Create a SFTP user restricted to a /var/www/ directory on Ubuntu/Debian

sudo nano /etc/ssh/sshd_config

The line Subsystem sftp /usr/lib/openssh/sftp-server needs to be commented and a new line must be added right below Subsystem sftp internal-sftp right below

#Subsystem sftp /usr/lib/openssh/sftp-server
Subsystem sftp internal-sftp

Then go to the end of the file and add the following lines

Match Group sftpusers
    # Below, %u stands for user
    ChrootDirectory /home/%u
    X11Forwarding no
    AllowTcpForwarding no
    AllowAgentForwarding no
    PermitTunnel no

The lines below Match Group will apply only to this group

ChrootDirectory is the directory where the ftp user will be chrooted (restricted)

Other variables

  • %u (username)
  • %U (numeric user ID of the target user)
  • %h (user home directory)

More info :

sudo service sshd restart
sudo mkdir user1/site1/
sudo addgroup sftpusers
sudo adduser user1

Add new user to sftpusers group

sudo usermod -a -G sftpusers user1

User directory must be owned by root

sudo chown -R root:root /home/user1

Create a directory to bind the site1 directory from /var/www/site1/

Sudo mkdir /home/user1/site1/

Edit fstab to bind the directory (this will persist across reboots)

Sudo nano /etc/fstab

Add this line to fstab file

/var/www/site1/ /home/user1/site1/ none bind 0 0

Then mount the new bind

sudo mount -a

Ifyou don't need the bind to persist across reboots you can use this command:

mount --bind /var/www/orpheogroup-ru-refonte/ /home/mikhail/orpheogroup-ru-refonte/

Check bind with:

ls -la /home/user1/

If you want to check to which user and group belong a directory you may use:

stat -c "%U %G" /var/www/site1/


 ls -la /var/www/

Then we need to use File Access Control Lists to set permissions for groups

sudo setfacl -Rm d:g:sftpusers:rwx,g:sftpusers:rwx /var/www/site1/
sudo setfacl -Rm d:g:www-data:rwx,g:www-data:rwx /var/www/site1/
  • -R for recursive
  • m for modify existing permissions and ownerships
  • d is for default
  • g is for group

The above should be sufficient but if you ever need to set permissions for a user you may use u:

sudo setfacl -Rm d:u:user1:rwx,u:user1:rwx /home/user1/site1/

You may remove ACL with -x as below:

sudo setfacl -x g:sftpusers /var/www/site1/

And getfacl to read the ACL

sudo getfacl /var/www/site1/

It should look like that

# file: var/www/site1/
# owner: root
# group: www-data
# flags: -s-

And to ensure that newly created files get the right permissions for www-data:

sudo setfacl -Rm d:g:www-data:rwx /var/www/ 

That's it, you may now try to connect with a FTP client such as CyberDuck or open a terminal (on mac)

sftp (<- IP address or name of the server)

This part is optional, I needed another sftp user to the same folder but without write rights (read only). Skip if you don't need it

Insert these lines at the end of sshd_config

sudo nano /etc/ssh/sshd_config
Match User user2
  ChrootDirectory /home/%u
  # Below, "-R" stands for "read only"
  ForceCommand internal-sftp -R
sudo service sshd restart
Sudo mkdir /home/user2/site1/
Sudo nano /etc/fstab
/var/www/site1/ /home/user2/site1/ none bind 0 0
sudo mount -a
sudo addgroup sftpusers
sudo adduser user1
sudo usermod -a -G sftpusers user2
sudo chown -R root:root /home/user2
Sudo mkdir /home/user1/site1/