— 2 min read

This is a quick follow up to a previous post about getting this blog running on nginx with a reverse proxy to Apache 2.

It seems the issue stems from 3 mods I had installed and enabled

  1. mod-spamhaus
  2. mod-evasive and
  3. mod-security

The 3, when running together are a fantastic way to strengthen any web server from attack, be it DOS, injection, XLS etc. I’ve sworn by all 3 of them for years now and I thought I had them cracked for security:performance ratio, when it comes to reverse proxying requests from nginx to Apache 2 where WordPress is concerned, apparently I was very wrong.

The issue wasn’t so bad when the cache was full, but seeing as my cache is only alive for an hour that leaves an open point for the cache to be recreated when a user views the page. This in itself isn’t a bad thing or even the root cause, the actual cause appears to be a huge amount of requests hitting Apache, these in turn trigger all 3 mods, all for the same reason; lots and lots of requests in short amounts of time from the same IP address.

Somehow this was causing Apache to spawn many child processes which it then tried to kill when the requests were completed or killed, this put my server load to 15.02 at one point in time, causing the server to go in to a frenzy as Apache tried to spawn even more children to handle the requests, getting itself caught in a vicious looping cycle.

As it stands now I have lowered the tolerance of both mod-evasive and mod-security which has massively improved performance to the point where now I can clean and recreate the cache of all blogs running from this WPMU installation at the same time, while browsing and never notice it.

Currently mod-spamhaus has been disabled until such time as I can figure out it’s configuration variables and get it running nicely without it killing my server when the site in question is a WordPress site.

As a consequence my other non WPMU blogs that are running purely on Apache with no nginx reverse proxy have also sped up dramatically which is always a good thing. I guess for now I’ll have to write a quick Python script that temporarily bans people using iptables until I can get all 3 mods working in harmony.

Will post in the future when I have more info.


Anarchist. Pessimist. Bipolar. Hacker. Hyperpolyglot. Musician. Ex-(semi-)pro gamer. They/Them.

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