Ansible role for hardening Linux (targeting Ubuntu 16.04/18.04 mainly)
Switch branches/tags
Nothing to show
Clone or download
githubixx update README
Latest commit 65dcd40 Sep 12, 2018
Type Name Latest commit message Commit time
Failed to load latest commit information.
defaults Bionic beaver (#4) May 7, 2018
files/etc/apt/apt.conf.d inital commit Dec 7, 2016
handlers changes for v2.0.0 Aug 31, 2017
meta update Ansible requirement to v2.5 for Python 3 support in Ubuntu 18.04 May 7, 2018
tasks Bionic beaver (#4) May 7, 2018
tests inital commit Dec 7, 2016
vars inital commit Dec 7, 2016
.travis.yml inital commit Dec 7, 2016
LICENSE Initial commit Dec 7, 2016 update README Sep 12, 2018


This Ansible role was mainly created for Kubernetes the not so hard way with Ansible - Harden the instances. But it can be used also standalone of course to harden Linux (targeting Ubuntu 16.04/18.04 mainly at the moment). It has the following features:

  • Change root password
  • Add a regular/deploy user used for administration (e.g. for Ansible or login via SSH)
  • Adjust APT update intervals
  • Setup ufw firewall and allow only SSH access by default (add more rules/allowed networks if you like)
  • Adjust security related sysctl settings (/proc filesystem)
  • Change SSH default port (if requested)
  • Disable password authentication
  • Disable root login
  • Disable PermitTunnel
  • Install Sshguard and adjust whitelist


I tag every release and try to stay with semantic versioning. If you want to use the role I recommend to checkout the latest tag. The master branch is basically development while the tags mark stable releases. But in general I try to keep master in good shape too.



  • update README


  • Ansible v2.5 needed for Ubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver as Python 3 is default there. It should work with Ansible >= 2.2 too but who knows ;-) As Ubuntu 18.04 comes with Python 3 support only by default you may adjust your Ansible's hosts file. E.g you can add the ansible_python_interpreter env. like so: host.domain.tld ansible_python_interpreter=/usr/bin/python3 (also see for more examples)


  • support for Ubuntu 18.04 Bionic Beaver
  • added sudo package to harden_linux_required_packages


  • fixed deprecation warning while installing aptitude


  • major refactoring
  • removed common_ssh_port (see harden_linux_sshd_settings instead)
  • all variables that started with common_ are now starting with the prefix harden_linux_. Additionally ALL variables that the role uses are now prefixed with harden_linux_. Using a variable name prefix avoids potential collisions with other role/group variables.
  • introduced harden_linux_deploy_user_uid and harden_linux_deploy_user_shell
  • single settings in harden_linux_sysctl_settings can be overriden by specifing the key/value in harden_linux_sysctl_settings_user list (whole list needed to be replaced before this change)
  • more documentation added to defaults/main.yml (please read it ;-) )
  • every setting in hosts /etc/ssh/sshd_config config file can now be replaced by using harden_linux_sshd_settings_user list. The defaults are specified in harden_linux_sysctl_settings and will be merged with harden_linux_sysctl_settings_user during run time.
  • added variable harden_linux_sshguard_whitelist for Sshguard whitelist
  • firewall rules can now be added using harden_linux_ufw_rules variable


  • initial release

Role Variables

The following variables don't have defaults. You need to specify them either in a file in group_vars or host_vars directory. E.g. if this settings should be used only for one specific host create a file for that host called like the FQDN of that host (e.g host_vars/your-server.example.tld) and put the variables with the correct values there. If you want to apply this variables to a host group create a file group_vars/your-group.yml e.g. Replace your-group with the host group name which you created in the Ansible hosts file (do not confuse with /etc/hosts...). harden_linux_deploy_user_public_keys loads all the public SSH key files specifed in the list from your local hard disk. So at least you need to specify:

harden_linux_root_password: your_encrypted_password_here

harden_linux_deploy_user: deploy
harden_linux_deploy_user_password: your_encrypted_password_here
harden_linux_deploy_user_home: /home/deploy
  - /home/your_user/.ssh/

With harden_linux_root_password and harden_linux_deploy_user_password we specify the password for the root user and the deploy user. Ansible won't encrypt the password for you. To create a encrypted password you can do so e.g. with python -c 'import crypt; print crypt.crypt("This is my Password", "$1$SomeSalt$")' (You may need python2 instead of python in case of Archlinux e.g.).

harden_linux_deploy_user specifies the user we want to use to login at the remote host. As already mentioned the harden-linux role will disable root user login via SSH for a good reason. So we need a different user. This user will get "sudo" permission which we need for Ansible (and yourself of course) to do it's work.

harden_linux_deploy_user_public_keys specifies a list of public SSH key files you want to add to $HOME/.ssh/authorized_keys of the deploy user on the remote host. If you specify /home/deploy/.ssh/ e.g. as a value here the content of that local file will be added to $HOME/.ssh/authorized_keys of the deploy user on the remote host.

The following variables below have defaults. So you only need to change them if you need another value for the variable. harden_linux_required_packages specifies the packages this playbook requires to work. You can extend the list but don't remove the packages listed:

  - ufw
  - sshguard
  - unattended-upgrades
  - sudo

The role changes some SSHd settings by default:

  "^PasswordAuthentication": "PasswordAuthentication no"  # Disable password authentication
  "^PermitRootLogin": "PermitRootLogin no"                # Disable SSH root login
  "^PermitTunnel": "PermitTunnel no"                      # Disable tun(4) device forwarding
  "^Port ": "Port 22"                                     # Set SSHd port

Personally I always change the default SSH port as lot of brute force attacks taking place against this port. So if you want to change the port setting for example you can do so:

  "^Port ": "Port 22222"

(Please notice the whitespace after "Port"!). The playbook will combine harden_linux_sshd_settings and harden_linux_sshd_settings_user while the settings in harden_linux_sshd_settings_user have preference which means it will override the ^Port setting/key in harden_linux_sshd_settings. As you may have noticed all the key's in harden_linux_sshd_settings and harden_linux_sshd_settings_user begin with ^. That's because it is a regular expression (regex). One of playbook task's will search for a line in /etc/ssh/sshd_config e.g. ^Port (while the ^ means "a line starting with ...") and replaces the line (if found) with e.g Port 22222. This way makes the playbook very flexible for adjusting settings in sshd_config (you can basically replace every setting). You'll see this pattern for other tasks too so everything mentioned here holds true in such cases.

Next we have some defaults for our firewall/iptables:

  "^IPV6": 'IPV6=yes'
  "^IPT_SYSCTL": 'IPT_SYSCTL=/etc/ufw/sysctl.conf'
  "^IPT_MODULES": 'IPT_MODULES="nf_conntrack_ftp nf_nat_ftp nf_conntrack_netbios_ns"'

This settings are basically changing the values in /etc/defaults/ufw. To override one or more of the default settings you can so by specifying the same key (which is a regex) as above e.g. ^DEFAULT_FORWARD_POLICY and simply assign it the new value:


As already mentioned above this playbook will also combine harden_linux_ufw_defaults and harden_linux_ufw_defaults_user while the settings in harden_linux_ufw_defaults_user have preference.

Next we can specify some firewall rules with harden_linux_ufw_rules. This is the default:

  - rule: "allow"
    to_port: "22"
    protocol: "tcp"

You can add more settings for a rule like interface, from_ip, ... Please have a look at tasks/main.yml (search for "Apply firewall rules") for all possible settings.

You can also allow hosts to communicate on specific networks (without port restrictions) e.g.:

  - ""
  - ""

Next harden-linux role also changes some system variables (sysctl.conf / proc filesystem). This settings are recommendations from Google which they use for their Google Compute Cloud OS images (see and This are the default settings (if you are happy with this settings you don't have to do anything but I recommend to verify if they work for your setup):

  "net.ipv4.tcp_syncookies": 1                    # Enable syn flood protection
  "net.ipv4.conf.all.accept_source_route": 0      # Ignore source-routed packets
  "net.ipv6.conf.all.accept_source_route": 0      # IPv6 - Ignore ICMP redirects
  "net.ipv4.conf.default.accept_source_route": 0  # Ignore source-routed packets
  "net.ipv6.conf.default.accept_source_route": 0  # IPv6 - Ignore source-routed packets
  "net.ipv4.conf.all.accept_redirects": 0         # Ignore ICMP redirects
  "net.ipv6.conf.all.accept_redirects": 0         # IPv6 - Ignore ICMP redirects
  "net.ipv4.conf.default.accept_redirects": 0     # Ignore ICMP redirects
  "net.ipv6.conf.default.accept_redirects": 0     # IPv6 - Ignore ICMP redirects
  "net.ipv4.conf.all.secure_redirects": 1         # Ignore ICMP redirects from non-GW hosts
  "net.ipv4.conf.default.secure_redirects": 1     # Ignore ICMP redirects from non-GW hosts
  "net.ipv4.ip_forward": 0                        # Do not allow traffic between networks or act as a router
  "net.ipv6.conf.all.forwarding": 0               # IPv6 - Do not allow traffic between networks or act as a router
  "net.ipv4.conf.all.send_redirects": 0           # Don't allow traffic between networks or act as a router
  "net.ipv4.conf.default.send_redirects": 0       # Don't allow traffic between networks or act as a router
  "net.ipv4.conf.all.rp_filter": 1                # Reverse path filtering - IP spoofing protection
  "net.ipv4.conf.default.rp_filter": 1            # Reverse path filtering - IP spoofing protection
  "net.ipv4.icmp_echo_ignore_broadcasts": 1       # Ignore ICMP broadcasts to avoid participating in Smurf attacks
  "net.ipv4.icmp_ignore_bogus_error_responses": 1 # Ignore bad ICMP errors
  "net.ipv4.icmp_echo_ignore_all": 0              # Ignore bad ICMP errors
  "net.ipv4.conf.all.log_martians": 1             # Log spoofed, source-routed, and redirect packets
  "net.ipv4.conf.default.log_martians": 1         # Log spoofed, source-routed, and redirect packets
  "net.ipv4.tcp_rfc1337": 1                       # Implement RFC 1337 fix
  "kernel.randomize_va_space": 2                  # Randomize addresses of mmap base, heap, stack and VDSO page
  "fs.protected_hardlinks": 1                     # Provide protection from ToCToU races
  "fs.protected_symlinks": 1                      # Provide protection from ToCToU races
  "kernel.kptr_restrict": 1                       # Make locating kernel addresses more difficult
  "kernel.perf_event_paranoid": 2                 # Set perf only available to root

You can override every single setting e.g. by creating a variable called harden_linux_sysctl_settings_user:

  "net.ipv4.ip_forward": 1
  "net.ipv6.conf.default.forwarding": 1
  "net.ipv6.conf.all.forwarding": 1

One of the playbook tasks will combine harden_linux_sysctl_settings and harden_linux_sysctl_settings_user while again harden_linux_sysctl_settings_user settings have preference. Have a look at defaults/main.yml file of the role for more information about the settings.

If you want UFW logging enabled set:

harden_linux_ufw_logging: 'on'

Possible values are on,off,low,medium,high and full.

And finally we've the Sshguard settings. Sshguard protects from brute force attacks against SSH. To avoid locking out yourself for a while you can add IPs or IP ranges to a whitelist. By default it's basically only "localhost":

  - ""
  - "::1/128"

Example Playbook

If you installed the role via ansible-galaxy install githubixx.harden-linux then include the role into your playbook like in this example:

- hosts: webservers
    - githubixx.harden-linux



Author Information