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
- Supported Hardware: The file, 'HARDWARE.TXT', located at the top
level of the FreeBSD CD-ROM, or at the FreeBSD ftp site (ftp://ftp.freebsd.org/),
contains a comprehensive list of supported hardware for each version of FreeBSD.
Use this file to ensure that the hardware you have available will work with
FreeBSD. Most current and "standard" hardware is supported.
- Hardware Inventory: Take a detailed inventory of the hardware on
the machine on which you plan to install FreeBSD. If you have legacy ISA cards
you should note the IRQ, I/O addresses, and possibly DMA addresses in use
by the card. If they are not the default addresses, then you will need to
specify these during installation. FreeBSD uses manufacturer default IRQ,
I/O, and DMA settings during installation unless otherwise specified.
- Hard Drive Configuration (RAID): Your toughest decision is likely
to be your hard drive configuration. Whether to use RAID, individual drives
for certain file systems, how to partition the drives, etc. RAID is nice as
it can grow if needed, and your data is protected against individual driver
failures. You should read Chapter 12 of the FreeBSD Handbook for a discussion
of RAID and methods for backing up your data. If you use the FreeBSD software
RAID solution this is actually the Vinum Volume Manager that you can read
about at http://www.vinumvm.org/. An
excellent HOWTO for implementing Vinum software RAID under FreeBSD can be
found at http://www.daemonnews.org/200002/vinum.html.
If you are installing a server that will require additional space (i.e. for
user's home directories, growing databases, email storage, etc.), then plan
your initial installation to make this easier. A good discussion about planning
your hard drive configuration can be found at http://www.freebsd.org/doc/en_US.ISO8859-1/books/handbook/dirstructure.html.
Very quickly here a few comments about some of the file system choices you
are likely to make:
- / (root) : This can be quite small. 64MB is often enough. The root file
system contains the bootable kernel of FreeBSD.
- /var : This is where log files go. If you plan on allowing log files
to grow large, then leave enough space, otherwise this can be fairly small
(100MB). But, if you plan on having users on your system with email
space, then this partition is the default location for user's email (under
/var/mail), and you will need to make this large enough to accommodate
user email on your system.
- /usr : This is where the rest of FreeBSD generally goes. You'll want
at least 500MB if not considerably more space set aside for this partition.
- "/usr/home" : This directory will need to be large enough
to accommodate your entire user base, and you should be prepared to grow
this in the future. One trick to consider is setting aside a separate
disk for your user home directories, and then creating a logical link
between that disk and /usr/home. That is, if you have /d1 as a separate
disk, then changing directory to /usr/home, will actually place you in
- Services to Run or Not: Decide what services you plan to run. Only
install, or activate, these services. Additional services that you do not
use only create security risks and potentially reduce the stability of your
machine. For instance, if you are not going to creating network file shares,
then do not run the nfs daemons and do not run portmap (required by nfs).
Both are insecure. In addition, Telnet, FTP, POP, and IMAP are all insecure.
See "Step 3: Secure Your Installation" for more information.
- GUI or Not: If you don't need to run X Windows, then don't install
it and it's associated software. Generally for a server box X Windows is not
necessary. You can do whatever work you need to do on your server via shell
access through services such as ssh. This is one of the great strengths of
FreeBSD (and UNIX in general).
Step 2: Install FreeBSD
- Before you install FreeBSD read, in it's entirety, Chapter 2 of the FreeBSD
Handbook. You can read this at http://www.freebsd.org/doc/en_US.ISO8859-1/books/handbook/.
This is pretty much a requirement. If you skip this step it's likely you'll
just end up reinstalling FreeBSD.
- Be ready, the two hardest parts of installation are likely to be deciding
on your disk layout, and specifying your hardware - particularly if you have
older hardware (see above for discussions on both these topics).
- Don't worry if you end up installing FreeBSD several times. This is a great
learning process! And, it's typical as you learn how to use the product. If
you create original data or difficult to create configurations, just be sure
to back these up before reinstalling.
- If you are used to Linux or Windows installations you'll probably want to
have a printout of Chapter 2 of the FreeBSD Handbook available the first few
times you install.
- Installation starts automatically if you boot from a FreeBSD install CD-ROM.
Otherwise see Chapter 2 of the
- After installation you can run /stand/sysinstall
to start the installation program again. This is one way to reconfigure systems,
but more importantly, this allows you to install additional software once
FreeBSD is installed.
- During installation we recommend installing the entire "ports"
collection (about 5,000 software titles as of Feb, 2002). This takes up about
an additional 100MB, but allows you to pick and choose programs you may need
at your leisure. This does not install all these programs, but rather pointers
to where they can be found on the Internet, and descriptions of what they
do. You can, later, use cvsup to keep this collection current.
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:
- Run only the services you plan on using.
- Use only the services that are necessary.
- Use secure passwords.
- Force users on your machine to use secure passwords.
- Restrict root access to a minimal set of services.
- Restrict access to these services via inetd and tcpwrappers.
- Restrict access to your box using IP Firewall services (ipfw).
- Use ssh and sftp instead of telnet and ftp.
- Log events on your machine and understand what logs are being kept.
- Install some type of system change detection software so that you can tell
if your server has been compromised.
- Back up your server's data so that if it is compromised you can reinstall
from scratch, but still have your data available.
- Finally, physical security is important. The more people who have physical
access to the machine, the less secure your server is.
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 majordomo@FreeBSD.org and in the body of the message place:
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 http://www.freebsd.org/cgi/man.cgi?query=cvs&apropos=0&sektion=0&manpath=FreeBSD+4.5-RELEASE&format=html.This
is one way to upgrade your current FreeBSD system to the latest version without
needing to re-install the operating system.