Privacy Guide for Servers for the Average Person?

I recently started self-hosting an XMPP server for my friends and family, but when looking for privacy specific guides I can’t really find any. It seems like self-hosting is the baseline way to gain privacy, and with things like Docker and Yunohost it feels within reach for average users to learn enough to do it.

I loved the phone guide that was published here and was able to follow the steps and learn more about phone privacy. So are there any good guides like that but for servers?

I know security is different from privacy, hence why I’m asking specifically for privacy-oriented guides. Thanks in advance, lemmy has always been a fantastic community for helping out newbies!

Edit: More specific questions; is there a way for me to make my host IP address not readily available (I’m hosting in my house, not a VPS), is there a better option for security than using Cloudflare (this one I’m having a hard time with mostly because I still don’t quite understand what Cloudflare does?), I know some other servers say they delete messages from the server and identifying data…how? (I have metronome as the server for XMPP, using Yunohost)

poVoq
52M

Could you list a few specific questions you have? We want to put guides exactly like that on our joinjabber.org website and having a list of specific questions would help writing it. You can join us via a xmpp client here or anonymously on our xmpp based web-chat.

Metawish
creator
12M

oh I’ll be waiting with bated breath for the guide! I edited the original post, but for XMPP specifically how does one limit the data saved on the server to just essentials? What kind of maintenence should I be doing to protect my friends and families’ privacy on the XMPP server side?

make my host IP address not readily available

Yes. Some people use Tor’s onion services for that. Otherwise, it’s possible to “borrow” an IP address from somewhere else over a VPN tunnel: it’s more complicated to setup yourself, but plenty of non-profit ISPs offer this service for selfhosting purposes.

is there a better option for security than using Cloudflare

Yes. Don’t use CloudFlare. It’s as simple as this, and no alternative is needed. The notable exception is if you receive a DDOS attack, in this case you need specialized anti-DDOS services, but even then you don’t need CloudFlare. I mean when your service grows popular enough to attract a DDOS attack, you can move to a dedicated server in a datacenter with anti-DDOS protections in place.

CloudFlare is a really nefarious company in many regards. People who use CloudFlare usually have no clue they don’t need it AT ALL, that it will prevent privacy-conscious folks and archive crawlers from reaching the site/services, that CloudFlare WILL read the entirety of the communications between the clients and the server including passwords and credit card numbers (that’s the whole point), and that doing so reinforces a really insane power structure where CloudFlare intends to become the only way to access most sites.

I know some other servers say they delete messages from the server

For Jabber/XMPP hosting, first you can configure the logs. Then, you can configure MAM retention (see mod_mam on that page) but i’m not sure exactly how metronome deals with these settings. You will have to ask the metronome project on their chatroom grimoire@muc.metronome.im for more details on archive retention configuration.

Did i answer your questions?

PS: cool you’re using yunohost it’s a really great distro

Hello, sorry i don’t know what phone guide you’re referring to (“privacy” and “phone” in the same sentence sound really weird to me), but there’s plenty of resources for “opsec”/“infosec” in a selfhosted context.

Here is a nice list of gamified challenges to reach. In addition, you may want to ensure you have Full Disk Encryption on your server (huge tradeoff: can’t restart the server without entering your passphrase). Riseup also has tons of cool resources in their docs.

Like you admitted yourself, security and privacy are not the same. Running your own selfhosted services will probably leak more metadata than using shared services. For your personal conversations and your friends, it’s a good approach. To organize political agitation against your nefarious nation-state, it’s probably a risky strategy: breaking into your home to backdoor your server is easier and more discreet than to do the same for a shared host like riseup.

If you would like to give more specific about what kind of info you’re looking for then maybe we can provide more detailed answer. Like poVoq said, we are interested to publish more guides on joinjabber.Org (we just started that project) to answer common questions/concerns. We have a draft FAQ (not merged on the website yet) about security concerns, please let me know if it’s informative to you or if you have more questions.

Metawish
creator
12M

The draft was a really good overview! I’ll be honest, I’m hosting XMPP mostly because I hate the idea of companies specifically spying on me and selling data. So some of the privacy threats like monitoring incoming/outgoing traffic doesn’t bother me too much. And the draft basically says as long as the two devices are encrypted, it shouldn’t be able to be read by anyone intercepting the message? Like if I had to send credit card information it’d be mostly safe to do so?

The Riseup link is going to be a great read for me, and the gamify link gives me a good direction to head towards too! Super helpful!

I edited the original post to include some specific questions thanks for asking for more information. I’m never sure what I should or shouldn’t include in first posts.

I’ll be honest, I’m hosting XMPP mostly because I hate the idea of companies specifically spying on me and selling data.

That’s a very good reason to selfhost your services! :)

as long as the two devices are encrypted, it shouldn’t be able to be read by anyone intercepting the message?

Indeed! However the metadata (who communicates with who, and when) will still be readable by the server.

if I had to send credit card information it’d be mostly safe to do so?

I personally would not do that, but if you have to sure. I mean transmitting your credit card number over an end-to-end OMEMO-encrypted conversation is probably more secure than giving it away to random webshops.

I’m never sure what I should or shouldn’t include in first posts.

That’s always a problem :) Welcome around and don’t hesitate to ask more questions

Install Lynis, and here begins the rabbit hole :D

Metawish
creator
12M

An excellent namedrop, researching it as we speak!

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