Deploy Your SSH key To Remote Server

Adding SSH key to remote server

One of the greatest improvements introduced by the SSH protocol is key-based authentication – meaning your client and SSH server establish validity of your SSH keypair and let you gain remote SSH access without asking for your password.

SSH Authentication with Passwords

By default, SSH server will ask for your password when you’re trying to connect. Unless you specify a username, your SSH client will set it automatically to your username on local (client) system:

Connecting to remote server using SSH

In this example above, I’m running command line (iTerm2) session on my Macbook. greys is my local username, maverick is the hostname on my Macbook. I’m typing ssh command and specifying the server to connect to – with hostname becky.

As you can see, next thing that happens is that I get a password prompt.

How Key Based SSH Access Works

Key-based SSH authentication takes an extra step to setup but then saves you tons of time in the future:

  • you deploy your public SSH key to remote server (need to type SSH password for possibly the last time)
  • you start SSH agent to load your private SSH key and to use it for remote connections
  • you connect to the remote SSH server without typing any passwords – still enjoying the same great benefits like encryption and traffic compression that SSH brings

Deploy Your Public SSH Key to Remote Server

You guessed it right! There’s actually a command for that, it’s called ssh-copy-id. What it does is connect to remote SSH server using username and password that you supply and then edit the .ssh/authorized_keys there to include your public key.

When running ssh-copy-id, you need to specify 2 things at a minimum:

  1. The SSH identity (name of a key you want to deploy)
  2. The SSH server name (where you want to add your key to)

Here’s how it works:

greys@maverick:~ $ ssh-copy-id -i .ssh/id_ed25519 becky
/usr/bin/ssh-copy-id: INFO: Source of key(s) to be installed: ".ssh/" /usr/bin/ssh-copy-id: INFO: attempting to log in with the new key(s), to filter out any that are already installed
/usr/bin/ssh-copy-id: INFO: 1 key(s) remain to be installed -- if you are prompted now it is to install the new keys
greys@'s password:

Number of key(s) added:        1

Now try logging into the machine, with:   "ssh 'becky'"
and check to make sure that only the key(s) you wanted were added.

Next time you attempt to connect, your ssh client will offer remote server a list of SSH identities you have configured on your client. In most recent Unix-like distros you have an SSH agent starting with your graphics login – it’s called GNOME Keyring or or Keychain in MacOS (and there’s plenty of ways to start ssh-agent during startups of sessions like KDE).

The bottom line is that when I try to connect to becky now, my SSH key is offered and, if it’s available (loaded in ssh-agent), I get a passwordless SSH access to remote server:

That’s it for today, have fun!

See Also

How To: Generate SSH Key

SSH is such an integral part of everyday Linux/Unix life now, that it makes sense to use it for as many remote access and automation tasks as you can. As you probably know, you shouldn’t be using password SSH authentication unless you have a pretty good reason to do so. By default, always use SSH keys. Today I’ll show you how to generate SSH keys.

Generate SSH key with ssh-keygen

ssh-keygen is a standard utility supplied with SSH package. If you have ssh command on your system, you probably have the ssh-keygen command as well.

Without any command line options, ssh-keygen will ask you a few questions and create the key with default settings:

[greys@rhel8 ~]$ ssh-keygen
Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter file in which to save the key (/home/greys/.ssh/id_rsa):
Created directory '/home/greys/.ssh'.
Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase):
Enter same passphrase again:
Your identification has been saved in /home/greys/.ssh/id_rsa.
Your public key has been saved in /home/greys/.ssh/
The key fingerprint is:
SHA256:Seu7UBogeX+g9+iv01CDJqiXAby740JKZGrZtu1T3oQ greys@rhel8
The key's randomart image is:
+---[RSA 2048]----+
|. |
|.. . |
| .+.o ... |
| +oo.+oooo |
|+.+o.o+.S. |
|o*oo ..E . |
|=.o o *o= |
|oo . +.o.o |
|o.. ..+++. |
[greys@rhel8 ~]$

Specify SSH key size for ssh-keygen

Most likely you’ll have your preferences for SSH keys and it is much easier to just specify them when running the ssh-keygen command.

This is how one can generate 4096-bit key, for example:

[greys@rhel8 ~]$ ssh-keygen -b 4096
Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter file in which to save the key (/home/greys/.ssh/id_rsa): /home/greys/.ssh/rsa-4k
Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase):
Enter same passphrase again:
Your identification has been saved in /home/greys/.ssh/rsa-4k.
Your public key has been saved in /home/greys/.ssh/
The key fingerprint is:
SHA256:4rf1AGIc99L57/xC1PWu7pJpwhkn5YCmZQqua/XdmGA greys@rhel8
The key's randomart image is:
+---[RSA 4096]----+
| |
| .|
| . .. .o|
| .. o=o... . o|
| . .=*S ++ . . |
| ooEo oo.o . .|
| o o.o.=o=.+ . |
| o ..+o=o=oo |
| ... . o.=*o.|

See Also

GitHub: Private Repositories are Free Now

Octocat –

Good news, everyone!

Starting yesterday, GitHub allows free accounts to have unlimited number of private repositories. The number of collaborators for such repos is limited to 3, but this is still a massive improvement and something I’ve personally been faiting for. There’s just too many little things in a sysadmin’s life that could benefit from git tracking but won’t justify a premium price tag.

Updated GitHub pricing

This is how pricing looks now:

Screen Shot 2019-01-08 at 16.45.51.png

How To Create a Private Repository in GitHub

Assuming you already have a GitHub account and you’re logged in, creating new repository is fairly straightforward:

Screen Shot 2019-01-08 at 09.30.23.png

Previously, selecting the Private type of repo would show a pop-up asking for paid upgrade of your account, but as you can see on the screenshot above, this is not the case anymore!

Once you click the Create Repository button, you should see your brand new repo:

Screen Shot 2019-01-08 at 09.30.35.png

Adding your SSH key to GitHub repository

If you haven’t done this yet, now would be the time to access Settings in your profile (open URL┬áin another browser tab) and go to the SSH and GPG keys section there.

This will let you upload your existing SSH key that you later can use for accessing your GitHub repositories:

Screen Shot 2019-01-08 at 09.32.45.png

As seen on the screenshot, you provide some title to the SSH key and then copy-paste the whole key (I’m not including it in the screenshot fully).

The good sign that your key is added should be something that shows it like this:

Screen Shot 2019-01-08 at 09.33.10.png


Connecting to your GitHub repo using SSH

Going back to your GitHub repository, in the top right section you should see a green button called Clone or download. If you click it, you’ll see a window with URL to your private repo. Don’t forget to click the Use SSH there and you should see something like this:

Screen Shot 2019-01-08 at 09.31.44.png

Copy this onto your Linux/Unix desktop and run this in the command line:

greys@maverick:~/proj/unixtutorial/github $ git clone
Cloning into ‘unixtutorial’…
remote: Enumerating objects: 3, done.
remote: Counting objects: 100% (3/3), done.
remote: Total 3 (delta 0), reused 0 (delta 0), pack-reused 0
Receiving objects: 100% (3/3), done.

You should see a new subdirectory created in your location:
greys@maverick:~/proj/unixtutorial/github $ ls

and if you change into that directory, it would contain your private GitHub repository copy – which at this early stage only has the

file:greys@maverick:~/proj/unixtutorial/github $ cd unixtutorial/
greys@maverick:~/proj/unixtutorial/github/unixtutorial $ ls

That’s it! Hope you like the good news about free private GitHub repositories and stay tuned for more news and Unix/Linux How-To’s!

See Also