timing is everything

A quick-tip on the importance of timestamps and making sure your time zone is set correctly.

I was recently playing around with fail2ban. It’s a really cool little tool that monitors your log files, matches certain patterns, and can act on it. Fail2ban would typically monitor your authentication log file, and if for example it spots 5 or more consecutive failures, it would simply add a filter to your iptables to block this IP address for a certain amount of time. I like fail2ban because it’s simple and effective. It does not try to be too sophisticated, or have too many features. It does one thing, and does it very well.

I was trying to build a custom-rule to watch a specific application log-file. I had a reasonably simple regular expression and I was able to test it successfully using fail2ban-regex. It matched the lines in the log file, and gave me a successful result

Success, the total number of match is 6

However, when running fail2ban, even though it loaded the configuration file correctly, and detected changes in the log files, fail2ban, erm, failed to ban… I couldn’t work out what was the problem.

As it turns-out, the timestamps on my log file was set to a different time-zone, so fail2ban treated those log entries as too old and did not take action. Make sure your timestamps are correct and on the same timezone as your system!! Once the timezone was set, fail2ban was working just fine.

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