There is a new version of this tutorial available for Debian 11 (Bullseye).

How to install and configure vsftpd with TLS on Debian 8 (Jessie)

This article explains how to set up a TLS enabled vsftpd server on a Debian 8 server and how to access the FTP server with FileZilla. FTP is a very insecure protocol by default because all passwords and all data are transferred in clear text. By using TLS, the whole communication can be encrypted, thus making FTP much more secure. 


1 Preliminary Note

In this tutorial, I will use the hostname with the IP address These settings might differ for you, so you have to replace them where appropriate. I use the Debian 8 minimal server setup as the basis for this tutorial.


2 Installing vsftpd And OpenSSL

OpenSSL is needed by TLS; to install vsftpd and OpenSSL, we simply run:

apt-get -y install vsftpd openssl


3 Creating The SSL Certificate For TLS

In order to use TLS, we must create an SSL certificate. I create it in /etc/ssl/private - if the directory doesn't exist, create it now::

mkdir -p /etc/ssl/private
chmod 700 /etc/ssl/private

Afterwards, we can generate the SSL certificate as follows:

openssl req -x509 -nodes -days 365 -newkey rsa:1024 -keyout /etc/ssl/private/vsftpd.pem -out /etc/ssl/private/vsftpd.pem

Country Name (2 letter code) [AU]: <-- Enter your Country Name (e.g., "DE").
State or Province Name (full name) [Some-State]:
<-- Enter your State or Province Name.
Locality Name (eg, city) []:
<-- Enter your City.
Organization Name (eg, company) [Internet Widgits Pty Ltd]:
<-- Enter your Organization Name (e.g., the name of your company).
Organizational Unit Name (eg, section) []:
<-- Enter your Organizational Unit Name (e.g. "IT Department").
Common Name (eg, YOUR name) []:
<-- Enter the Fully Qualified Domain Name of the system (e.g. "").
Email Address []:
<-- Enter your Email Address.


4 Enabling TLS In vsftpd

In order to enable TLS in vsftpd, open /etc/vsftpd.conf...

nano /etc/vsftpd.conf

... and add or change the following options:


# Turn on SSL ssl_enable=YES # Allow anonymous users to use secured SSL connections allow_anon_ssl=YES # All non-anonymous logins are forced to use a secure SSL connection in order to # send and receive data on data connections. force_local_data_ssl=YES # All non-anonymous logins are forced to use a secure SSL connection in order to send the password. force_local_logins_ssl=YES # Permit TLS v1 protocol connections. TLS v1 connections are preferred ssl_tlsv1=YES # Permit SSL v2 protocol connections. TLS v1 connections are preferred ssl_sslv2=NO # permit SSL v3 protocol connections. TLS v1 connections are preferred ssl_sslv3=NO # Disable SSL session reuse (required by WinSCP) require_ssl_reuse=NO # Select which SSL ciphers vsftpd will allow for encrypted SSL connections (required by FileZilla) ssl_ciphers=HIGH # This option specifies the location of the RSA certificate to use for SSL # encrypted connections. rsa_cert_file=/etc/ssl/private/vsftpd.pem [...]

If you use force_local_logins_ssl=YES and force_local_data_ssl=YES, then only TLS connections are allowed (this locks out any users with old FTP clients that don't have TLS support); by using force_local_logins_ssl=NO and force_local_data_ssl=NO both TLS and non-TLS connections are allowed, depending on what the FTP client supports.

Apart from the TLS options, make sure you also have the following settings in your vsftpd.conf to enable non-anonymous logins:

# Uncomment this to allow local users to log in.
# Uncomment this to enable any form of FTP write command.
# Default umask for local users is 077. You may wish to change this to 022,
# if your users expect that (022 is used by most other ftpd's)


Restart vsftpd afterwards:

service vsftpd restart

That's it. You can now try to connect using your FTP client; however, you should configure your FTP client to use TLS (this is a must if you use force_local_logins_ssl=YES and force_local_data_ssl=YES) - see the next chapter how to do this with FileZilla.


5 vsftpd add user

In this step, we will add a local Linux user that we can use to connect to. I will create a user "till" with the password "howtoforge". All FTP users shall have their home directories in mkdir /var/ftproot, so I'll create this directory first.

mkdir /var/ftproot

Then add the user with the command:

adduser --home /var/ftproot/till till

The adduser command will ask for the user password and some other details

[email protected]:/# adduser --home /var/ftproot/till till
Adding user `till' ...
Adding new group `till' (1001) ...
Adding new user `till' (1001) with group `till' ...
Creating home directory `/var/ftproot/till' ...
Copying files from `/etc/skel' ...
Enter new UNIX password: <-- Enter the new password here
Retype new UNIX password: <-- Enter the new password here
passwd: password updated successfully
Changing the user information for till
Enter the new value, or press ENTER for the default
Full Name []: <-- Enter your name here or press enter to skip
Room Number []: <-- Enter room number here or press enter to skip
Work Phone []: <-- Enter work phone here or press enter to skip
Home Phone []: <-- Enter home phone here or press enter to skip
Other []: <-- Enter Other user details here or press enter to skip
Is the information correct? [Y/n] <-- Y

We successfully added a FTP user.

6 Configuring FileZilla for TLS

In order to use FTP with TLS, you need an FTP client that supports TLS, such as FileZilla.

In FileZilla, open the Server Manager:

Filezilla server manager.

Enter the IP address or hostname of the FTP server in the server field, select the protocol "FTP" and "Require Explicit FTP over TLS", and enter the username in the user field.

Filezilla server login details.

Now you can connect to the server. If you do this for the first time, you must accept the server's new SSL certificate:

accept the ssl cert.

If everything goes well, you should now be logged in on the server:

vsftpd login successfull.


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8 Comment(s)

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By: Gallok

It doesn't work. ECONNREFUSED all time.

By: gallok

[email protected]:~# systemctl status vsftpd.service? vsftpd.service - vsftpd FTP server   Loaded: loaded (/lib/systemd/system/vsftpd.service; enabled)   Active: failed (Result: exit-code) since vie 2016-02-26 16:30:03 CET; 3min 55s ago  Process: 25431 ExecStart=/usr/sbin/vsftpd /etc/vsftpd.conf (code=exited, status=2)  Process: 25428 ExecStartPre=/bin/mkdir -p /var/run/vsftpd/empty (code=exited, status=0/SUCCESS) Main PID: 25431 (code=exited, status=2)feb 26 16:30:03 debian8 systemd[1]: vsftpd.service: main process exited, co...NTfeb 26 16:30:03 debian8 systemd[1]: Unit vsftpd.service entered failed state.Hint: Some lines were ellipsized, use -l to show in full.


[Unit]Description=vsftpd FTP[Service]Type=simpleExecStart=/usr/sbin/vsftpd /etc/vsftpd.confExecReload=/bin/kill -HUP $MAINPIDExecStartPre=-/bin/mkdir -p /var/run/vsftpd/empty[Install]

By: Kempain

Great tutorial but it is slightly incorrect which is what is causing Gallok's error.

The cert generation should read:

openssl req -x509 -nodes -days 365 -newkey rsa:1024 -keyout /etc/ssl/private/vsftpd.key -out /etc/ssl/private/vsftpd.pem

You'll also need to update the line in vsftpd.conf as below to match this change:


And may also need to set:


Probably best to set the RSA bits to 2048 or above too but that's not actually required, just better security :)



By: usr

i tried the solution of Kempain too but i get the same error message

Dohnt know how to go forward could be good when i got some more help or info for it thx



By: Simon

One hint for newbies like me if this doesn't seem to work - don't forget to check the end of the config file /etc/vsftpd.conf

There are some SSL configuration parameters, and if like me you have already added your SSL config higher up the file, remember to comment these out!


By: Safwene

Nice tutorial, I loved it thanks for your help !

By: Ton Hoeksma

Very helpful, works fine

By: A248

At first this wasn't working for me, because I copied and pasted the openssl command without thinking. The vsftpd service exited with INVALID_ARGUMENT/2.

However, I noticed the vsftpd.conf file required a .pem AND a .key file, and the openssl command only contained a .key file. So, being inexperienced in this matter, I was naturally confused.

Scroll down until you get to @Kemplain's comment. You need to follow the instructions there, and then, your vsftpd configuration will work fine.