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Securing your app with Nginx Naxsi

After experimenting with Nginx, I decided to look into the available security modules. One module I seen mentioned a lot was Naxsi – a web application firewall for Nginx.

First off, you will need to install Naxsi. I’m working on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS and entered the following command:

apt-get install nginx-naxsi

You may also need to check if all dependencies (libpcre, optionally libssl for https) are installed:

apt-get install libpcre3-dev libssl-dev

After the installation is complete, you must edit the /etc/nginx/nginx.conf configuration file and add the following line into the http code block. Your conf file should look something like the below:

http {
    ## NAXSI Security
    include /etc/nginx/naxsi_core.rules;

Next stage is to create a custom rules file in /etc/nginx/. This can be called what ever you like – in this example I have called mine ga-naxsi.rules. Copy and paste the below code into this new file:

LearningMode; #Enables learning mode
 DeniedUrl "/RequestDenied";
 ## check rules
 CheckRule "$SQL >= 8" BLOCK;
 CheckRule "$RFI >= 8" BLOCK;
 CheckRule "$TRAVERSAL >= 4" BLOCK;
 CheckRule "$EVADE >= 4" BLOCK;
 CheckRule "$XSS >= 8" BLOCK;

Note that Naxsi is in LearningMode above. This means that malicious requests are copied to the a defined error log and not blocked. This is useful for creating the whitelist later on in this article.

Next stage is to edit the sites virtual host configuration. My file is called default and is located in /etc/nginx/sites-enabled. In the “location” code block add the following include, set the RequestDenied path and ensure your error log is defined:

location / {
   # NAXSI Security
   include "/etc/nginx/ga-naxsi.rules";

location /RequestDenied {
    return 418;

error_log /var/log/nginx/ga_error.log;
access_log /var/log/nginx/ga_access.log;

Now all the main configuration is done, its time to restart Nginx by typing the following command:

sudo service nginx restart

Learning Mode

As previously mentioned, we have set Naxsi to learning mode. This allows Naxsi to provide you with white lists based on users activity. For example, a malicious request is made but not blocked – instead it is copied to /var/log/nginx/ga_error.log.

Lets say I have a form on my website, and I post some malicious content:


Now if I look in /var/log/nginx/ga_error.log, I should see a logged malicious request. If you see something like the below, then Naxsi is working in Learning mode!

2014/04/21 20:41:59 [error] 31267#0: *1 NAXSI_FMT: ip=*.*.*.152&server=*.*.*.*&uri=/&learning=1&total_processed=1&total_blocked=1&zone0=ARGS&id0=1011&var_name0=firstname&zone1=ARGS&id1=1302&var_name1=firstname&zone2=ARGS&id2=1303&var_name2=firstname&zone3=ARGS&id3=1308&var_name3=firstname&zone4=ARGS&id4=1309&var_name4=firstname&zone5=ARGS&id5=1313&var_name5=firstname, client: *.*.*.*, server: *.*.*.*, request: "GET /?firstname=%3Cscript%3Ealert%280%29%3B%3C%2Fscript%3E&lastname= HTTP/1.1", host: "*.*.*.*", referrer: ""

Creating the whitelist

Once you are happy with the amount of user activity and are ready to switch learning mode off, you will need to download nx_util. You can do this by running the following command (I’m in /root/):

apt-get install python
tar -zxf nx_util-1.0.tgz
cd nx_util-1.0/nx_util

Run the following command to get optimised rule suggestions:

python -c nx_util.conf -l /var/log/nginx/* -o

This should output something like the below. Copy this into your custom rule file (e.g /etc/nginx/ga_naxsi.rules) and comment out learning mode from LearningMode; to #LearningMode;.

########### Optimized Rules Suggestion ##################
# total_count:1 (50.0%), peer_count:1 (100.0%) | parenthesis, probable sql/xss
BasicRule wl:1010 "mz:$URL:/|$ARGS_VAR:firstname";
# total_count:1 (50.0%), peer_count:1 (100.0%) | ; in stuff
BasicRule wl:1008 "mz:$URL:/|$ARGS_VAR:firstname";

To enable the changes, restart Nginx

sudo service nginx restart

Now if I try and post malicious content through the form again (same as the above) – Naxsi should block this request and return a 418 status code (teapot).


If you wish to set a custom error page, you can so so by simply adding the below line to your virtual hosts config file:

error_page 418 /418.html;
Posted in: Nginx
2 comments on “Securing your app with Nginx Naxsi
  1. Hi,

    Please update the links to point to github : – as the googlecode space is deprecated :)

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