Linux: Turn On TCP SYN Cookie Protection

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I am under DoS attack. My cloud based server hosting company asked me to enable TCP SYN cookie protection to save my domain from SYN Attack. How do I turn on TCP Syn cookie protection under Ubuntu or CentOS Linux based server?

The TCP Syn is DoS (Denial of Service) attack. It consumes resources on your Linux server. The attacker begin with the TCP connection handshake sending the SYN packet, and then never completing the process to open the connection. This results into massive half-open connections. The Linux kernel can block such attacks easily.

See the current settings

Use sysctl command to configure or see kernel parameters at runtime. To see the current settings for net.ipv4.tcp_syncookies kernel parameter, enter:
# sysctl -n net.ipv4.tcp_syncookies
OR
# cat /proc/sys/net/ipv4/tcp_syncookies
Sample outputs:

Fig.01: View current TCP SYN cookie protection
Fig.01: View current TCP SYN cookie protection

Enable TCP SYN cookie protection

Edit the file /etc/sysctl.conf, run:
# vi /etc/sysctl.conf
Append the following entry:

net.ipv4.tcp_syncookies = 1

Save and close the file. To reload the change, type:
# sysctl -p

Recommended readings

  1. How to set advanced security options of the TCP/IP stack and virtual memory to improve security and performance of your Linux based system.
  2. Twenty Linux server hardening security tips
  3. Linux firewall tutorial and shorewall firewall tutorial for more information.

Posted by: Vivek Gite

The author is the creator of nixCraft and a seasoned sysadmin, DevOps engineer, and a trainer for the Linux operating system/Unix shell scripting. Get the latest tutorials on SysAdmin, Linux/Unix and open source topics via RSS/XML feed or weekly email newsletter.

5 comment

  1. What’s the positive and negative aspects of this command? I’m interested what exactly the setting does do :)

  2. When i run command

    netstat -an | grep :80 | grep -i syn | wc -l

    I see more than 250 connections, that cause Apache timeout error, is this a fix for this?
    I did like shown in this post, but i can not check will it work because attack passed….

  3. HELLO,

    What this person described above is NOT CORRECT!

    This person showed both of these commands;

    sysctl -n net.ipv4.tcp_syncookies
    cat /proc/sys/net/ipv4/tcp_syncookies

    If you NOTICED they have 1 showing, that means it’s ENABLED, so you don’t need to do anything, which they did not explain!

    ONLY do; net.ipv4.tcp_syncookies = 1 if you don’t get a 1 in the cmds!

    1. I’m not too sure why you’re shouting (see RFC1855 about upper case), there are lots of reasons why sysctl -n (…) may report the services as enabled at runtime, it doesn’t mean it’s enabled or disabled in any file (yet). Adding the line in /etc/sysctl.conf won’t have any impact until you reload with sysctl –system or until you reboot, which doesn’t guarantee /proc/sys/net/ipv4/tcp_syncookies will still be enabled.
      From what I can see in the output, `sysctl –system` only sets the value if it is different from the current value.
      Now, if you really wanna be a purist, you’ll check net.ipv4.tcp_syncookies is not already present in /etc/sysctl.conf (it’s commented out in Ubuntu 16) and uncomment the line instead of appending it.

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