Authentication penalty support

Dovecot anvil process tracks authentication penalties for different IPs to slow down brute force login attempts. The algorithm works by:

  • First auth failure reply will be delayed for 2 seconds (this happens even without auth penalty)

    • AUTH_PENALTY_INIT_SECS in src/auth/auth-penalty.h

  • The delay will be doubled for 4 -> 8 seconds, and then the upper limit of 15 seconds is reached.

    • AUTH_PENALTY_MAX_SECS and AUTH_PENALTY_MAX_PENALTY in src/auth/auth-penalty.h

  • If the IP is in login_trusted_networks (e.g. webmail), skip any authentication penalties

  • If the username+password combination is the same as one of the last 10 login attempts, skip increasing authentication penalty.

    • CHECKSUM_VALUE_PTR_COUNT in src/anvil/penalty.c

    • The idea is that if a user has simply configured the password wrong, it shouldn’t keep increasing the delay.

    • The username+password is tracked as the CRC32 of them, so there is a small possibility of hash collisions


  • It is still possible to do multiple auth lookups from the same IP in parallel.

  • For IPv6 it currently blocks the entire /48 block, which may or may not be what is wanted.

    • PENALTY_IPV6_MASK_BITS in auth-penalty.c

Authentication penalty tracking can be disabled completely with:

service anvil {
  unix_listener anvil-auth-penalty {
    mode = 0

Also you can have similar functionality with fail2ban.