FreeBSD Planning, Installation and Security Tips

This document acts as a condensed "cheat sheet" to help you to install FreeBSD as a server at your location. If you are new to FreeBSD and/or UNIX you may find this document useful. Even if you are an experienced user you may wish to quickly review the guidelines set forth here to ensure that your installation will be secure and able to grow with future use. As much of this advice comes from experience we are always interested in hearing your comments about how well this works in the real world. You can send information and comments to

Step 1: Plan Your Installation

Step 2: Install FreeBSD

Step 3: Secure Your Installation

Security is a big topic. It is essential that you plan on following these steps to secure your server immediately upon installation. Do not leave it up without first securing it. If you have not had to secure a server before, then spend some time reading up on security before proceeding. First, here are the basic concepts you need to do in order to secure your server:

Some services you just should not run. At the top of this list is Telnet. You should access your box using Secure Shell (ssh) as all information passed is encrypted. Telnet passes all information in clear text across the network, and this is very insecure. In addition, other common services with this problem include FTP, POP, and IMAP. If you are just starting out as an ISP this is your chance to work with SSH and SCP clients for your users, as well as encrypted POP and IMAP email clients, or secure Webmail servers using SSL.

You should not allow your root user to access your server via FTP. You can always ftp from your box as root to another box to get files. Or, better yet, use scp (Secure CoPy, part of the standard ssh installation) to copy files to and from other servers.

To get started with implementing the security steps mentioned above you should read and understand the following:

You'll need to stay on top of security alerts as well in case your services are affected and need to be patched. As a minimum you should register for the FREEBSD-SECURITY-NOTIFICATIONS mailing list. This list is not an email discussion list, but rather just posts security problems and fixes. To subscribe to this list send email to and in the body of the message place:

subscribe freebsd-security-notifications

Remember to not include a signature as this will be processed as well. There are several other excellent Security email bulletins and resources as well. Two to consider are -

If you were to look around on these sites and read some of the available material there you would find a considerable amount of security information, tips, and strategies that you might apply to securing your own server or network.

Finally, remember bad passwords are an easy security target. Current cracking software can cycle through millions of language based combinations of words in a matter of seconds. You should pick passwords that do not contain words of any kind and that include non-alphanumeric tokens, such as $, !, @, &, and mix in upper and lower case letters as well.

Step 4: Administer and Update Your Installation

This is another big topic, and one that you'll learn about as long as you are administering a server. Chapters 6 through 20 of the FreeBSD Handbook come under the "System Administration" heading. If you have to pick two chapters to read first you should go to chapters 6 and 8, or "Configuration and Tuning," and "Users and Basic Account Management" respectively. Chapter 10, "Security," has already been mentioned in the previous section. Naturally some of these chapters may be more relevant to what you are trying to accomplish, so be sure to review all of them.

If your server will have multiple users be sure you read about user administration before you start creating accounts, and consider how you want to implement password restrictions, access restrictions, and possible disk quotas among other things.

In addition, if you are not on your FreeBSD system, or you prefer reading information in your web browser instead, the entire FreeBSD manual pages are available at

Finally, to update your system you can use CVS Update. This allows you to entirely update a server (all packages) at once, or to update individual packages as you see fit. You can read about this in more detail at is one way to upgrade your current FreeBSD system to the latest version without needing to re-install the operating system.

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Last Update
May 5, 2002
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