Raspberry Pi Security Bootstrap

These are my notes on the first steps of improving security on a new Raspberry Pi. The default configuration that an RPi comes with might be suitable for a development environment in a private or isolated network, but if you intend on exposing your RPi to the world then you need to tweak that configuration to be more robust. The commands mentioned here have been tested on a Raspberry Pi B+, running a fresh installation of Raspbian.


Security is fluid and open-ended. The following are mere suggestions. Taking these steps will hopefully reduce your exposure, but does not guarantee complete safety. Nothing does.

User configuration

  1. This goes without saying: Change the default user's password. By default, the RPi user is pi and her password is raspberry. Change that as soon as you get your operating system runnning, either by running passwd as the pi user, or by running sudo raspi-config and selecting the option for password change.

  2. Change the default user's sudo configuration. By default, the pi user can execute anything with sudo, without providing a password. As the pi user, do:

    sudo visudo

    ...and the change the line:



    pi ALL=(ALL) ALL
  3. Additionally, you might want to disable the default pi user altogether, and create another user that you will use on your RPi. As the user pi, do:

    sudo adduser myuser

    ...and answer the questions. Only the password question is important, the rest can be left blank. Then, to make the new user a sudoer, do:

    sudo visudo

    ...and add this line in the end of the file:

    myuser ALL=(ALL) ALL

    Additionally, since login will be disabled for pi, you might as well comment out the line in /etc/sudoers that refers to that user. Finally, to disable login for the default pi user, logout from pi and login as the new user that you created, and do:

    sudo usermod --lock pi
    sudo usermod --shell /sbin/nologin pi

SSH Configuration

  1. Forbid SSH login for user root. If your RPi is exposed to the world, it will get attacked with SSH attempts for common usernames and passwords, which is yet another reason to disable the default pi username. Another username that your RPi will be hammered with is root. Now, you can't disable the root account, but you can disallow logins for it. To do that, edit the file /etc/ssh/sshd_config, and change the line:

    PermitRootLogin yes


    PermitRootLogin no

    ...and then restart the SSH daemon:

    sudo service ssh restart
  2. Restrict Incoming IPs for SSH, using entries in /etc/hosts.allow and /etc/hosts.deny. For example, I allow SSH on my RPi from my internal LAN subnets (192.168.x.x), and from one public IP only ( in this example). To achieve that, put in /etc/hosts.allow:

    sshd: 192.168.

    ...and in /etc/hosts.deny:

    sshd: ALL

    Attempting to login to the RPi from a restricted host will return an error to the client:

    [email protected] ~ $ ssh [email protected]
    ssh_exchange_identification: Connection closed by remote host

    ...and will also create a log in /var/log/auth.log:

    Dec 13 11:40:48 rpi sshd[3456]: refused connect from (

Firewall Configuration with iptables

On my RPi running a freshly installed Raspbian OS, iptables was already installed, and it was running with an empty rule set, i.e. all traffic was allowed in all directions. Furthermore, Raspbian does not include a SysV script for the iptables service, but this functionality is offered by the iptables-persistent package.

  1. Install iptables-persistent, to help make the iptables rules survive a reboot:

    sudo apt-get install iptables-persistent

    If you accept the defaults during the installation, the currently running empty rule set of iptables will be saved in /etc/iptables/rules.v4. After the installation, you can manage your firewall with:

    service iptables-persistent {start|restart|reload|force-reload|save|flush}

    Here are the contents of that file, with the default configuration of the firewall:

    # Generated by iptables-save v1.4.14 on Sat Dec 13 14:23:03 2014
    :INPUT ACCEPT [1291:113154]
    :OUTPUT ACCEPT [828:105910]
    # Completed on Sat Dec 13 14:23:03 2014
  2. Next, you will need to add some rules to the iptables configuration, to start blocking some traffic. There are two methods that you can apply:

    A. Replace the line :INPUT ACCEPT that defines a default policy to accept all incoming traffic), with :INPUT DROP, and then define rules that will only allow selected traffic through the firewall.

    B. Keep the default :INPUT ACCEPT policy for incoming traffic, but have one last rule that rejects all incoming traffic.

    I'm going with the second option, simply because of the convenience of copying rules from one of my CentOS machines :) Here it is then, my rules file, implementing only the restriction to SSH port to the same IPs that I mentioned earlier:

    :INPUT ACCEPT [0:0]
    :OUTPUT ACCEPT [0:0]
    -A INPUT -p icmp -j ACCEPT
    -A INPUT -i lo -j ACCEPT
    -A INPUT -m state --state NEW -m tcp -p tcp --source --dport 22 -j ACCEPT
    -A INPUT -m state --state NEW -m tcp -p tcp --source     --dport 22 -j ACCEPT
    -A INPUT -j REJECT --reject-with icmp-host-prohibited
    -A FORWARD -j REJECT --reject-with icmp-host-prohibited


With these measures taken to improve the security of my Raspberry Pi, I am now more confident that I can assign it a public IP and expose it the the world, without it being a very easy target.

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