Apache Server Hardening: Part Two

Apache server hardeningAfter you’ve patched and hardened your OS, you’ll need to accomplish a couple quick tasks prior to obtaining, compiling and installing the Apache software. A critical part of installing Apache is to provide a user account and group that will run the web server. It is important that the user and group you select to be unique and unprivileged to reduce exposure to attack.

It is important not to run your Apache web server as the user Nobody. Although this is often a system administrator favorite and seemingly unprivileged account for running Apache and other services, the Nobody account has historically been used for root-like operations in some OSes and should be avoided.

Configuring Accounts

Choose and configure a user and group account using the following Unix OS steps. In this example, we will use wwwusr and wwwgrp as the Apache username and group, respectively.

  1. As root from the command line, type groupadd wwwgrp to add a group.
  2. Type useradd -d /usr/local/apache/htdocs -g wwwgrp -c “Apache Account” -m wwwusr to add the user.

The second step creates the user account but also creates a home directory for the user in /usr/local/apache/htdocs.

After creating the user and group accounts, you’ll need to lock down the wwwusr user account for use with Apache. By locking the account and providing an unusable shell, this action ensures that no one can actually log into the Web server using the Apache account:

  1. As root from the command line, type passwd -l wwwusr to lock the Apache account.
  2. Type usermod -s /bin/false wwwusr to configure an unusable shell account for the Apache account.

Now you’re ready to get the Apache software and begin installation.

Downloading and Verifying Apache

Because Apache is open-source software, you can freely download the binaries or source code and get going with your installation. Although there are many locations from which you could download the software, it is always best to obtain the Apache software directly from an approved Apache Foundation mirror listed at the mirror list page of official Apache site.


You’ll need to decide whether to install the server using precompiled binaries or to compile the source code yourself. From a security and functionality perspective, it is usually better to obtain the source code and compile the software, since doing so permits fine-tuning of security features and business functionality. perspective, it is usually better to obtain the source code and compile the software, since doing so permits fine-tuning of security features and business functionality. Here we will discuss compiling the Apache server from source code, starting with verifying the integrity of your download.

To verify the checksum, you will need additional software called md5sum that might be part of your OS distribution. If it is not, you can download the software as part of GNU Coreutils available at the Coreutils page of the official GNU Operating System website. To verify the Apache checksum, perform the following steps. In this example, we’ll use Apache version 2.4.9:

  1. As root from the command line, change directories to where you downloaded the Apache source code tarball and checksum file.
  2. Type cat httpd-2.4.9.tar.gz.md5 to see the exact md5 checksum string. You should see something like f72fb1176e2dc7b322be16508isl39d httpd-2.4.9.tar.gz.
  3. from the same directory, type md5sum httpd-2.4.9.tar.gz.md5 to obtain the checksum from the tarball. You should see the identical string shown in Step 2. If you do, the software you downloaded is authentic.

In the next article, we’ll cover compiling Apache.

External Links:

The Official Apache site

The official GNU Operating System site

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