A long time ago, in a galaxy not too far away, I took part in a JISC funded research project. The purpose of the project was to investigate and develop solutions for some of the issues associated with securing email.

It was a fun project to be involved with (not least because I got to pretend to be a student again for a little while), and I believe the solution we built – the Secure Email Proxy – was a good one with a lot of potential.

The project finished in 2003, and the website (hosted on an old Sun Pizza box in my lab) has long since vanished, along with the code for the project. I think this is a shame, so I’ve stuck my old development code up on Github. The proxy was under active development since I left the project, but I’ve not go access to the code. If you do, then please feel free to fork and update it.

Anyway, the proxy works by sitting on your local machine between your mail client and your mail server. It manages keys on your behalf, and encrypts/signs/verifies/decrypts messages and attachments on the fly as email passes through it. This means that you don’t need to have any native plugin to work, and it’ll work with virtually any mail client.


» Visit the project on Github…

If you run a web server and you take a look at the logs, you will likely have seen something like this appearing:

xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx - - [01/May/2013:18:32:36 +0100] "GET /w00tw00t.at.ISC.SANS.DFind:)
HTTP/1.1" 400 320 "-" "-"

This is the product of a tool called w00tw00t, which is used by nefarious script kiddies to probe and attempt to compromise your server. If your server is up-to-date, there is probably not too much to worry about (without wanting to jinx it), however since a strength in depth approach is always the best plan when it comes to security, it is probably a good idea if we could deploy some additional countermeasures.

A common tactic is to use a tool like fail2ban to monitor your logs and then firewall off the offenders IP address, and there are filters out there to do this.

However, like a lot of people, I use the caching proxy Squid, in reverse proxy mode, to help handle high load on a web server. Since, in this configuration, Apache (and therefore fail2ban’s standard w00tw00t rules) will see these requests as coming from the cache machine, we need to take another approach.

One option is to modify the Apache log format to use the X-Forwarded-For variable instead (details of how can be found here), and thus preserving the original IP address in the logs. However, this would require me to modify a number of vhosts, and it seemed simpler to monitor the one squid access log.

So, I wrote a quick fail2ban filter to catch w00tw00t scans and block the offending IP address.

In jail.local

enabled = true
filter = squid-w00tw00t
port = all
logpath = /var/log/squid/access.log
maxretry = 1

In filter.d/squid-w00tw00t.conf

# Fail2Ban configuration file to catch w00tw00t scans on squid reverse proxy settings
# Author: Marcus Povey


# Read common prefixes. If any customizations available -- read them from
# common.local
before = common.conf


_daemon = squid

# Option: failregex
# Notes.: regex to match the password failures messages in the logfile. The
# host must be matched by a group named "host". The tag "" can
# be used for standard IP/hostname matching and is only an alias for
# (?:::f{4,6}:)?(?P<host>[\w\-.^_]+)
# Values: TEXT
failregex = <HOST> TCP_.*http.*/(w00tw00t|wootwoot|WootWoot|WooTWooT).*$

# Option: ignoreregex
# Notes.: regex to ignore. If this regex matches, the line is ignored.
# Values: TEXT
ignoreregex =

» Visit the project on Github…

The server-status page gives you a wealth of information about your apache server, and among other things it is necessary for the Apache munin plugin to work. However, by default it exposes sensitive data when run behind a squid reverse proxy.

In order to lock this down, you need to modify your /etc/squid/squid.conf file slightly…

acl no_stats urlpath_regex /server-status
http_access deny no_stats

This defines an ACL that will prevent squid from giving access to any request ending in /server-status. Because, in a reverse proxy configuration, it is squid that is hit when a client request a page from port 80, this prevents public access.

You’re not quite done though, because this setting assumes that your real web server (sitting behind the squid proxy on a different port) is NOT publicly visible. This can be achieved by placing it behind the firewall.


If you’re using munin to monitor your apache processes, you’ll need to make a small modification to the /etc/munin/plugin-conf.d/munin-node file, add/modify the following:

env.ports [apache server port]

This will tell the apache plugins where the server status page is, and what port the real apache instance is running on.