Ubuntu VPS Cheatsheet
A no-frills checklist for configuring and securing an Ubuntu 16.04 VPS.
Create a User Account
A newly initialized VPS has a single
root user account. This account is too powerful for general use so our first task is to create a regular user account for ourselves.
First, log in to the
root account using the server's IP address:
If this is our first time logging in we may be prompted to change the root password.
Next, add a new user to the system:
We need to enter a password for the new user. (We also get asked some optional questions which we can ignore by hitting ENTER.)
We can now grant administrative privileges to our new user account by adding it to the
gpasswd -a <username> sudo
This will allow us to temporarily grant ourselves root access to the system using the
sudo command whenever necessary.
Enable Public Key Authentication
We want to enable public key authentication for our user account. We do this by generating a public/private key pair on our local machine using
ssh-keygen, then installing a copy of the public key on the server.
We have two options for copying our public key to the server. We can use the
ssh-copy-id script if it's installed on our local machine:
Or we can copy it manually. First print and copy the public key:
On the server, switch to the new user account and create a
.ssh directory in the user's home directory:
su - <username> mkdir .ssh chmod 700 .ssh
Create a file called
authorized_keys, paste in the public key, and restrict its file permissions.
vim .ssh/authorized_keys chmod 600 .ssh/authorized_keys exit
exit command returns us to the
root user account.
We can harden our server by disallowing SSH access to the
root account and by disabling password authentication altogether.
Open the SSH configuration file:
Update the following settings:
PermitRootLogin no PasswordAuthentication no
Optionally, set SSH to use a random port and turn off X11 forwarding to speed up terminal access:
Port <something other than 22> X11Forwarding no
Now restart the SSH daemon so the changes can take affect:
service ssh restart
Important: test the new configuration by logging in to the server using the new account before logging out as
Update System Packages
Update the system's installed packages:
apt update # update the list of available packages apt full-upgrade # install newest versions of all packages
Install the English language pack:
apt install language-pack-en
Set the server's timezone:
ntp service to keep the system's time synchronized with the rest of the world:
apt install ntp service ntp start
This service will automatically restart after each boot.
UFW is a simple frontend for the
apt install ufw
Set up the firewall to enable SSH access:
ufw allow ssh # allow ssh on the default port (22) ufw allow 2222/tcp # allow ssh access on a custom port
We may also want to enable access to web and mail servers:
ufw allow 25/tcp # allow SMTP access ufw allow 80/tcp # allow http access ufw allow 443/tcp # allow https access
We can review these rules with the
ufw show added command. To enable the firewall run:
ufw enable # turn on the firewall ufw status verbose # print a status report
Once enabled, the firewall will automatically restart after each boot.
Fail2Ban protects the system from brute force attacks by monitoring login attempts and automatically locking-out suspicious IP addresses.
apt install fail2ban
The service can be managed with the following commands:
service fail2ban start service fail2ban stop service fail2ban restart
Copy the service's configuration file before adding any customizations:
cp /etc/fail2ban/jail.conf /etc/fail2ban/jail.local
Changes should be made to the