proftpd daemon access all user information via
an Auth API. This API hides all of the details of where user information
is stored, how to retrieve it, etc from the core engine and modules.
This abstraction allows for multiple simultaneous different authentication
layers or mechanisms to be configured. It is also because of this
proftpd does not "know" the difference
between a system user and a virtual user; all users are the same.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What makes a user "virtual", then?
Answer: A virtual user is, quite simply, a user that is not defined in the system
/etc/passwd file. This file
associates a user name, given by the system administrator, to a user ID
(commonly shortened to UID) and a group ID (GID), among other details. The
Unix kernel does not deal with users in terms of their user names; it
only "knows" about UIDs and GIDs. This means that an application
proftpd can look up the IDs to use for a given user name
however it sees fit. Using
/etc/passwd is not strictly required.
Defining users outside of
/etc/passwd means that system utilities
chown do not work as expected. When
first setting up virtual users, most system administrators will experience
this as permissions problems. Virtual users will not be able to login, or
they can login but not upload or download files. Or when the administrator
lists the files uploaded by virtual users, those files will have the wrong
The permissions problems are almost always caused by ID mismatch. That is,
the UID and/or GID of the virtual user will not match the UID and/or GID
owner of their home directory (or whichever directory is having problems).
The key here is to change the ownership of the virtual user's directories
chown and IDs, rather than names. The
chown utility can set ownership by ID just as easily as by
chown examples show setting ownership by name,
but that means
chown would look up the IDs for that name via
/etc/passwd, which, as noted above, will not work for virtual
ls lists the names of file owners by looking up those
/etc/passwd. This is why listing files of virtual
users will often show incorrect names;
ls has no knowledge
of virtual user names. When working with files created by virtual users, use
ls -n so that you can see the IDs, not the names, associated with
those files. You will then need to manually make sure those IDs are the
correct ones for the file.
Remember that it is the Unix kernel, and not ProFTPD, which enforces the normal Unix access rules to files for a process such as a ProFTPD session process. All that ProFTPD does is select the user and group IDs to set for the process, based on the authentication. ProFTPD never overrides the normal Unix filesystem permissions.
Question: Which IDs should I use for my virtual users?
Answer: It does not matter. The only UID and GID which are special are UID 0 (zero) and GID 0 (zero). These IDs are used for user
root and group
root; do not assign
these IDs to your virtual users unless you absolutely trust those users.
Other than that, you are free to use any IDs you like. It is generally
a good idea to use IDs for your virtual users that are not already in use
/etc/passwd, in order to keep the privileges of your
system users separate from the privileges of your virtual users; privileges
are determined by IDs. However, in some cases (such as using ProFTPD
for FTP access to websites), you may want all of your virtual users to
run as the web server user, e.g. user "www" or user
"apache". Use the IDs that make the most sense for your site
One related question often asked is "Can I have my virtual users have the same IDs?" Yes, you can. This means that all of those virtual users would have the exact same privileges. If you use this approach, make sure those virtual users are all confined to separate home (or web site) directories by using:
DefaultRoot ~in your
proftpd.conf. This means that even though those virtual users would all have the same privileges, they would be unable to see and affect each others' files since they would all be separated in different directories.
Question: If virtual users are not defined in the system
/etc/passwd file, then where are they defined?
Answer: There are several other locations where user information can be stored, e.g.
LDAP directories, SQL databases, and RADIUS servers. Note that virtual
users are not defined in the
proftpd.conf file directly.
One of the simplest virtual user authentication mechanisms is the
AuthUserFile, which is a flat text file in the same format as
/etc/passwd file. For more information on the
details, see the AuthFiles howto.
AuthUserFile configuration directive is handled by the
mod_auth_file module, whose documentation can be found
Once you have created your
AuthGroupFile with the
ftpasswd tool, you configure
proftpd to use those files by adding the following directives
AuthUserFile /path/to/ftpd.passwd AuthGroupFile /path/to/ftpd.groupThe
ftpasswdtool is a Perl script, distributed with the ProFTPD source code, under the
contrib/directory. A copy can also be found on GitHub.
Another very popular authentication mechanism used for virtual users is a SQL
database such as MySQL or Postgres. This mechanism is supported by ProFTPD's
mod_sql module; more information on using
can be found in the SQL howto, and the
Some sites still experience permissions issues, even though everything appears
to be configured properly. If this happens, define an
SQLLogFile in your
SQLLogFile /path/to/mod_sql.logThis log file will show which IDs the
mod_sqlmodule is assigning to users/groups looked up by
proftpd. If the IDs are not what you have in your SQL tables, then you need to use the following directives:
mod_sqlmodule contains some default limits on the range of IDs it returns; the above directives are used to tweak those default limits.
User documentation for the
mod_ldap module (for virtual users via
LDAP directories) and
mod_radius module (for virtual users via
RADIUS servers) is not yet complete.
proftpd will use all authentication
mechanisms by default. This is why a user that does not appear
AuthUserFile, but is defined in the
/etc/passwd file, can login by default. Use the
AuthOrder configuration directive to change this. This
directive is explained in more detail in the
Question: But I've seen examples that use the
<Anonymous> section for virtual users. Why don't you mention this?
should never be used to define a virtual user. This type of
configuration is a crude hack, leftover from ProFTPD's early days. Using
AuthUserFile is better supported, better documented, more
flexible, and more in line with ProFTPD's design philosophy.
Question: What about using PAM for virtual users?
Answer: Please read the Authentication howto.