Local Security


Most security issues come from the network, but we also need to secure a system from inside attacks, too. We can do that by setting appropriate file permissions and by making sure users on a system do not have certain kinds of access (e.g., sudo access). For example, the /usr/bin/gcc program is the GNU C and C++ compiler. That is, it's used to compile C or C++ source code into executable programs. If users have unrestricted access to that compiler, then it's possible for them to compile programs that compromise the system.

In the next section, we'll cover how to set up a firewall, but in this section, we'll learn how to set up a chroot jail.


As we all know, the Linux file system has a root directory /, and under this directory are other directories like /home, /bin, and so forth. A chroot (change root) jail is a way to create a pseudo root directory at some specific location in the directory tree, and then build an environment in that pseudo root directory that offers some applications. Once that environment is setup, we can then confine a user account(s) to that pseudo directory, and when they login to the server, they will only be able to see (e.g., with the cd command) what's in that pseudo root directory and only be able to use the applications that we've made available in that chroot.

Thus, a chroot jail is a technology used to change the "apparent root / directory for a user or a process" and confine that user to that location on the system. A user or process that is confined to the chroot jail cannot easily see or access the rest of the file system and will have limited access to the binaries (executables/apps/utilities) on the system. From its man page:

chroot (8) - run command or interactive shell with special root directory

Although it is not security proof, it does have some useful security use cases. Some use chroot to contain DNS servers, for example.

chroot is also the conceptual basis for some kinds of virtualization technologies that are common today, like Docker.

Creating a chroot

In this tutorial, we are going to create a chroot.

  1. First, we create a new directory for our jail. That directory will be located at /mustafar (but it could be elsewhere). Note that the normal root directory is /, but for the chroot, the root directory will be /mustafar even though it will appear as / in the chroot.

    Depending on where we create the jail, we want to check the permissions of the new directory and make sure it's owned by root. If not, use chown root:root /mustafar to set it.

    sudo mkdir /mustafar
    ls -ld /mustafar
  2. We want to make the bash shell available in the jail. To do that, we'll create a /bin directory in /mustafar, and copy bash to that directory.

    which bash
    sudo mkdir /mustafar/bin
    sudo cp /usr/bin/bash /mustafar/bin/
  3. Large software applications have dependencies, aka libraries. We need to copy those libraries to our jail directory so applications, like Bash, can run. To identify libraries needed by bash, we use the ldd command:

    ldd /usr/bin/bash

    Output (output may vary depending on your system):

    linux-vdso.so.1 (0x00007fff2ab95000)
    libtinfo.so.6 => /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libtinfo.so.6 (0x00007fbec99f6000)
    libc.so.6 => /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libc.so.6 (0x00007fbec97ce000)
    /lib64/ld-linux-x86-64.so.2 (0x00007fbec9ba4000)

    We can ignore the first item in the output. But we will need the libraries in the last three lines.

  1. Next we create directories for these libraries in /mustafar that match or mirror the directories they reside in.

    To do that, use the mkdir command to create a /mustafar/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/ directory and a /mustafar/lib64 for the libraries. We need to name the library directories after the originals to stay consistent with the main environment.

    sudo mkdir -p /mustafar/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu
    sudo mkdir /mustafar/lib64

    Then we proceed to copy (not move!) the libraries to their respective directories in the /mustafar directory:

    cd /mustafar/lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/
    sudo cp /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libtinfo.so.6 .
    sudo cp /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libc.so.6
    cd /mustafar/lib64/
    sudo cp /lib64/ld-linux-x86-64.so.2 .
  2. Finally, we can test the chroot

    sudo chroot /mustafar
    bash-5.1# ls
    bash: ls: command not found
    bash-5.1# help
    bash-5.1# dirs
    bash-5.1# pwd
    bash-5.1# cd bin/
    bash-5.1# dirs
    bash-5.1# cd ../lib64/
    bash-5.1# dirs
    bash-5.1# cd ..
    bash-5.1# for i in {1..4} ; do echo "$i" ; done
    bash-5.1# exit

    We get a Bash prompt, which is great, but we do not have the main utilities that we normally use. If you type in help, you will however find that you have some commands available, like pwd, dirs, cd, help, for, and more.


Use the ldd command, to add additional binaries. Make the following utilities/binaries available in the /mustafar chroot directory:

  • ls
  • cat


Systems need to be secure from the inside and out. In order to secure from the inside, system users should be given access and permissions as needed.

In this section, we covered how to create a chroot jail. The jail confines users and processes to this pseudo root location. It provides them limited access to the overall file system and to the software on the system. We can use this jail to confine users and processes, like apache2 or another human user. Any user listed in /etc/passwd can be jailed, and most users listed in that file are services.

Jailing a human user may not be necessary. On a multi-user system, proper education and training about the policies and uses of the system may be all that's needed. Alternatively, when creating user accounts, we could make their default shell rbash, or restricted bash. rbash limits access to a lot of Bash's main functions, and for added security, it can be used in conjunction with chroot. In summary, if a stricter environment is needed, now you know how to create a basic chroot jail.

Additional Sources: