PSAD installation and configuration on Debian 8 (Jessie)

PSAD installation and configuration on Debian 8 (Jessie)

PSAD installation and configuration on Debian 8 (Jessie)

In this tutorial, I will show you the installation and configuration of the PSAD (Port Scan Attack Detection) tool on Debian 8 (Jessie). As per project website: PSAD provides intrusion detection and log-analysis with IPtables (Linux firewall). The PSAD tool is used to change an IDS (Intrusion Detection) system into an IPS (Intrusion Prevention System). It uses the rules of the well-known open source IDS “SNORT” for the detection of intrusion events.  The VM or server is continuously  monitored  by the tool for any active attacks such as port scans and it can block malicious IP addresses in the Linux firewall automatically. Another similar project is Guardian, which has very limited features. PSAD will be installed on a Debian-8 (Jessie) VM and the scanning tool “Nmap” will be used to check open ports on the VM. In the end, a DOS attack will be launched on the web server (Apache) to see the behavior of PSAD tool.


PSAD Installation

Debian Jessie will be installed on the VMware VM using net installer (debian-8.3.0-i386-netinst.iso).

Install the virtual machine for PSAD

The Debian installation process is described in the previous article.  The IP address of the PSAD machine is

Check the IP address.

The PSAD tool can be installed from source code or from the Debian package repository.  I will install it from the Debian repository. First of all, add the following in the sources.list file (or check if the lines are already there) and run the apt command to update the repository list.

deb jessie main
deb-src jessie main

deb jessie-updates main
deb-src jessie-updates main

deb jessie/updates main
deb-src jessie/updates main

The Debian sources.list file content.

Sources list for Debian Jessie

apt-get update

Updating Debianeval(ez_write_tag([[580,400],’howtoforge_com-medrectangle-4′,’ezslot_1′,108,’0′,’0′]));

Run the following command to install PSAD in the VM.

apt-get install psad

Installing PSAD

Several Perl packages are required during installation of PSAD tool. The package dependencies will be automatically resolved by the Debian package manager. 

Installing PSAD Dependencies.

The Firewalling feature on the Linux platform is provided by the IPtables package. It is a well known Linux firewall and already installed in all Linux distributions.

Check IPTables.

PSAD and Firewall Configuration

By default, there will be no rules in the IPtables chains on the Debian platform. Run the following command to list chains rules.

iptables -L

IPTables Chains.

Enable logging on the input and forward chains of IPtables so that PSAD daemon can detect any abnormal activity.

iptables -A INPUT -j LOG
iptables -A FORWARD -j LOG

Enable Logging in IPTables.

The output of “iptables -L” command will be similar as shown below now.

Chain INPUT (policy ACCEPT)
target     prot opt source               destination
LOG        all  --  anywhere             anywhere             LOG level warning

Chain FORWARD (policy ACCEPT)
target     prot opt source               destination
LOG        all  --  anywhere             anywhere             LOG level warning
Chain OUTPUT (policy ACCEPT)
target     prot opt source               destination

Show IPTables configuration.

On the Debian distribution, the PSAD tool stores configuration files and rules in the /etc/psad directory.

the PSAD configuration directory.

The main PSAD configuration file is /etc/psad/psad.conf. In this tutorial, the IPS feature will be used to detects DOS attacks on the web server.

The basic settings for PSAD are given below.

EMAIL_ADDRESSES   [email protected]; 
HOSTNAME          PSAD-box;
HOME_NET          any;
EXTERNAL_NET      any;

The PSAD Configuration file - part 1.

The default danger level setting, PSAD check interval and usage of SID is shown in the following figure.

The PSAD Configuration file - Danger Levels.

By default, the PSAD daemon searches for logs in /var/log/messages file. Therefore, change IPT_SYSLOG_FILE parameter in the PSAD configuration. 

The PSAD Configuration file - Log file to read.

Debian based distributations store syslog messages in /var/log/syslog file.

 IPT_SYSLOG_FILE       /var/log/syslog;

The PSAD Configuration file - Log.

By default, PSAD works in IDS mode, the IPS parameter is disabled in the configuration file.  Enable the following parameters to enable the IPS feature and danger level. After enabling the parameter in the configuration file, the PSAD daemon will automatically block the attacker by adding his IP address in the IPtables chains.


The PSAD Configuration file - enable IDS.

Now run the following command to update the signature database for detection of attacks.

psad --sig-update

PSAD Signature update.

Currently, Apache server is listening on port 80 as shown below. 

Check if apache is listening.

Start PSAD using the following command and check status.

psad start

Start PSAD.

psad -S

psad -S

A DOS attack is launched using LOIC (Low Orbit Ion Cannon ) tool on the VM  to test PSAD as shown below.

Simulate a DOS with Loic

Syslog shows the DOS traffic generated using LOIC tool.

Show traffic in syslog.

The IP address of the simulated attacker is blocked by the PSAD daemon as shown below. Run the following command to view the dynamic rules added by PSAD.

psad --fw-list

psad --fw-list

The following screenshot shows that attacker can not ping the victim IP addressa nymore, so he has been blocked successfully by PSAD.

Attack blocked successfully.

Run the following command to see the detailed output of PSAD.

psad -S

1. Signature matched and attacker IP address

Signature of the attacker.

2. Traffic for specific ports

Attacked ports.

3.  The attacker’s IP address in the IPtables chains.

The IP address of the attacker.

4.  Details about communication between attacker and victim.

Communication details.


PSAD is a well-known open source tool for blocking port scan attacks on Linux servers. It has both IDS and IPS features and  is able to dynamically block malicious IP addresses using IPtables.

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