SFTP chroot

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OpenSSH 4.9+ includes a built-in chroot for sftp, but requires a few tweaks to the normal install.


Install and configure OpenSSH. Once running, make sure sftp-server has been set correctly:

Subsystem sftp /usr/lib/ssh/sftp-server

Access files with sftp or SSHFS. Many standard FTP clients should work as well.


Setup the filesystem

Bind mount the live filesystem to be shared to this directory. In this example, /mnt/data/share is to be used, owned by user root and has octal permissions of 755:

# chown root:root /mnt/data/share
# chmod 755 /mnt/data/share
# mkdir -p /srv/ssh/jail
# mount -o bind /mnt/data/share /srv/ssh/jail

Add entries to fstab to make the bind mount survive on a reboot:

/mnt/data/share /srv/ssh/jail  none   bind   0   0
Note: Readers may select a file access scheme on their own. For example, optionally create a subdirectory for an incoming (writable) space and/or a read-only space. This need not be done directly under /srv/ssh/jail - it can be accomplished on the live partition which will be mounted via a bind mount as well.

Create an unprivileged user

Note: You do not need to create a group, it is possible to use Match User instead of Match Group.

Create the sftponly group:

# groupadd sftponly 

Create a user that uses `sftponly` as main group:

# useradd -g sftponly -d /srv/ssh/jail username

Set a (complex) password - to prevent account is locked error:

# passwd username

You many to deny shell login access for the user:

# usermod -s /sbin/nologin username

Configure OpenSSH

Note: You may want to use Match User instead of Match Group as been given in the previous step.
Subsystem sftp /usr/lib/ssh/sftp-server

Match Group sftponly
  ChrootDirectory %h
  ForceCommand internal-sftp
  AllowTcpForwarding no
  X11Forwarding no
  PasswordAuthentication no

Restart sshd.service to confirm the changes.

Fixing path for authorized_keys

Tip: Use the debug mode of OpenSSH on the client and server in case of (pre)auth error(s).

With the standard path of AuthorizedKeysFile, the SSH keys authentication will fail for chrooted-users. To fix this, append a root-owned directory on AuthorizedKeysFile to /etc/openssh/sshd_config e.g. /etc/ssh/authorized_keys, as example:

AuthorizedKeysFile /etc/ssh/authorized_keys/%u .ssh/authorized_keys
PermitRootLogin no
PasswordAuthentication no
PermitEmptyPasswords no
Subsystem sftp /usr/lib/ssh/sftp-server

Create authorized_keys folder, generate a SSH-key on the client, copy the contents of the key to /etc/ssh/authorized_keys (or any other preferred method) of the server and set correct permissions:

# mkdir /etc/ssh/authorized_keys
# chown root:root /etc/ssh/authorized_keys
# chmod 755 /etc/ssh/authorized_keys
# echo 'ssh-rsa <key> <username@host>' >> /etc/ssh/authorized_keys/username
# chmod 644 /etc/ssh/authorized_keys/username

Restart sshd.service.

Tips and tricks

Write permissions

The bind path needs to be fully owned by root, however files and/or subdirectories don't have to be. In the following example the user www-demo uses /srv/ssh/www/demo as the jail-directory:

# mkdir /srv/ssh/www/demo/public_html
# chown www-demo:sftponly /srv/ssh/www/demo/public_html
# chmod 775 /srv/ssh/www/demo/public_html

The user should now be able to create files/subdirectories inside this directory. See File permissions and attributes for more information.


Tango-inaccurate.pngThe factual accuracy of this article or section is disputed.Tango-inaccurate.png

Reason: Is this possible with systemd-journal? Are there no security concerns? (Discuss in Talk:SFTP chroot#)

The user will not be able to access /dev/log. This can be seen by running strace on the process once the user connects and attempts to download a file.

Create sub directory

Create the sub-directory dev in the ChrootDirectory, for example:

# mkdir /usr/local/chroot/user/dev
# chmod 755 /usr/local/chroot/user/dev

syslog-ng will create the device /usr/local/chroot/theuser/dev/log once configured.

Syslog-ng configuration

Add to /etc/syslog-ng/syslog-ng.conf a new source for the log and add the configuration, for example change the section:

source src {


source src {

and append:

#sftp configuration
destination sftp { file("/var/log/sftp.log"); };
filter f_sftp { program("internal-sftp"); };
log { source(src); filter(f_sftp); destination(sftp); };

(Optional) If you would like to similarly log SSH messages to its own file:

#sshd configuration
destination ssh { file("/var/log/ssh.log"); };
filter f_ssh { program("sshd"); };
log { source(src); filter(f_ssh); destination(ssh); };

(From Syslog-ng#Move log to another file)

OpenSSH configuration

Edit /etc/ssh/sshd_config to replace all instances of internal-sftp with internal-sftp -f AUTH -l VERBOSE

Restart service

Restart service syslog-ng and sshd.

/usr/local/chroot/theuser/dev/log should now exist.

Alternatives to SFTP

Secure copy protocol (SCP)

Installing openssh provides the scp command to transfer files. SCP may be faster than using SFTP [1].

Install rsshAUR or scponly as alternative shell solutions.


install scponly.

For existing users, simply set the user's shell to scponly:

# usermod -s /usr/bin/scponly username

See the Scponly Wiki for more details.

Adding a chroot jail

The package comes with a script to create a chroot. To use it, run:

# /usr/share/doc/scponly/setup_chroot.sh
  • Provide answers
  • Check that /path/to/chroot has root:root owner and r-x for others
  • Change the shell for selected user to /usr/bin/scponlyc
  • sftp-server may require some libnss modules such as libnss_files. Copy them to chroot's /lib path.

See also