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SSH authentication with keys

Published by TheJoe on

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Caution


This article was published more than a year ago, there may have been developments.
Please take this into account.

The SSH protocol (Secure SHell) is an encrypted protocol used to establish secure connections between two machines: customer e server. By itself it's already a pretty secure protocol, but with SSH keys you can close SSH access to only specific machines. Here's how.

In this mini-guide we will see how to set up an SSH access to a machine “server” by authenticating without a password. With this configuration only those with the right SSH keys will be able to access the server. In this example we will use the following IP addresses:

  • Client: 192.168.5.114
  • Server: 192.168.5.10

One of the fundamental requirements is that the user who generates the SSH key has an account enabled and belongs to the group sudoers on both machines.

Generate the key on the server

First we generate the SSH key on the server. Log in to the server (either directly or via traditional SSH) and run this command.

~$ ssh-keygen -t rsa

While the key is being created we will have the option to associate or not a password. I recommend associating the password unless there are particular impediments such as having to disable the password at login. In any case we will have two possibilities both safe.

Copy the key to the client

Once the command is complete we will have to launch another one to copy the generated key to the client.

~$ ssh-copy-id -i $HOME/.ssh/id_rsa.pub USER@192.168.5.114

USER is the user registered on the client that we will use to log into the server.

I assume that these operations are performed within a LAN, but if this is not the case, it is necessary to find a way to copy the key generated in ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub in the client in use via for example an FTP share, an email or even un wormhole.

Look here:  Webmin: what it is and how to install it

Test the connection

Eventually it will be time to test the actual functioning. We go back to the client and launch the command:

~$ ssh -v USER@192.168.5.10

USER is the user listening on the server.

If we have configured the SSH key without a password we will be immediately logged into the server, on the contrary if we have set a password to the key, this will be required now.

Disable user password authentication

If we have successfully logged into the server we may want to configure access not to accept connections via user password. Open the file /etc/ssh/sshd_config with an editor and add a line to the bottom of the file as follows:

PasswordAuthentication no

We restart the SSH service:

~$ sudo service ssh restart

Now if we try to log back into the server we won't be able to do it without the generated SSH key. Once we are sure that everything is working properly we can share the key (using the command ssh-copy-id dal server) with the users we want to grant access to.

If the only way to access the server is via SSH, be careful not to lose the keys, or we will not be able to enter the car.


TheJoe

I keep this blog as a hobby by 2009. I am passionate about graphic, technology, software Open Source. Among my articles will be easy to find music, and some personal thoughts, but I prefer the direct line of the blog mainly to technology. For more information contact me.

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