Best Practices for Securing Ubuntu Server: Comprehensive Guide

Securing your Ubuntu server is vital for protecting sensitive data. This guide covers essential practices, from configuring firewalls and SSH to implementing Fail2Ban and managing file permissions. Learn step-by-step methods to bolster your server's defense against threats and ensure a robust security posture.
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Best Practices for Securing Ubuntu Server

Securing an Ubuntu Server is essential to protect it against a multitude of threats that can compromise data, disrupt services, and exploit system resources. This comprehensive guide outlines a series of best practices aimed at fortifying Ubuntu servers, making them resilient against common cybersecurity threats.

Ubuntu servers, like any other Internet-facing systems, are susceptible to attacks. These attacks can range from unauthorized access and data theft to denial-of-service attacks. Given these risks, securing your server is not just advisable; it’s imperative. This guide will walk you through the best practices for securing your Ubuntu server effectively.

Initial Server Setup

Creating a Non-Root User with Sudo Privileges:

The first step in securing your Ubuntu Server is to avoid using the root account for daily operations. Instead, create a dedicated user with sudo privileges to execute administrative commands. This minimizes the risks associated with accidental or malicious superuser operations. Use the following commands:

sudo adduser newuser
sudo usermod -aG sudo newuser

Setting Up a Basic Firewall with UFW:

Uncomplicated Firewall (UFW) provides an easy way to manage firewall rules. Initially, enable UFW and configure it to allow necessary traffic, particularly SSH, to manage your server remotely:

sudo ufw enable
sudo ufw allow ssh

This step prevents unauthorized access to your server’s ports and services.

Authentication and User Security

Enforcing Strong Passwords with PAM:

Using the Pluggable Authentication Modules (PAM), you can enforce a strong password policy that prevents users from choosing simple or predictable passwords, thereby reducing the risk of brute-force attacks:

sudo apt-get install libpam-cracklib

Configure PAM to enforce password complexity rules.

Implementing Two-Factor Authentication (2FA):

Enhance security by adding an extra layer of authentication. Tools like Google Authenticator add a second step of verification using time-based OTPs:

sudo apt-get install libpam-google-authenticator

This setup will prompt users for a verification code in addition to their password.

Disabling Root SSH Access:

Direct root login should be disabled in your SSH configuration to prevent attackers from directly accessing the root account:

sudo nano /etc/ssh/sshd_config
# Change PermitRootLogin yes to no
sudo systemctl restart sshd

Visual depiction of the Fail2Ban tool actively monitoring and blocking unauthorized access attempts.

Network Security

Configuring and Managing UFW Rules:

Beyond the basics, define more specific rules tailored to the services running on your server:

sudo ufw allow from to any port 22

This command limits SSH access to a specific IP, enhancing security.

Using Fail2Ban to Prevent Brute Force Attacks:

Fail2Ban works by monitoring log files of various services such as SSH, and it updates firewall rules to reject IP addresses that have shown malicious behaviour patterns. Below, we’ll expand on setting up Fail2Ban with enhanced configuration for better protection.

Initial Installation and Basic Setup

First, install Fail2Ban using the package manager and enable it to start at boot:

sudo apt-get install fail2ban
sudo systemctl enable fail2ban
sudo systemctl start fail2ban


Fail2Ban is highly configurable, and its settings can be adjusted to suit your specific security requirements. Configuration files are typically located in /etc/fail2ban. It’s a good practice to create a copy of jail.conf named jail.local to override settings:

sudo cp /etc/fail2ban/jail.conf /etc/fail2ban/jail.local

Edit this file to customize your Fail2Ban settings:

sudo nano /etc/fail2ban/jail.local

Setting Up Jails

Jails are used by Fail2Ban to define which services to monitor and how to respond to detected threats. Here are some enhancements you can make:

SSH Protection: To protect SSH (the default is usually set up already), ensure it’s enabled and configure the settings according to your needs:

enabled = true
port    = ssh
filter  = sshd
logpath = /var/log/auth.log
maxretry = 5
bantime = 3600

This configuration enables the jail for SSH, sets the maximum number of retries to 5, and bans the offending IP for 3600 seconds (1 hour).

Increasing Ban Time: For repeat offenders or more severe threats, you may want to increase the ban time. This sets a harsher penalty for repeated attacks:

bantime.increment = true
bantime.rndtime = 1h
bantime.maxtime = 1w

These settings enable incremental ban times, with randomization to obfuscate the unban time, and set a maximum possible ban duration to one week.

Customizing the Filter: Filters define the criteria that Fail2Ban uses to find matches in the log files. You can create or modify filters in /etc/fail2ban/filter.d/. For example, if you’re noticing particular patterns of attacks, you can customize or create a new filter to specifically address these:

sudo nano /etc/fail2ban/filter.d/mycustomfilter.conf

Define fail regex patterns that match the log entries of unauthorized attempts.

System Updates and Patch Management

Automating Security Updates:

Keeping your system updated is crucial. Automate the security updates to ensure you’re protected against the latest vulnerabilities:

sudo apt-get install unattended-upgrades
sudo dpkg-reconfigure -plow unattended-upgrades

Application Security

Securing Common Server Applications:

Applications like Apache, Nginx, and MySQL can be secured further by configuring them to use minimal permissions, enable SSL, and disable unnecessary modules.

Using AppArmor or SELinux for Application-Level Security:

These tools provide mandatory access controls for programs, limiting their capabilities and thus mitigating the impact of potential exploits.

File System Security

Setting Up and Managing File Permissions and Ownership:

Correct file permissions and ownership are vital to protect sensitive data:

sudo chmod 640 /path/to/important/file
sudo chown user:user /path/to/important/file

Implementing Access Control Lists (ACLs):

For more fine-grained control over permissions, ACLs allow you to define more detailed access rules for files and directories:

sudo setfacl -m u:username:rwx /path/to/file

Encrypting Sensitive Data:

Using tools like LUKS or eCryptfs, you can encrypt filesystems to protect sensitive data from being exposed:

sudo apt-get install ecryptfs-utils
sudo ecryptfs-setup-private

Monitoring and Auditing

Regularly Checking Log Files:

Tools like logwatch or logcheck are invaluable for monitoring system activities and spotting unusual behaviour:

sudo apt-get install logwatch
logwatch --output stdout

Configuring auditd for Comprehensive Auditing:

The Linux Audit Daemon (auditd) provides a way to track security-relevant information on your system, based on pre-defined rules:

sudo apt-get install auditd
sudo auditctl -w /etc/passwd -p wa -k user_activity

Backup and Disaster Recovery

Implementing Automated Backup Strategies:

Regular backups are essential for disaster recovery. Tools like rsync or Bacula can automate this process, ensuring that your data is safely backed up at regular intervals:

sudo rsync -a /path/to/data /path/to/backup

Advanced Security Practices

Implementing Kernel Hardening Techniques:

Techniques like using security-enhanced Linux kernels or kernel patches provide additional layers of security.

Network Segmentation and Isolation:

Dividing your network into segments can limit the spread of breaches and simplify the enforcement of security policies.


By adhering to these best practices, you can significantly enhance the security of your Ubuntu Server. Always stay proactive about your server’s security by staying informed and prepared to implement new security measures as they become necessary. For further learning, engage with online communities and consult additional resources to keep up with the latest in cybersecurity.

This guide provides a foundation, but remember, the field of cybersecurity is always evolving. Regularly review and update your security practices to address new challenges as they arise.

Wan si System Administrator

Elena Petrova

I'm Elena Petrova, originating from Eastern Europe. My expertise lies in database management, efficient backups, and server administration. I'm committed to safeguarding critical data and simplifying tech topics through my writing.


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