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Find All Failed SSH login Attempts in Linux

Last Updated : 02 Jun, 2023
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SSH Server provides us with a secure encrypted communications channel between two untrusted hosts over an insecure network. Still, we cannot say for sure that it is secure. It is generally very susceptible to many kinds of password-guessing and brute-forcing attacks. By actively monitoring these failed login attempts one can easily find the unauthorized access that is attempted on our system. In this article, we are going to discuss different ways to identify the failed SSH login attempts in Our Linux System.

The syntax for enabling, starting, and checking the status of the SSH Service

sudo systemctl enable ssh 

Enabling SSH service

sudo systemctl start ssh

Starting SSH service

sudo systemctl status ssh

Checking SSH service status

SSH Service Actively running.

SSH Service Actively running. 

Checking SSH log Files in Linux

If we talk about Linux system which typically logs all the login attempts in a log file. If we examine this log file, we can easily identify the failed login attempts that are made. The path of the log file can be different in different Linux distributions, but in geranyl common location are ‘/var/log/auth.log’ or ‘/var/log/secure’. To view the contents of the log file, we can use `cat` or `less` command.

cat /var/log/auth.log


less /var/log/auth.log

The Log file contains valuable information like

  • Ip address
  • date
  • time
  • user attempting to log in

Note: Failed login attempts are usually marked with a “Failed password” or “invalid user” message.

Using `grep` and `cat` command for searching

The `grep` command is a powerful toll for searching in a pattern in text file. We can be more specific in searching the text file by utilizing regular expressions in it. 

For Example: 

Using `grep` to find failed SSH login attempts.


grep "Failed password" /var/log/auth.log
grep command to find logs

grep command to find logs

As we can see it displays all the lines containing the phrase “Failed Password” in the auth.log file. our search can be more refined according to the user by using multiple desired conditions.

For Example:

Using `cat` with `grep` command 


cat /var/log/auth.log | grep "Failed password"
cat  and grep command to find logs

cat and grep command to find logs

Additional Information Failed SSH login Attempts

If we want to gather more details about the failed logins attempts that are made, we can use `egrep` command with the desired pattern.


egrep "Failed|Failure" /var/log/auth.log

We will get a comprehensive view of all failed login attempts, including various error messages or failure reasons

Extracting IP Address

If want to get IP addresses and the number of failed logins attempts, we can combine `grep`, `awk`, `uniq` and `sort` command to see the desired result.


grep "Failed password" /var/log/auth.log | awk '{print $11}' | uniq -c | sort -nr
extracted filter out duplicate IP

extracted filter out duplicate IP

As a result, we have extracted filter out duplicate IP addresses and counts the occurrence and get it in descending order.

Using Systemd’s journaltcl

There is another way to get SSH login attempts by using the `Systemd daemon’s journaltcl` command.


journalctl _SYSTEMD_UNIT=ssh.service | egrep "Failed|Failure"

journalctl _SYSTEMD_UNIT=ssh.service | egrep “Failed|Failure”

As a result, we can retrieve relevant log entries related to failed login attempts.

Checking Settings

If we want to fine-tune the settings for handling failed loging attempts we can review the /etc/pam.d/common-auth file. The /etc/pam.d/password-aut file can be checked for setting related to failed login attempts and tempry account locking.

cat /etc/pam.d/password-auth
cat /etc/pam.d/password-auth

cat /etc/pam.d/password-auth

For Example: 

We can also adjust the threshold for failed login attempts before our account is temporarily locked by modifying the following line in the file.


auth required deny=3 unlock_time=360

This line in result will sets the account lockout after the three failed login attempts and here 360 means second which is 6 min lockout duration


In this article we have discussed how we can identify and monitor failed SSH Login attempts in Linux. Which is important for a user to know for maintaining system security. We have discussed different ways to find the failed login attempts `grep`, `cat` and `egrep` etc. Overall, we can say that by actively monitoring failed SSH login attempts, we can enhance system security and prevent potential threats.

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