ProFTPD module mod_sftp_sql

The mod_sftp module for ProFTPD can support different storage formats for its user- and host-based authorized keys. By default, the mod_sftp module supports storing authorized keys in flat files. This mod_sftp_sql module allows for authorized SSH keys to be stored in SQL tables.

This module is contained in the mod_sftp_sql.c file for ProFTPD 1.3.x, and is not compiled by default. Installation instructions are discussed here. Examples of how to use the mod_sftp_sql module are available here.

The most current version of mod_sftp_sql is distributed with the ProFTPD source code.

This product includes software developed by the OpenSSL Project for use in the OpenSSL Toolkit ( This product includes cryptographic software written by Eric Young (


Please contact TJ Saunders <tj at> with any questions, concerns, or suggestions regarding this module.


To build mod_sftp_sql, follow the usual steps for using third-party modules in ProFTPD, making sure to include the mod_sftp and mod_sql modules, which mod_sftp_sql requires. For example, if you use MySQL as your SQL database, then you might use:
  $ ./configure --with-modules=mod_sql:mod_sql_mysql:mod_sftp:mod_sftp_sql ...
  $ make
  $ make install


The mod_sftp_sql module works by using mod_sql's SQLNamedQuery ability to define a SQL SELECT statement which returns the requested key. Thus the mod_sftp_sql module has no configuration directives of its own.

To help demonstrate, see the example configuration below:

  <IfModule mod_sql.c>
    # Other mod_sql configuration here

    # Define a SELECT statement to retrieve users' authorized SSH keys
    SQLNamedQuery get-user-authorized-keys SELECT "key FROM sftpuserkeys WHERE name='%U'"

    # Define a SELECT statement to retrieve hosts' authorized SSH keys
    SQLNamedQuery get-host-authorized-keys SELECT "key FROM sftphostkeys WHERE host='%{0}'"

  <IfModule mod_sftp.c>
    SFTPEngine on
    SFTPLog /path/to/sftp.log

    # Host keys, for server host authentication
    SFTPHostKey /etc/ssh_host_dsa_key
    SFTPHostKey /etc/ssh_host_rsa_key

    <IfModule mod_sftp_sql.c> 
      # Instead of using a file-based key store, we tell mod_sftp to use
      # the SQL-based key store provided by mod_sftp_sql
      SFTPAuthorizedUserKeys sql:/get-user-authorized-keys
      SFTPAuthorizedHostKeys sql:/get-host-authorized-keys

What should the schema be, for the table which holds these authorized keys? The required columns are one for the key (as a single base64-encoded string) and one for the name of the entity owning that key, e.g. the user name or FQDN (or IP address) of the host. These columns can be added to existing tables you might have, or be part of a new table.

For example, using SQLite, you could do:

  # sqlite3 sftp.db
  sqlite> CREATE TABLE sftpuserkeys (
  sqlite>  name TEXT NOT NULL,
  sqlite>  key BLOB NOT NULL
  sqlite> );
  sqlite> CREATE INDEX sftpuserkeys_idx ON sftpuserkeys (name);

  sqlite> CREATE TABLE sftphostkeys (
  sqlite>  host TEXT NOT NULL,
  sqlite>  key BLOB NOT NULL
  sqlite> );
  sqlite> CREATE INDEX sftphostkeys_idx ON sftphostkeys (host);
and then configure mod_sql to use that sftp.db database file. The indices are a very good idea, especially if you have many rows and/or users. And for good data hygiene, adding a foreign key constraint on the column to your normal users table is recommended.

An example MySQL schema looks like:

  CREATE TABLE sftpuserkeys (
    user VARCHAR(256) NOT NULL,
    user_key VARCHAR(8192) NOT NULL
  CREATE INDEX sftpuserkeys_idx ON sftpuserkeys (user);

  CREATE TABLE sftphostkeys (
    host VARCHAR(256) NOT NULL,
    host_key VARCHAR(8192) NOT NULL
  CREATE INDEX sftphostkeys_idx ON sftphostkeys (host);

Which leads to the next question: how can I transfer existing authorized SSH keys from their current flat files into the SQL tables? First, you need to make sure that the key is in the RFC4716 format, using:

  # ssh-keygen -e -f /path/to/
Then simply add the output data to your SQL table (e.g. to the sftpuserkeys.key column in the above example schema).

Other databases (e.g. MySQL, Postgres, Oracle, etc) have bulk data loading tools which can also be used to load a CSV file containing keys into your SQL tables, for use via mod_sftp_sql.

Note that the newlines which are part of the RFC 4716 formatted key data are important. Use of the wrong data type in your SQL schema could lead to unexpected parsing issues, which will be logged as:

  mod_sftp_sql/0.4[16284]: error base64-decoding raw key data from database

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