I have a rackspace hosted debian instance and need to copy sensitive files up to it. I'm thinking of setting up an ftp server but have concerns about security as i believe credentials are passed in plaintext? Is there an ftps i can use? Any other options to move files over the internet securely?
Do you have a SSH server on this system ? If yes, you can use it to connect to your system using sftp protocol, which is basically FTP commands over SSH. And there is no need for another user database, just reuse the one you use for SSH. As a SFTP client, I like filezilla.
If not, vsftpd (an excellent FTP server) can be configured to enable FTP over SSL. You will need a self-signed certificate and change a few parameters in vsftpd.conf (such as ssl_enable=YES).
Also, if you know you will connect to this FTP server from one IP address only, you could add an firewall rule (iptables/netfilter) to allow connections from this IP only.
Using ssh/scp/sftp is the best guess.
But I would consider an encrypted filesystem too.
You have at least two critical points:
Encryption can be done as
You can find more here: http://www.debianadmin.com/filesystem-encryption-tools-for-linux.html
File based encryption
if you can ssh into your machine, you can sftp in, tools like Transmit, Cyberduck,, WinSCP, Filezilla all have support for it, you just connect to port 22 like SSH, and you keep the FTP type interface you're used to.
one addition to Julien's answer, if you aren't comfortable with iptables and only allowing access from one ip using that, you can use tcpwrappers, edit your /etc/hosts.allow and /etc/hosts.deny