Fail2Ban Not Banning Some SSH Attempts [SOLVED]

I recently set up Fail2Ban on a new Ubuntu server and noticed that while some hosts were getting banned after they exceeded my maxRetry value (the number of allowed failures before a ban), others were able to exceed it wildly (25+ attempts), and never get banned.

By taking a close look at the entries in /var/log/auth.log that corresponded to the offending hosts, I discovered that they were staggering their failed login attempts far enough apart to never have enough failed attempts within the default findtime to get banned. Sneaky bastards!

findtime is the moving window within which fail2ban keeps track of failed login attempts. If findtime is set to 10 minutes, and the host only triggers a failed login every 11 minutes, a ban will never occur.

The default findtime is 600 seconds (10 minutes). I jacked it up to 10800 (3 hours).

I also increased my bantime to 6 hours (21600 seconds).

Here are the relevant lines from the [DEFAULT] section of my /etc/fail2ban/jail.local file:

[DEFAULT]

...
# 3 hours = 3600*3 = 10800
findtime = 10800
# 6 hours = 3600*6 = 21600
bantime = 21600
maxretry = 3

# "backend" specifies the backend used to get files modification. Available
...

You’ll need to restart fail2ban in order for the changes to take effect:

$ /etc/init.d/fail2ban restart

You can tail your fail2ban log during the restart to make sure your changes took:

$ tail -f /var/log/fail2ban.log

...
2011-01-24 16:32:50,493 fail2ban.jail : INFO Creating new jail 'ssh'
2011-01-24 16:32:50,493 fail2ban.jail : INFO Jail 'ssh' uses poller
2011-01-24 16:32:50,506 fail2ban.filter : INFO Added logfile = /var/log/auth.log
2011-01-24 16:32:50,506 fail2ban.filter : INFO Set maxRetry = 3
2011-01-24 16:32:50,507 fail2ban.filter : INFO Set findtime = 10800
2011-01-24 16:32:50,507 fail2ban.actions: INFO Set banTime = 21600
2011-01-24 16:32:50,581 fail2ban.jail : INFO Jail 'ssh' started
...

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