Asterisk SIP Brute Force Attacks on the Rise

See my article on the company blog for a discussion on this, and a how to on using Fail2ban to help stop these attacks.

SIP Brute Force Attacks on the Increase

On our own Asterisk PBX server for our office and on some customer boxes with open SIP ports, we have seen a dramatic rise in brute force SIP attacks.

They all follow a very common pattern – just over 41,000 login attempts on common extensions such as 200, 201, 202, etc. We were even asked to provide some consultancy about two weeks ago for a company using an Asterisk PBX who saw strange (irregular) calls to African countries.

They were one example of such a brute force attack succeeding because of a common mistake:

  1. an open SIP port with:
  2. common extensions with:
  3. a bad password.

(1) is often unavoidable. (2) can be mitigated by not using the predictable three of four digit extension as the username. (3) is inexcusable. We’ve even seen entries such as extension 201, username 201, password 201. The password should always be a random string mixing alphanumeric characters. A good recipe for generating these passwords is to use openssl as follows:

openssl rand -base64 12

Users should never be allowed to choose their own and dictionary words should not be chosen. The brute force attack tried >41k common passwords.

Preventing or Mitigating These Attacks

You can mitigate against these attacks by putting external SIP users into dedicated contexts which limit the kinds of calls they can make (internal only, local and national, etc); ask for a PIN for international calls; limit time and cost; etc.

However, the above might be a lot of work when simply blocking users after a number of failed attempts can be much easier and more effective. Fail2ban is a tool which can scan log files like /var/log/asterisk/full and firewall IP addresses that makes too many failed authentication attempts.

See for generic instructions or below for a quick recipe to get it running on Debian Lenny.

Quick Install for Fail2ban with Asterisk SIP on Debian Lenny

  1. apt-get install fail2ban
  2. Create a file called /etc/fail2ban/filter.d/asterisk.conf with the following (thanks to this page):
  3. Put the following in /etc/fail2ban/jail.local:
  4. Edit /etc/asterisk/logger.conf such that the date format under [general]reads:
    dateformat=%F %T
  5. Also in /etc/asterisk/logger.conf, ensure full logging is enable with a line such as the following under [logfiles]:
    full => notice,warning,error,debug,verbose
  6. Resart / reload Asterisk
  7. Start Fail2ban: /etc/init.d/fail2ban startand check:
    • Fail2ban’s log at /etc/log/fail2ban.logfor:
      INFO   Jail 'asterisk-iptables' started
    • The output of iptables --list -vfor something like:
      Chain fail2ban-ASTERISK (1 references)
       pkts bytes target     prot opt in     out     source               destination
        227 28683 RETURN     all  --  any    any     anywhere             anywhere

You should now receive emails (assuming you replaced the example addresses above with your own and your MTA is correctly configured) when Fail2ban starts or stops and when a host is blocked.

HTTP Streaming with Encryption under Linux

For a customer of ours, we need to mass encode thousands of video files and also segment and encrypt them for use with Apple’s HTTP Streaming.

For a customer of ours, we need to mass encode thousands of video files and also segment and encrypt them for use with Apple’s HTTP Streaming. (using Amazon EC2 instances for the leg work).

On his blog, Carson McDonald, has put together a good over view of how HTTP Streaming can work under Linux a long with a segmenter.

The one piece of the jigsaw we were missing was encryption and after some work ourselves and with the help of a stackoverflow question, we have a working sequence of commands to successfully and compatibly encrypt segments for playback on Safari and other supported HTTP streaming clients:

  1. Create a key file:
    openssl rand 16 > static.key
  2. Convert the key into hex:
    key_as_hex=$(cat static.key | hexdump -e '16/1 "%02x"')
  3. At this point, let’s assume we have segmented a file of 30 seconds called video_low.ts into ten 3 second segments called video_low_X.ts where X is an integer from 1 to 10. We can then encrypt these as follows:
    for i in {0..9}; do
        init_vector=`printf '%032x' $i`
        openssl aes-128-cbc -e -in video_low_$(($i+1)).ts     
            -out video_low_enc_$(($i+1)).ts -p -nosalt        
            -iv $init_vector -K $key_as_hex

With a matching m3u8 file such as the following, the above worked fine:


What caught us out was the initialisation vector with is described in the draft IETF document as follows:

128-bit AES requires the same 16-octet Initialization Vector (IV) to
be supplied when encrypting and decrypting. Varying this IV
increases the strength of the cipher.

If the EXT-X-KEY tag has the IV attribute, implementations MUST
use the attribute value as the IV when encrypting or decrypting
with that key. The value MUST be interpreted as a 128-bit
hexadecimal number and MUST be prefixed with 0x or 0X.

If the EXT-X-KEY tag does not have the IV attribute,
implementations MUST use the sequence number of the media
file as the IV when encrypting or decrypting that media file.
The big-endian binary representation of the sequence number
SHALL be placed in a 16-octet buffer and padded (on the left)
with zeros.

Encoding Video for the HTC Desire

A useful script to encode all files passed as parameters(s) for viewing on a HTC Desire.

While I’m writing about video encoding, another task I did recently was encode a load of video files for my HTC Desire (a handset I’d strongly recommend for anyone). The main reason being that I like to watch something while pounding the threadmill in the gym.

A useful script to encode all files passed as parameters(s) (must all end in .avi) is:

#! /bin/bash


echo -en "Encoding $src\t\t\tPASS1"

ffmpeg -b 600kb -i "$src" -v 0 -pass 1 -passlogfile FF -vb 600Kb \
    -r 25 -an -threads 2 -y "$dst" /dev/null

echo -e "\tPASS2"

ffmpeg -b 600kb -i "$src" -v 0 -pass 2 -passlogfile FF -vb 600Kb \
    -r 25 -threads 2 -y -vol 1536 "$dst" /dev/null

rm FF-0.log

Encoding Full HD as FLV (for Gallery3)

I have a full HD camcorder and I wanted to stick some good quality video on my gallery for relatives to view. So, I needed to convert my sample 100MB MP4 full HD file to a suitably sized FLV for the Gallery. Here’s what I did…

I have a very nice Samsung R10 Full HD Camcorder which I bought last year. After a recent family holiday, I wanted to stick some good quality video on my gallery for relatives to view. The gallery is RC2 of the excellent Gallery 3 package which uses another excellent open source tool called Flow Player to play movies.

So, I needed to convert my test 100MB MP4 full HD file to a suitably sized FLV for the Gallery. My initial attempts with ffmpeg worked fine but the quality (sample) was very poor and changing the bit rate in different ways seemed to make no difference:

ffmpeg -i HDV_0056.MP4 -vb 600k -s vga -ar 22050 -y Test.flv
ffmpeg -i HDV_0056.MP4 -b 600k -s vga -ar 22050 -y Test.flv
ffmpeg -i HDV_0056.MP4 -vb 600k -s vga -ar 22050 -y Test.flv

I then turned to x264 and broke the process down to a number of stages:

  1. Extract the raw video to YUV4MPEG (this creates a 7GB file from my 100MB MP4):
    ffmpeg -i HDV_0056.MP4 HDV_0056.y4m
  2. Encode the video component to H.264/FLV at the specified bit rate with good quality:
    x264 --pass 1 --preset veryslow --threads 0 --bitrate 4000 \
            -o HDV_0056.flv HDV_0056.y4m
    x264 --pass 2 --preset veryslow --threads 0 --bitrate 4000 \
            -o HDV_0056.flv HDV_0056.y4m

    Note that I’m using the veryslow preset which is… very slow! You can use other presets as explained in the x264 man page.

  3. Extract and convert the audio component to MP3 (the sample rate is important):
    ffmpeg -i HDV_0056.MP4 -vn -ar 22050 HDV_0056.mp3
  4. Merge the converted audio and video back together:
    ffmpeg -i HDV_0056.flv -i HDV_0056.mp3 -acodec copy \
            -vcodec copy -y FullSizeVideo.flv

    This yields a near perfect encoding at 22MB. It’s still full size though (HD at 1920×1080).

  5. The last step is to then use ffmpeg to resize the video and it now seems to respect bit rate parameters:
    ffmpeg -i FullSizeVideo.flv -s vga -b 2000k \
            -vb 2000k SmallSizeVideo.flv

The resultant video can be seen here.

Robert Swain has a useful guide for ffmpeg x264 encoding.

Linux on a Dell Vostro 200

Following a recent post to ILUG asking about setting Linux up on a Dell Vostro 200, I followed up with my notes from the time I had to do it a few months back.

This is just a copy of my notes rather than a how-to but any competent Linux user should have no problem. Apologies in advance for the brevity; with luck you’ll be using a later version of Linux which will already have solved the network issue…

The two main issues and fixes were:

  • The SATA CD-ROM was not recognised initially and the fix was set the following parameter in the BIOS:

    BIOS -> Integrated Peripherals -> SATA Mode -> RAID

  • The network card is not recognised during a Linux install. Allow install to complete without network and then download Intel’s e1000 driver from or specifically by clicking here. The one I used then was e1000-7.6.9.tar.gz but the current version appears to be e1000-7.6.15.tar.gz (where the above link heads to – check for later versions).

    My only notes of the install just say “essentially follow instructions in README” so I assume they were good enough! Obviously you’ll need Linux kernel headers at least as well as gcc and related tools.

    Once built and installed, a:

    modprobe e1000

    should have you working. Use dmesg to confirm.

Recovering an LVM Physical Volume

Yesterday disaster struck – during a CentOS/RedHat installation, the installer asked (not verbatim): “Cannot read partition information for /dev/sda. The drive must be initialized before continuing.”.

Now on this particular server, sda and sdb were/are a RAID1 (containing the OS) and a RAID5 partition respectively and sdc was/is a 4TB RAID5 partition from an externally attached disk chassis. This was a server re-installation and all data from sda and sdb had multiple snapshots off site. sdc had no backups of its 4TBs of data.

The installer discovered the drives in a different order and sda became the externally attached drive. I, believing it to be the internal RAID1 array, allowed the installer to initialise it. Oh shit…

Now this wouldn’t be the end of the world. It wasn’t backed up because a copy of the data exists on removable drives in the UK. It would mean someone flying in with the drives, handing them off to me at the airport, bringing them to the data center and copying all the data back. Then returning the drives to the UK again. A major inconvenience. And it’s also an embarrassment as I should have ensured that sda is what I thought it was via the installers other screens.

Anyway – from what I could make out, the installer initialised the drive with a single partition spanning the entire drive.

Once I got the operating system reinstalled, I needed to try and recover the LVM partitions. There’s not a whole lot of obvious information on the Internet for this and hence why I’m writing this post.

The first thing I needed to do was recreate the physical volume. Now, as I said above, I had backups of the original operating system. LVM creates a file containing the metadata of each volume group in /etc/lvm/backup in a file named the same as the volume group name. In this file, there is a section listing the physical volumes and their ids that make up the volume group. For example (the id is fabricated):

physical_volumes {
        pv0 {
                id = "fvrw-GHKde-hgbf43-JKBdew-rvKLJc-cewbn"
                device = "/dev/sdc"     # Hint only

                status = ["ALLOCATABLE"]
                pe_start = 384
                pe_count = 1072319      # 4.09057 Terabytes

Note that after I realised my mistake, I installed the OS on the correct partition and after booting, the external drive became /dev/sdc* again. Now, to recreate the physical volume with the same id, I tried:

# pvcreate -u fvrw-GHKde-hgbf43-JKBdew-rvKLJc-cewbn /dev/sdc
  Device /dev/sdc not found (or ignored by filtering).

Eh? By turning on verbosity, you find the reason among a few hundred lines of debugging:

# pvcreate -vvvv -u fvrw-GHKde-hgbf43-JKBdew-rvKLJc-cewbn /dev/sdc
#filters/filter.c:121         /dev/sdc: Skipping: Partition table signature found
#device/dev-io.c:486         Closed /dev/sdc
#pvcreate.c:84   Device /dev/sdc not found (or ignored by filtering).

So pvcreate will not create a physical volume using the entire disk unless I remove partition(s) first. I do this with fdisk and try again:

# pvcreate -u fvrw-GHKde-hgbf43-JKBdew-rvKLJc-cewbn /dev/sdc
  Physical volume "/dev/sdc" successfully created

Great. Now to recreate the volume group on this physical volume:

# vgcreate -v md1000 /dev/sdc
    Wiping cache of LVM-capable devices
    Adding physical volume '/dev/sdc' to volume group 'md1000'
    Archiving volume group "md1000" metadata (seqno 0).
    Creating volume group backup "/etc/lvm/backup/md1000" (seqno 1).
  Volume group "md1000" successfully created

Now I have an “empty” volume group but with no logical volumes. I know all the data is there as the initialization didn’t format or wipe the drive. I’ve retrieved the LVM backup file called md1000 and placed it in /tmp/lvm-md1000. When I try to restore it to the new volume group I get:

# vgcfgrestore -f /tmp/lvm-md1000 md1000
  /tmp/lvm-md1000: stat failed: Permission denied
  Couldn't read volume group metadata.
  Restore failed.

After a lot of messing, I copied it to /etc/lvm/backup/md1000 and tried again:

# vgcfgrestore -f /etc/lvm/backup/md1000 md1000
  Restored volume group md1000

I don’t know if it was the location, the renaming or both but it worked.

Now the last hurdle is that on a lvdisplay, the logical volumes show up but are marked as:

  LV Status              NOT available

This is easily fixed by marking the logical volumes as available:

#  vgchange -ay
  2 logical volume(s) in volume group "md1000" now active

Agus sin é. My logical volumes are recovered with all data intact.

* how these are assigned is not particularly relevant to this story.

Nagios Plugin to Check the Status of PRI Lines in Asterisk

I have a number of Asterisk implementations that I keep an eye on that have multiple PRI connections. Knowing if and when they ever go down has the obvious benefits of alerting me to a problem in near real time. But besides that, it allows my customers and I to verify SLAs, track and log issues, etc.

To this end, I have written a Nagios plugin which queries Asterisk’s manager interface and executes the pri show spans CLI command (this is Asterisk 1.4 by the way). The script then parses the output to ascertain whether a PRI is up or not.

The actual code to connect to the manager interface and execute the query is simply:

if( ( $astsock = fsockopen( $host, $port, $errno, $errstr, $timeout ) ) === false )
    echo "Could not connect to Asterisk manager: $errstr";
    exit( STATUS_CRITICAL );

fputs( $astsock, "Action: Login\r\n");
fputs( $astsock, "UserName: $username\r\n");
fputs( $astsock, "Secret: $password\r\n\r\n"); 

fputs( $astsock, "Action: Command\r\n");
fputs( $astsock, "Command: pri show spans\r\n\r\n");

fputs( $astsock, "Action: Logoff\r\n\r\n");

while( !feof( $astsock ) )
    $asttext .= fread( $astsock, 8192 );

fclose( $astsock );

if( strpos( $asttext, "Authentication failed" ) !== false )
    echo "Asterisk manager authentication failed.";
    exit( STATUS_CRITICAL );

This plugin is hard coded to English and expects to find Provisioned, Up, Active for a good PRI. For example, the Asterisk implementations that support the pri show spans command that I have access to return one of:

  • PRI span 1/0: Provisioned, In Alarm, Down, Active
  • PRI span 3/0: Provisioned, Up, Active
  • PRI span 2/0: Up, Active

I’m actually running a slightly older version of Nagios at the moment, version 1.3. To integrate the plugin, first add the following command definition to an appropriate existing or new file under /etc/nagios-plugings/config/:

define command{
        command_name    check_asterisk_pri
        command_line    /usr/lib/nagios/plugins/check_asterisk_pri.php \\
             -H $HOSTADDRESS$ -U $ARG1$ -P $ARG2$ -w $ARG3$ \\
             -c $ARG4$ -n $ARG5$

where $ARG1$ is the Asterisk manager username and $ARG2$ is the password. $ARG3$ and $ARG4$ are the warning and critical thresholds respectively whereby if the number of available PRIs reaches one of these values, the appropriate error condition will be set. Lastly, $ARG5$ is the number of PRIs the plugin shouldexpect to find.

NB: the command_line line above is split for readability but it should all be on the one line.

Now create a test for a host in an appropriate file in /etc/nagios/config/:

define service{
        use                             core-service
        service_description             Asterisk PRIs
        check_command                   check_asterisk_pri!user!pass!2!1!4

Ensure that your Nagios server has permissions to access the Asterisk server via TCP on the Asterisk manager port (5038 by default). If on a public network, this should be done via stunnel or a VPN for security reasons.

Lastly, you’ll need a user with the appropriate permissions and host allow statements in your Asterisk configuration (/etc/asterisk/manager.conf):

secret = password
read = command
write = command

The next version may include support for BRI and Zap FXO ports also. I also plan on a Cacti plug in to show the channels on each PRI (up – on a call, down, etc). In any case, updates will be posted here.

The plug in can be download from:

UPDATED 20/03/2012: Aterisk 1.8.9 takes out the word “Provisioned” in “pri show spans”. Thanks to Shane O’Cain.

Easy PHP Search in Firefox

Niall has created a quick Opensearch file to add the PHP Function search to the search bar of Firefox 2 And IE7. If anyone is interested it’s available here.

For those that don’t know, this feature has existing in KDE in multiple forms for some time. For example, pressing ALT-F2 opens the Run Command dialog and typing, for example:


will bring up’s own search page. The same goes for the location bar in Konqueror.

By the way, other nice short cuts in the Run Command dialog include:

  • gg: <keywords> for a quick Google search;
  • wp: <keywords> for a quick Wikipedia search;
  • dict: <keyword> for a quick dictionary look-up;
  • man: <keyword> for a man page look-up;
  • info: <keyword> for an info page look-up;
  • rfc: <number> to be brought to the relevant RFC page;

Of course, entering a command will execute it and just entering a URL will open it in Konqueror.

Nagios Plugin for the Promise VTrak 200i

For a project I was working on, I installed a Promise VTrak M200i disk shelf (i for iSCSI but then that’s a whole other blog post!) and needed to add it into the customers management systems.

Unfortunately there didn’t seem to be a lot of information out there on Promise’s SNMP MIBs so with a bit of playing about, I was able to dig out the ones I needed. The Nagios plug-in I wrote and am making available here will monitor the shelf via SNMP and alert on the following chassis issues:

  • critical if any of the shelf’s disk states changes from “OK”;
  • warning if the battery state changes from “FullyCharged”;
  • critical if either of the PSU states change from “Powered On and Functional”;
  • critical is any of the cooling devices (fans) change from “Functional”;
  • critical if any of the temperature sensors’ states change from “normal”;
  • critical if any of the drives go offline or are missing; and
  • warning if any of the drives go into the rebuilding state or have their PFA flag set.

While this is specifically designed for a single M200i, it should be easily customisable for other models.

It can be downloaded from here ( It will also appear on the development section of this site and Nagios Plugins.

OIDs Used
The table of physical disk statuses.
The battery status.
The table of Power Supply Unit statuses.
The table of cooling device/fan statuses.
The table of temperature sensor statuses.
The number of drives that are offline.
The number of drives in the PFA status set.
The number of drives in rebuild status.
The number of drives that are missing.