Hardening Ubuntu 14.04 Server

Hardening Ubuntu 14.04 Server

Hardening is the process of reducing vulnerabilities and securing a system from possible attack points. Reducing vulnerabilities includes the removal of unnecessary services, usernames and logins and disabling unnecessary ports. In this article we are going to show you how you can harden a Ubuntu server.


Ubuntu 14.04 LTS server with Open SSH installed.

Getting started: Update the system

Keeping the system up to date is necessary after installing any operating system. This will reduce known vulnerabilities that are in your system.

For Ubuntu 14.04 run the following:

Enable automatic security updates

Enabling automatic updates can be very important to secure your server. To install the “unattended-upgrades,”  run

To enable it, run the following command:

This will create the “/etc/apt/apt.conf.d/20auto-upgrades” file shown below.

Create “shadow user” with sudo powers

Using a “shadow user” instead of the root account is necessary for security reasons. You can create a user that will not be easy for other users to guess. In this tutorial we will use “maketech111” as the username.

To create a user, run the following command:

To give the user sudo access, run the following command:

To set a password, run the following command:

Note: make sure your password is at least eight characters long and contains a complex combination of numbers, letters, and punctuation marks.

To remove the password prompt for sudo, edit the sudoers file.

Add / edit as described below.

Save the file and exit.

Disable root account

Disabling the root account is necessary for security reasons.

To disable the root account, use the following command:

If you need to re-enable the account, run the following command:

Add a SWAP Partition

Some Ubuntu servers are not configured with SWAP. SWAP is used when the amount of total physical memory (RAM) is full.

To check for SWAP space, run the following command:

If there’s no SWAP file, you should get a the following output.

To create the 4 GB SWAP file you will need to use the “dd” command.

To set up the SWAP file, run the following command:

To activate the swap file, run

This will output like the following:

To enable it permanently, edit the “/etc/fstab” file.

Add the following line:

Improve SWAP performance

Set proper swappiness value to improve overall performance of the system.

You can do this with the following command:

Reboot the system to check whether SWAP gets activated properly.

Disable IPv6

It is recommended to disable IPv6 because it cause issues with the Internet connection being slow.

To disable IPv6, edit the “/etc/sysctl.conf” file.

Edit as described below:

To reload the configuration, run


IRQBALANCE is used to distribute hardware interrupts across multiple CPU to increase system performance. It is recommended to disable IRQBALANCE to avoid hardware interrupts in your threads.

To disable IRQBALANCE, edit “/etc/default/irqbalance”

and change the ENABLED value to 0:

Fix OpenSSL heartbleed bug

The Heartbleed is a serious vulnerability in the OpenSSL. It allows a remote user to leak the memory in up to 64k chunks. Hackers can then retrieve the private keys to decrypt any data like user’s user name and passwords.

The heartbleed bug was found in OpenSSL 1.0.1 and is present in the following versions:

  • 1.0.1
  • 1.0.1a
  • 1.0.1b
  • 1.0.1c
  • 1.0.1d
  • 1.0.1e
  • 1.0.1f

To check the version of OpenSSL in your system, run the following commands:

This will output something like the following:

If the date is older than “Mon Apr 7 20:33:29 UTC 2014,” and the version is “1.0.1,” then your system is vulnerable to the Heartbleed bug.

To fix this bug, update OpenSSL to the latest version and run

Now check the version and run

This will output something like the following:

Secure the Console, shared memory, /tmp and /var/tmp

Secure the Console

By default, lots of terminals are enabled in your system. You can allow only one terminal and disable the other terminals.

To allow only “tty1” and disable other terminals, edit the “/etc/securetty” file.

Add / Edit the following lines:

To secure the “/etc/securetty” file, change the permission of the file and run the following commands:

Secure Shared Memory

Any user can use shared memory to attack against a running service, like apache or httpd. By default, shared memory is mounted read/write with execute permission.

To make it more secure, edit the “/etc/fstab” file.

Add the following line:

To make the changes without rebooting, you can run

Secure /tmp and /var/tmp

Temporary directories such as /tmp, /var/tmp, and /dev/shm open the door for attackers to provide space to run scripts and malicious executables.

Secure /tmp folder

Create a 1GB filesystem file for the /tmp partition.

Create a backup of the current /tmp folder:

Mount the new /tmp partition, and set the right permissions.

Copy the data from the backup folder, and remove the backup folder.

Set the /tmp in the fbtab.

Add the following line:

Test your fstab entry.

Secure /var/tmp:

Some software uses this folder as a temporary folder, so we should also secure this one.

To secure /var/tmp,  create a symbolic link that makes /var/tmp point to /tmp.

Set security limits and disable unwanted services

Set security limits

To protect your system from fork bomb attacks, you should set up a process limit for your users.

To set this up, edit the “/etc/security/limits.conf” file,

and edit the following line:

This will prevent users of a specific group from having a maximum of twenty processes and maximize the number of processes to one hundred to user1.

Disable unnecessary services

Lots of services in Ubuntu takes memory and disk space that you might need to use. Disabling or removing unnecessary services can improve overall system performance.

To find out which services are currently running, run the following command:

You can disable it by running this command.

Fix Shellshock Bash vulnerability:

The Shellshock vulnerability allows hackers to assign Bash environment variables and gain unauthorized access to the system. This vulnerability is very easy to exploit.

To check system vulnerability, run the following command:

If you see the below output, it means your system is vulnerable.

To fix this vulnerability, run the following command:

If you run the command again, you will see:


Here we have explained basic things that you could do to harden Ubuntu. You should now have enough understanding of basic security practices that you can implement on your Ubuntu server. I hope that this post will be useful to you.

Reference: Ubuntu Hardening Guide

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