Protect your Symfony 5 login form with fail2ban and iptables


Mitigate brute force attacks on a Symfony 5 application login form by blocking attacker's IP address at Linux firewall level after 3 unsuccessful attempts.


First, we'll add both a Monolog channel and handler to the Symfony application to create a dedicated log file to store unsuccessful login attempts IP addresses.

Secondly, we'll create an Event Listener bound to the security.authentication.failure Symfony event that will use the new Monolog service to generate log entries.

Thirdly, we'll create a fail2ban filter able to parse the custom log file to extract the IP addresses.

Finally, we'll setup a fail2ban jail using the log file, the filter to parse it, the number of authorized attempts and the ban duration.

Environment and versions used

Linux server

$ hostnamectl
  Operating System: Debian GNU/Linux 9 (stretch)
            Kernel: Linux 4.9.120-xxxx-std-ipv6-64
      Architecture: x86-64


$ fail2ban-server --version
Fail2Ban v0.9.6

Symfony framework

$ php bin/console about
-------------------- -------------------------------------------
-------------------- -------------------------------------------
  Version              5.2.7

Dedicated log file to store IP addresses

In this first part, we create a new f2b Monolog service, writing to a custom f2b.log file. It requires to add both a channel and a handler to Symfony's Monolog configuration.

We create the configuration file config/packages/monolog.yaml because we want our new channel and handler to exist in each APP_ENV.

Creating a new channel is as simple as naming it. For the handler, you'll have to provide a type, a log file path, channels to log and a log level.

  channels: ['f2b']
      type: stream
      path: "%kernel.logs_dir%/f2b.log"
      level: info
      channels: ["f2b"]

That's it ! You can check in Symfony's console that your new Monolog service is available.

$ php bin\console debug:autowiring |grep f2b
Psr\Log\LoggerInterface $f2bLogger (monolog.logger.f2b)

Listening to authentication failure events

In this second part, we create an Event Listener service bound to the security.authentication.failure event. When Symfony will dispatch those, the configured method will treat them and log IP addresses. We create the file src/EventListener/AuthenticationFailureListener.php containing the following class :

namespace App\EventListener;
use Psr\Log\LoggerInterface;
use Symfony\Component\Security\Core\Event\AuthenticationFailureEvent;

class AuthenticationFailureListener
    private $logger;
    public function __construct(LoggerInterface $logger) {
        $this->logger = $logger;
    public function onAuthenticationFailure(AuthenticationFailureEvent $event) {
        // $credentials = $event->getAuthenticationToken()->getCredentials();

All we care about in the log is the client IP address. Be careful if you log raw submitted data like login or email, malicious inputs could eventually prevent proper parsing by the fail2ban filter.

We create a service definition to turn the class into an Event Listener, specifying the concerned event and the handler method, and we pass it the right Monolog service instance. Edit config/services.yaml to add :

    - { name: kernel.event_listener, event: security.authentication.failure, method: onAuthenticationFailure }
    - '@monolog.logger.f2b'

That's over for Symfony part, let's try if it works as expected.

Populating the custom log

If you followed the previous steps, login attempts using erroneous credentials should now populate a f2b.log log file located in the application var/log/ folder with HTTP clients IP addresses.

$ cat var\log\f2b.log
[2021-05-04T17:36:35.496525+00:00] f2b.INFO: [] []

Time to jump to fail2ban's configuration.

Fail2ban filter to parse the custom log file

A fail2ban filter contains a regular expression matching the log file line's format. The placeholder <HOST> must be used where the IP should appear.

On Debian, I create /etc/fail2ban/filter.d/symfony-app.conf with the following content :

failregex = ^.* f2b.INFO: <HOST> \[\] \[\]$

The fail2ban-filter command can be used to test a filter against a log file.

$ fail2ban-regex /path/to/var/log/f2b.log /etc/fail2ban/filter.d/symfony-app.conf

Running tests
Use   failregex filter file : symfony-app, basedir: /etc/fail2ban
Use         log file : /path/to/var/log/f2b.log
Use         encoding : UTF-8
Failregex: 2 total
|-  #) [# of hits] regular expression
|   1) [2] ^.* f2b.INFO: <HOST> \[\] \[\]$
Ignoreregex: 0 total
Date template hits:
|- [# of hits] date format
|  [2] Year-Month-Day[T ]24hour:Minute:Second(?:\.Microseconds)?(?:Zone offset)?
Lines: 2 lines, 0 ignored, 2 matched, 0 missed
[processed in 0.00 sec]

Each line of the log file is matched like it should. Notice that fail2ban is smart enough to find and parse Monolog's timestamps. A log file must have recognized timestamps in order to be used with fail2ban.

The fail2ban jail

The jail defines the log file to monitor, the filter to use to parse it, the number of tolerated failed attempts and ban time.

On Debian, I edit /etc/fail2ban/jail.d/defaults-debian.conf to add :

enabled = true
filter = symfony-app
action = iptables-multiport[name=symfony, port="http,https"]
logpath = /path/to/var/log/f2b.log
bantime = 3600
maxretry = 3
findtime = 60

The filter is the one created at previous step and the log file is the one generated by Symfony. The action denies access to port 80 and 443 to the IP in iptables for a duration of bantime seconds if maxretry log entries are found in findtime seconds.

Fail2ban is restarted so the changes take effect :

$ sudo systemctl restart fail2ban

The newly configured jail should appear in the jail list displayed with :

$ sudo fail2ban-client status
|- Number of jail:      50
`- Jail list:   ..., ..., symfony-app, ...

Test the new brute force attacks mitigation system

Before doing this test, ensure that you won't lose complete access to your server !!

After 3 unsuccessful login attempts, the Symfony application should not be responding anymore, meaning that fail2ban successfully added your IP to the ban list.

You can see the current ban list using the fail2ban-client command :

$ sudo fail2ban-client status symfony-app
Status for the jail: symfony-app
|- Filter
|  |- Currently failed: 0
|  |- Total failed:     3
|  `- File list:        /path/to/var/log/f2b.log
`- Actions
  |- Currently banned: 1
  |- Total banned:     1
  `- Banned IP list:

Behind the scene, fail2ban blocked the IP in Linux's firewall :

$ sudo iptables -L -n
Chain INPUT (policy ACCEPT)
target     prot opt source               destination
f2b-symfony  tcp  --              multiport dports 80,443
Chain f2b-symfony (1 references)
target     prot opt source               destination
DROP       all  --
RETURN     all  --  

You can unban an IP using :

$ sudo fail2ban-client set symfony-app unbanip

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Last update on 2021-05-04

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