There is a new version of this tutorial available for Debian 8 (Jessie).

Chrooting Apache2 With mod_chroot On Debian Squeeze

Version 1.0
Author: Falko Timme
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This guide explains how to set up mod_chroot with Apache2 on a Debian Squeeze system. With mod_chroot, you can run Apache2 in a secure chroot environment and make your server less vulnerable to break-in attempts that try to exploit vulnerabilities in Apache2 or your installed web applications.

I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you!


1 Preliminary Note

I'm assuming that you have a running Debian Squeeze system with a working Apache2, e.g. as shown in this tutorial: Installing Apache2 With PHP5 And MySQL Support On Debian Squeeze (LAMP). In addition to that I assume that you have one or more web sites set up within the /var/www directory (e.g. if you use ISPConfig).


2 Installing mod_chroot

To install mod_chroot, we simply run:

apt-get install libapache2-mod-chroot

Then we enable mod_chroot and restart Apache:

a2enmod mod_chroot
/etc/init.d/apache2 restart


3 Configuring Apache

I want to use the /var/www directory as the directory containing the chroot jail. Debian's Apache uses the PID file /var/run/; when Apache is chrooted to /var/www, /var/run/ translates to /var/www/var/run/ Therefore we create that directory now:

mkdir -p /var/www/var/run
chown -R root:root /var/www/var/run

Now we must tell Apache that we want to use /var/www as our chroot directory. We open /etc/apache2/apache2.conf, and right below the PidFile line, we add a ChrootDir line:

vi /etc/apache2/apache2.conf

# PidFile: The file in which the server should record its process
# identification number when it starts.
# This needs to be set in /etc/apache2/envvars
ChrootDir /var/www

Next we must tell our vhosts that the document root has changed (for example, a DocumentRoot /var/www translates now to DocumentRoot /). We can do this either by changing the DocumentRoot directive of each vhost, or more easier, by creating a symlink in the file system.

3.1 First Method: Changing The DocumentRoot

Let's assume we have a vhost with DocumentRoot /var/www. We must now open the vhost configuration of that vhost and change DocumentRoot /var/www to DocumentRoot /. Accordingly, DocumentRoot /var/www/web1/web would now translate to DocumentRoot /web1/web, and so on. If you want to use this method, you must change the DocumentRoot for every single vhost.


This method is easier, because you have to do it only once and don't have to modify any vhost configuration. We create a symlink pointing from /var/www/var/www to /var/www:

mkdir -p /var/www/var
cd /var/www/var
ln -s ../../ www

Finally, we have to stop Apache, create a symlink from /var/run/ to /var/www/var/run/, and start it again:

/etc/init.d/apache2 stop

ln -s /var/www/var/run/ /var/run/
/etc/init.d/apache2 start

That's it. You can now call your web pages as before, and they should be served without problems, as long as they are static HTML files or using mod_php.

If you are using CGI, e.g. Perl, suPHP, Ruby, etc., then you must copy the interpreter (e.g. /usr/bin/perl, /usr/lib/suphp/suphp, etc.) to the chroot jail together with all libraries needed by the interpreter. You can find out about the required libraries with the ldd command, e.g.

ldd /usr/lib/suphp/suphp

root@server1:~# ldd /usr/lib/suphp/suphp =>  (0x00007f3fdcc6e000) => /usr/lib/ (0x00007f3fdc953000) => /lib/ (0x00007f3fdc6d1000) => /lib/ (0x00007f3fdc4ba000) => /lib/ (0x00007f3fdc158000)
        /lib64/ (0x00007f3fdcc6f000)

If you've copied all required files, but the page still isn't working, you should take a look at the Apache error log. Usually it tells you where the problem is. Also read for known problems and solutions.


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From: Sebastian Kruse

Is it possible to jail every vhost to the specific document root directory? I don't want to allow Website1 to access Website2 (both are in "/var/www").