schsh: Restricted file access via SSH


Welcome to schsh, a schroot-based shell.

Its purpose is simple: I want to provide users with scp, sftp and rsync access to my server, such that they can only operate in a certain subdirectory. There are plenty of solutions for this problem out there, and all have one drawback in common: You need to manually set up a bunch of chroots, and copy the files needed for scp, sftp and rsync into them.

I didn’t like that, so here is my alternative solution: Use schroot for the chroots. This gets OpenSSH out of the loop when it comes to chroots, instead the relevant users get a special shell (schsh, the schroot shell). That shell essentially calls schroot and runs the desired command inside the chroot. It also provides some very basic command restriction (so that you can allow scp, sftp and rsync and nothing else).

Unfortunately, this still needs a (s)chroot to be set up for each user, but at least no files have to be copied: Instead, schroot is configured to bind-mount the relevant system folders into the user-chroot. Hence no files are duplicated, and system updates to the relevant tools are applied inside the chroots automatically. For additional hardening, these bind-mounts are configured to be read-only and no-setuid, while the only user-writeable folder is no-exec.


Before you start, make sure you have the dependencies installed: schsh needs Python 3 (I tested it with version 3.2) and schroot (version 1.6 or newer).

Installation is simple: Just run make install. That will copy some files to /usr/local/bin, and some configuration to /etc/schroot/. Before you create any users, make sure the directory /var/lib/schsh and a group called schsh exist.

You should also set up SSH to disallow port forwarding for users controlled by schsh. See sshd_config in the source folder for an appropriate snippet of OpenSSH configuration.

Before you can set up schsh for a user, you need to create it first:

adduser sandboxed --disabled-password

Any existing user can be “sandboxed” by running:

makeschsh sandboxed

This does the following:

Now if the user logs in via SSH, /usr/local/bin/schsh will be executed, and it will lock the user into the schroot schsh-sandboxed. It will only see some system folders and a folder called /data mapped to /home/sandboxed/data. If you want to give the user access to more folders, or another folder, simply edit /etc/schroot/schsh/sandboxed.fstab. The only part of schsh writing any files is makeschsh, so you can change the users’ schroot configurations at your will.


There is not much to configure at the moment. However, there are some global variables at the top of both schsh and makeschsh to change the base paths, and to tell which commands are allowed.

Source, License

You can find the sources in the git repository (also available on GitHub). They are provided under the GPLv3. In addition, all files except for schsh-rrsync are provided under the GPLv2 or (at your option) any later version of the GPL. See the file LICENSE-GPL3 for more details.


If you found a bug, or want to leave a comment, please send me a mail.