This article covers a version of Ubuntu that is no longer supported. If you are currently operate a server running Ubuntu 12.04, we highly recommend upgrading or migrating to a supported version of Ubuntu:
Reason: Ubuntu 12.04 reached end of life (EOL) on April 28, 2017 and no longer receives security patches or updates. This guide is no longer maintained.
This guide might still be useful as a reference, but may not work on other Ubuntu releases. If available, we strongly recommend using a guide written for the version of Ubuntu you are using. You can use the search functionality at the top of the page to find a more recent version.
The lines that the user needs to enter or customize will be in red in this tutorial! The rest should mostly be copy-and-pastable.
When you first begin to access your fresh new server, there are a few early steps you should take to make it more secure. Some of the first tasks required on a virtual private server can include setting up a new user, providing them with the proper privileges, and configuring SSH.
Once you know your IP address and root password, login as the main user, root.
It is not encouraged to use root on a VPS on a regular basis, and this tutorial will help you set up an alternative user to login with permanently.
The terminal will show:
The authenticity of host '126.96.36.199 (188.8.131.52)' can't be established. ECDSA key fingerprint is 79:95:46:1a:ab:37:11:8e:86:54:36:38:bb:3c:fa:c0. Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)?
Go ahead and type yes, and then enter your root password.
Currently your root password is the default one that was sent to you when you registered your droplet. The first thing to do is change it to one of your choice.
After you have logged in and changed your password, you will not need to login again as root. In this step we will make a new user and give them all of the root capabilities.
You can choose any name for your user. Here I’ve suggested Demo
After you set the password, you do not need to enter any further information about the new user. You can leave all the lines blank if you wish
As of yet, only root has all of the administrative capabilities. We are going to give the new user the root privileges.
When you perform any root tasks with the new user, you will need to use the phrase “sudo” before the command. This is a helpful command for 2 reasons: 1) it prevents the user making any system-destroying mistakes 2) it stores all the commands run with sudo to the file ‘/var/log/secure' which can be reviewed later if needed.
Let’s go ahead and edit the sudo configuration. This can be done through the default editor, which in Ubuntu is called ‘nano’
Find the section called user privilege specification. It will look like this:
# User privilege specification root ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL
Under there, add the following line, granting all the permissions to your new user:
demo ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL
Type ‘cntrl x’ to exit the file.
Press Y to save; press enter, and the file will save in the proper place.
Now it’s time to make the server more secure. These steps are optional. Please keep in mind that changing the port and restricting root login may make logging in more difficult in the future. If you misplace this information, it could be nearly impossible.
Open the configuration file
Find the following sections and change the information where applicable:
Port 25000 Protocol 2 PermitRootLogin no
We’ll take these one by one.
Port: Although port 22 is the default, you can change this to any number between 1025 and 65536. In this example, I am using port 25000. Make sure you make a note of the new port number. You will need it to log in in the future. This change will make it more difficult for unauthorized people to log in.
PermitRootLogin: change this from yes to no to stop future root login. You will now only be logging on as the new user.
Add these lines to the bottom of the document, replacing *demo* in the AllowUsers line with your username. (AllowUsers will limit login to only the users on that line. To avoid this, skip this line):
UseDNS no AllowUsers demo
Save and Exit
Reload SSH, and it will implement the new ports and settings.
To test the new settings (don’t logout of root yet), open a new terminal window and login as your new user.
Don’t forget to include the new port number.
ssh -p 25000 firstname.lastname@example.org
Your prompt should now say:
As you start securing your droplet with SSH, you can continue to improve its security by installing programs, such as Fail2Ban or Deny Hosts, to prevent against brute force attacks on the server. You can also find the tutorial to install the LAMP stack on the server here or the LEMP stack here.
If you’ve enjoyed this tutorial and our broader community, consider checking out our DigitalOcean products which can also help you achieve your development goals.