From the Terminal

How to securely share a network mount through an existing SSH server

I recently wanted to share a bunch of files with a friend over the internet. These files were on my mediacenter which is a Windows machine running a RAID. This machine was already sharing these files on a Windows file share but I didn't want to expose these files to the internet. Since my workstation was a Linux box already running SSH server on port 22 with SSH key authentication already working I figured the cleanest thing would be to add a new user and set the home directory to the network share with the shell disabled. Easier said than done so I'm writing this post to discuss some blockers I encountered and how I solved them.

First I needed to add a new user. This is the command I used in Gentoo however in most Linux distros you will likely need to use adduser instead.

sudo useradd ftp -M -N -s /sbin/nologin -R /dev/null
  • -M Don't create a home directory
  • -N No user group
  • -s /sbin/nologin sets the shell to nologin to disable any logins
  • -R /dev/null sets the home directory to /dev/null to disable the home directory

Now we need to edit sshd_config for this specific user.

Near the bottom of the file we add this to the config.

Match User ftp
        AuthorizedKeysFile /etc/ssh/authorized_keys_%u
        ForceCommand internal-sftp
        AllowTCPForwarding no
        X11Forwarding no
        ChrootDirectory /home/ftp

Since the AuthorizedKeysFile depends on having a home directory by default we must override that setting to specify a different one for just this one user. Configure that as you would normally.

For security reasons we disable AllowTCPForwarding so people can't use your SFTP as a free proxy and X11 forwarding so that people can't access your X session. Finally we need to use a chroot directory.


My initial instinct was to directly use my media center mount as /mnt/mediacenter/ but this was failing since that directory was a network share. SFTP server requires that the chroot directory is owned by root. So despite us setting this user to not use a home directory I decided to use /home/$user for that reason anyway. But in this case I set it as owned by root instead of the user like normal. Now I had to setup some link to the mediacenter mount. Soft links will not work with SFTP so instead I used the mount command like so.

sudo mount --bind /mnt/mediacenter/Library/Anime/ /home/ftp/Anime

Now we can test it. I decided to use my laptop.

There you have it. A fully secure SFTP over SSH.

This technique should work well with WSL1 and WSL2 as well if you're using Windows.