I would like to know how to set up root, sudo, sftp-only user accounts which won't be required public key authentication at log in. I would also like to know how to set up sftp-only users' home directories where they can't access upper level other directories.


4 Answers 4


The best resource to help you begin setting up an ssh service on a Host machine using Ubuntu is OpenSSH Server. This will allow you to use SSH File Transfer Protocol (also Secure File Transfer Protocol, or SFTP) to access, transfer, and manage files over SSH from a Client machine.

Overview of Solution

  • On Ubuntu you can setup an OpenSSH server on a Host machine and a user can then use ssh to connect from Client to Host's server using only a username and password. Note, however, that public key authentication is recommended,

"Make sure you have a strong password before installing an SSH server (you may want to disable passwords altogether)"

  • Administrative User Accounts created on Host will have sudo privileges, Standard User Accounts created on Host will not.

Install and configure your OpenSSH Server on Host

To install an OpenSSH server on Host:

sudo apt-get install openssh-server

Give your Host a Static IP address so you can reliably connect to it:


To configure your OpenSSH server, "first, make a backup of your sshd_config file by copying it to your home directory, or by making a read-only copy in /etc/ssh by doing:"

sudo cp /etc/ssh/sshd_config /etc/ssh/sshd_config.factory-defaults
sudo chmod a-w /etc/ssh/sshd_config.factory-defaults

"Once you've backed up your sshd_config file, you can make changes with any text editor, for example:"

sudo -H gedit /etc/ssh/sshd_config

You must restart your ssh service on Host for these changes to take effect

sudo service ssh restart

Consider the Following Security Measures

  • Don't enable port-forwarding on your router: When outsider asks your router to connect outsider to Port 22, etc., your router fails to comply unless you have enabled port-forwarding
  • Disable root login: Comment out PermitRootLogin without-password; add PermitRootLogin no to Host's /etc/ssh/sshd_config
  • Choose non-standard SSH port: Comment out Port 22; add Port <new-port-number> to Host's /etc/ssh/sshd_config
  • Allow only local connections: Add ListenAddress
  • Allow certain users on certain ports: Add AllowUsers <username>@<IP_address_1> <username>@<IP_address_2> or AllowUsers <username>@111.222.333.* to Host's /etc/ssh/sshd_config
  • Allow only RSA key (passwordless) connections: Append the contents of ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub from each Client as a new line of Host's ~/.ssh/authorized_keys. Then add PasswordAuthentication no to to Host's /etc/ssh/sshd_config
  • Slow attackers' cracking attempts: Use ufw (uncomplicated firewall) on Host to rate limit incoming connections to 10/minute: sudo apt-get install ufw && sudo ufw limit OpenSSH
  • For more ideas, see Keeping SSH Access Secure

If you feel you must, Enable PasswordAuthentication in your sshd_config file

Find the line with the phrase PasswordAuthentication and make it read:

PasswordAuthentication yes

Save your new sshd_config file and then restart Host's ssh service:

sudo service ssh restart

If you need access from anywhere over the internet, Setup Port Forwarding on your local router to direct traffic to your OpenSSH server

Note the port Host's ssh service listens to in the sshd_config file and setup your router to forward TCP/UDP traffic aimed at this port to the IP address of your OpenSSH server.

Connect to Host and login via command-line or terminal

  • To open an SFTP shell terminal as <username> on Host, open a Terminal on Client and enter the following command, replacing with Host's IP address:

    sftp <username>@
    • If you changed the port number Host's OpenSSH server listens to, do:

      sftp -P <port_number_in_Host's_sshd_config_file> <username>@
  • To open an SSH shell terminal as <username> on Host, open a Terminal on Client and enter the following command, replacing with Host's IP address:

    ssh <username>@
    • If you changed the port number Host's OpenSSH server listens to, do:

      ssh -p <port_number_in_Host's_sshd_config_file> <username>@

Connect to Host and login via GUI file manager (e.g., Nautilus) for more visual SFTP access to enable file transfers

  1. Open Nautilus on Client
  2. Select File > Connect to Server
  3. Type: SSH
  4. Server: Enter Host's IP address
  5. Port: port number specified in Host's sshd_config file
  6. User name: username
  7. Password: password

enter image description here

In 14.04:

  1. Open Nautilus on Client
  2. Connect to Server
  3. Type: `ssh @

Create Standard User Accounts on Host with limited file permissions outside their home folder

Proper file permissions in place on Host guarantee that each standard user (without sudo privileges) that you create on Host will own their /home/new_user directory but have limited permissions with the rest of the directory structure.

  • Limited permissions does not necessarily mean they are unable to view filenames and directory structure.

Hope that's helpful!

  • 10
    It seems to me that answer, while appearing to very comprehensive actually fails to answer the most difficult part of the OPs question: "where they can't access upper level other directories." If implemented as above the user would be able to read the vast majority of the directory structure.
    – ostergaard
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 5:13
  • 2
    To expand on @ajostergaard's comment, this creates a regular unix user and allows them SSH and SFTP access. A regular unix user (not root) can still access and view a very large number of sensitive files such as web server configuration and much more. This is definitely not secure and definitely does not satisfy the limitation asked for by the OP. Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 3:17

Step 1 : Install OpenSSH package if not installed

sudo apt-get install openssh-server

Step 2 : Create separate group for SFTP users.

sudo addgroup ftpaccess

Step 3 : Edit /etc/ssh/sshd_config file and make changes as below. Find and comment below line.

#Subsystem sftp /usr/lib/openssh/sftp-server

and add these lines to the end of the file.

Subsystem sftp internal-sftp
Match group ftpaccess
ChrootDirectory %h
X11Forwarding no
AllowTcpForwarding no
ForceCommand internal-sftp

Step 4 : Restart sshd service.

sudo service ssh restart

Step 5 : Add user with ftpaccess group and create password.

sudo adduser paul --ingroup ftpaccess --shell /usr/sbin/nologin

Step 6 : Modify home directory permission.

sudo chown root:root /home/paul

Step 7 : Create a directory inside home for upload and modify permission with group.

sudo mkdir /home/paul/www
sudo chown paul:ftpaccess /home/paul/www

That's it .

Refer : Setup SFTP on ubuntu

  • 1
    This seems to be the correct answer. I didn't test it, but at least it mentioned the main difficulty, restricting browsing path. Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 14:30
  • 2
    I tested it and it was far too permissive, due to the default permissions on the home folder being 755. I did sudo chmod 711 on the home folder and it allowed me to ftp to the www folder, only. Seems good so far but maybe others can chime in...
    – moodboom
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 14:47
  • This should be the accepted answer Commented Feb 12, 2020 at 0:30

Denyhosts is another tool besides those mentioned by "jtd" that you might want to look at. It can automatically block repeated connection attempts to your SSH server. It is available to install in the Ubuntu repositories.

  • Paket denyhosts is only avaiable for lucid (10.04LTS) and precise (12.04LTS). packages.ubuntu.com/search?suite=all&keywords=denyhosts
    – A.B.
    Commented Apr 11, 2015 at 9:57
  • Denyhosts is no more available in Ubuntu repositories, although it can be still installed by a different method but it has not been updated since long. Thus, It is not wise to use Denyhosts . Commented Apr 11, 2015 at 12:34

Limit the Access to the User

Here, we will only allow the user to perform file transfer and we will disable the terminal access.

For that add the following codes at the bottom of the configuration file.

$ sudo nano /etc/ssh/sshd_config

Now the file will open and paste the code.


. . .

Match User filemg

ForceCommand internal-sftp

PasswordAuthentication yes

ChrootDirectory /var/sftp

PermitTunnel no

AllowAgentForwarding no

AllowTcpForwarding no

X11Forwarding no

Replace filemg with your user name. Then save and close the file.

That's it.

Reference: How to use SFTP in Ubuntu 16.04

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