SSH (Secure Shell) is a encrypted protocol which allows client system to communicate securely with a server. You can connect to your system remotely, perform administrative tasks and access files. Communicate with server using SSH keys is more secure and convenient way than password authentication. In this tutorial, we have described how to create SSH keys on Debian 9 system and how to copy it to server using different ways.
Before you begin, you should have the non-root user account on your server with sudo privileges.
Creating SSH keys on Debian
At first, we will create a key pair on client system using below command:
By default, ssh-keygen will generate 2048-bit RSA key pair. If you wish to create larger 4096-bit key then you can pass -b 4096 in flag as below:
ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096
It should show output like below:
Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter file in which to save the key (/home/yourusername/.ssh/id_rsa):
Enter key to save the key pairs at ./ssh directory or you can specify location as per your choice.
After that, it will prompt to enter a secure passphrase as below. Passphrase will add an additional security layer to your keys. It is optional, if you don’t want to set then you can skip it by just hitting
Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase):
Next, you will see output as following:
Your identification has been saved in /home/yourusername/.ssh/id_rsa.
Your public key has been saved in /home/yourusername/.ssh/id_rsa.pub.
The key fingerprint is:
The key's randomart image is:
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Now you have public and private keys which you can use to authenticate with your Debian server.
You also can verify that your files are generated or not by typing:
It will show output like this:
Copy the Public Key to Debian Server
Now, next step is to place public key to your Debian server. Simple and fast way to copy public is to use
ssh-copy-id utility. Run the below command:
It will be prompted to enter password for your username:
Once the user is authenticate successfully, the public key will be appended to
~/.ssh/authorized_keys file on remote user and connection will be disconnected.
Number of key(s) added: 1
Now you can try login to your machine with command
ssh username@server_ip_address and check that only the key(s) added which you want to add.
If your local system don’t have
ssh-copy-id utility installed then you can use following command to copy the public key:
cat ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub | ssh remote_username@server_ip_address "mkdir -p ~/.ssh && cat >> ~/.ssh/authorized_keys"
Ensure that you have password-based SSH access to your server then only you can use above method.
Login to the Server using SSH Keys
Now, you should be able to login to the remote machine without the remote user’s password.
You can try to connect using SSH command:
If you are first time to login then it may prompt you as following. Type yes and hit Enter key to continue:
The authenticity of host '192.168.27.18 (192.168.27.18)' can't be established.
ECDSA key fingerprint is ed:ed:f4:g9:66:ge:53:48:e1:55:00:fd:6d:d7:22:fe.
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)? yes
Now, if you haven’t set passphrase for your keys then you will be logged in immediately without asking passphrase. Otherwise it will be asked to enter passphrase. After successful authentication, a new shell session will open your user account on the Debian server.
Disable SSH Password Authentication
You can add one more security layer by disabling the password authentication for SSH. Before starting process, make sure that you are able to authenticate to your server without entering password and must have sudo enabled user account.
Let’s login to your server using ssh:
Now edit the SSH configuration file located at /etc/ssh/sshd_config:
sudo nano /etc/ssh/sshd_config
Find PasswordAuthentication directive and if line commented out then uncomment the line and set the value to “no” as given below:
Save and close the file. You must need to restart the SSH service using below command:
sudo systemctl restart ssh
Now, password-based authentication is disabled on your Debian server.
By this tutorial, you learned how to create a new SSH key pair and set up an SSH key-based authentication. You can set up same key to multiple remote hosts. At the end, you also learned how to disable SSH password authentication.
If you have any question you can ask by commenting below.