How to Install MariaDB on Ubuntu 18.04

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MariaDB is a drop in replacement for MySQL, and its popularity makes for several other applications to work in conjunction with it. If you’re interested in a MariaDB server without the maintenance, then check out our high-availability platform. Otherwise, we’ll be installing MariaDB 10 onto our Liquid Web Ubuntu server, let’s get started! Continue reading “How to Install MariaDB on Ubuntu 18.04”

How to Install Apache 2 on Ubuntu 18.04

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Apache is the most popular web server software being used today.  Its popularity is earned through its stability, fast service, and security.  Most likely if you are building out a web page or any public facing app, you’ll be using Apache to display it. At the time of writing, the most current offering of Apache is 2.4.38, and it is the version we will be using to install on our Ubuntu 18.04 LTS server.  Let’s get started! Continue reading “How to Install Apache 2 on Ubuntu 18.04”

Things to Do After Installing a Ubuntu Server

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After spinning up a new Ubuntu server you may find yourself looking for a guide of what to do next.  Many times the default setting do not provide the top security that your server should have. Throughout this article we provide you security tips and pose questions to help determine the best kind of setup for your environment.

 

1. Secure the Root User

This should be the very first thing you do when setting up a fresh install of Ubuntu server. Typically setting up a password for the root user is done during the installation process. However, if you should ever find yourself in a position where you have assumed the responsibility of a Ubuntu server, it’s best to reset the password keeping in mind the best practices for passwords.

  • Don’t use English words
  • Use a mixture of symbols and alphanumeric characters
  • Length – based on probability and odds of guessing or cracking a password you can provide the best security after a password gets to a certain length. More than ten characters long is good practice, but even longer passwords with complex characters is a safer way to go.

You can also lock the root user password to effectively keep anything from running as root.

Warning:
Please be sure you already have another administrative user on the system with root or “sudo” privileges before locking the root user.

Depending on your version of Ubuntu the root account may be disabled, simply setting or changing the password for root will enable it with the following.

sudo passwd root

Now we can lock the root account by locking the password with the “-l” flag like the following. This will prevent the root user from being used.

sudo passwd -l root

To unlock the root account, again, just change the password for root to enable it.

sudo passwd root

 

2. Secure SSH Access

Many times, once a server is up and running the default configuration for SSH remote logins are set to allow root to log in. We can make the server more secure than this.

You only need to use the root user to run root or administration level commands on the server. This can still be accomplished by logging into a server over SSH with a regular user, and then switching to the root user after you are already logged into the server.
ssh spartacus@myawesomeserver.com

Once logged in you can switch from the user “spartacus” to the root user.

su -

You can disable SSH login for the root user by making some adjustments in the sshd_config file. Be sure to run all of the following commands as root or with a user with sudo privileges.

vim /etc/ssh/sshd_config

Within this file find the Authentication section and look for the following line:

PermitRootLogin yes

Just change that to:

PermitRootLogin no

For the changes to take effect you will need to restart the SSH service with:

/etc/init.d/ssh restart

You can now test this by logging out of the server and then log in again over SSH with the root user and password. It should deny your attempts to do so. This provides a lot more security as it requires a different user (one that others won’t know and probably cannot guess) to log in to the server over SSH. This provides two values that an attacker would need to know, instead of one vaule, as most hackers know that the root user exists on a Linux server.

Also, the following can also be changed to make SSH access more secure.

vim /etc/ssh/sshd_config

PermitEmptyPasswords no

Make sure that directive is set to “no” so that users without a password can’t log in. Otherwise, the attacker would need only one piece of information while also giving them the ability to get in with just knowledge of a user. This, of course, would also mean they could keep attempting guesses at users as well and very easily log in.

A final caution is to adjust any router or firewall settings to make sure that remote SSH access is forwarded to port 22 and does not directly access port 22. This will eliminate a lot of bots or scripts that will try to log in over SSH directly on port 22 with random usernames and passwords. You may need to refer to your router or server firewall documentation on making sure you forward a higher port than port 22.

 

3. Install a Firewall

By default, later versions of Ubuntu should come with Uncomplicated Firewall or UFW. You can check to see if UFW is installed with the following:

sudo ufw status

That will return a status of active or inactive. If it is not installed you can install it with:

sudo apt-get install ufw

It’s a good idea to think through a list of components that will require access to your server. Is SSH access needed? Is web traffic needed? You will want to enable the services through the firewall that are needed so that incoming traffic can access the server in the way you want it to.

In our example let’s allow SSH and web access.

sudo ufw allow ssh

sudo ufw allow http

Those commands will also open up the ports. You can alternatively use the port method to allow services through that specific port.

sudo ufw allow 80/tcp

That will essentially be the same as allowing the HTTP service. Once you have the services you want listed you can enable the firewall with this.

sudo ufw enable

This may interrupt the current SSH connection if that is how you are logged in so be sure your information is correct, so you don’t get logged out.

Also, ensure you have a good grasp on who really needs access to the server and only add users to the Linux operating system that really need access.

 

4. Understand What You Are Trying to Accomplish

It’s important to think through what you will be using your server for. Is it going to be just a file server? Or a web server? Or a web server that needs to send an email out through forms?

You will want to make a clear outline of what you will be using the server for so you can build it to suit those specific needs. It’s best to only build the server with the services that it will require. When you end up putting extra services that are not needed you run the risk of having outdated software which will only add more vulnerability to the server.

Every component and service you run will need to be secured to it’s best practices. For example, if you’re strictly running a static site, you don’t want to expose vulnerabilities due to an outdated email service.

 

5. Keep the File System Up-To-Date

You will want to make sure your server stays up to date with the latest security patches. While a server can run for a while without much maintenance and things will “just work” you will want to be sure not to adapt a “set it and forget it” mentality.

Regular updates on a Ubuntu server can make sure the system stays secure and up to date. You can use the following to do that.

sudo apt-get update

While installing an Ubuntu server is a great way to learn how to work with a Linux it’s a good idea to learn in an environment that is safe. Furthermore, it’s best not to expose the server to the Internet until you are ready.

A great way to get started is at home where you can access the server from your own network without allowing access to the server through the Internet or your home router.

If and when you do deploy a Ubuntu server you’ll want to keep the above five things in mind. It’s important to know the configuration of the server once it’s deployed so you know what type of access the public can get to and what yet needs to be hardened.

Enjoy learning and don’t be afraid to break something in your safe environment, as the experience can be a great teacher when it’s time to go live.

Top 4 Lessons Learned Using Ubuntu

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When choosing a server operating system, there are a number of factors and choices that must be decided. An often talked about and referenced OS, Ubuntu, is a popular choice and offers great functionality with a vibrant and helpful community. However; if you’re unfamiliar with Ubuntu and have not worked with either the server or desktop versions, you may encounter differences in common tasks and functionality from previous operating systems you’ve worked with. I’ve been a system administrator and running my own servers for a number of years, almost all of which were Ubuntu, here are the top four lessons I’ve learned while running Ubuntu on my server.

  1. Understanding the “server” vs. “desktop” model
  2. Deciphering the naming scheme/release schedule
  3. Figuring out the package manager
  4. Networking considerations on Ubuntu

 

Understanding “Server” vs. “Desktop” Model

Ubuntu comes in a number of images and released versions. One of the first choices to consider is whether you want the “desktop” or “server” release. When running an application or project on a server the choice to make is the “server” image. You may be wondering what the difference is, and it comes down to two main differences:

  • The “desktop” image has a graphical user interface (GUI) where the “server” image does not
  • The “desktop” image has default applications more suited for a user’s workstation, whereas the “server” image has default applications more suited for a web server.

It is really that simple. Currently, the majority of the differences relate to the default applications offereed when installing Ubuntu and whether or not you need a GUI. When I first started using Ubuntu, there were a number of differences between the two (such as a slightly tweaked Linux kernel on the “server” image designed to perform better on server grade hardware), but today it is a much more simplified decision process.

The choice comes down to saving time for the individual by either adding or removing applications (also called “packages”) that they do or don’t need. At Liquid Web we offer “server” images since it’s best designed for operating on a web server. You do have the choice of the Ubuntu version, which brings me to my next lesson learned:

 

Deciphering the Naming Scheme/Release Schedule

Both Ubuntu and CentOS are based on what is called an “upstream” provider, or another operating system that then CentOS/Ubuntu tweak and re-publish. For Ubuntu, this upstream provider is the OS, Debian, whereas CentOS is based on Red Hat (which is further based on Fedora). It was confusing at first for me to try and understand what the names for Ubuntu releases meant: “Vivid Vervet”, “Xenial Xerus”, “Zesty Zapus”; but that’s just a cute “name” the developers give a particular version until it is released.

The company that oversees Ubuntu, called Canonical, has a regular and set release schedule for Ubuntu. This is a distinct difference between CentOS, which relies on Red Hat, which further relies on Fedora. Every six months a release of Ubuntu is published, and every fourth release (or once every two years) a “long-term support” or LTS release is published. The numbering they use for releases is fairly straight-forward: YY.MM where YY is the two digit year and MM is the month of the release. The latest release is 19.04, meaning it was released in April of 2019.

This was tricky for me to initially navigate and created a headache since the different versions have different levels of support and updates provided to them. For some people, this is not an issue. As a developer, you may want to build your application on the latest and greatest OS that takes advantage of new technologies. Receiving support may not matter because you won’t be using the server for very long. You may also be in a position where you need to know that your OS won’t have any server-crashing bugs.

Which version do you choose? How do you know whether your OS will be stable and receive patches/updates? I ran into these issues with when accidentally creating a server that lost support just a few months later; however, I learned an easy-to-use trick to ensure that in the future I chose an LTS release:

  • LTS releases start with an even number and end in 04

Liquid Web offers a variety of Ubuntu releases within our Core-Managed and Self-Managed support tiers:

Notice that all the version of Ubuntu that we offer are the .04 releases. These are all LTS releases, ensuring that you receive the longest possible lifespan and vital security updates for your OS.

 

Ubuntu’s Package Manager

Prior to working with Ubuntu, I had the most experience with CentOS. Moving to Ubuntu meant having to learn how to install packages since the CentOS package manager, yum, was no longer available. I discovered that the general process is the same with a few minor differences.

The first difference I encountered is that Ubuntu uses the apt-get command. This is part of the Apt package manager and follows a very similar syntax to the yum command for the most basic command: installing packages. To install a package I had to use:

apt-get install $package

Where $package was the name of the package. I didn’t always know the name of the package I wanted to find though so I thought I could search much like I could with yum search $package; however there is another utility that Apt uses for searching: apt-cache search $package

If you forget,  you’ll get an error that you’ve run an illegal operation:

One similarity to yum that is super useful: the “y” flag to bypass any prompts about installing the package. This was my favorite “trick” on CentOS to speed up installing packages and improve my efficiency. Knowing that it works the same on Ubuntu was a major relief:

Of course installing packages meant I had to add the repositories I wanted. This was a significant change since I was use to the CentOS location of /etc/yum.repos.d/ for adding .repo files. With the shift in the Apt system on Ubuntu, I learned that I needed to add a .list file, pointing to the repository file in question in the /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ folder. Take Nginx for example; it was quite easy to add once I realized what had to go where:

 

From here it was as straight-forward as installing Nginx with the apt-get install nginx command:

 

There was a time when adding a repository did not immediately work for me; however, it was quickly resolved by telling Apt that it needed to refresh/update the list of repos it uses with the apt-get update command.

Note
Don’t worry, the apt-get update command does not update any packages needlessly, this simply runs through the configured repositories and ensures that your system is aware of them as well as the packages offered.

 

Networking Consideration on Ubuntu

The last major lesson I want to talk about was one learned painfully. Networking on Ubuntu, by default, is handled from the /etc/network/ directory:

There is a flat file called interfaces, and this will contain all the networking information for your host (configured IPs/gateways, DNS servers, etc…):

Notice in the above configuration that both the primary eth0 interface and the sub-interface, eth0:1, are configured in the same file (/etc/network/interfaces). This caught me in a bad spot once when I made a configuration syntax mistake, restarted networking, and suddenly lost all access to my host. That interfaces file contained all the networking components for my host, and when I restarted networking while it contained a mistake, it prevented ANY networking from coming back up. The only way to correct the issue was to console the server, correct the mistake, and restart networking again.

Though this is the default configuration for Ubuntu, there is now a way to ensure that you have the configuration setup for individual interfaces so, a simple mistake does not break all of the networking: /etc/network/interfaces.d/

To properly use this folder and have individual configuration files for each interface, you need to modify the /etc/network/interface file to tell it to look in the interfaces.d/ folder. This is a simple change of adding one line:

source /etc/network/interfaces.d/*

This will tell the main interfaces configuration file to also review /etc/network/interfaces.d/ for any additional configuration files and use those as well. This would have saved me a lot of hassle had I known about it earlier.

Hopefully, you can use my mistakes and struggles to your advantage. Ubuntu is a great operating system, is supported by a fantastic community, and is covered by “the most helpful humans in hosting” of Liquid Web. If you have any questions about Ubuntu, our support or how you might best use it in your environment feel free to contact us at support@liquidweb.com or via phone at 1-800-580-4985.

 

 

How to Setup and Use Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio

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What is SSMS?

SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS) is a free Windows application to configure, manage, and administer Microsoft SQL Server (MSSQL). SSMS includes an Object Explorer to view and interact with databases and other elements, a Query window to write and execute Transact-SQL queries, and script editors for developers and administrators. Continue reading “How to Setup and Use Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio”

How to Install VirtualBox on Ubuntu 16.04

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What is a VirtualBox?

This is handy when you need to run software that is only available on one Operating System, for example, if you wanted to run Windows software on your Ubuntu computer or vice versa. The only limitations are RAM and disk space for running each virtual machine. Continue reading “How to Install VirtualBox on Ubuntu 16.04”

Windows Firewall Basics

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A firewall is a program installed on your computer or a piece of hardware that uses a rule set to block or allow access to a computer, server or network. It separates your internal network from the external network (the Internet).

Firewalls can permit traffic to be routed through a specific port to a program or destination while blocking other malicious traffic. A firewall can be a hardware, software, or a blending of both.

Continue reading “Windows Firewall Basics”

Plesk to Plesk Migration

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Migrating from one Plesk installation to another is easy with the Plesk Migrator Tool! The Plesk team has done a great job creating an easy to use interface for migrating entire installations of Plesk to a new server.

If you need to move files, users, subscriptions, FTP accounts, mail and DNS servers setup through Plesk, this guide will help you successfully navigate the process and come out victorious!

We will be splitting this tutorial into three sections:

Continue reading “Plesk to Plesk Migration”

Create a Cron Task in Ubuntu 16.04

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Cron jobs are an incredibly useful Linux tool aimed at saving you time by scheduling tasks within your server. A programmed cron task will execute commands within a script by the minute, day, week or month. They can be scheduled to do many tasks including backing up your server’s files nightly, updating inventory orders in a database or even compressing files for migrating. Repetitive tasks become a cinch when incorporating a cron job. While there are numerous ways to run a cron task, we will be using the crontab option that is inherent within Ubuntu to set up a nightly backup of our website. Continue reading “Create a Cron Task in Ubuntu 16.04”