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How to Secure Your ARK Node?

When running an ARK node, especially a Delegate Node, you should consider your server’s security as your main priority.

During this guide, we will configure network and SSH parameters, which if improperly performed might permanently lock you out of your server. Ensure you fully understand each step before proceeding.

Security Through Obscurity

By outlining how to secure a node we’re breaking a fundamental property of network security. We are telling people how we are defending our network. This breaks the security through obscurity ( Wikipedia Reference ) rule. If all nodes were secured in the same way, a single exploit might compromise the entire network. It is therefore vital that you consider other sources as well to secure your node.

Making Sure Our Server Is Updated

The first thing we’re going to do is make sure we have the latest security updates for Ubuntu. Once everything installs, you will need to reboot to make sure all the upgrades applied adequately.

sudo apt-get update -y
sudo apt-get upgrade -y
sudo reboot

You may also consider having your server update itself automatically using a cronjob. A useful tool is cron-apt :

sudo apt-get install cron-apt

SSH Security

Edit Your SSH Config

Edit your sshd_config by running the following command.

sudo nano /etc/ssh/sshd_config

file: /etc/ssh/sshd_config

# What ports, IPs and protocols we listen for
Port 22

Change the 22 to a port of your choosing between 49152 and 65535. This is the new SSH port we will connect on. Since we are not using the default SSH port, it is crucial you do not forget what you choose, or you will not be able to access your server.

From now on port 22 is not usable for SSH connections.

file: /etc/ssh/sshd_config

# What ports, IPs and protocols we listen for
Port 55555

Authentication Settings

In the previous section, we had you create a new account for security purposes. You should never log in as root to your server after it has been set up. Our first security measure is going to be to disable root access altogether.

file: /etc/ssh/sshd_config

# Authentication:
LoginGraceTime 120
PermitRootLogin yes
StrictModes yes

Change LoginGraceTime to 60 and set PermitRootLogin to no

file: /etc/ssh/sshd_config

# Authentication:
LoginGraceTime 60
PermitRootLogin no
StrictModes yes

Disable X11 Forwarding

Set X11Forwarding to no.

file: /etc/ssh/sshd_config

X11Forwarding yes
X11DisplayOffset 10
PrintMotd no
PrintLastLog yes
TCPKeepAlive yes
#UseLogin no

/file: etc/ssh/sshd_config

X11Forwarding no

Limit Max Concurrent Connections

Scroll down until you see the following line and uncomment MaxStartups. Then set MaxStartups to 2.

/file: etc/ssh/sshd_config

#MaxStartups 10:30:60
#Banner /etc/

file: /etc/ssh/sshd_config

MaxStartups 2
#Banner /etc/

Save Your Config File

Press CTRL+X to exit the file, Y to save the file and then Enter to write to the file and return to the command line.

Restart SSH Daemon

sudo service ssh restart

Test New SSH Connection

ssh [email protected] -p 55555

If everything was setup successfully, you should be reconnected to your ARK node. Replace 55555 with the port you chose when setting up your sshd_config.

Install Fail2Ban

What Is Fail2Ban

The basic idea behind fail2ban is to monitor the logs of standard services to spot patterns in authentication failures. For example, by finding many password authentication failures originating from a single IP, whois commands shortly after connecting over SSH or other known exploits.

Fail2Ban can reduce the rate of incorrect authentications attempts however it cannot eliminate the risk that weak authentication presents. Configure services to use only two factor or public/private authentication mechanisms if you want to protect services. :::


Install Fail2Ban and create local configuration file.

sudo apt-get install fail2ban
sudo cp /etc/fail2ban/jail.conf /etc/fail2ban/jail.local


Find all the references that specify port = SSH (typically in the SSH header section) and change the port to the new one you selected in the SSH security section above.

sudo nano /etc/fail2ban/jail.local

File: /etc/fail2ban/jail.local

# SSH Servers

port = ssh
logpath = %(sshd_log)s

# This Jail Corresponds to the Standard Configuration in Fail2ban
# The Mail-Whois Action Sends a Notification E-Mail With a Whois Request
port = ssh
logpath = %(sshd_log)s

port = ssh
logpath = %(dropbear_log)s

port = ssh
logpath = %(auditd_log)s
maxretry = 5

Save Your Config File

Press CTRL+X to exit the file, Y to save the file and then Enter to write to the file and return to the command line.

Restart Fail2Ban Daemon

sudo service fail2ban restart

Port Knocking

What Is Port Knocking?

Port knocking is a technique used which obscures the port you’re connecting on to prevent port scanning by opening and closing it when you need it. We will use a series of ports to essentially “knock” and your server will open your configured port for you to connect on by listening for connection attempts on those ports in a specific order.

Disable UFW

By default, UFW comes enabled with Ubuntu 16.04. If you get ufw command not found then run.

sudo apt-get install ufw
sudo ufw disable

You can verify that UFW is disabled by running sudo ufw status and get a response of inactive.

Disable All Incoming Connections

sudo ufw default deny incoming

Enable Node Port

Depending which network this node is for will determine what port you open here. For mainnet use 4001, devnet use 4002, and testnet use 4000 and public API which is by default located on port 4003.

We don’t want to open any more ports than required to operate securely so we will open P2P port depending on the network (in our example for mainnet) and public API port.

sudo ufw allow 4001/tcp
sudo ufw allow 4003/tcp

Install Knockd on Server

sudo apt-get install knockd -y

Start Knockd Server on Boot

sudo nano /etc/default/knockd

We need to change START_KNOCKD=0 to START_KNOCKD=1

File: /etc/default/knockd

# knockd's default file, for generic sys config

# Control if We Start Knockd at Init or Not
# 1 = start
# anything else = don't start

# Command Line Options
#KNOCKD_OPTS="-i eth1"

File: /etc/default/knockd


Then press CTRL+S, then answer Y and finally press ENTER to return to the command line.

Edit Config

sudo nano /etc/knockd.conf

Knock Ports

Here we’re going to pick our opening and closing knock sequence. Choose three ports between 7000 and 40000 for each opening and closing. Write these ports down. The sequences need to be different.

Modify your config file to match the one below with your own ports. We do not recommend just copying and pasting this config. Replace 7000, 8000, 9000 with your own choices.

Also, don’t forget to replace 55555 with the port you chose for SSH.

File: /etc/knockd.conf


        sequence    = 7000,8000,9000
        seq_timeout = 5
        command     = ufw allow 55555/tcp
        tcpflags    = syn

        sequence    = 9000,8000,7000
        seq_timeout = 5
        command     = ufw delete allow 55555/tcp
        tcpflags    = syn

Enable Our Firewall and Start Knockd

sudo service knockd start
sudo ufw enable

Checking Knockd and Ufw Status

sudo service knockd status
sudo ufw status

Install Knockd Client

Install a client for your operating system to make knocking easier. There are even a couple of mobile apps you can use for quickly knocking on your server to open your ssh port.

After knocking your port will remain open until you send the closing knock sequence.

Ubuntu 16.04

sudo apt-get install knockd

Alternate Clients

Troubleshooting and Testing

Logs for knockd appear in syslog and will be crucial if you need to troubleshoot.

Run the following command on your ARK node server.

tail -f /var/log/syslog

Let us test our knocking! We set our SSH port, and we’ve enabled knocking. Now we need to check to make sure that when we send the correct knock that we open and close the port correctly.

Open SSH Port

From your personal computer or mobile phone use the client you installed above or if you are running Linux install knockd by running sudo apt-get install knockd and use the following command to knock.

knock -v nodeip 7000 8000 9000

You should see the following logs appear in your syslog

Apr 17 04:02:18 node1 knockd: nodeip: openSSH: Stage 1
Apr 17 04:02:18 node1 knockd: nodeip: openSSH: Stage 2
Apr 17 04:02:18 node1 knockd: nodeip: openSSH: Stage 3
Apr 17 04:02:18 node1 knockd: nodeip: openSSH: OPEN SESAME
Apr 17 04:02:18 node1 knockd: openSSH: running command: ufw allow 55555/tcp

Running sudo ufw status should list your SSH port as enabled.

[email protected]:~$ sudo ufw status
Status: active

To                         Action      From
--                         ------      ----
2086/tcp                   ALLOW       Anywhere
4002/tcp                   ALLOW       Anywhere
55555/tcp                  ALLOW       Anywhere
2086/tcp (v6)              ALLOW       Anywhere (v6)
4002/tcp (v6)              ALLOW       Anywhere (v6)
55555/tcp (v6)             ALLOW       Anywhere (v6)

Close SSH Port

knock -v nodeip 9000 8000 7000
Apr 17 04:23:37 node1 knockd: nodeip: closeSSH: Stage 1
Apr 17 04:23:37 node1 knockd: nodeip: closeSSH: Stage 2
Apr 17 04:23:37 node1 knockd: nodeip: closeSSH: Stage 3
Apr 17 04:23:37 node1 knockd: nodeip: closeSSH: OPEN SESAME
Apr 17 04:23:37 node1 knockd: closeSSH: running command: ufw delete allow 55555/tcp

SSH Connection Using Your KeyPair

If you do not copy the correct key to your server, in the right location, you will be unable to authenticate.

If you are not comfortable managing SSH keys, you can continue logging in via a password, but it is less secure.

SSH keys should be generated on the computer you wish to log in from. Just press enter and accept all the defaults.

MacOS / Linux

ssh-keygen -t rsa

Browse to your ~/.ssh directory and check to make sure it worked. You should see the following files.

cd ~/.ssh
ls -l

-rw------- 1 travism travism 1675 Mar 28 12:13 id_rsa
-rw-r--r-- 1 travism travism  401 Mar 28 12:13
-rw-r--r-- 1 travism travism 3764 Apr 16 23:15 known_hosts

Copy your key to your server

# Open SSH Port It Not Already Open
knock -v nodeip 7000 8000 9000

# Copy Key
ssh-copy-id -p 55555 [email protected]


Windows users can generate their ssh key using PuTTY Key Generator .

Copy your PUBLIC KEY to your Server

Copy the contents of your file on your local machine to your ~/.ssh/authorized_keys on your ARK node server.

Disable Password Authentication

sudo nano /etc/ssh/sshd_config

This file should look familiar to you as we edited it earlier in this process. This time we’re going to disable password authentication. Set PasswordAuthentication to no and make sure that PubkeyAuthentication is set to yes and ChallengeResponseAuthentication is set to no.

file: /etc/ssh/sshd_config

PasswordAuthentication no
PubkeyAuthentication yes
ChallengeResponseAuthentication no

Save your changes by pressing CTRL+X, then respond with Y, and finally press ENTER to write to file.

Restart SSH

sudo service ssh restart

The next time you log in you should log right in without a password prompt.

DDOS Protection With Cloudflare

In this section, we’re going to setup Cloudflare and SSL for DDoS protection and security using Nginx as a reverse proxy.

Install Nginx

sudo apt-get install nginx

Edit Nginx Config

sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/default

Paste in the following config, making sure you edit the server_name and proxy_pass. You may need to change ssl_certificate and ssl_certificate_key if you name your files something different.

File: /etc/nginx/enabled-sites/default

server {
    listen 443 ssl;
    ssl_certificate /etc/nginx/ssl/ark.crt;
    ssl_certificate_key /etc/nginx/ssl/ark.key;
    ssl_verify_client off;
    ssl_protocols TLSv1 TLSv1.1 TLSv1.2;
    ssl_prefer_server_ciphers on;
    location / {
        proxy_set_header X-Real-IP $remote_addr;
        proxy_set_header X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
        proxy_set_header X-NginX-Proxy true;
        proxy_pass http://localhost:4001/;
        proxy_ssl_session_reuse off;
        proxy_set_header Host $http_host;
        proxy_cache_bypass $http_upgrade;
        proxy_redirect off;

Press CTRL+X to exit the file, Y to save the file, and ENTER to write to the file and return to the command line.

Cloudflare / SSL Setup

Login to your Cloudflare dashboard and click on the DNS button.

Then go to Crypto.

Scroll down to Origin Certificates and click the Create Certificate button. Keep this window open after Cloudflare generates your two keys.

Open Terminal on your ARK node server

We need to create a new folder and copy our keys to our server.

mkdir /etc/nginx/ssl
cd /etc/nginx/ssl
touch ark.crt ark.key

Copy the PRIVATE KEY to the file ark.key and the CERTIFICATE to ark.crt.

Start Nginx

sudo service nginx start

If everything started fine, you should be able to access your ARK node APIs behind SSL. Giving you the bonus of Cloudflare DDOS protection.

Otherwise, if you get any errors run the following command to troubleshoot nginx.

sudo nginx -t -c /etc/nginx/nginx.conf


Your node is now very secure. With this setup, you can open and close your SSH port remotely using a secret knocking technique as well as sign in using cryptographic keys.

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