I just created a new user friend on my server, the goal is to give SFTP access to a friend of mine, so that he can host his website there.

I noticed that when connecting the server by SFTP with user friend, the default folder is /home/friend/, but you can easily go out of /home/friend/ and visit all files in read access on the server, such as /home/anotheruser/website2/config.php! I don't want this.

I was told to put this user in "jailed / isolated mode", so, at the end of my default sshd_config:

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

... I added this:

Match User friend
ChrootDirectory /home/friend
ForceCommand internal-sftp

and did service sshd restart.

Then I could not connect anymore the server at all by SFTP with user friend, oops! I also tried by replacing Subsystem ... by Subsystem sftp internal-sftp but the result was the same: friend cannot connect the server anymore via SFTP.


How to to isolate user friend so that he cannot go out of his home /home/friend/ via SFTP/SSH?

Note: I already read How to Restrict SFTP Users to Home Directories Using chroot Jail, How can I chroot sftp-only SSH users into their homes? , etc.

  • Did you check the log files? Jan 10, 2020 at 7:18

3 Answers 3


Not sure what OS you are using but I use the link below when I have to configure jailed SFTP users. It is a really good tutorial on how to configure a jailed SFTP user.


I would then mount bind whichever directory to the chroot directory you want to give your friend access to.

  • Wonderful, it works!
    – Basj
    Jun 17, 2020 at 10:20
  • There's still a problem: if you follow this tutorial, at the end the SFTP is indeed isolated but you can still access the whole filesystem by using PHP... unix.stackexchange.com/questions/593415/… Any idea about that @HeysusEscobar?
    – Basj
    Jun 17, 2020 at 15:14

Working solution

This is inspired by the tutorial How to configure an sftp server with restricted chroot users with ssh keys mentioned in @HeysusEscobar's answer.

Do this from root:

useradd friend   # NB: this doesn't create a home dir, see https://askubuntu.com/q/374870
passwd friend    # set the password 
groupadd sftpusers
mkdir /sftp
mkdir /sftp/friend        # this is where he'll be chrooted
mkdir /sftp/friend/home   # his home directory
mkdir /sftp/friend/www    # for websites
usermod -aG sftpusers friend   # aG for append group
chown friend:sftpusers /sftp/friend/home/
chown friend:sftpusers /sftp/friend/www/
usermod -d /sftp/friend/home friend   # set as his home directory

Add this to /etc/ssh/sshd_config:

# Subsystem sftp /usr/lib/openssh/sftp-server   # you'll probably need to comment this line
Subsystem sftp internal-sftp -d /home
Match Group sftpusers
ChrootDirectory /sftp/%u

and do service sshd restart. That's all!

Note that:

  • other users can still ssh, so it did not modify anything for other users
  • user friend cannot ssh
  • user friend can connect via sftp

PS: if you want to make friend's website available to internet, you can add this to Apache config:

<VirtualHost *:80>
  ServerName friend.example.com
  DocumentRoot /sftp/friend/www
  php_admin_value "open_basedir" "/sftp/friend"
  <Directory />
    AllowOverride All
    Require all granted

Site-note: even with open_basedir above, can't friend still go out of his chrooted-environment with PHP or run malicious code having impact on the whole filesystem? Linked question: A chrooted/isolated SFTP user can still visit the whole filesystem with PHP

Old (half-working only) solution

Replacing ChrootDirectory /home/friend by ChrootDirectory /home helped, according to documentation:

ChrootDirectory: Specifies the pathname of a directory to chroot(2) to after authentication. All components of the pathname must be root- owned directories that are not writable by any other user or group.

With this, user friend can connect to SFTP again; cannot go out of /home/; but can still visit /home/anotheruser/..., which is unwanted!


You could keep the modifications to your .sshd_config file and use chmod -R 700 /home/anotheruser to restrict access to anotheruser's home from anyone else, including friend. You could modify the chmod value if this is too strict, but that is what I personally was looking for in my question here. (Sorry for posting this as another answer, I don't have enough reputation to add this as a comment to your answer)

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