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Linux security and setup recommendations

SSH key authentication with Linux

This step is vital if your node's SSH port is reachable via the Internet, for example, because it runs on a VPS.

This step is still recommended if the SSH port is not reachable via the Internet.

For security reasons, you want some form of two-factor authentication for SSH login, particularly if SSH is exposed to the Internet. These instructions accomplish that by creating an SSH key with passphrase. Alternatively or in addition, you could set up two-factor authentication with one-time passwords.

To switch to SSH key authentication instead of password authentication, you will start on the machine you are logging in from, whether that is Windows 10, MacOS or Linux, and then make changes to the server you are logging in to.

On Windows 10, you expect the OpenSSH client to already be installed. If it isn't, follow that link and install it.

From your MacOS/Linux Terminal or Windows Powershell, check whether you have an ssh key. You expect an file when running ls ~/.ssh.

Create an SSH key pair

Create a key if you need to, or if you don't have but prefer that cipher:
ssh-keygen -t ed25519. Set a strong passphrase for the key.

Bonus: On Linux, you can also include a timestamp with your key, like so:
ssh-keygen -t ed25519 -C "$(whoami)@$(hostname)-$(date -I)" -f ~/.ssh/id_ed25519

macOS/Linux, copy public key

If you are on macOS or Linux, you can then copy this new public key to the Linux server:
ssh-copy-id USERNAME@HOST

Windows 10/11, copy public key

On Windows 10/11, or if that command is not available, output the contents of your public key file to terminal and copy, here for
cat ~/.ssh/

On your Linux server, logged in as your non-root user, add this public key to your account:

mkdir ~/.ssh
nano ~/.ssh/authorized_keys

And paste in the public key.

Test login and turn off password authentication

Test your login. ssh user@serverIP from your client's MacOS/Linux Terminal or Windows Powershell should log you in directly, prompting for your key passphrase, but not the user password.

If you are still prompted for a password, resolve that first. Your ssh client should show you errors in that case. You can run ssh -v user@serverIP to get more detailed output on what went wrong.

On Windows 10 in particular, if the ssh client complains about the "wrong permissions" on the .ssh directory or .ssh/config file, go into Explorer, find the C:\Users\USERNAME\.ssh directory, edit its Properties->Security, click Advanced, then make your user the owner with Full Access, while removing access rights to anyone else, such as SYSTEM and Administrators. Check "Replace all child object permissions", and click OK. That should solve the issues the OpenSSH client had.

Lastly, once key authentication has been tested, turn off password authentication. On your Linux server:
sudo nano /etc/ssh/sshd_config

Find the line that reads #PasswordAuthentication yes and remove the comment character # and change it to PasswordAuthentication no.

And restart the ssh service, for Ubuntu you'd run sudo systemctl restart ssh.

Set Linux to auto-update

Since this system will be running 24/7 for the better part of 2 years, it's a good idea to have it patch itself. Enable automatic updates and install software so the server can email you.

For automatic updates, "only-on-error" mail reports make sense once you know email reporting is working and if you choose automatic reboots, trusting that your services will all come back up on reboot. If you'd like to keep a closer eye or schedule reboots yourself, "on-change" MailReport is a better choice.

For msmtp, I followed the instructions as-is.

Time synchronization on Linux

The blockchain requires precise time-keeping. On Ubuntu, systemd-timesyncd is the default to synchronize time, and chrony is an alternative.

systemd-timesyncd uses a single ntp server as source, and chrony uses several, typically a pool. The default shipping with Ubuntu can get out of sync by as much as 600ms before it corrects. My recommendation is to use chrony for better accuracy.

For Ubuntu, install the chrony package. This will automatically remove systemd-timesyncd. Chrony will start automatically.
sudo apt update && sudo apt -y install chrony

Check that chrony is synchronized: Run chronyc tracking.

If you wish to stay with systemd-timesyncd instead, check that NTP service: active via timedatectl, and switch it on with sudo timedatectl set-ntp yes if it isn't. You can check time sync with timedatectl timesync-status --all.


You'll want to enable a host firewall. You can also forward the P2P ports of your execution and consensus clients for faster peer acquisition.

Docker will open execution and consensus client P2P (Peer to Peer) ports and the Grafana port automatically. Please make sure the Grafana port cannot be reached directly. If you need to get to Grafana remotely, an SSH tunnel is a good choice.

For a VPS/cloud setup, please take a look at notes on cloud security. You'll want to place ufw "in front of" Docker if you are using Grafana or a standalone execution client without a reverse proxy, and if your cloud provider does not offer firewall rules for the VPS.

Ports that I mention can be "Open to Internet" can be either forwarded to your node if behind a home router, or allowed in via the VPS firewall.

Opening the P2P ports to the Internet is optional. It will speed up peer acquisition, which can be helpful. To learn how to forward your ports in a home network, first verify that you are not behind CGNAT. Then look at port-forwarding instructions for your specific router/firewall.

Forward only the ports that you actually use, depending on your client choices.

  • 30303 tcp/udp - Geth/Nethermind/Besu/Erigon execution client P2P. Open to Internet.
  • 9000 tcp/udp - Lighthouse/Teku/Nimbus/Lodestar/Prysm consensus client P2P. Open to Internet.
  • 443 tcp - https:// access to Grafana and Prysm Web UI via traefik. Open to Internet.
  • 22/tcp - SSH. Only open to Internet if you want to access the server remotely. If open to Internet, configure SSH key authentication.

On Ubuntu, the host firewall ufw can be used to allow SSH traffic.

Docker bypasses ufw and opens additional ports directly via "iptables" for all ports that are public on the host, which means that the P2P ports need not be explicitly listed in ufw.

  • Allow SSH in ufw so you can still get to your server, while relying on the default "deny all" rule.
    • sudo ufw allow OpenSSH will allow ssh inbound on the default port. Use your specific port if you changed the port SSH runs on.
  • Check the rule you created and verify that you are allowing SSH, on the port you are running it on. You can lock yourself out if you don't allow your SSH port in. allow OpenSSH is sufficient for the default SSH port.
    • sudo ufw show added
  • Enable the firewall and see numbered rules once more
    • sudo ufw enable
    • sudo ufw status numbered

There is one exception to the rule that Docker opens ports automatically: Traffic that targets a port mapped by Docker, where the traffic originates somewhere on the same machine the container runs on, and not from a machine somewhere else, will not be automatically handled by the Docker firewall rules, and will require an explicit ufw rule. Steps to allow for this scenario are in cloud security


By default, Linux will write a new file timestamp on every read. As you may imagine, this is no bueno for database applications like an Ethereum node.

You can increase the lifetime of your SSD - and incidentally get a small speed boost - by turning this "atime" feature off.

sudo nano /etc/fstab

Find the entry for your / filesystem, or, if you moved the docker data-root, the file system docker lives on.

Find the 4th column. It might read defaults right now. Append ,noatime to it. A full entry might look something like this:

/dev/disk/by-uuid/33162132-f374-417d-817e-04fdd77e5e11 / ext4 defaults,noatime 0 1

Don't delete any parameters, just add ,noatime. And make sure to add that to the 4th column, not anywhere else.

Save, and test with sudo mount -o remount /. If that completes without errors, you got it right.


By default, Linux will use swap a lot. And, yep you guessed it, that ain't great for database applications like an Ethereum node.

So let's set swappiness to 1.

sudo nano /etc/sysctl.conf

Scroll to the bottom of this file and add


Close and save. Then load the new value with

sudo sysctl -p

Alternatively, if you have 32 GiB of RAM or more, you can disable swap entirely with

sudo swapoff -a

then edit /etc/fstab with sudo nano /etc/fstab and comment out the swap volume(s).

Side channel mitigations - CAUTION

Here be dragons

On a VM, VPS, cloud instance, &c, leave this alone. Do not turn off mitigations. They exist for a reason, to keep other processes on the same CPU from reading your secrets.

If however this is a machine you own - baremetal or solo node at home - and the only thing running on here is the Ethereum node, you can turn off side channel mitigations for a small speed boost.

sudo nano /etc/default/grub

Find GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX and add mitigations=off

Close and save. sudo update-grub and then sudo reboot. Provided you got the edit right, the system will come back up, and you can check vulnerability mitigations are now off with lscpu

Once more, don't do this if the physical machine is shared with VMs or processes you do not control.

Non-root user on Linux

A standard Ubuntu or Debian install already has a non-root user, that is any user not actually named root.

If you are on a VPS that only gives you root and do not have a non-root user already, create a non-root user with your USERNAME of choice to log in as, and give it sudo rights. sudo allows you to run commands as root while logged in as a non-root user.

adduser USERNAME

You will be asked to create a password for the new user, among other things. Then, give the new user administrative rights by adding it to the sudo group.

usermod -aG sudo USERNAME

Optional: If you used SSH keys to connect to your Ubuntu instance via the root user you will need to associate the new user with your public key(s).

Optional: User as part of docker group

Optionally, you may want to avoid needing to type sudo every time you run a docker command. In that case, you can make your local user part of the docker group.

Please note that a user that is part of the docker group has root privileges through docker, even without the use of sudo. You may not want this convenience trade-off and choose to explicitly use sudo with all docker commands instead.

sudo usermod -aG docker USERNAME

followed by

newgrp docker

Set up IPMI

This step is highly hardware-dependent. If you went with a server that has IPMI/BMC - out of band management of the hardware - then you'll want to configure IPMI to email you on error.