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Securing ejabberd

Firewall Settings

You need to take the following ports in mind when configuring your firewall. The ports may change depending on your ejabberd configuration. Most of them are TCP ports, except the explicitely mentioned ones:

Port Description
5222 Jabber/XMPP client connections, plain or STARTTLS
5223 Jabber client connections using the old SSL method
5269 Jabber/XMPP incoming server connections
5280/5443 HTTP/HTTPS for Web Admin and many more (ejabberd_http)
1883/8883 MQTT/MQTTS service (mod_mqtt)
3478/5349 STUN+TURN/STUNS+TURNS service (ejabberd_stun)
3478 UDP ' '
49152-65535 range UDP STUN+TURN service (ejabberd_stun), configure with turn_min_port and turn_max_port
5060/5061 SIP service (ejabberd_sip)
7777 SOCKS5 file transfer proxy (mod_proxy65)
4369 EPMD (see epmd) listens for Erlang node name requests
random port range Used by epmd for connections between Erlang nodes, configure with inet_dist_listen_min and inet_dist_listen_max
5210 Erlang connectivity when ERL_DIST_PORT is set, alternative to EPMD


epmd (Erlang Port Mapper Daemon) is a small name server included in Erlang/OTP and used by Erlang programs when establishing distributed Erlang communications. ejabberd needs epmd to use ejabberdctl and also when clustering ejabberd nodes. This small program is automatically started by Erlang, and is never stopped. If ejabberd is stopped, and there aren't any other Erlang programs running in the system, you can safely stop epmd if you want.

ejabberd runs inside an Erlang node. To communicate with ejabberd, the script ejabberdctl starts a new Erlang node and connects to the Erlang node that holds ejabberd. In order for this communication to work, epmd must be running and listening for name requests in the port 4369. You should block the port 4369 in the firewall in such a way that only the programs in your machine can access it, or configure the option ERL_EPMD_ADDRESS in the file ejabberdctl.cfg.

If you build a cluster of several ejabberd instances, each ejabberd instance is called an ejabberd node. Those ejabberd nodes use a special Erlang communication method to build the cluster, and EPMD is again needed listening in the port 4369. So, if you plan to build a cluster of ejabberd nodes you must open the port 4369 for the machines involved in the cluster. Remember to block the port so Internet doesn't have access to it.

Once an Erlang node solved the node name of another Erlang node using EPMD and port 4369, the nodes communicate directly. The ports used in this case by default are random, but can be configured in the file ejabberdctl.cfg. The Erlang command-line parameter used internally is, for example:

erl ... -kernel inet_dist_listen_min 4370 inet_dist_listen_max 4375

It is also possible to configure in ejabberdctl.cfg the network interface where the Erlang node will listen and accept connections. The Erlang command-line parameter used internally is, for example:

erl ... -kernel inet_dist_use_interface "{127,0,0,1}"

The Erlang cookie is a string with numbers and letters. An Erlang node reads the cookie at startup from the command-line parameter -setcookie. If not indicated, the cookie is read from the file $HOME/.erlang.cookie.

If this file does not exist, it is created immediately with a random cookie in the user $HOME path. This means the user running ejabberd must have a $HOME, and have write access to that path. So, when you create a new account in your system for running ejabberd, either allow it to have a $HOME, or set as $HOME a path where ejabberd will have write access. Depending on your setup, examples could be:

adduser --home /usr/local/var/lib/ejabberd ejabberd


adduser --home /var/lib/ejabberd ejabberd

Two Erlang nodes communicate only if they have the same cookie. Setting a cookie on the Erlang node allows you to structure your Erlang network and define which nodes are allowed to connect to which.

Thanks to Erlang cookies, you can prevent access to the Erlang node by mistake, for example when there are several Erlang nodes running different programs in the same machine.

Setting a secret cookie is a simple method to difficult unauthorized access to your Erlang node. However, the cookie system is not ultimately effective to prevent unauthorized access or intrusion to an Erlang node. The communication between Erlang nodes are not encrypted, so the cookie could be read sniffing the traffic on the network. The recommended way to secure the Erlang node is to block the port 4369.

Erlang Node Name

An Erlang node may have a node name. The name can be short (if indicated with the command-line parameter -sname) or long (if indicated with the parameter -name). Starting an Erlang node with -sname limits the communication between Erlang nodes to the LAN.

Using the option -sname instead of -name is a simple method to difficult unauthorized access to your Erlang node. However, it is not ultimately effective to prevent access to the Erlang node, because it may be possible to fake the fact that you are on another network using a modified version of Erlang epmd. The recommended way to secure the Erlang node is to block the port 4369.

Securing Sensitive Files

ejabberd stores sensitive data in the file system either in plain text or binary files. The file system permissions should be set to only allow the proper user to read, write and execute those files and directories.

ejabberd configuration file: /etc/ejabberd/ejabberd.yml: Contains the JID of administrators and passwords of external components. The backup files probably contain also this information, so it is preferable to secure the whole /etc/ejabberd/ directory.

ejabberd service log: /var/log/ejabberd/ejabberd.log: Contains IP addresses of clients. If the loglevel is set to 5, it contains whole conversations and passwords. If a logrotate system is used, there may be several log files with similar information, so it is preferable to secure the whole /var/log/ejabberd/ directory.

Mnesia database spool files in /var/lib/ejabberd/: The files store binary data, but some parts are still readable. The files are generated by Mnesia and their permissions cannot be set directly, so it is preferable to secure the whole /var/lib/ejabberd/ directory.

Erlang cookie file: /var/lib/ejabberd/.erlang.cookie: See section Erlang Cookie.