SFTP Users for Website directory


  • The ChrootDirectory must be owned by root. You can enable access to dirs inside the ChrootDirectory owned by different users
  • The ChrootDirectory needs 755 permissions
  • Add everything to the END OF THE FILE. Or else it won’t work
  • Web directories /var/www need to be owned by www-data

What we’ll do

  • Create a Group for SFTP access
  • Add our users to that SFTP Group

Here’s what each of those directives do:

  • Match User tells the SSH server to apply the following commands only to the user specified.
  • ForceCommand internal-sftp forces the SSH server to run the SFTP server upon login, disallowing shell access.
  • PasswordAuthentication yes allows logging in with password. (Just in case you’re big on security and have it disabled because you use SSH keys..)
  • ChrootDirectory /var/sftp/ ensures that the user will not be allowed access to anything beyond the /var/sftp directory. You can learn more about chroot in this chroot tutorial.
  • AllowAgentForwarding no, AllowTcpForwarding no. and X11Forwarding no disables port forwarding, tunnelling and X11 forwarding for this user.

# install OpenSSH if not installed
sudo apt install openssh-server

# create a group for SFTP access
sudo groupadd ${GROUP}

# Comment out Subsytem line from /etc/ssh/sshd_config
#Subsystem sftp /usr/lib/openssh/sftp-server
sed -i 's/Subsystem sftp \/usr\/lib\/openssh\/sftp-server/#Subsystem sftp \/usr\/lib\/openssh\/sftp-server/' /etc/ssh/sshd_config

# add SFTP config for the group to SSH configuration file
echo -e "

Subsystem sftp internal-sftp

Match Group ${GROUP}
	ChrootDirectory ${CHROOT} # limit access to this dir and it's subdirs (jailed access)
	ForceCommand internal-sftp # force run SFTP upon login
	PasswordAuthentication yes # allow logging in with passowrd
	PermitTunnel no # disable tun device (tunnel software network interface) forwarding
	X11Forwarding no # disable GUI over VNC
	AllowTcpForwarding no # disable tunnelling
	AllowAgentForwarding no # disable port (ssh-agent) forwarding
" >> /etc/ssh/sshd_config

# create and add user to the SFTP Group
sudo useradd ${USER} -p ${USER_PASS} -g ${GROUP}
# add the user to www-data so it can rwx /var/www
sudo usermod -aG www-data ${USER}

# chroot dir has to be owned by root
sudo chown root:root ${CHROOT}

# chroot directory also needs 755 in order to avoid: Server unexpectedly closed network connection
sudo chmod 755 ${CHROOT}

# web directories have to be owned by www-data (assuming you're creating sftp users for websites)
# Change group ownership for `/var/www` to `www-data`
sudo chgrp -R www-data /var/www/*

# Give write permission to the group
sudo chmod -R g+w /var/www/*

# chmod g+s forces new files and dirs to pick up the group owner (www-data), 
# making sure that permissions change propagates 
# (`-s` means set user or group ID on execution)
find /var/www -type d -print0 | sudo xargs -0 chmod g+s 

# Restart SSH
service ssh restart


Permissions error:

# Change group ownership for `/var/www` to `www-data`
sudo chgrp -R www-data /var/www/*

# Give write permission to the group
sudo chmod -R g+w /var/www/*

Connection error:

Error:        	Server unexpectedly closed network connection
Error:        	Could not connect to server

This could mean any of the following

  • The ChrootDirectory is not owned by root
  • The ChrootDirectory permissions are not 755
sudo chown root:root /var/www/
sudo chmod 755 /var/www/

Authentication error:

The password is probably wrong. Reset it with this command

passwd sftpuser SECUREPASS