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Apache HTTP Server is an open-source web server platform.  This article will outline the steps to install, configure, harden a zero-footprint instance of Apache 2.2 & 2.4, with particular focus on the nuances between each.


If you are building you zero-footprint for the first time you will need a C/C++ compiler available on the initial system.  Once compiled, the resulting package is portable to other like-O/S servers.  For the most part, most Unix/Linux distributions will come packaged with the gcc compiler.  


Check if gcc compiler is installed:

$ which gcc

# dependent on environment variables being set correctly.  
# Alternatively check the /usr/bin and /usr/sfw/bin paths.

If no compiler found, install it:

$ pkg install gcc-3  # or whatever version you need


Chech if gcc compilete is installed:

$ which gcc

If no compiler found, install it:

# Debian/Ubuntu
$ sudo apt-get install build-essential

# RHEL/CentOS/Fedora
$ sudo yum group install "Development Tools" 

Initial Installation

1) Get Source Files

The first step is to retrieve the source files from Apache.  Grab the compressed files pertinent to the O/S you are using, typically bzip2 for Unix and gunzip for Linux:

# Change dir to whichever working directory you want to use
$ cd /opt

# Change version number/archive type as required
$ wget --no-check-certificate [ -e use-proxy=yes -e https_proxy=xxxxx ]

# Apache also provides MD5 hashes to verify your downloads, so you could do the following to generate a local MD5 hash to compare
wget -O - | tee httpd-2.2.23.tar.bz2 | md5sum > md5sum.local

Unpack the archive:


# Use -k switch to preserve the original archive
$ bzip2 -d[k] httpd-2.2.32.tar.bz2
$ tar -xvf httpd-2.2.32.tar -C /opt/httpd/


$ tar -xzvf httpd-2.2.32.tar.gz -C /opt/httpd/

2) Compile Apache

Next, we will compile apache.

Apache 2.4 Setup

Since Apache 2.4, the Apache Portable Runtime and the Perl Compatible Regex modules are no longer packaged with the original source. However, these modules are mandatory for Apache to compile and run.

 Click here to see the additonal steps for 2.4
 Click here to find out why you need these libraries ...


The APR library provides a set of APIs that map to the underlying O/S and emulate functions if they are not available, making Apache platform-agnostic.


The PCRE library provides more powerful and flexible regex expression functionality than other flavours and is used by mod_rewrite, etc.

Apache provides the flexibility to point to existing instances of these when compiling. If you do not have these modules you can add them as follows:

First, download the module source files:

$ wget
$ wget

# Apache 2 requires pcre, not pcre2
$ wget --no-check-certificate

Extract the source files:

# APR and APR utils can be compiled with Apache out of the box provided they are in the srclib directory
$ tar -x[z]vf apr-1.6.3.tar[.gz] --directory /opt/httpd-2.4.x/srclib/apr
$ tar -x[z]vf apr-util-1.6.1.tar[.gz] -- directory /opt/httpd-2.4.x/srclib/apr-util

# PCRE will not be automatically compiled in the srclib directory, so either manipulate the build script or simply keep it separate.
$ tar -x[z]vf pcre-8.41.tar[.gz]

If you've placed PCRE in its own folder, you will have to build it first:

$ ./configure --prefix=/opt/pcre --enable-pcre16 --enable-pcre32
$ make
$ make install
$ cd /opt/httpd

# First we configure the build using the following syntax
# ./configure --prefix=/opt/apache2 --enable-mods-shared=few [--enable-{modname}] [--disable-{modname}] [with-apr=included] [with-pcre=/opt/pcre] 

# Here is the most common configuration
./configure --prefix=/opt/apache2 --enable-mods-shared=few --enable-rewrite --enable-headers --enable-ssl --disable-userdir --disable-autoindex --disable-status --disable-env --disable-setenvif --disable-cgi --disable-actions --disable-negotiation --disable-alias --disable-include --disable-filter --disable-version --disable-asis --with-apr=included --with-pcre=/opt/pcre

Here it is important to understand what each switch is doing and the implications of each.

Configure Command SwitchWhat does it do?
--prefixSets the output directory for the build i.e. where Apache will reside. This direcory specification will have a direct impact on portability of the 0FS package. Read more in the Portability section.

--enable-mods-shared=value or

-- enable-mods-shared={module_names} (space-delimited)

Sets which modules will be compiled as DSOs (shared libraries). Options are "all" | "most" and in 2.4 and higher also "few" | "none" | "reallyall".

--enable-{module_name} or

-- enable-modules={module_names} (space-delimited)

Enables the module for the build. Shared or static inclusion is determined by the underlying APR as will as the --enable-mods-shared directive. For example, with Apache 2.4, the standard APR supports DSOs, so it would compile the module as shared, unless the --enable-mods-shared is set to "none", which will force it to be compiled as static.
--disable-{module_name}Disables the module for the build. The module will not be compiled at all, so you will not even be able to add it dynamically later through Apache configuration without either recompiling Apache in full or compiling the module itself and copying it into the modules directory of the Apahce install
--with-{module_name}=path|includedUsed to specify specific path to find compiled modules if not using the defaults included with source. The included value will force the build to use the one included with Apache source.
 Click here to see a description of each module


ModuleMin. Apache V2 VersionIncludedWhat does it do?Reasons to include/exclude



Control access based on client hostname, IP address or other characteristics of client request

Lets you run CGI scripts when a particular file or method is used in a requestExclude if not using CGI scripts or have no need to execute scripts conditionally based on requests. XSS vulnerability considerations. If included, ensure request parameters are not considered when making decisions based on content type

Used for simple URL manipulation tasks, including mapping URLs to filesystem paths and standard redirection.

Restricts what HTTP methods can be used on a server

Allows you to send a document without adding the usual HTTP headers

Used to restrict access with HTTP Basic Auth. Should be combined with at least one authentication module and one authorization module.If this type of authentication is required, it is nearly imperative to use SSL as passwords are sent as almost plain text (base4 encoded).

Used to implement HTTP Digest Auth.If this type of authentication is required, it is nearly imperative to use SSL as an attacker can force the browser to downgrade to basic auth. The passwords are stored unsecurely on the server.

Allows the use of an HTML login form to restrict accessDepends on mod_session modules and makes use of HTTP cookies, which is susceptible to XSS attacks.

Authentication - Provides anonymous user access to authenticated areas

Authentication - Provides core authentication capabilities

Authentication - Provides authentication against SQL tables

Authentication - Provides authentication against dbm password files

Authentication - Provides authentication against plain text password files

Authentication - Maintains shared object cache of authentication credentials

Authorization - FastCGI authorizer application

Authorization - Provides authorization through an LDAP directory

Authorization - Provides core authorization capabilities

Authorization - Provides group authorization based on SQL database

Authorization - Provides group authorization based on dbm files

Authorization - Provides authorization against plain text files

Authorization - Provides authorization based host (name or IP)

Authorization - Provides authorization based on file ownership

Authorization - Provides authorization based on authenticated user

Generates directory indexesExclude in most cases. Be sure to disable index generation in Apache configuration as shown in Hardering section below.

Compresses content using Brotli before its delivered to the client

Support for request bufferingExclude in most cases. Reads the request into RAM and then repacks into fewest memory buckets possible. However, at the cost of CPU time. If request/response is already efficiently packed, this could have adverse affects on processing time.

HTTP caching filterIf included be aware that CacheQuickHandler is on by default which circumvents Allow and Deny directives.

Disk based storage for mod_cache

Implements a shared object cache storage for mod_cache

Emulate CERN HTTPD Meta file semantics

Allows execution of cgi scriptsExclude if not required. Considerations for exploits including ShellShock, etc. If invoking bash scripts, ensure bash version is > 4.3

Allows execution of cgi scripts (used for certain Unix multi-threaded environments only)Ibid.

Allows the server to change the character set of responses before sending them to the client i.e. if files are stored as EBCDIC, it can be translated to ISO

Converts response body into an RFC2397 data URLExclude if not required. XSS attacks have been reported in applications leveraging mod_data such as Moodle, etc.

Enables creating, moving, copying, and deleting of resources and collections on a remote web serverThis should be excluded unless absolutely necessary. DLL Hijack exploits, etc. are widely known/reported. If including, ensure the server is secure before enabling with some type of authentication.

Filesystem provider for mod_dav. Prerequisite is mod_dav.Ibid.

Generic locking API used by backend provider for mod_dav. Prerequisite is mod_dav and backend provider such as mod_dav_svnIbid.

Enables APR to manage db connectionsExclude if not required. Considerations for SQL injection attacks especially when using third-party modules in conjunction.

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  1. Note here to chat to Marc about,

    • mpm_event_module - for performance is it worthwhile?
    • Does compiling and naming for specific matching linux something necessary?