how to block brute force attacks on reverse tunnels?

Steve Newcomb srn at
Fri Apr 26 01:14:56 AEST 2024

For many years I've been running ssh reverse tunnels on portable Linux, 
OpenWRT, Android etc. hosts so they can be accessed from a server whose 
IP is stable (I call such a server a "nexus host"). Increasingly there's 
a problem with brute force attacks on the nexus host's tunnel ports. The 
attack is forwarded to the portable tunneling host, where it fails, but 
it chews up a lot of resources and wants to be stopped. At the portable 
tunneling host, fail2ban can't be used to block the attacker's IP 
because when the attack arrives, it appears to the ssh daemon to be 
arriving from localhost ( I'm not sure the attacker's IP can 
even be known at the portable host (openssh developers: can it?), and 
anyway it needs to be blocked by the nexus host before it can chew up 
yet more bandwidth.

The right answer might involve having the portable tunneling host inform 
the nexus host that an attack was forwarded on a particular port at a 
particular time. Then the nexus host, having kept a lot of records of 
such things, would look up the miscreant IP on that basis, add it to the 
banned ipset, and the attack would stop. Sounds inelegant and perhaps 


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