FTP protocol is one of the easiest ways to transfer files between a server and client computers…. however, it’s inherently insecure in its standard form… Now a more secure way to use FTP is via FTP over SSH or SFTP… If you can’t setup SFTP, then the closest thing will be to enable SSL/TLS certificates with your setup or FTPS
This post shows students and new users how to install and configure VSFTPD server to use SSL/TLS certificates on Ubuntu 16.04 / 17.10 or 18.04 LTS server with encryption enabled..
The reasons you may want SSL/TLS enabled on FTP is that FTP communicates over insecure channel… and someone with the right tool could intercept data between the server and client read it. With SSL/TLS, even if the data is intercepted, they may still be unable to read the content, and that’s because of the extra security.
For this post, we’re going to be using a self-signed certificate… If you can afford public cert, then more power to you..
Step 1: Install VSFTPD on Ubuntu
To install VSFTPD on Ubuntu, run the commands below…
sudo apt update sudo apt-get install vsftpd
After installing VSFTPD, the commands below can be used to stop, start and enable the server service to always start up when the server boots…
sudo systemctl stop vsftpd.service sudo systemctl start vsftpd.service sudo systemctl enable vsftpd.service
Step 2: Create a Self-signed SSL/TLS certificate
Now that VSFTPD is installed, run the commands below to generate a self-signed SSL/TLS certificate for the server… the commands create a server key called vsftpdserverkey.pem and store it in /etc/ssl/private and a certificate file called vsftpdcertificate.pem in the /etc/ssl/certs…
sudo openssl req -x509 -nodes -newkey rsa:2048 -keyout /etc/ssl/private/vsftpdserverkey.pem -out /etc/ssl/certs/vsftpdcertificate.pem -days 365
After running the commands above, you’ll be prompted to answer few questions about the certificate you’re generating… answer them and complete the process.
Generating a 2048 bit RSA private key ......................................................+++ .+++ writing new private key to '/etc/ssl/private/vsftpdserverkey.pem' ----- You are about to be asked to enter information that will be incorporated into your certificate request. What you are about to enter is what is called a Distinguished Name or a DN. There are quite a few fields but you can leave some blank For some fields there will be a default value, If you enter '.', the field will be left blank. ----- Country Name (2 letter code) [AU]:US State or Province Name (full name) [Some-State]:New York Locality Name (eg, city) :Brooklyn Organization Name (eg, company) [Internet Widgits Pty Ltd]:My Example Organizational Unit Name (eg, section) :SSL Unit Common Name (e.g. server FQDN or YOUR name) :example.com Email Address :email@example.com
VSFTP server will use the key and certificate created above…
Step 3: Configuring VSFTPD to use SSL/TLS
Now that you’ve generated the server private key and certificate files, go and configure VSFTPD to use the SSL/TLS certificate created above… To do that, run the commands below to open VSFTPD default configuration file.
sudo nano /etc/vsftpd.conf
Then make the highlighted changes below so that the server can could communicate over SSL/TLS.
# This option specifies the location of the RSA certificate to use for SSL # encrypted connections. rsa_cert_file=/etc/ssl/certs/vsftpdcertificate.pem rsa_private_key_file=/etc/ssl/private/vsftpdserverkey.pem ssl_enable=YES allow_anon_ssl=NO force_local_data_ssl=YES force_local_logins_ssl=YES require_ssl_reuse=NO ssl_ciphers=HIGH ssl_tlsv1=YES ssl_sslv2=NO ssl_sslv3=NO
Save your changes and restart the server.
Step 3: Restart VSFTPD Server
After adding the highlighted lines to the file, save it. Then run the commands below to restart VSFTPD server.
sudo systemctl restart vsftpd
Now grab your favorite FTP client (FileZilla) and setup a new site in your site manage and use FTP protocol with encryption with explicit FTP over TLS… Type your username and password and connect.
You should be prompted with a certificate… accept the certificate and continue. You may check the box at the bottom of the page to trusted the certificate so you don’t get prompted in the future…
You should now be transferring files securely via SSL/TLS.
That’s it! You have successfully setup VSFTPD with SSL/TLS certificates… Now all your communication will be encrypted and secured!
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