LPI Linux Certification/Securing FTP Servers

Detailed ObjectiveEdit

Weight: 2

Candidates should be able to configure an FTP server for anonymous downloads and uploads. This objective includes precautions to be taken if anonymous uploads are permitted and configuring user access.

  • Key knowledge area(s):
    • Configuration files, tools and utilities for vsftpd, Pure-FTPd, wu-ftpd and ProFTPd
    • Layout and content of FTP access restriction files
    • Client user authentication methods
    • Usage of chroot to secure FTP
  • The following is a partial list of the used files, terms and utilities:
    • ftpaccess
    • ftpusers
    • ftpgroups
    • /etc/passwd

Securing FTP serversEdit


Description: The candidate should be able to configure an anonymous download FTP server. This objective includes configuring an FTP server to allow anonymous uploads, listing additional precautions to be taken if anonymous uploads are permitted, configuring guest users and groups with chroot jail, and configuring ftpaccess to deny access to named users or groups.

Key files, terms, and utilities include:

ftpaccess, ftpusers, ftpgroups 

Securing an FTP server will include :

  • FTP Warning Banner customization
  • FTP Greeting Banner customization
  • Securing, denying and restricting User Accounts
  • Securing Anonymous Access
  • Securing Anonymous Upload

FTP protocolEdit

The File Transport Protocol (FTP) is an older TCP protocol designed to transfer files over a network. Because all transactions with the server, including user authentication, are unencrypted, it is considered an insecure protocol and should be carefully configured.

wu-ftpd FTP serverEdit

We will focus on the wu-ftpd FTP server from Washington University

Wu-ftpd's main configuration files are in /etc : ftpusers,ftpaccess and ftpconversions the ftpusers file contains a list of all those users who are not allowed to log into your FTP server. As you can imagine, user root should be listed here. You should also make sure that other special user accounts such as lp, shutdown, mail, etc. are included here.

the ftpaccess file is used to configure issues such as security, user definitions, etc. It's actually the general configuration file. Some interesting settings that you can establish here are: loginfails [number]

    where number is a number that stands for the amount of times that a user is allowed to fail to authenticate before being totally disabled.

shutdown [filename]

    where filename is the name of a file that, if it exists, automatically shuts down the FTP server without a need to actually close the port in the /etc/inetd.conf file and then restarting inetd.

Finally, the ftpconversions file is used to allow the clients special "on-the-fly" conversions of files, i.e automatic uncompression of files on download

FTP Warning BannerEdit

Returning a customized banner to FTP clients when they connect is a good idea, as it helps disguise what system the FTP server is running on. ou can send banners to incoming connections either using TCP wrappers, or as described below.

Add the ollowing line to its configuration file, /etc/ftpaccess : banner /etc/banners/warning.msg

The contents of the banner file should look something like this : Hello, all activity on ftp.example.com is logged.

FTP Greeting BannerEdit

After login, all users are presented with a greeting banner. By default, this banner includes version information useful to crackers trying to identify weaknesses in a system.. To change the greeting banner for wu-ftpd, add the following directive to /etc/ftpusers: greeting text <insert_greeting_here> Securing FTP servers

Because FTP passes unencrypted usernames and passwords over insecure networks for authentication, it is a good idea to deny system users access to the server from their user accounts. To disable user accounts in wu-ftpd, add the following directive to /etc/ftpusers: deny-uid * To disable specific user accounts in wu-ftpd, add the username to /etc/ftpusers

Anonymous AccessEdit

The best way to setup anonymous FTP is by configuring a chroot jail : instead of allowing total access to the system, this will limit access to a given directory. In other words, after an anonymous user logs into the system she will only have access to the user ftp's home directory and nothing else. If she enters cd /, which in most other cases should take her to the system's root directory, it will only take her to /home/ftp most likely (it's the default home directory for the user ftp).

Most distributions like RedHat provide an anonymous ftp package, to help prepare the chroot jail It's important to give to your strictly FTP users no real shell account on the Linux system. In this manner, if for any reasons someone could successfully get out of the FTP chrooted environment (see below for definition), it would not have the possibility of executing any user tasks since it doesn't have a bash shell. First, create new users for this purpose. This has to be separate from a regular user account with unlimited access because of how the chroot environment works. Chroot makes it appear from the user's perspective as if the level of the file system you've placed them in is the top level of the file system.

Setup these new users with a shell as /dev/null, and add /dev/null in the list of allowed shells, /etc/shells. Make sure also that in /etc/passwd, their home dir is listed as /home/./ftp (for user ftp), even though the real dir is /home/ftp

Setup a chroot user environment : what you're essentially doing is creating a skeleton root file system with enough components necessary, binaries, password files, etc. to allow Unix to do a chroot when the user logs in. Note that wu-ftpd may be compiled with the --enable-ls option, in which case the /home/ftp/bin, and /home/ftp/lib directories are not required since this new option allows Wu-ftpd to use its own ls function. We still continue to demonstrate the old method for people that prefer to copy /bin/ls to the chroot'd FTP directory, /home/ftp/bin and create the appropriated library related tools. The following are the necessary steps to run Wu-ftpd software in a chroot jail: first create all the necessary chrooted environment directories:

[root@deep ] /# mkdir /home/ftp/dev
[root@deep ] /# mkdir /home/ftp/etc
[root@deep ] /# mkdir /home/ftp/bin
[root@deep ] /# mkdir /home/ftp/lib

Change the new directories permission to 0511 for security reasons: The chmod command will make our chrooted dev, etc, bin, and lib directories readable and executable by the super-user root and executable by the user-group and all users :

[root@deep ] /# chmod 0511 /home/ftp/dev/
[root@deep ] /# chmod 0511 /home/ftp/etc/
[root@deep ] /# chmod 0511 /home/ftp/bin
[root@deep ] /# chmod 0511 /home/ftp/lib

Copy the /bin/ls binary to /home/ftp/bin directory and change the permission of the ls program to 0111. You don't want users to be able to modify the binaries:

[root@deep ] /# cp /bin/ls /home/ftp/bin
[root@deep ] /# chmod 0111 /bin/ls /home/ftp/bin/ls

Find the shared library dependencies of the ls Linux binary program: :

[root@deep ] /# ldd /bin/ls
   libc.so.6 => /lib/libc.so.6 (0x00125000)
   /lib/ld-linux.so.2 =7gt; /lib/ld-linux.so.2 (0x00110000)

Copy the shared libraries identified above to your new lib directory under /home/ftp directory:

[root@deep ] /# cp /lib/libc.so.6 /home/ftp/lib/
[root@deep ] /# cp /lib/ld-linux.so.2 /home/ftp/lib/ 

Create your /home/ftp/dev/null file:

[root@deep ] /# mknod /home/ftp/dev/null c 1 3
[root@deep ] /# chmod 666 /home/ftp/dev/null

Copy the group and passwd files in /home/ftp/etc directory. This should not be the same as your real ones. For this reason, we'll remove all non FTP users except for the super-user root in both of these files, passwd and group.

Edit the passwd file, vi /home/ftp/etc/passwd and delete all entries except for the super-user root and your allowed FTP users. It is very important that the passwd file in the chroot environment has entries like:


(notice two things here: first, the home directory for all users inside this modified passwd file are now changed to reflect the new chrooted FTP directory i.e. /home/ftp/./ftpadmin/ begins /ftpadmin/, and also, the name of the user's login shell for the root account has been changed to /dev/null) Edit the group file, vi /home/ftp/etc/group and delete all entries except for the super-user root and all your allowed FTP users. The group file should correspond to your normal group file:


Now we must set passwd, and group files in the chroot jail directory immutable for better security.

[root@deep ] /# cd /home/ftp/etc/
[root@deep ] /# chattr +i passwd

Set the immutable bit on group file:

[root@deep ] /# cd /home/ftp/etc/
[root@deep ] /# chattr +i group

Configure your /etc/pam.d/ftp file to use pam authentication by creating the /etc/pam.d/ftp file and add the following lines:

auth    required /lib/security/pam_listfile.so item=user sense=deny \ file=/etc/ftpusers onerr=succeed
auth    required /lib/security/pam_pwdb.so shadow nullok
auth    required /lib/security/pam_shells.so
account required /lib/security/pam_pwdb.so
session required /lib/security/pam_pwdb.so

Anonymous UploadEdit

If you want to allow anonymous users to upload, it is recommended you create a write-only directory within /var/ftp/pub/. To do this type:

mkdir /var/ftp/pub/upload

Next change the permissions so that anonymous users cannot see what is within the directory by typing:

chmod 744 /var/ftp/pub/upload

A long format listing of the directory should look like this:

drwxr--r--    2 root     ftp          4096 Aug 20 18:26 upload


Last modified on 26 September 2007, at 06:43