How to disable or block XML-RPC in wordpress served by apache server.

Per the official documentation –
XML-RPC on WordPress is actually an API or “application program interface“. It gives developers who make mobile apps, desktop apps and other services the ability to talk to your WordPress site. The XML-RPC API that WordPress provides gives developers a way to write applications (for you) that can do many of the things that you can do when logged into WordPress via the web interface

Unfortunately XML-RPC has drawbacks too, to mention some –

  • DDoS via XML-RPC pingbacks
  • Brute force attacks via XML-RPC

While looking at the access logs of my web servers, there were so many xmlrpc.php calls that looked suspicious.

121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:53:32 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 200 3831 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  808526
121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:53:34 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 200 816 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  868119
121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:53:35 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 200 816 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  866812
121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:53:37 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 200 816 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  708040
121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:53:46 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 200 816 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  715609
121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:53:48 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 200 816 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  768145
121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:53:49 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 200 816 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  862514
121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:53:56 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 200 816 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  847106
121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:53:58 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 200 816 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  891537
121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:54:02 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 200 816 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  983415
121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:54:04 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 200 816 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  879661

Searching the abuse IP database –
https://www.abuseipdb.com/check/121.42.52.27 – the remote client hitting my server has been reported several times. Time to block this IP. After some googling, I came across a way to block it with .htaccess. We can either completely block the xmlrpc.php for all external IPs or for a specific blacklisted IPs.

In my .htaccess file, I added below line to block all IPs –

<Files xmlrpc.php>
order deny,allow
deny from all
allow from 127.0.0.1
</Files>

We can also block a specific IP address which is showing suspicious activity from our access logs –

<Files xmlrpc.php>
Order Deny,Allow
Allow from all
Deny from 121.42.52.27
</Files>

Post reloading apache, we can see that the remote client is getting 403s

121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:55:02 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 403 634 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  1310
 121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:55:03 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 403 634 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  1645
 121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:55:05 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 403 634 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  1352
 121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:55:05 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 403 634 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  1208
 121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:55:06 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 403 634 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  1177
 121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:55:06 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 403 634 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  1633
 121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:55:06 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 403 634 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  1568
 121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:55:06 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 403 634 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  1398
 121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:55:07 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 403 634 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  1262
 121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:55:07 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 403 634 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  1917
 121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:55:08 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 403 634 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  2074
 121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:55:08 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 403 634 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  1286
 121.42.52.27 - - [18/Sep/2019:22:55:08 -0400] "POST /xmlrpc.php HTTP/1.1" 403 634 "-" "Apache-HttpClient/4.5.2 (Java/1.8.0_151)"  847

References –

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