Sawyer Shepherd's Blog

My Response to Log4shell

I have remodeled my entire server stack to better defend against critical vulnerabilities.

I know this blogpost is long overdue, with the waves Log4Shell sent through the security world having mostly passed, but I promise my action was timely!


Previously, my server ran Debian 11 (Bullseye) with a custom sandboxing SystemD configuration for every service I ran (read more about my old setup here). This approach offered performance benefits at the extreme cost of my time—it takes ages to work out all the kinks in a custom configuration.

Unfortunately, when Log4Shell was publicized, the only service I had left to sandbox was the only service I ran to be affected by the vulnerability.

I heard of the vulnerability a few hours after the news broke. While my logs held no indication of malicious actors, I knew that one can never be too careful if an attacker potentially has full RCE capabilities, and promptly wiped my server.


Left with a blank slate, I decided that I needed to take a smarter approach to my server infrastructure. After the scare of Log4Shell, security, reproducibility, and ease-of-setup took precedence over minute performance optimizations. I took to putting each of my services in Docker containers, which I managed with Ansible on top of Fedora Server as my distribution of choice.

In front of all the containers sits a reverse proxy to forward requests to the appropriate container. This also further fortifies my network in combination with UFW—no connections can get in or out of the containers without going through the reverse proxy.

Overall, I am satisfied with this new software stack. It has proven to be magnitudes more dependable and secure than my previous infrastructure.

Future Plans

If Fedora ever becomes an inconvenience to me, I will switch to NixOS. I have a friend in the Nix cult who has given it great praise for its reproducibility and declarative package management. NixOS in combination with Nix Flakes may even allow me to completely remove Ansible from the stack.

Another problem that may come to annoy me in the future is that my server has no webhook capabilities. As of now, if I want to make a post to my blog, I have to:

  1. Write the post
  2. Commit and push the post
  3. Make a new build with Sawsge
  4. Run the Ansible playbook to update the site on my server

I’d prefer to just push changes to the repository, triggering the Git server to send a webhook to my server, which would generate a new Sawsge build right on the server. It’ll be a pain to set up, but will save me labor in the long run.