Block hosts that attempt to bruteforce SSH using the journald API.
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Latest commit 14152b1 Oct 4, 2018


Tallow is a fail2ban/lard replacement that uses systemd's native journal API to scan for attempted ssh logins, and issues temporary IP bans for clients that violate certain login patterns.

Author: Auke Kok

How it works

Tallow attaches to the journal and subscribes to messages from /usr/sbin/sshd. The messages are matched against rules and the IP address is extracted from the message. For each IP address that is extracted, the last timestamp and count is kept. Once the count exceeds a threshold, iptables is executed to set a IP-based blocking rule.

The timestamp is kept for pruning. Records are pruned from the list if the IP address hasn't been seen by tallow for longer than the threshold. If the IP was blocked and the threshold was exceeded, the IP is unblocked. If the threshold was never reached, the record is removed as well.

Pruning is done automatically after incoming messages are processed, so there is a chance that if no messages arrive, that IP addresses remain blocked for longer than the default blocking period.


This program was originally written to demonstrate the journal API. One of the typical use cases for journal (or syslog) readers was to act dynamically on certain syslog messages, and many types of actions can be imagined. This is trivial to implement on systems that use the journal API, and often doesn't take much code at all.

The journal is attached to and forwarder to the end. We place a simple message filter, and then process each incoming message. For more information check out the sd-journal manual pages, which contain example code that demonstrates almost the exact same code flow.



Tallow is meant to reduce log clutter and system resource usage at the cost of denying access to potentially valid users.

Even if you reduce the threshold at which clients are blocked to 1, an attacker may still gain access to your server if the attacker uses the correct credentials.

By itself, tallow is an application that creates a Denial of Service. It's sole purpose and function is to block IP addresses. Therefore, with tallow running on a service, you could potentially deny valid users access to your systems if you deploy tallow.

Be very careful if you deploy tallow on systems that expect valid users to log on from many random source addresses. If your user mistypes their username, they could find themselves denied access.