I was talking with bear probably two years ago, about programing and how I'm not really a programmer, but I understand what's going on when programmers talk, and that any time I got close to code, I sort of kludged things together until it worked. This was probably long enough ago, that I was just on the cusp of getting into using Linux full time and being a command line guru.

Of shell scripting, he said something that left something of an impression on me. Something like, "The great thing about the shell, is once you figure out how to do something you never have to figure out how to do it again because you just make it into a script and run it again when you need to."

Which, now seems incredibly straightforward, but it blew my mind at the time. The best thing, I think, about using computers in the way that I now tend to, is that any time I run across a task that is in anyway repetitive I can save it as a macro (in a non technical sense of the word macro) and then call it back in the future. Less typing, less reading over help text, more doing things that matter.

One thing that got me for a while, was the "loop" in bash. I had a hell of a time making them work. And then a few weekends a go I had a task that required a loop, and I wrote one on the command line, and it worked on the first time through. Maybe I've learned something after all. For those of you who want to learn how to build a loop in shell scripting, lets take the following form:

for [variable] in [command]; do

   [command using] $[variable];


Typically these are all mashed up onto one line, which can be confusing. Conventionally [variable] is just the letter i, for "item." Note that the semi colons are crucial, and I think the bacticks are as well (I'd not leave them out,) but they might not be required.

So the loop I wrote. I noticed that there were a number of attempted SSH logins against my server, and while these sorts of SSH probes aren't a huge risk... better to not risk it. So I wanted to add rules to the firewall to block these IP addresses. Here's what I came up with:

for i in
  `sudo egrep 'Invalid user.*([[:digit:]]{1,3}\.){3}[[:digit:]]{1,3}' /var/log/auth.log -o | \
  egrep '([[:digit:]]{1,3}\.){3}[[:digit:]]{1,3}' -o | sort | uniq`;


   `sudo iptables -I INPUT -s $i -j DROP`;


Basically, search the /var/log/auth.log for invalid login attempts, and return only the string captured by the regex. Send this to another egrep command which strips this down to the IP address. Then put the IP addresses in order, and throw out duplicates. Every item in the resulting list is then added to an iptables rule that blocks access. Done. QED.

It's inefficient, sure, but not that inefficient. And it works. Mostly this just cleans up logs, and I suppose using something like fail2ban would work just as well, but I'm not sure what kind of added security benefit that would offer, and besides it wouldn't make me feel quite so smart.

I hope this is helpful for you all.