the "high port is unsafe" problem.

I don't allow root logins.

Only a couple of users even use ssh.  There are only a handful of accounts
on the machine, and most
aren't in "wheel"/"sudoers".

Bill Dudley

This email is free of malware because I run Linux.

On Wed, Mar 7, 2018 at 11:17 AM, Valeri Galtsev <galtsev at>

> On 03/07/18 08:20, William Dudley wrote:
>> This may sound stupid and obvious, but I moved my ssh port to a high
>> "random" port
>> number, and that completely stopped the random attempts to ssh in.  I know
>> that
>> "security by obscurity" "doesn't work", but it did!
> No it doesn't. One mostly fools oneself by seeing less symptoms, whereas
> illness is still as bad as it was (if it was there that is). Sorry, it
> looks like I'm in contradictive mood, still bear with me.
>> I picked a port like 5792 -- not related to anything else.  (i.e. don't
>> pick 2222 or 2022 etc.)
> Do you know why ports for central standard services are chosen in a range
> from 1 to 1023? Just for those who forgot: because on UNIX and Linux these
> ports can be opened by root only. Higher ports do not require root
> privileges to open. Therefore, connecting to higher port that asks for your
> username/password is the same as giving some regular user on that machine
> your credentials. I will stop here, because if someone does not realize how
> bad it is, I hardly can help by continuing.
>> I've had this in place for months and months (perhaps a year) and the
>> attackers
>> haven't found the port yet.
>> I think this works because unless you, specifically, are at *target* of
>> somebody *serious*,
>> (think "kbg"), most of these attackers are opportunists who won't spend
>> the
>> time
>> to do a full port scan of your server.  They just try the standard ports:
>> 21, 22, 23, 25, etc.
> If someone as after you, moving port to "non-standard", or hiding machine
> behind some sort of perimeter firewall and using VPN will not save you, it
> will just slow down penetration a bit. Attacker can scan ports of your box,
> and will know on which ports your box is listening. VPN usually is used to
> get on the network where multiple machines are, and some of them may be
> vulnerable to something, which may get one bypass step for penetration.
>> ALSO, you should disable password auth for ssh and use only public/private
>> key.
> This is another common misconception, that public key authentication is
> more secure than password based. It is not. Misconception is due to
> disregarding some of the ways of of bad guys getting regular user account
> on the machine. Weak passwords are bad (that is why I usually user term
> "passphrase" when talk to my users). Of course, you can be owned from the
> network on root level if you set root password to something which on the
> very top of the list of crackers dictionary attack. One of other ways bad
> guys get some account is if they compromise some machine. Then there are
> two things they can do: they can set up keystroke logger, and get
> username/password pairs to machines people connect to from compromised
> machine. This takes some time to collect. The other thing doesn't take any
> time: they can just collect all ssh key pairs (private/public), and history
> where each person connected. There is protection against this: using secret
> key protected with password (which in my observation people rarely use),
> then it just will take some time to collect these similarly to passwords
> (keystroke logger). One more thing: steal password hashes, and crack them
> to get all accounts on this machine, which is much faster that network
> based brute force attack. This all is if bad guys have root [on compromised
> machine].
> What one can conclude from the above?
> Zero: ssh key pair based authentication is not a panacea, and can be as
> vulnerable as password based one
> First: always judge when connecting between two machines which machine is
> more trustworthy than the other, and connect from it to the other (not
> other way around)
> Second: never use the same password (or key pair) on different machines.
> (keeypassx is one of the ways to keep many different ones handy and secure)
> Third: (this one is for sysadmins, I guess) Run multi user machines in an
> assumption that password of some regular user is stolen and bad guys are
> already inside. Which is: update, update, update... and have one or another
> system integrity watch system so you will know when ultimate bad happened
> (but if you came to this level, after you have done simpler things,
> ultimate bad probably will not happen).
>> Then you know the attackers are REALLY wasting their time.
> They will, if you just protect from them, not hide symptoms. You can user
> ssghuard of fail2ban. And as you sound like Linux person (judging from
> "hack" way of solution you use - sorry if I am wrong here), you can use on
> Linux in iptables firewall block with --hitcount rule, thus dropping
> connections from those persistent brute force attackers (this thing just
> hangs their script, so you do some bad to them too ;-).
> Anyway, I was kind of surprised to read this on FreeBSD mail list, will be
> much less surprised if it were on Linux. I mean here "hack" way of solving
> things which often quite comon for Linux. On the other hand, this probably
> is great news and FreeBSD gets much wider userbase ;-) I must mention here,
> I am myself Linux refugee (not quite recent, and not full refugee, as I
> support big bunch of Linux machines as well).
> Valeri
>> Bill Dudley
>> This email is free of malware because I run Linux.
>> On Wed, Mar 7, 2018 at 4:31 AM, Ole <ole at> wrote:
>> Wed, 7 Mar 2018 08:19:44 +0100 - User Hasse <hasse at>:
>>> Anybody else noticed ?
>>> Welcome to the internet :-)
>>> If you have strong passwords or better only public key authentication
>>> allowed, just don't care. If you want to increase security you could
>>> use a VPN + Firewall to only allow connections from your VPN. If you
>>> just don't want them to spam your logs you could just move sshd from
>>> port 22 to port 24.
>>> regards Ole
>>> _______________________________________________
>> freebsd-questions at mailing list
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> --
> ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
> Valeri Galtsev
> Sr System Administrator
> Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
> Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics
> University of Chicago
> Phone: 773-702-4247
> ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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