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Preparing to Take the Reins - Setting Up SSH on Ubuntu 22.04 LTS

Published: at 01:40 PM

Recently, I’ve been looking at hosting the sites I manage on my own server again. It’s been a few years since I’ve done this. I’ve mostly used Netlify and Vercel for their speed and ease of use. owever, I’d like to have more control over hosting, so I’m heading out on the adventure once again to self host (sort of) through Linode as well as a monitoring service that I can manage.

Why Host Your Own Server?

Let’s talk about why you’d choose to host your own server instead of using a managed service. Hosting your own server is like having the keys to the kingdom. It offers full control over your environment, custom configurations, and the invaluable opportunity to swear at something you have complete control over (just kidding… or am I?).

Plus, it’s a fantastic learning experience. You’ll gain a deeper understanding into the inner workings of web servers, network security and a ton of other things. And there will probably be a few times you want to throw your computer… 🤷‍♂️

Before we jump into the nuts and bolts of setting up the server, let’s chat about why I picked Linode for this adventure. Linode isn’t just another cloud hosting service; it’s like the cool, laid-back neighbor who’s always got the tools you need without any fuss. It’s straightforward, doesn’t break the bank, and does it’s job without throwing too many bells and whistles your way. If you’re looking for a place to host your projects where you can really take the reins and not get lost in a sea of overly complex options, Linode is your go-to. It’s perfect for getting your hands dirty, whether you’re hosting a blog or launching a fleet of apps.

Step 1: Setting Up SSH Keys

Secure Shell (SSH) offers a robust layer of security far superior to the standard username and password authentication. Here’s how we set it up:

1. Generating Your SSH Key

If you haven’t already, you need to generate an SSH key pair on your local machine. This is your digital fingerprint, much harder to crack than a mere password:

ssh-keygen -t ed25519 -C "[email protected]"

We use ed25519 because it offers better security margins compared to the older RSA. Follow the prompts, and remember, when it asks for a passphrase, pick something as strong as your favorite coffee.

2. Installing the Public Key on Your Linode Server

NOTE: You can install this for your root user, but you’ll have to also install the key for your new user. So if you want to skip this, create a user and then come back to install the key on your user, that would probably be ideal. But it’s here in case you want to add one for you root user as well.

Now, let’s securely add your public key to your server. Perform this step from your local terminal. Assuming you’ve just set up this server and are logging in as root initially, here’s what you’ll do:

ssh-copy-id -i ~/.ssh/ root@your_linode_ip

This command automatically copies your public SSH key to the server’s authorized keys list, allowing you to log in securely without needing a password.

What if ssh-copy-id doesn’t work?

If you run into any snags with ssh-copy-id, don’t worry - there’s another way to get your key onto the server. You can manually append your public key to the ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file on your server. Here’s how:

1. First, display your public key on your local machine:

cat ~/.ssh/

This will print your public key in the terminal. Copy the entire output.

2. Then, log into your server manually using the password:

ssh root@your_linode_ip

3. Once logged in, you’ll need to edit the authorized_keys file:

echo your_copied_public_key >> ~/.ssh/authorized_keys

Replace your_copied_public_key with the key you copied earlier. This command appends your public key to the list of authorized keys.

4. Set the correct permissions for the SSH directory and authorized keys file:

chmod 700 ~/.ssh
chmod 600 ~/.ssh/authorized_keys

These steps ensure you can log in securely even if the automated method doesn’t go as planned… Ask me how I know…

Now you can log in to your Linode server without a password. Feels like magic, right?

Step 2: Securing Your Server and Creating Users

Now that you’re in, the first rule of Fight Club - uh, server club - is: do not talk about server club. Just kidding! The first rule is: do not run as root. Running as root is like leaving your car keys in the ignition overnight; sooner or later, it’s going to lead to trouble.

1. Creating a New User

adduser your_new_username

Give them (or you) the privileges they need (without going overboard, mind you):

usermod -aG sudo your_new_username

2. Hardening SSH Access

Edit your SSH daemon configuration:

vim /etc/ssh/sshd_config

Make these changes:

Some of these might be commented out and you can just uncomment them. Save and close the file.

After making these changes, users will only be allowed to authenticate using SSH keys with the user you have specified. This is a great step towards securing your server as it significantly reduces the risk of brute-force attacks.

Restart the SSH service to apply the policies.

systemctl restart ssh.service

And just like that, your server is now a fortress. Well, almost… you can add fail2ban, configure firewalls, but we’ll save that for another episode in this series.

NOTE: Make sure you open a second terminal to attempt to log in with your new user before logging out of the first session. This way, if something doesn’t work as expected, you still have access to change things.

Wrapping Up and Looking Ahead

There you have it! You’ve successfully set up SSH on your Ubuntu 22.04 LTS server and tightened security a bit. You’re now the proud administrator of your own Linode server, ready to tackle whatever web hosting challenges come your way. Today, we’ve laid down the crucial groundwork - getting SSH keys in place and ensuring your server is a fortress with no room for unwanted guests.

But don’t hang up your hat just yet! We’ve only scratched the surface. In the upcoming posts, I’ll guide you through the next phases of our server setup journey. We’ll dive into installing a web server using Docker, using GitHub actions to deploy our sites when we push up our code, and finally getting your websites live. Plus, I’ll show you how to add extra layers of security and monitoring tools to keep everything running smoothly.