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Guide to set up a new VPS

Guide to set up a new VPS

This guide was written while setting up an Unbuntu VPS. There may be some differences when setting up a different distro.

Initial steps as root

Do some basic setup as the root user, which should mainly consist of creating a new user in order to stop using the root user as soon as possible.

Change root password

If a VPS is provisioned with a root password, change it immediately:


Configure skeleton files

Before creating the first user, it can be useful to edit the default files copied to the user's home directory so that the configuration of files like .bashrc only have to be done once, and not every time a user is created.

cd /etc/skel/
vi .bashrc

Edit any other files as preferred.

Edit root user configs

It might be a good idea to edit /root/.bashrc as well, but it shouldn't be very necessary since we shouldn't su as root very often.

Create a new user

First, check if the sudo-group is an option in the file opened with the visudo command. If it can, then create the user and add them to the sudo-group all at once.

adduser bwbaugh
adduser bwbaugh sudo

Alternatively, create a new user with adduser bwbaugh then either:

  • If the sudo-group is listed in visudo, then the preferred option.

    usermod --append --groups sudo bwbaugh
  • Create an entry in visudo by copying the privilege entry for root.

From now on, we should be able to ssh and perform all other steps as the new user using sudo.

Convenience packages

  • Install aptitude in case it's not already.

    sudo apt-get install aptitude
  • Enable tab completion with sudo.

    sudo aptitude install bash-completion

    Afterwards, it will be necessary to exit and login for the changes to take effect.

  • There's some additional software that's useful to install.

    sudo aptitude install vim screen tmux

Configure the hostname

  • Set to short name e.g., prometheus.

    sudo vim /etc/hostname
    sudo hostname prometheus
  • Set FQDN and add entry for host. For example, add an entry like: prometheus

    by editing:

    sudo vim /etc/hosts

System time

  • Set the preferred timezone.

    sudo dpkg-reconfigure tzdata
  • Enable continuous time correction. Takes a while to take effect as it has to calculate drift statistics.

    sudo aptitude install ntp

Configure SSH

Use key-based authentication for your new user:

ssh-copy-id user@host

NOTE: If you use ControlMaster in your ~/.ssh/config then due to a bug the above command will hang. Instead, you can use this alternative:

cat ~/.ssh/ | ssh user@host "mkdir -p ~/.ssh/ && cat - >> ~/.ssh/authorized_keys"

Harden SSH

Edit the sshd configuration file:

sudo vim /etc/ssh/sshd_config

and do the following:

  • Disable login as root.

    PermitRootLogin no
  • Only allow key-based logins.

    PasswordAuthentication no
  • Only allow whitelisted users to log in via SSH.

    AllowUsers bwbaugh

Then restart the sshd server to have the changes take effect:

sudo service ssh restart

Also consider installing fail2ban.

Configure default editor

If you use vim then you might want to update the default editor by running the following with and without sudo:

sudo update-alternatives --config editor

Forward logs

Follow the client install instructions.

Install pip and virtualenv

These should be the only system-wide Python packages that need to be installed.

  1. Install pip by following:

  2. Install virtualenv: sudo pip install virtualenv

  3. Optional: on EC2 it's useful to globally install:

    sudo pip install awscli
    complete -C aws_completer aws

Set up UFW as firewall

Install and configure the UFW firewall. Basic setup includes:

sudo aptitude install ufw
sudo ufw allow ssh
sudo ufw enable

Redirect logs

It may be necessary to uncomment the last line of sudo vim /etc/rsyslog.d/20-ufw.conf in order to have UFW logs go to its own file. (source)

Host intrusion detection system

Follow this guide:

Other useful info

Check versions

These commands can be useful when installing software whose setup steps depend on the kernel or distro version.

  • Check kernel version:

    uname --all
  • Check version of Ubuntu:

    lsb_release --all
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wetlife commented Mar 9, 2018

I admire you for authoring this document. Bravo. This proves to me you are someone We should all hope to know.

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Thank you for this

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