I just installed Ubuntu Server on a VPS.

To configure the server I'm reading the Ubuntu Server Guide. But the Ubuntu Server Guide doesn't tells me everything.

E.g. The Ubuntu Server Guide doesn't tell me about how to secure SSH, which is, in my opinion, an important thing to do after installation of a server.

I know that I've to secure SSH access, but I might forget things to configure. Because I don't know what I don't know.

Does a complete guide exists which tells me which important things I've to after installing Ubuntu server? If not, can anyone tell me those things?

  • 2
    If possible, please consider closing some of your other open questions by selecting the best answer (if they have one). Consider which answers have been useful and need an upvote. We need users to maintain their questions so that the site can be an effective tool for the next person with your problems. For more details on best practices consider reading the FAQ on asking questions. – nanofarad Jun 15 '12 at 22:15
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    Could be a good canonical question. – nanofarad Jun 15 '12 at 22:16
  • Since Canonical doesn't know which programs you will decide you need on the server, it would be overkill for them to document how to secure all of them, I would think. Perhaps they should provide a good link to the documentation for each service, but that may be asking a lot, too. The SSH server documentation should tell you what you need to know. But one way to secure it is not to allow password access, but insist on keys instead. – Marty Fried Jun 16 '12 at 0:15
  • Have you tried the Referenced links provided at the end of Page 82 in Ubuntu server guide 12.04 .Here are the links One, two, and three. – atenz Jul 2 '12 at 14:43
  • You might want to read this manual – mcantsin Jan 21 '14 at 14:00

Secure shared memory

/dev/shm can be used in an attack against a running service, such as httpd. Modify /etc/fstab to make it more secure.

Open a Terminal Window and enter the following :

sudo vi /etc/fstab

Add the following line and save. You will need to reboot for this setting to take effect :

tmpfs     /dev/shm     tmpfs     defaults,noexec,nosuid     0     0

Harden network with sysctl settings

The /etc/sysctl.conf file contain all the sysctl settings. Prevent source routing of incoming packets and log malformed IP's enter the following in a terminal window

sudo vi /etc/sysctl.conf

Edit the /etc/sysctl.conf file and un-comment or add the following lines :

# IP Spoofing protection
net.ipv4.conf.all.rp_filter = 1
net.ipv4.conf.default.rp_filter = 1

# Ignore ICMP broadcast requests
net.ipv4.icmp_echo_ignore_broadcasts = 1

# Disable source packet routing
net.ipv4.conf.all.accept_source_route = 0
net.ipv6.conf.all.accept_source_route = 0 
net.ipv4.conf.default.accept_source_route = 0
net.ipv6.conf.default.accept_source_route = 0

# Ignore send redirects
net.ipv4.conf.all.send_redirects = 0
net.ipv4.conf.default.send_redirects = 0

# Block SYN attacks
net.ipv4.tcp_syncookies = 1
net.ipv4.tcp_max_syn_backlog = 2048
net.ipv4.tcp_synack_retries = 2
net.ipv4.tcp_syn_retries = 5

# Log Martians
net.ipv4.conf.all.log_martians = 1
net.ipv4.icmp_ignore_bogus_error_responses = 1

# Ignore ICMP redirects
net.ipv4.conf.all.accept_redirects = 0
net.ipv6.conf.all.accept_redirects = 0
net.ipv4.conf.default.accept_redirects = 0 
net.ipv6.conf.default.accept_redirects = 0

# Ignore Directed pings
net.ipv4.icmp_echo_ignore_all = 1

To reload sysctl with the latest changes, enter:

sudo sysctl -p

Prevent IP Spoofing

Open a Terminal and enter the following :

sudo vi /etc/host.conf

Add or edit the following lines :

order bind,hosts
nospoof on

Harden PHP for security

Edit the php.ini file :

sudo vi /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini

Add or edit the following lines :

disable_functions = exec,system,shell_exec,passthru
register_globals = Off
expose_php = Off
magic_quotes_gpc = On

Web Application Firewall - ModSecurity


Protect from DDOS (Denial of Service) attacks - ModEvasive


Scan logs and ban suspicious hosts - DenyHosts and Fail2Ban


DenyHosts is a python program that automatically blocks SSH attacks by adding entries to /etc/hosts.deny. DenyHosts will also inform Linux administrators about offending hosts, attacked users and suspicious logins.

Open a Terminal and enter the following :

sudo apt-get install denyhosts

After installation edit the configuration file /etc/denyhosts.conf and change the email, and other settings as required.

To edit the admin email settings open a terminal window and enter:

sudo vi /etc/denyhosts.conf

Change the following values as required on your server :

ADMIN_EMAIL = root@localhost
SMTP_HOST = localhost
SMTP_FROM = DenyHosts nobody@localhost

@ Fail2Ban

Fail2ban is more advanced than DenyHosts as it extends the log monitoring to other services including SSH, Apache, Courier, FTP, and more.

Fail2ban scans log files and bans IPs that show the malicious signs -- too many password failures, seeking for exploits, etc.

Generally Fail2Ban then used to update firewall rules to reject the IP addresses for a specified amount of time, although any arbitrary other action could also be configured. Out of the box Fail2Ban comes with filters for various services (apache, courier, ftp, ssh, etc).

Open a Terminal and enter the following :

sudo apt-get install fail2ban

After installation edit the configuration file /etc/fail2ban/jail.local and create the filter rules as required.

To edit the settings open a terminal window and enter:

sudo vi /etc/fail2ban/jail.conf

Activate all the services you would like fail2ban to monitor by changing enabled = false to *enabled = true*

For example if you would like to enable the SSH monitoring and banning jail, find the line below and change enabled from false to true. Thats it.


enabled  = true
port     = ssh
filter   = sshd
logpath  = /var/log/auth.log
maxretry = 3

If you would like to receive emails from Fail2Ban if hosts are banned change the following line to your email address.

destemail = root@localhost

and change the following line from :

action = %(action_)s


action = %(action_mwl)s

You can also create rule filters for the various services that you would like fail2ban to monitor that is not supplied by default.

sudo vi /etc/fail2ban/jail.local

Good instructions on how to configure fail2ban and create the various filters can be found on HowtoForge - click here for an example

When done with the configuration of Fail2Ban restart the service with :

sudo /etc/init.d/fail2ban restart

You can also check the status with.

sudo fail2ban-client status

Check for rootkits - RKHunter and CHKRootKit.

Both RKHunter and CHKRootkit basically do the same thing - check your system for rootkits. No harm in using both.

Open a Terminal and enter the following :

sudo apt-get install rkhunter chkrootkit

To run chkrootkit open a terminal window and enter :

sudo chkrootkit

To update and run RKHunter. Open a Terminal and enter the following

sudo rkhunter --update
sudo rkhunter --propupd
sudo rkhunter --check

Scan open ports - Nmap

Nmap ("Network Mapper") is a free and open source utility for network discovery and security auditing.

Open a Terminal and enter the following :

sudo apt-get install nmap

Scan your system for open ports with :

nmap -v -sT localhost

SYN scanning with the following :

sudo nmap -v -sS localhost

Analyse system LOG files - LogWatch

Logwatch is a customizable log analysis system. Logwatch parses through your system's logs and creates a report analyzing areas that you specify. Logwatch is easy to use and will work right out of the package on most systems.

Open a Terminal and enter the following :

sudo apt-get install logwatch libdate-manip-perl

To view logwatch output use less :

sudo logwatch | less

To email a logwatch report for the past 7 days to an email address, enter the following and replace mail@domain.com with the required email. :

sudo logwatch --mailto mail@domain.com --output mail --format html --range 'between -7 days and today' 

Audit your system security - Tiger.

Tiger is a security tool that can be use both as a security audit and intrusion detection system.

Open a Terminal and enter the following :

sudo apt-get install tiger

To run tiger enter :

sudo tiger

All Tiger output can be found in the /var/log/tiger

To view the tiger security reports, open a Terminal and enter the following :

sudo less /var/log/tiger/security.report.*

For More Help

  • @user01: If you want to suggest some correction you can post it as comment instead of editing the answer. I expect from you to post your edit as a comment. Thanks. :) – Saurav Kumar Mar 4 '14 at 7:42
  • @OneZero: In context of sysctl.conf settings, what's the difference between all vs default settings. If I added all values, is it neccessary to add default as well ? Thanks! – Rajat Gupta Mar 13 '14 at 20:56
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    Thank you! This is a really great list. I have made a Ubuntu Server Cheat Sheet and I'd like to share it with you. First few pages are general linux commands, then specific server packages and the last page is a server security checklist. The checklist unites tips and hardenings from many websites. I hope it helps you! Licensed under the WTFPL license. You can view/download/whatever the checklist here. I update it from time to time. – Noah Krasser Jul 26 '17 at 12:17
  • are the sysctl settings necessary or useful if ufw is running? what are the circumstances the sysctl matters if nothing is allowed by ufw except non-root ssh? – Marc Compere Oct 19 '19 at 21:44
  • @NoahKrasser - great doc ! Thanks man ! – MarcoZen Apr 21 at 16:42

Ubuntu is quite secure by default, as well as SSH is.

The most important thing is :

  1. Do not use a weak password for your user as 12345 or qwerty...
  2. Do not activate the root account
  3. Use Fail2ban or every similar software to avoid bruteforce login
  4. Check your logs regulary to see if everything is ok
  5. Install only what you need on the server and configure it carefully, I mean really read the docs deeply for every soft you use especially for mail server.

If you play that way it should be ok. Oh, and of course, make some regular backups :)

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