Bare Minimum Debian Hardening Steps

A few absolutely essential hardening steps for a new Debian system.


An in NO WAY comprehensive set of notes for hardening a Debian system.

Original Located at Github


Copyright (c) 2023 Dennis R. Gesker.
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document
under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3
or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation;
with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts.
A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU


Provide a QUICK and DIRTY Debian hardening notes.

  • Full Distribution Upgrade
  • Automatic Updates
  • Add REGULAR USER account
  • Generate and Copy ssh key from workstation to new system
  • Disable Password Authentication
  • Install and Enable a Firewall
  • Set System Name
    • Match DNS


  • Guarantee Security
    • Can’t be done but can be mitigated a bit
  • Provide a substitute for comprehensive system security and administration guides


  • Debian 11 (Bullseye)
  • Ability to sudo on the system
  • Ability to use a text editor and navigate directories
  • Assumption: Your main workstation is a Linux
  • Assumption: You have just completed a fresh install of Debian 11 (Bullseye)
    • Server or Virtual Instance

Full System Upgrade

There still may be packages that should be upgraded immediately following a fresh installation. Particularly where the install was performed “offline” and updates were not applied during installation.

apt update;
apt dist-upgrade;

Automatic Updates

Automatically installing updates published into the STABLE repositories is a good idea. Debian has a package to help you keep your system upto date so install this package and allow it to help you in your efforts to keeping you system up to date.

apt install unattended-upgrades
dpkg-reconfigure --priority=low unattended-upgrades

This package has some additional options. Consider enabling email notifications in your configuration. Check out UnattendedUpgrades at Debian.

Add a REGULAR user account

It is not a good idea to use the ‘root’ account for your everyday needs. The ‘root’ account is best used only for system administration tasks. Create a regular user account and add that account to the ‘sudo’ group so that you can issue the occasinal root or system administration command.

adduser yourChosenRegularUserName
usermod -aG sudo yourChosenRegularUserName

Add your PUBLIC ssh key to the regular user account

On your existing local workstation issue the ssh-copy-id command to upload your ssh key to the ~./ssh/authorized_keys file on the newly installed Debian system.

ssh-copy-id -i ~/.ssh/ yourChosenRegularUserName@new-system-ip-address

After issuing that command CHECK that you are able to login from your workstation to the new system.

ssh yourChosenRegularUserName@new-system-ip-address

Don’t have an SSH key on your workstation? Just create one. Issue the following command and follow the prompts.

ssh-keygen -t ed25519

TIP: Use a specific key for each system you want to reach. TIP: Tired of typing your password? When you generate your key leave the password fields blank.

Disable Password Authentication on the new system

Since you are now able to access the new system using your SSH key – instead of using a username/password combination – disable BOTH password authentication and root logins on the new system.

ssh yourChosenRegularUserName@new-system-ip-address
sudo nano /etc/ssh/sshd_config

Update or add the following entries to the sshd_config file:

PermitRootLogin no
PasswordAuthentication no

Save the file and restart the sshd server.

sudo systemctl restart sshd

Install and enable a firewall

The follwing commands will allow you to install a firewall AND also allow the new system to accept ssh connections on port 22.

sudo apt install ufw
sudo ufw status
sudo ufw allow 22
sudo ufw enable

TIP: Want to see what services are waiting for connections on the new system? Is the the ss comand:

sudo ss -tupln

Avoid confusion – give the new system a name

Giving the system an easy to understand name will help you avoid confusion.

TIP: Add the name of the system (and it’s IP address) to your DNS server.

Often the name of the system is set at install. Still, you can update the name of the system after install.

sudo vi /etc/hostname

Update the name of your new system. Example:

If the name in the hostname file is ‘localhost’ update the name to ‘yourChosenHostname’ except all lowercase letters.

Once you know what the IP address of your new system will be share this new name with your system administrator or if you are able update your DNS settings on your own. Optionally, add this information to the /etc/hosts file on the new system

sudo vi /etc/hosts

Example where 123.456.789.123 is the new-system-ip-address:

xxx.yyy.zzz.123 yourChosenHostname

Save the file.

Addittional Resources