Configuring an FTP Server - Becoming a Linux Server Administrator - Linux Bible 9th Ed (2015)

Linux Bible 9th Ed (2015)

Part IV. Becoming a Linux Server Administrator

Chapter 18. Configuring an FTP Server


1. Learning how FTP works

2. Getting a vsftpd server installed

3. Choosing security settings for vsftpd

4. Setting up vsftpd configuration files

5. Running FTP clients

The File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is one of the oldest protocols in existence for sharing files over networks. Although there are more secure protocols for network file sharing, FTP is still used quite often for making files freely available on the Internet.

Several FTP server projects are available with Linux today. However, the one often used with Fedora, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Ubuntu, and other Linux distributions is the Very Secure FTP Daemon (vsftpd package). This chapter describes how to install, configure, use, and secure an FTP server using the vsftpd package.

Understanding FTP

FTP operates in a client/server model. An FTP server daemon listens for incoming requests (on TCP port 21) from FTP clients. The client presents a login and password. If the server accepts the login information, the client can interactively traverse the filesystem, list files and directories, and then download (and sometimes upload) files.

What makes FTP insecure is that everything sent between the FTP client and server is done in clear text. The FTP protocol was created at a time when most computer communication was done on private lines or over dial-up, where encryption was not thought to be critical. If you use FTP over a public network, someone sniffing the line anywhere between the client and server would be able to see not only the data being transferred, but also the authentication process (login and password information).

So FTP is not good for sharing files privately (use SSH commands such as sftp, scp, or rsync if you need private, encrypted file transfers). However, if you are sharing public documents, open source software repositories, or other openly available data, FTP is a good choice. Regardless of the operating system people use, they surely have an FTP file transfer application available to get files you offer from your FTP server.

When users authenticate to an FTP server in Linux, their usernames and passwords are authenticated against the standard Linux user accounts and passwords. There is also a special, non-authenticated account used by the FTP server called anonymous. The anonymous account can be accessed by anyone because it does not require a valid password. In fact, the term anonymous FTP server is often used to describe a public FTP server that does not require (or even allow) authentication of a legitimate user account.


Although the ability to log in to the vsftpd server using a regular Linux user account is enabled by default in Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, if SELinux is set to Enforcing mode, it prevents the logins and file transfers from succeeding. If you want to keep SELinux in Enforcing mode, yet still allow Linux logins, you can change a Boolean (see the “Configuring SELinux for your FTP server” section) to allow regular user logins to succeed.

After the authentication phase (on the control port, TCP port 21), a second connection is made between the client and server. FTP supports both active and passive connection types. With an active FTP connection, the server sends data from its TCP port 20 to some random port the server chooses above port 1023 on the client. With passive FTP, the client requests the passive connection and requests a random port from the server.

Many browsers support passive FTP mode so that, if the client has a firewall, it doesn't block the data port the FTP server might use in active mode. Supporting passive mode requires some extra work on the server's firewall to allow random connections to ports above 1023 on the server. The section “Opening up your firewall for FTP” later in this chapter describes what you need to do to your Linux firewall to make both passive and active FTP connections work.

After the connection is established between the client and server, the client's current directory is established. For the anonymous user, the /var/ftp directory is that user's home directory. The anonymous user cannot go outside the /var/ftp directory structure. If a regular user, let's say joe, logs in to the FTP server, /home/joe is joe's current directory, but joe can change to any part of the filesystem for which joe has permission.

Command-oriented FTP clients (such as lftp and ftp commands) go into an interactive mode after connecting to the server. From the prompt you see, you can run many commands that are similar to those you would use from the shell. You could use pwd to see your current directory, ls to list directory contents, and cd to change directories. When you see a file you want, you use the get and put commands to download files from or upload them to the server, respectively.

With graphical tools for accessing FTP servers (such as a web browser), you type the URL of the site you want to visit (such as into the location box of the browser. If you add no username or password, an anonymous connection is made and the contents of the home directory of the site are displayed. Click links to directories to change to those directories. Click links to files to display or download those files to your local system.

Armed with some understanding of how FTP works, you are now ready to install an FTP server (vsftpd package) on your Linux system.

Installing the vsftpd FTP Server

Setting up the Very Secure FTP server requires only one package in Fedora, RHEL, and other Linux distributions: vsftpd. Assuming you have a connection to your software repository, to install vsftpd, just type the following as root for Fedora or RHEL:

# yum install vsftpd

If you are using Ubuntu (or other Linux distribution based on Debian packaging), type the following to install vsftpd:

$ sudo apt-get install vsftpd

After the vsftpd package is installed, here are some commands you can run to familiarize yourself with the contents of that package. From Fedora or RHEL, run this command to get some general information about the package:

# rpm -qi vsftpd


Packager : Fedora Project

Vendor : Fedora Project


Summary : Very Secure Ftp Daemon

Description : vsftpd is a Very Secure FTP daemon. It was written

completely from scratch.

If you want to get more information about vsftpd, follow the URL listed to the related website ( You can get additional documentation and information about the latest revisions of vsftpd.

You can view the full contents of the vsftpd package (rpm -ql vsftpd). Or you can view just the documentation (-qd) or configuration files (-qc). To see the documentation files in the vsftpd package, use the following:

# rpm -qd vsftpd













In the /usr/share/doc/vsftpd-*/EXAMPLE directory structure, there are sample configuration files included to help you configure vsftpd in ways that are appropriate for an Internet site, multiple IP address site, and virtual hosts. The main /usr/share/doc/vsftpd* directory contains an FAQ (frequently asked questions), installation tips, and version information.

The man pages might have the most useful information when you set out to configure the vsftpd server. Type man vsftpd.conf to read about the configuration file and man vsftpd to read about the daemon process.

To list the configuration files, type the following:

# rpm -qc vsftpd






The main configuration file is /etc/vsftpd/vsftpd.conf. The ftpusers and user_list files in the same directory store information about user accounts that are restricted from accessing the server. The /etc/pam.d/vsftpd file sets how authentication is done to the FTP server. The /etc/logrotate.d/vsftpd file configures how log files are rotated over time.

Now you have vsftpd installed and have taken a quick look at its contents. The next step is to start up and test the vsftpd service.

Starting the vsftpd Service

No configuration is required to launch the vsftpd service if you want to just use the default settings. If you start vsftpd as it is delivered with Fedora, this is what you get:

· The vsftpd service starts the vsftpd daemon, which runs in the background.

· The standard port on which the vsftpd daemon listens is TCP port 21. By default, data is transferred to the user, after the connection is made, on TCP port 20. TCP port 21 must be open in the firewall to allow new connections to access the service. (See the section “Securing Your FTP Server” for details on opening ports, enabling connection tracking needed for passive FTP, and setting other firewall rules related to FTP.)

· The vsftpd daemon reads vsftpd.conf to determine what features the service allows.

· Linux user accounts (excluding administrative users) and the anonymous user account (no password required) can access the FTP server. (If SELinux is in Enforcing mode, you need to set a Boolean to allow regular users to log in to the FTP server. See the section “Securing Your FTP Server” for details.)

· The anonymous user has access only to the /var/ftp directory and its subdirectories. A regular user starts with his or her home directory as the current directory but can access any directory the user would be able to via a regular login or SSH session. Lists of users in the /etc/vsftpd/user_list and /etc/vsftpd/ftpusers files define some administrative and special users that do not have access to the FTP server (root, bin, daemon, and others).

· The anonymous user can download files from the server but not upload them, by default. A regular user can upload or download files, based on regular Linux permissions.

· Log messages detailing file uploads or downloads are written in the /var/log/xferlogs file. Those log messages are stored in a standard xferlog format.

If you are ready to start your server using the defaults just described, the following examples show you how to do that. If you want to change some settings first, go to the section “Configuring Your FTP Server,” finalize your settings, and then come back here for instructions on how to enable and start your server.

Before you start the vsftpd service, you can check whether it is running already. In Fedora or Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7, you do the following:

# systemctl status vsftpd.service

vsftpd.service - Vsftpd ftp daemon

Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/vsftpd.service; disabled)

Active: inactive (dead)

In Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, you need two commands to see the same information:

# service vsftpd status

vsftpd is stopped

# chkconfig --list vsftpd

vsftpd 0:off 1:off 2:off 3:off 4:off

5:off 6:off

In both the Fedora and RHEL examples above, the service, chkconfig and systemctl commands show the status as stopped. You can also see that it is disabled in Fedora and RHEL 7 and off at every runlevel for RHEL 6. Disabled (off) means that the service will not turn on automatically when your start the system.

To start and enable vsftpd in Fedora or RHEL 7 (then check the status), type the following:

# systemctl start vsftpd.service

# systemctl enable vsftpd.service

ln -s '/lib/systemd/system/vsftpd.service'


# systemctl status vsftpd.service

vsftpd.service - Vsftpd ftp daemon

Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/vsftpd.service; enabled)

Active: active (running) since Wed, 2014-08-27 00:09:54 EDT;

22s ago

Main PID: 4229 (vsftpd)

CGroup: name=systemd:/system/vsftpd.service

14229 /usr/sbin/vsftpd /etc/vsftpd/vsftpd.conf

In Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, start and turn on (enable) vsftpd (then check the status), as follows:

# service vsftpd start

Starting vsftpd for vsftpd: [ OK ]

# chkconfig vsftpd on ; chkconfig --list vsftpd

vsftpd 0:off 1:off 2:on 3:on 4:on 5:on


Now, on either system, you could check that the service is running using the netstat command:

# netstat -tupln | grep vsftpd

tcp 0 0* LISTEN 4229/


From the netstat output, you can see that the vsftpd process (process ID of 4229) is listening (LISTEN) on all IP addresses for incoming connections on port 21 ( for the TCP (tcp) protocol. A quick way to check that vsftpd is working is to put a file in the/var/ftp directory and try to open it from your web browser on the local host:

# echo "Hello From Your New FTP Server" > /var/ftp/hello.txt

From a web browser on the local system, type the following into the location box of Firefox or other browser:


If the text Hello From Your New FTP Server appears in the web browser, the vsftpd server is working and accessible from your local system. Next, try again, replacing localhost with your host's IP address or fully qualified host name, from a web browser on another system. If that works, the vsftpd server is publicly accessible. If it doesn't, which it quite possibly may not, see the next section, “Securing Your FTP Server.” That section tells you how to open firewalls and modify other security features to allow access and otherwise secure your FTP server.

Securing Your FTP Server

Even though it is easy to get a vsftpd FTP server started, that doesn't mean it is immediately fully accessible. If you have a firewall in place on your Linux system, it is probably blocking access to all services on your system except for those that you have explicitly allowed.

If you decide that the default vsftpd configuration works for you as described in the previous section, you can set to work allowing the appropriate access and providing security for your vsftpd service. So you can secure your vsftpd server, the next sections describe how to configure your firewall (iptables), TCP wrappers (hosts.allow and hosts.deny), and SELinux (Booleans and file contexts).

Opening up your firewall for FTP

If you have a firewall implemented on your system, you need to add firewall rules that allow incoming requests to your FTP site and allow packets to return to your system on established connections. Firewalls are implemented using iptables rules and managed with the iptables service or firewalld service (see Chapter 25, “Securing Linux on a Network,” for details about firewall services).

In Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, firewall rules have traditionally been stored in the /etc/sysconfig/iptables file and the underlying service was iptables (RHEL) or iptables.service (Fedora). Modules are loaded into your firewall from the/etc/sysconfig/iptables-config file. In RHEL 7 and Fedora 21, the new firewalld service manages those rules and rules are stored in the /etc/firewalld/zones directory.


It is best to work on your firewall directly from a system console, if possible, instead of over a remote login (such as ssh) because a small error can immediately lock you out of your server. After that, you must go over to the console to get back into the server and fix the problem.

You need to add a few things to your firewall to allow access to your FTP server without opening up access to other services. First, you need to allow your system to accept requests on TCP port 21; then you need to make sure the connection tracking module is loaded.

In RHEL 7 and Fedora 20, you can use the new Firewall configuration window to enable your firewall and open access to your FTP service. From the GNOME 3 desktop Activities screen, select the Firewall icon. Enter the root password when prompted. The Firewall Configuration window should appear, as shown in Figure 18.1.


Figure 18.1 Open access to your FTP service from the Firewall Configuration window.

Next, to permanently open access to your FTP service, click the Configuration box and select Permanent. Then add a check box next to ftp under the Services tab. This automatically opens TCP port 21 (FTP) on your firewall and loads kernel modules needed to allow access to passive FTP service.

For RHEL 6 and earlier systems, you can add rules directly to the /etc/sysconfig/iptables file. If you are using a default firewall, rules in the beginning open access to requests for any services coming from the local host and allow packets to come in that are associated with, or related to, established connections. In the middle are rules that open ports for service requests you have already allowed, such as the secure shell service (sshd on TCP port 22). At the end of the rules, a final rule usually DROPs or REJECTs any request that has not explicitly been allowed.

To allow public access to someone requesting your FTP server, you want to allow new requests to TCP port 21. You typically want to add the rule somewhere before the final DROP or REJECT rule. The following output shows partial contents of the /etc/sysconfig/iptablesfile with the rule allowing access to your FTP server in bold:






-A INPUT -i lo -j ACCEPT

-A INPUT -m state --state NEW -m tcp -p tcp --dport 22 -j ACCEPT

-A INPUT -m state --state NEW -m tcp -p tcp --dport 21 -j ACCEPT


-A INPUT -j REJECT --reject-with icmp-host-prohibited


This example shows that, for the filter table, the firewall accepts packets from established connections, connections from local hosts, and any new requests on TCP port 22 (SSH service). The line we just added (--dport 21) allows any packets on new connections to TCP port 21 to be accepted.


It is important to have the ESTABLISHED, RELATED line in your iptables firewall rules. Without that line, users would be able to connect to your SSH (port 22) and FTP (port 21) services, but would not be able to communicate after that. So, a user could get authenticated, but not be able to transfer data.

The next thing you must do on RHEL 6 and earlier systems is set up the FTP connection tracking module to be loaded each time the firewall starts up. Edit this line at the beginning of the /etc/sysconfig/iptables-config file to appear as follows:


At this point, you can restart your firewall (keeping in mind that a mistake could lock you out if you are logged in remotely). Use one of the following two commands to restart your firewall, depending on whether your system is using the older iptables service or the newer firewalld service:

# service iptables restart


# systemctl restart firewalld.service

Try again to access your FTP server from a remote system (using a web browser or some other FTP client).

Allowing FTP access in TCP wrappers

The TCP wrappers feature in Linux lets you add information to the /etc/hosts.allow and /etc/hosts.deny files to indicate who can or cannot access selected services. Not all services implement TCP wrappers, but vsftpd does.

By default, the hosts.allow and hosts.deny files are empty, which places no restrictions on who can access services protected by TCP wrappers. However, if you are blocking access in the hosts.deny file to all services that have not been explicitly allowed (by adding anALL:ALL line to hosts.deny), adding a line such as the following to the beginning of the /etc/hosts.allow file allows access to the vsftpd server:

vsftpd: ALL : ALLOW

For more information on how to use TCP wrappers, refer to Chapter 25, “Securing Linux on a Network,” or the hosts.allow man page (type man hosts.allow).

Configuring SELinux for your FTP server

If SELinux is set to Permissive or Disabled, it does not block access to the vsftpd service in any way. However, if SELinux is in Enforcing mode, a few SELinux issues could cause your vsftpd server to not behave as you would like. Use the following commands to check the state of SELinux on your system:

# getenforce


# grep ^SELINUX= /etc/sysconfig/selinux


The getenforce command shows how SELinux is currently set (here, it's in Enforcing mode). The SELINUX= variable in /etc/sysconfig/selinux shows how SELinux is set when the system comes up. If it is in Enforcing mode, as it is here, check the ftpd_selinux man page for information about SELinux settings that can impact the operation of your vsftpd service. Here are some examples of file contexts that must be set for SELinux to allow files and directories to be accessed by vsftpd:

· To share content so it can be downloaded to FTP clients, that content must be marked with a public_content_t file context. Files created in the /var/ftpdirectory or its subdirectories inherit public_content_t file context automatically. (Be sure to create new content or copy existing content to the /var/ftp directories. Moving the files there may not change the file context properly.)

· To allow files to be uploaded by anonymous users, the file context on the directory you upload to must be set to public_content_rw_t. (Other permissions, SELinux Booleans, and vsftpd.conf settings must be in place for this to work as well.)

If you have files in the /var/ftp directory structure that have the wrong file contexts (which can happen if you move files there from other directories instead of copying them), you can change or restore the file context on those files so they can be shared. For example, to recursively change the file context of the /var/ftp/pub/stuff directory so the content can be readable from the FTP server through SELinux, type the following:

# semanage fcontext -a -t public_content_t "/var/ftp/pub/stuff(/.*)?"

# restorecon -F -R -v /var/ftp/pub/stuff

If you want to allow users to also write to a directory as well as read from it, you need to assign the public_content_rw_t file context to the directory to which you want to allow uploads. This example tells SELinux to allow uploading of files to the /var/ftp/pub/uploadsdirectory:

# semanage fcontext -a -t public_content_rw_t "/var/ftp/pub/uploads(/.*)?"

# restorecon -F -R -v /var/ftp/pub/uploads

FTP server features that are considered insecure by SELinux have Booleans that let you allow or disallow those features. Here are some examples:

· To allow regular users to be able to authenticate and read and write files and directories via the FTP server, the Boolean ftp_home_dir must be on. This is one of the most common FTP Booleans to turn on (it is off by default). To turn it on permanently, type this:

# setsebool -P ftp_home_dir on

· For SELinux to allow anonymous users to read and write files and directories, you need to turn on the allow_ftpd_anon_write Boolean:

# setsebool -P allow_ftpd_anon_write on

· To be able to mount remote NFS or CIFS (Windows) shared filesystems and share them from your vsftpd server, you need to turn on the following two Booleans, respectively:

·# setsebool -P allow_ftpd_use_nfs on

# setsebool -P allow_ftpd_use_cifs on

If you ever find that you cannot access files or directories from your FTP server that you believe should be accessible, try turning off SELinux temporarily:

# setenforce 0

If you can access the files or directories with SELinux now in Permissive mode, put the system back in Enforcing mode (setenforce 1). Now, you know you have to go back through your SELinux settings and find out what is preventing access. (See Chapter 24, “Enhancing Linux Security with SELinux,” for more information on SELinux.)

Relating Linux file permissions to vsftpd

The vsftpd server relies on standard Linux file permissions to allow or deny access to files and directories. As you would expect, for an anonymous user to view or download a file, at least read permission must be open for other (------r--). To access a directory, at least execute permission must be on for other (--------x).

For regular user accounts, the general rule is that if a user can access a file from the shell, that user can access the same file from an FTP server. So, typically, regular users should at least be able to get (download) and put (upload) files to and from their own home directories, respectively. After permissions and other security provisions are in place for your FTP server, you may want to consider other configuration settings for your FTP server.

Configuring Your FTP Server

Most of the configuration for the vsftpd service is done in the /etc/vsftpd/vsftpd.conf file. Examples of the vsftpd.conf for different types of sites are included in the /usr/share/doc/vsftpd-* directory. Depending on how you want to use your FTP site, the following sections discuss a few ways to configure your FTP server.

Remember to restart the vsftpd service after making any configuration changes.

Setting up user access

The vsftpd server comes with both the anonymous user and all local Linux users (those listed in the /etc/passwd file) configured to access the server. This is based on the following vsftpd.conf settings:



As noted earlier, despite the local_enable setting, SELinux actually prevents vsftpd users from logging in and transferring data. Either changing SELinux out of Enforcing mode or setting the correct Boolean allows local accounts to log in and transfer data.

Some web server companies let users use FTP to upload the content that is used in the users' own web servers. In some cases, the users have FTP-only accounts, meaning that they cannot log in to a shell, but they can log in via FTP to manage their content. Creating a user account that has no default shell (actually, /sbin/nologin) is how you can keep a user from logging into a shell, but still allow FTP access. For example, the /etc/passwd entry for the FTP-only user account bill might look something like the following:

bill:x:1000:1000:Bill Jones:/home/bill:/sbin/nologin

With the user account set with /sbin/nologin as the default shell, any attempts to log in from a console or via ssh as the user bill are denied. However, as long as bill has a password and local account access to the FTP server is enabled, bill should be able to log in to the FTP server via an FTP client.

Not every user with an account on the Linux system has access to the FTP server. The setting userlistnable=YES in vsftpd.conf says to deny access to the FTP server to all accounts listed in the /etc/vsftpd/user_list file. That list includes administrative users root, bin,daemon, adm, lp, and others. You can add other users to that list to whom you would like to deny access.

If you change userlistnable to NO, the user_list file becomes a list of only those users who do have access to the server. In other words, setting userlistnable=NO, removing all usernames from the user_list file, and adding the usernames chris, joe, and mary to that file cause the server to allow only those three users to log in to the server.

No matter how the value of userlistnable is set, the /etc/vsftpd/ftpusers file always includes users who are denied access to the server. Like the userlistnable file, the ftpusers file includes a list of administrative users. You can add more users to that file if you want them to be denied FTP access.

One way to limit access to users with regular user accounts on your system is to use chroot settings. Here are examples of some chroot settings:




With the settings just shown uncommented, you could create a list of local users and add them to the /etc/vsftpd/chroot_list file. After one of those users logged in, that user would be prevented from going to places in the system that were outside that user's home directory structure.

If uploads to your FTP server are allowed, the directories a user tries to upload to must be writeable by that user. However, uploads can be stored under a username other than that of the user who uploaded the file. This is one of the features discussed next, in the “Allowing uploading” section.

Allowing uploading

To allow any form of writing to the vsftpd server, you must have write_enable=YES set in the vsftpd.conf file (which it is, by default). Because of that, if local accounts are enabled, users can log in and immediately begin uploading files to their own home directories. However, anonymous users are denied the ability to upload files by default.

To allow anonymous uploads with vsftpd, you must have the first option in the following code example and you may want the second line of code as well (both can be enabled by uncommenting them from the vsftpd.conf file). The first allows anonymous users to upload files; the second allows them to create directories:



The next step is to create a directory where anonymous users can write. Any directory under the /var/ftp directory that has write permissions for the user ftp, the ftp group, or other can be written to by an anonymous user. A common thing is to create an uploads directory with permission open for writing. The following are examples of commands to run on the server:

# mkdir /var/ftp/uploads

# chown ftp:ftp /var/ftp/uploads

# chmod 775 /var/ftp/uploads

As long as the firewall is open and SELinux Booleans are set properly, an anonymous user can cd to the uploads directory and put a file from the user's local system into the uploads directory. On the server, the file would be owned by the ftp user and ftp group. The permissions set on the directory (775) would allow you to see the files that were uploaded, but not change or overwrite them.

One reason for allowing anonymous FTP, and then enabling it for anonymous uploads, is to allow people you don't know to drop files in your uploads folder. Because anyone who can find the server can write to this directory, some form of security needs to be in place. You want to prevent an anonymous user from seeing files uploaded by other users, taking files, or deleting files uploaded by other anonymous FTP users. One form of security is the chown feature of FTP.

By setting the following two values, you can allow anonymous uploads. The result of these settings is that when an anonymous user uploads a file, that file is immediately assigned ownership of a different user. The following is an example of some chown settings you could put in your vsftpd.conf file to use with your anonymous upload directory:



If an anonymous user were to upload a file after vsftpd was restarted with these settings, the uploaded file would be owned by the user joe and the ftp group. Permissions would be read/write for the owner and nothing for anyone else (rw-------).

So far, you have seen configuration options for individual features on your vsftpd server. Some sets of vsftp.conf variables can work together in ways that are appropriate for certain kinds of FTP sites. The next section contains one of these examples, represented by a sample vsftpd.conf configuration file that come with the vsftpd package. That file can be copied from a directory of sample files to the /etc/vsftpd/vsftpd.conf file, to use for an FTP server that is available on the Internet.

Setting up vsftpd for the Internet

To safely share files from your FTP server to the Internet, you can lock down your server by limiting it to only allow downloads and only from anonymous users. To start with a configuration that is designed to have vsftpd share files safely over the Internet, back up your current /etc/vsftpd/vsftpd.conf file and copy this file to overwrite your vsftpd.conf:


The following paragraphs describe the contents of that vsftpd.conf. Settings in the first section set the access rights for the server:

# Access rights







Turning on anonymous_enable (YES) and turning off local_enable (NO) ensures that no one can log in to the FTP server using a regular Linux user account. Everyone must come in through the anonymous account. No one can upload files (write_enable=NO). Then, the anonymous user cannot upload files (anon_upload_enable=NO), create directories (anon_mkdir_write_enable=NO), or otherwise write to the server (anon_other_write_enable=NO). Here are the Security settings:

# Security






Because the vsftpd daemon can read files assigned to the ftp user and group, setting anon_world_readable_only=YES ensures that anonymous users can see files where the read permission bit is turned on for other (------r--), but not write files. Theconnect_from_port_20=YES setting gives the vsftpd daemon slightly more permission to send data the way a client might request by allowing PORT–style data communications.

Using hide_ids=YES hides the real permissions set on files so, to the user accessing the FTP site, everything appears to be owned by the ftp user. The two pasv settings restrict the range of ports that can be used with passive FTP (where the server picks a higher number port on which to send data) to between 50000 and 60000.

The next section contains features of the vsftpd server:

# Features





With xferlog_enable=YES, all file transfers to and from the server are logged to the/var/log/xferlog file. Setting ls_recurse_enable=NO prevents users from recursively listing the contents of an FTP directory (in other words, it prevents the type of listing you could get with the ls -R command) because on a large site, that could drain resources. Disabling ASCII downloads forces all downloads to be in binary mode (preventing files from being translated in ASCII, which is inappropriate for binary files). The async_abor_enable=YES setting ensures that some FTP clients that might hang when aborting a transfer will not hang.

The following settings have an impact on performance:

# Performance







With one_process_model=YES set, performance can improve because vsftpd launches one process per connection. Reducing the idle_session_timeout from the default 300 seconds to 120 seconds causes FTP clients that are idle more than 2 minutes to be disconnected. So less time is spent managing FTP sessions that are no longer in use. If a data transfer stalls for more than data_connection_timeout seconds (300 seconds here), the connection to the client is dropped.

The accept_timeout setting of 60 seconds allows 1 minute for a PASV connection to be accepted by the remote client. The connect_timeout sets how long a remote client has to respond to a request to establish a PORT-style data connection. Limiting the transfer rate to 50000 (bytes per second) with anon_max_rate can improve overall performance of the server by limiting how much bandwidth each client can consume.

Using FTP Clients to Connect to Your Server

Many client programs come with Linux that you can use to connect to your FTP server. If you simply want to do an anonymous download of some files from an FTP server, your Firefox web browser provides an easy interface to do that. For more complex interactions between your FTP client and server, you can use command-line FTP clients. The following section describes some of these tools.

Accessing an FTP server from Firefox

The Firefox web browser provides a quick and easy way to test access to your FTP server or to access any public FTP server. On your own system, type ftp://localhost into the location box. If your server is accessible, you should see something similar to the example shown in Figure 18.2.


Figure 18.2 Accessing an FTP server from Firefox

To log in to an FTP server as a particular user from Firefox, you can precede the host name with a username:password@ notation. For example:


If you provide the correct username and password, you should immediately see the contents of your home directory. Click a folder to open it. Click a file to download or view the file.

Accessing an FTP server with the lftp command

To test your FTP server from the command line, you can use the lftp command. To install the lftp command in Fedora or RHEL, type the following from the command line:

# yum install lftp

If you use the lftp command with just the name of the FTP server you are trying to access, the command tries to connect to the FTP server as the anonymous user. By adding the -u username, you can type the user's password when prompted and gain access to the FTP server as the user you logged in as.

After you have added your user and password information, you get an lftp prompt, ready for you to start typing commands. The connection is made to the server when you type your first command. You can use the commands to move around the FTP server, and then use the get and put commands to download and upload files.

The following example shows how to use commands as just described. It assumes that the FTP server (and associated security measures) has been configured to allow local users to connect and to read and write files:

# lftp -u chris localhost



lftp chris@localhost:~> pwd


lftp chris@localhost:~> cd stuff/state/

lftp chris@localhost:~/stuff/state> ls

-rw-r--r-- 1 13597 13597 1394 Oct 23 2014 enrolled-


-rw-r--r-- 1 13597 13597 514 Oct 23 2014 enrolled-


lftp chris@localhost:~/stuff/state> !pwd


lftp chris@localhost:~/stuff/state> get survey-20141023.txt

3108 bytes transferred

lftp chris@localhost:~/stuff/state> put /etc/hosts

201 bytes transferred

lftp chris@localhost:~/stuff/state> ls

-rw-r--r-- 1 13597 13597 1394 Oct 23 2014 enrolled-


-rw-r--r-- 1 13597 13597 514 Oct 23 2014 enrolled-


-rw-r--r-- 1 0 0 201 May 03 20:22 hosts

lftp chris@localhost:~/stuff/state> !ls

anaconda-ks.cfg bin install.log

dog Pictures sent

Downloads Public survey-20141023.txt

lftp chris@localhost:~/stuff/state> quit

After providing the username (-u chris), lftp prompts for chris's Linux user password. Typing pwd shows that chris is logged in to the local host and that /home/chris is the current directory. Just as you would from a regular Linux command line shell, you can use cd to change to another directory and ls to list that directory's contents.

To have the commands you run interpreted by the client system, you can simply put an exclamation mark (!) in front of a command. For example, running !pwd shows that the current directory on the system that initiated the lftp is /root. This is good to know because if you get a file from the server without specifying its destination, it goes to the client's current directory (in this case, /root). Other commands you might run so they are interpreted by the client system include !cd (to change directories) or !ls (to list files).

Assuming you have read permission of a file on the server and write permission from the current directory on the initiating system, you can use the get command to download a file from the server (get survey-20141023.txt). If you have write and upload permission on the current directory on the server, you can use put to copy a file to the server (put /etc/hosts).

Running an ls command shows that the /etc/hosts file was uploaded to the server. Running the !ls command lets you see that the survey-20141023.txt file was downloaded from the server to the initiating system.

Using the gFTP client

Many other FTP clients are available with Linux as well. Another FTP client you could try is gFTP. The gFTP client provides an interface that lets you see both the local and remote sides of your FTP session. To install gFTP in Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, run the following command to install the gftp package:

# yum install gftp

To start gFTP, launch it from the applications menu or run gftp & from the shell. To use it, type the URL of the FTP server you want to connect to, enter the username you want to use (such as anonymous), and press Enter. Figure 18.3 shows an example of gFTP being used to connect to a documentation directory at the site


Figure 18.3 The gFTP FTP client lets you see both sides of an FTP session.

To traverse the FTP site from gFTP, just double-click folders (just as you would from a file manager window). The full paths to the local directory (on the left) and remote directory (on the right) are shown above the listings of files and folders below.

To transfer a file from the remote side to the local side, select the file you want from the right and click the arrow in the middle of the screen pointing to the left. Watch the progress of the file transfer from messages on the bottom of the screen. When the transfer completes, the file appears in the left pane.

You can bookmark the address information you need to connect to an FTP site. That address is added to a set of bookmarks already stored under the Bookmarks menu. You can select sites from the list to try out the gFTP. Most of the sites are for Linux distributions and other open source software sites.


Setting up an FTP server is an easy way to share files over a TCP network. The Very Secure FTP Daemon (vsftpd package) is available for Fedora, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Ubuntu, and other Linux systems.

A default vsftpd server allows anonymous users to download files from the server and regular Linux users to upload or download files (provided some security settings are changed). Moving around on an FTP server is similar to moving around a Linux filesystem. You move up and down the directory structure to find the content you want.

There are both graphical and text-based FTP clients. A popular text-based client for Linux is lftp. As for graphical FTP clients, you can use a regular web browser, such as Firefox, or dedicated FTP clients, such as gFTP.

FTP servers are not the only way to share files over a network from Linux. The Samba service provides a way to share files over a network so the shared Linux directory looks like a shared directory from a Windows system. Chapter 19 describes how to use Samba to offer Windows-style file sharing.


The exercises in this section describe tasks related to setting up an FTP server in RHEL or Fedora and connecting to that server using an FTP client. You could do this procedure on an Ubuntu system, but it would require extra configuration because Ubuntu doesn't support anonymous FTP by default. If you are stuck, solutions to the tasks are shown in Appendix B. Keep in mind that the solutions shown in Appendix B are usually just one of multiple ways to complete a task.

Don't do these exercises on a Linux system running a public FTP server because they almost certainly interfere with that server.

1. Determine which package provides the Very Secure FTP Daemon service.

2. Install the Very Secure FTP Daemon package on your system, and search for the configuration files in that package.

3. Start the Very Secure FTP Daemon service, and set it to start when the system boots.

4. On the system running your FTP server, create a file named test in the anonymous FTP directory that contains the words “Welcome to your vsftpd server.”

5. From a web browser on the system running your FTP server, open the test file from the anonymous FTP home directory. Be sure you can see that file's contents.

6. From a web browser outside the system that is running the FTP server, try to access the test file in the anonymous FTP home directory. If you cannot access the file, check that your firewall, SELinux, and TCP wrappers are configured to allow access to that file.

7. Configure your vsftpd server to allow file uploads by anonymous users to a directory named in.

8. Install the lftp FTP client (if you don't have a second Linux system, install lftp on the same host running the FTP server). If you cannot upload files to the in directory, check that your firewall, SELinux, and TCP wrappers are configured to allow access to that file.

9. Using any FTP client you choose, visit the /pub/linux/docs/man-pages directory on the site and list the contents of that directory.

10.Using any FTP client you choose, download the man-pages-3.41.tar.gz file from the directory you just visited to the /tmp directory on your local system.