Linux Commands Examples

A great documentation place for Linux commands


OpenSSH SSH client (remote login program)

see also : scp - sftp - ssh-add - ssh-agent - ssh-argv0 - ssh-keygen - ssh-keyscan - ssh-vulnkey


ssh [-1246AaCfgKkMNnqsTtVvXxYy] [-b bind_address] [-c cipher_spec] [-D [

bind_address: ]port] [-e escape_char] [-F configfile] [-I pkcs11] [-i identity_file] [-L [
: ]port:host:hostport] [-l login_name] [-m mac_spec] [-O ctl_cmd] [-o option] [-p port] [-R [
: ]port:host:hostport] [-S ctl_path] [-W host:port] [-w local_tun[:remote_tun]] [
@ ]hostname [command]

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alias ssh='ssh -K'
ssh mysolei

How to reliably keep an SSH tunnel open?

I've had a need to maintain an SSH-tunnel long-term. My solution was running from a Linux server, and it's just a small C program that respawns ssh using key-based authentication.

I'm not sure about the hanging, but I've had tunnels die due to timeouts.

I would love to provide the code for the respawner, but I can't seem to find it right now.


Top causes of slow ssh logins

You can always start ssh with the -v option which displays what is being done at the moment.

$ ssh -v you@host

With the information you gave I can only suggest some client side configurations:

  • Since you write that you are entering passwords manually, I would suggest that you use public key authentification if possible. This removes you as a speed bottleneck.

  • You could also disable X-forwarding with -x and authentication forwarding with -a (these might already be disabled by default). Especially disabling X-forwarding can give you a big speed improvement if your client needs to start an X-server for the ssh command (e.g. under OS X).

Everything else really depends on what kinds of delays you experience where and when.


How to convert .ppk key to OpenSSH key *under Linux*?

Do it with Putty. :)

  • Linux: sudo apt-get install putty-tools
  • OS X: brew install putty

puttygen id_dsa.ppk -O private-openssh -o id_dsa


Can I create an SSH user which can access only certain directory?

chroot the user.


The TechRepublic article by Vincent Danen says:

With the release of OpenSSH 4.9p1, you no longer have to rely on third-party hacks or complicated chroot setups to confine users to their home directories or give them access to SFTP services.

edit /etc/ssh/sshd_config (/etc/sshd_config on some distributions) and set the following options:

Subsystem     sftp   internal-sftp
Match Group sftp
    ChrootDirectory %h
    ForceCommand internal-sftp
    AllowTcpForwarding no

Ensure the “Match” directive is at the end of the file. This tells OpenSSH that all users in the sftp group are to be chrooted to their home directory (which %h represents in the ChrootDirectory command

For any users that you wish to chroot, add them to the sftp group by using:

# usermod -G sftp joe
# usermod -s /bin/false joe
# chown root:root /home/joe
# chmod 0755 /home/joe

The usermod command above will add user joe to the sftp group and set their shell to /bin/false so they absolutely cannot ever get shell access. The chown and chmod commands will set the required permissions for the directory. With these permissions set, the user will be allowed to upload and download files, but cannot create directories or files in the root directory

Chrooting shell accounts is a little more complicated as it requires that certain device files and a shell be available in the user’s home directory. The following commands will set up a very basic chroot system on Mandriva Linux:

# mkdir /chroot
# cd /chroot
# mkdir {bin,dev,lib}
# cp -p /bin/bash bin/
# cp -p /lib/{,,,} lib/
# mknod dev/null c 1 3
# mknod dev/zero c 1 5
# chmod 0666 dev/{null,zero}
# mkdir -p /chroot/home/joe

With the above, user joe can ssh in and will be restricted to the chroot. Unfortunately, this doesn’t do much, but it gives you an idea of how it can be set up. Depending on what you want to provide, you will need to install additional libraries and binaries.

The Ubuntu Community Website says

Creating a chroot

  1. Install the dchroot and debootstrap packages.

  2. As an administrator (i.e. using sudo), create a new directory for the chroot. In this procedure, the directory /var/chroot will be used. To do this, type sudo mkdir /var/chroot into a command line.

  3. As an administrator, open /etc/schroot/schroot.conf in a text editor. Type cd /etc/schroot, followed by gksu gedit schroot.conf. This will allow you to edit the file.

  4. Add the following lines into schroot.conf and then save and close the file. Replace your_username with your username.

    [lucid] description=Ubuntu Lucid location=/var/chroot priority=3 users=your_username groups=sbuild root-groups=root

Open a terminal and type:

sudo debootstrap --variant=buildd --arch i386 lucid /var/chroot/ \

This will create a basic 'installation' of Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) in the chroot. It may take a while for the packages to be downloaded. Note: You can replace lucid with the Ubuntu version of your choice. Note: You must change the above with the URL of a valid archive mirror local to you. A basic chroot should now have been created. Type sudo chroot /var/chroot to change to a root shell inside the chroot.

Setting-up the chroot

There are some basic steps you can take to set-up the chroot, providing facilities such as DNS resolution and access to /proc.

Note: Type these commands in a shell which is outside the chroot.

Type the following to mount the /proc filesystem in the chroot (required for managing processes):

sudo mount -o bind /proc /var/chroot/proc  

Type the following to allow DNS resolution from within the chroot (required for Internet access):

sudo cp /etc/resolv.conf /var/chroot/etc/resolv.conf 

Very few packages are installed by default in a chroot (even sudo isn't installed). Use apt-get install package_name to install packages.


How can I tunnel all of my network traffic through SSH?

Just wanted to clear up that (ssh -D port host) is not a 100% secure way for traffic not to be sniffed. Adding (ssh -D -c blowfish port host) would be a better choice because you are atleast adding encryption to your session. There are more options you could add but it is easy enough to just type "man ssh" in your terminal or Google for a complete listing.

The option I think that you are looking for is setting up a VPN (Virtual Private Network)

Have a look at this article to get an understanding of the diffrence between the two (SSH vs. VPN) or a good summarized version, before you tackle setting up your own VPN. If you do decide to go the VPN route I recommend OpenVPN, its free and lots of documentation and support.


How can I avoid SSH's host verification for known hosts?

You should only get this the first time you connect to a new host. After you respond yes the host gets stored in ~/.ssh/known_hosts and you won't get prompted the next time you connect.

Note that if ~/.ssh/known_hosts can not be written for any reason (e.g. permissions problem) then you will get prompted every time you connect.


When ssh'ing, how can I set an environment variable on the server that changes from session to session?

You could try invoking a custom command, assuming you have password-less ssh login setup. On the server, edit your ~/.ssh/authorized_keys entry that corresponds to the key from you client:

command="export VARIABLE=<something>" ssh-rsa <key>

Look at this link in the section Forced Command for a little more detail.


How can I logout an open, remote SSH session?

Run tty on your current session, to find out on which tty you are working, so you do not log yourself out from current session. Run w to show you current users and associated pseudo-terminals(tty). Assuming that you are logged twice and there are no other users on your ssh server, your previous ssh session will be on pts/0 and current on pts/1. To ditch the session on pts/0 simply kill processes that are associated to it with

pkill -9 -t pts/0 

Stopping people from ssh(ing) into my Ubuntu machine

I want to be able to stop people from been able to ssh onto my machine but still need to ssh out

If you do not want anyone (yourself included) to be able to ssh to your host, simply do not run sshd. That has no influence in your ability to ssh from your computer to other computers.

E.g. via sudo update-rc.d -f ssh remove (This will ntt remove the sshd software package, but it won't automatically start again.).

I am curious though: Why not simply do not give them an account?


SSH into Linux machine over internet

You can use Log me in Hamachi.

I use it on a Linux server thats behind NAT with no way of forwarding ports. It's free as in beer.

You setup a network on then install the client on the server. This will create a ham0 network device with an IP that will never change. You need to connect your client machines to the same hamachi network and you can ssh to your box by it's hamachi ip.


ssh (SSH client) is a program for logging into a remote machine and for executing commands on a remote machine. It is intended to replace rlogin and rsh, and provide secure encrypted communications between two untrusted hosts over an insecure network. X11 connections and arbitrary TCP ports can also be forwarded over the secure channel.

ssh connects and logs into the specified hostname (with optional user name). The user must prove his/her identity to the remote machine using one of several methods depending on the protocol version used (see below).

If command is specified, it is executed on the remote host instead of a login shell.

The options are as follows:


Forces ssh to try protocol version 1 only.


Forces ssh to try protocol version 2 only.


Forces ssh to use IPv4 addresses only.


Forces ssh to use IPv6 addresses only.


Enables forwarding of the authentication agent connection. This can also be specified on a per-host basis in a configuration file.

Agent forwarding should be enabled with caution. Users with the ability to bypass file permissions on the remote host (for the agent’s UNIX-domain socket) can access the local agent through the forwarded connection. An attacker cannot obtain key material from the agent, however they can perform operations on the keys that enable them to authenticate using the identities loaded into the agent.


Disables forwarding of the authentication agent connection.

-b bind_address

Use bind_address on the local machine as the source address of the connection. Only useful on systems with more than one address.


Requests compression of all data (including stdin, stdout, stderr, and data for forwarded X11 and TCP connections). The compression algorithm is the same used by gzip(1), and the ’’level’’ can be controlled by the CompressionLevel option for protocol version 1. Compression is desirable on modem lines and other slow connections, but will only slow down things on fast networks. The default value can be set on a host-by-host basis in the configuration files; see the Compression option.

-c cipher_spec

Selects the cipher specification for encrypting the session.

Protocol version 1 allows specification of a single cipher. The supported values are ’’3des’’, ’’blowfish’’, and ’’des’’. 3des (triple-des) is an encrypt-decrypt-encrypt triple with three different keys. It is believed to be secure. blowfish is a fast block cipher; it appears very secure and is much faster than 3des. des is only supported in the ssh client for interoperability with legacy protocol 1 implementations that do not support the 3des cipher. Its use is strongly discouraged due to cryptographic weaknesses. The default is ’’3des’’.

For protocol version 2, cipher_spec is a comma-separated list of ciphers listed in order of preference. See the Ciphers keyword in ssh_config(5) for more information.


Specifies a local ’’dynamic’’ application-level port forwarding. This works by allocating a socket to listen to port on the local side, optionally bound to the specified bind_address. Whenever a connection is made to this port, the connection is forwarded over the secure channel, and the application protocol is then used to determine where to connect to from the remote machine. Currently the SOCKS4 and SOCKS5 protocols are supported, and ssh will act as a SOCKS server. Only root can forward privileged ports. Dynamic port forwardings can also be specified in the configuration file.

IPv6 addresses can be specified by enclosing the address in square brackets. Only the superuser can forward privileged ports. By default, the local port is bound in accordance with the GatewayPorts setting. However, an explicit bind_address may be used to bind the connection to a specific address. The bind_address of ’’localhost’’ indicates that the listening port be bound for local use only, while an empty address or ’*’ indicates that the port should be available from all interfaces.

-e escape_char

Sets the escape character for sessions with a pty (default: ’~’). The escape character is only recognized at the beginning of a line. The escape character followed by a dot (’.’) closes the connection; followed by control-Z suspends the connection; and followed by itself sends the escape character once. Setting the character to ’’none’’ disables any escapes and makes the session fully transparent.

-F configfile

Specifies an alternative per-user configuration file. If a configuration file is given on the command line, the system-wide configuration file (/etc/ssh/ssh_config) will be ignored. The default for the per-user configuration file is ~/.ssh/config.


Requests ssh to go to background just before command execution. This is useful if ssh is going to ask for passwords or passphrases, but the user wants it in the background. This implies -n. The recommended way to start X11 programs at a remote site is with something like ssh -f host xterm.

If the ExitOnForwardFailure configuration option is set to ’’yes’’, then a client started with -f will wait for all remote port forwards to be successfully established before placing itself in the background.


Allows remote hosts to connect to local forwarded ports.

-I pkcs11

Specify the PKCS#11 shared library ssh should use to communicate with a PKCS#11 token providing the user’s private RSA key.

-i identity_file

Selects a file from which the identity (private key) for public key authentication is read. The default is ~/.ssh/identity for protocol version 1, and ~/.ssh/id_dsa, ~/.ssh/id_ecdsa and ~/.ssh/id_rsa for protocol version 2. Identity files may also be specified on a per-host basis in the configuration file. It is possible to have multiple -i options (and multiple identities specified in configuration files). ssh will also try to load certificate information from the filename obtained by appending to identity filenames.


Enables GSSAPI-based authentication and forwarding (delegation) of GSSAPI credentials to the server.


Disables forwarding (delegation) of GSSAPI credentials to the server.


Specifies that the given port on the local (client) host is to be forwarded to the given host and port on the remote side. This works by allocating a socket to listen to port on the local side, optionally bound to the specified bind_address. Whenever a connection is made to this port, the connection is forwarded over the secure channel, and a connection is made to host port hostport from the remote machine. Port forwardings can also be specified in the configuration file. IPv6 addresses can be specified by enclosing the address in square brackets. Only the superuser can forward privileged ports. By default, the local port is bound in accordance with the GatewayPorts setting. However, an explicit bind_address may be used to bind the connection to a specific address. The bind_address of ’’localhost’’ indicates that the listening port be bound for local use only, while an empty address or ’*’ indicates that the port should be available from all interfaces.

-l login_name

Specifies the user to log in as on the remote machine. This also may be specified on a per-host basis in the configuration file.


Places the ssh client into ’’master’’ mode for connection sharing. Multiple -M options places ssh into ’’master’’ mode with confirmation required before slave connections are accepted. Refer to the description of ControlMaster in ssh_config(5) for details.

-m mac_spec

Additionally, for protocol version 2 a comma-separated list of MAC (message authentication code) algorithms can be specified in order of preference. See the MACs keyword for more information.


Do not execute a remote command. This is useful for just forwarding ports (protocol version 2 only).


Redirects stdin from /dev/null (actually, prevents reading from stdin). This must be used when ssh is run in the background. A common trick is to use this to run X11 programs on a remote machine. For example, ssh -n emacs & will start an emacs on, and the X11 connection will be automatically forwarded over an encrypted channel. The ssh program will be put in the background. (This does not work if ssh needs to ask for a password or passphrase; see also the -f option.)

-O ctl_cmd

Control an active connection multiplexing master process. When the -O option is specified, the ctl_cmd argument is interpreted and passed to the master process. Valid commands are: ’’check’’ (check that the master process is running), ’’forward’’ (request forwardings without command execution), ’’cancel’’ (cancel forwardings), ’’exit’’ (request the master to exit), and ’’stop’’ (request the master to stop accepting further multiplexing requests).

-o option

Can be used to give options in the format used in the configuration file. This is useful for specifying options for which there is no separate command-line flag. For full details of the options listed below, and their possible values, see ssh_config(5).


-p port

Port to connect to on the remote host. This can be specified on a per-host basis in the configuration file.


Quiet mode. Causes most warning and diagnostic messages to be suppressed.


Specifies that the given port on the remote (server) host is to be forwarded to the given host and port on the local side. This works by allocating a socket to listen to port on the remote side, and whenever a connection is made to this port, the connection is forwarded over the secure channel, and a connection is made to host port hostport from the local machine.

Port forwardings can also be specified in the configuration file. Privileged ports can be forwarded only when logging in as root on the remote machine. IPv6 addresses can be specified by enclosing the address in square brackets.

By default, the listening socket on the server will be bound to the loopback interface only. This may be overridden by specifying a bind_address. An empty bind_address, or the address ’*’, indicates that the remote socket should listen on all interfaces. Specifying a remote bind_address will only succeed if the server’s GatewayPorts option is enabled (see sshd_config(5)).

If the port argument is ’0’, the listen port will be dynamically allocated on the server and reported to the client at run time. When used together with -O forward the allocated port will be printed to the standard output.

-S ctl_path

Specifies the location of a control socket for connection sharing, or the string ’’none’’ to disable connection sharing. Refer to the description of ControlPath and ControlMaster in ssh_config(5) for details.


May be used to request invocation of a subsystem on the remote system. Subsystems are a feature of the SSH2 protocol which facilitate the use of SSH as a secure transport for other applications (eg. sftp(1)). The subsystem is specified as the remote command.


Disable pseudo-tty allocation.


Force pseudo-tty allocation. This can be used to execute arbitrary screen-based programs on a remote machine, which can be very useful, e.g. when implementing menu services. Multiple -t options force tty allocation, even if ssh has no local tty.


Display the version number and exit.


Verbose mode. Causes ssh to print debugging messages about its progress. This is helpful in debugging connection, authentication, and configuration problems. Multiple -v options increase the verbosity. The maximum is 3.

-W host:port

Requests that standard input and output on the client be forwarded to host on port over the secure channel. Implies -N, -T, ExitOnForwardFailure and ClearAllForwardings. Works with Protocol version 2 only.


Requests tunnel device forwarding with the specified tun(4) devices between the client (local_tun) and the server (remote_tun).

The devices may be specified by numerical ID or the keyword ’’any’’, which uses the next available tunnel device. If remote_tun is not specified, it defaults to ’’any’’. See also the Tunnel and TunnelDevice directives in ssh_config(5). If the Tunnel directive is unset, it is set to the default tunnel mode, which is ’’point-to-point’’.


Enables X11 forwarding. This can also be specified on a per-host basis in a configuration file.

X11 forwarding should be enabled with caution. Users with the ability to bypass file permissions on the remote host (for the user’s X authorization database) can access the local X11 display through the forwarded connection. An attacker may then be able to perform activities such as keystroke monitoring.

For this reason, X11 forwarding is subjected to X11 SECURITY extension restrictions by default. Please refer to the ssh -Y option and the ForwardX11Trusted directive in ssh_config(5) for more information.


Disables X11 forwarding.


Enables trusted X11 forwarding. Trusted X11 forwardings are not subjected to the X11 SECURITY extension controls.


Send log information using the syslog(3) system module. By default this information is sent to stderr.

ssh may additionally obtain configuration data from a per-user configuration file and a system-wide configuration file. The file format and configuration options are described in ssh_config(5).


The OpenSSH SSH client supports SSH protocols 1 and 2. The default is to use protocol 2 only, though this can be changed via the Protocol option in ssh_config(5) or the -1 and -2 options (see above). Both protocols support similar authentication methods, but protocol 2 is the default since it provides additional mechanisms for confidentiality (the traffic is encrypted using AES, 3DES, Blowfish, CAST128, or Arcfour) and integrity (hmac-md5, hmac-sha1, hmac-sha2-256, hmac-sha2-512, umac-64, hmac-ripemd160). Protocol 1 lacks a strong mechanism for ensuring the integrity of the connection.

The methods available for authentication are: GSSAPI-based authentication, host-based authentication, public key authentication, challenge-response authentication, and password authentication. Authentication methods are tried in the order specified above, though protocol 2 has a configuration option to change the default order: PreferredAuthentications.

Host-based authentication works as follows: If the machine the user logs in from is listed in /etc/hosts.equiv or /etc/ssh/shosts.equiv on the remote machine, and the user names are the same on both sides, or if the files ~/.rhosts or ~/.shosts exist in the user’s home directory on the remote machine and contain a line containing the name of the client machine and the name of the user on that machine, the user is considered for login. Additionally, the server must be able to verify the client’s host key (see the description of /etc/ssh/ssh_known_hosts and ~/.ssh/known_hosts, below) for login to be permitted. This authentication method closes security holes due to IP spoofing, DNS spoofing, and routing spoofing. [Note to the administrator: /etc/hosts.equiv, ~/.rhosts, and the rlogin/rsh protocol in general, are inherently insecure and should be disabled if security is desired.]

Public key authentication works as follows: The scheme is based on public-key cryptography, using cryptosystems where encryption and decryption are done using separate keys, and it is unfeasible to derive the decryption key from the encryption key. The idea is that each user creates a public/private key pair for authentication purposes. The server knows the public key, and only the user knows the private key. ssh implements public key authentication protocol automatically, using one of the DSA, ECDSA or RSA algorithms. Protocol 1 is restricted to using only RSA keys, but protocol 2 may use any. The HISTORY section of ssl(8) (on non-OpenBSD systems, see contains a brief discussion of the DSA and RSA algorithms.

The file ~/.ssh/authorized_keys lists the public keys that are permitted for logging in. When the user logs in, the ssh program tells the server which key pair it would like to use for authentication. The client proves that it has access to the private key and the server checks that the corresponding public key is authorized to accept the account.

The user creates his/her key pair by running ssh-keygen(1). This stores the private key in ~/.ssh/identity (protocol 1), ~/.ssh/id_dsa (protocol 2 DSA), ~/.ssh/id_ecdsa (protocol 2 ECDSA), or ~/.ssh/id_rsa (protocol 2 RSA) and stores the public key in ~/.ssh/ (protocol 1), ~/.ssh/ (protocol 2 DSA), ~/.ssh/ (protocol 2 ECDSA), or ~/.ssh/ (protocol 2 RSA) in the user’s home directory. The user should then copy the public key to ~/.ssh/authorized_keys in his/her home directory on the remote machine. The authorized_keys file corresponds to the conventional ~/.rhosts file, and has one key per line, though the lines can be very long. After this, the user can log in without giving the password.

A variation on public key authentication is available in the form of certificate authentication: instead of a set of public/private keys, signed certificates are used. This has the advantage that a single trusted certification authority can be used in place of many public/private keys. See the CERTIFICATES section of ssh-keygen(1) for more information.

The most convenient way to use public key or certificate authentication may be with an authentication agent. See ssh-agent(1) for more information.

Challenge-response authentication works as follows: The server sends an arbitrary "challenge" text, and prompts for a response. Protocol 2 allows multiple challenges and responses; protocol 1 is restricted to just one challenge/response. Examples of challenge-response authentication include BSD Authentication (see login.conf(5)) and PAM (some non-OpenBSD systems).

Finally, if other authentication methods fail, ssh prompts the user for a password. The password is sent to the remote host for checking; however, since all communications are encrypted, the password cannot be seen by someone listening on the network.

ssh automatically maintains and checks a database containing identification for all hosts it has ever been used with. Host keys are stored in ~/.ssh/known_hosts in the user’s home directory. Additionally, the file /etc/ssh/ssh_known_hosts is automatically checked for known hosts. Any new hosts are automatically added to the user’s file. If a host’s identification ever changes, ssh warns about this and disables password authentication to prevent server spoofing or man-in-the-middle attacks, which could otherwise be used to circumvent the encryption. The StrictHostKeyChecking option can be used to control logins to machines whose host key is not known or has changed.

When the user’s identity has been accepted by the server, the server either executes the given command, or logs into the machine and gives the user a normal shell on the remote machine. All communication with the remote command or shell will be automatically encrypted.

If a pseudo-terminal has been allocated (normal login session), the user may use the escape characters noted below.

If no pseudo-tty has been allocated, the session is transparent and can be used to reliably transfer binary data. On most systems, setting the escape character to ’’none’’ will also make the session transparent even if a tty is used.

The session terminates when the command or shell on the remote machine exits and all X11 and TCP connections have been closed.


ssh will normally set the following environment variables:


The DISPLAY variable indicates the location of the X11 server. It is automatically set by ssh to point to a value of the form ’’hostname:n’’, where ’’hostname’’ indicates the host where the shell runs, and ’n’ is an integer ≥ 1. ssh uses this special value to forward X11 connections over the secure channel. The user should normally not set DISPLAY explicitly, as that will render the X11 connection insecure (and will require the user to manually copy any required authorization cookies).


Set to the path of the user’s home directory.


Synonym for USER; set for compatibility with systems that use this variable.


Set to the path of the user’s mailbox.


Set to the default PATH, as specified when compiling ssh.


If ssh needs a passphrase, it will read the passphrase from the current terminal if it was run from a terminal. If ssh does not have a terminal associated with it but DISPLAY and SSH_ASKPASS are set, it will execute the program specified by SSH_ASKPASS and open an X11 window to read the passphrase. This is particularly useful when calling ssh from a .xsession or related script. (Note that on some machines it may be necessary to redirect the input from /dev/null to make this work.)


Identifies the path of a UNIX-domain socket used to communicate with the agent.


Identifies the client and server ends of the connection. The variable contains four space-separated values: client IP address, client port number, server IP address, and server port number.


This variable contains the original command line if a forced command is executed. It can be used to extract the original arguments.


This is set to the name of the tty (path to the device) associated with the current shell or command. If the current session has no tty, this variable is not set.


This variable is set to indicate the present time zone if it was set when the daemon was started (i.e. the daemon passes the value on to new connections).


Set to the name of the user logging in.

Additionally, ssh reads ~/.ssh/environment, and adds lines of the format ’’VARNAME=value’’ to the environment if the file exists and users are allowed to change their environment. For more information, see the PermitUserEnvironment option in sshd_config(5).

escape characters

When a pseudo-terminal has been requested, ssh supports a number of functions through the use of an escape character.

A single tilde character can be sent as ~~ or by following the tilde by a character other than those described below. The escape character must always follow a newline to be interpreted as special. The escape character can be changed in configuration files using the EscapeChar configuration directive or on the command line by the -e option.

The supported escapes (assuming the default ’~’) are:




Background ssh.


List forwarded connections.


Background ssh at logout when waiting for forwarded connection / X11 sessions to terminate.


Display a list of escape characters.


Send a BREAK to the remote system (only useful for SSH protocol version 2 and if the peer supports it).


Open command line. Currently this allows the addition of port forwardings using the -L, -R and -D options (see above). It also allows the cancellation of existing port-forwardings with -KL[

bind_address: ]port for local, -KR[
: ]port for remote and -KD[
: ]port for dynamic port-forwardings. !command allows the user to execute a local command if the PermitLocalCommand option is enabled in ssh_config(5). Basic help is available, using the -h option.


Request rekeying of the connection (only useful for SSH protocol version 2 and if the peer supports it).

exit status


This file is used for host-based authentication (see above). On some machines this file may need to be world-readable if the user’s home directory is on an NFS partition, because sshd(8) reads it as root. Additionally, this file must be owned by the user, and must not have write permissions for anyone else. The recommended permission for most machines is read/write for the user, and not accessible by others.


This file is used in exactly the same way as .rhosts, but allows host-based authentication without permitting login with rlogin/rsh.


This directory is the default location for all user-specific configuration and authentication information. There is no general requirement to keep the entire contents of this directory secret, but the recommended permissions are read/write/execute for the user, and not accessible by others.


Lists the public keys (DSA/ECDSA/RSA) that can be used for logging in as this user. The format of this file is described in the sshd(8) manual page. This file is not highly sensitive, but the recommended permissions are read/write for the user, and not accessible by others.


This is the per-user configuration file. The file format and configuration options are described in ssh_config(5). Because of the potential for abuse, this file must have strict permissions: read/write for the user, and not accessible by others. It may be group-writable provided that the group in question contains only the user.


Contains additional definitions for environment variables; see ENVIRONMENT, above.


Contains the private key for authentication. These files contain sensitive data and should be readable by the user but not accessible by others (read/write/execute). ssh will simply ignore a private key file if it is accessible by others. It is possible to specify a passphrase when generating the key which will be used to encrypt the sensitive part of this file using 3DES.


Contains the public key for authentication. These files are not sensitive and can (but need not) be readable by anyone.


Contains a list of host keys for all hosts the user has logged into that are not already in the systemwide list of known host keys. See sshd(8) for further details of the format of this file.


Commands in this file are executed by ssh when the user logs in, just before the user’s shell (or command) is started. See the sshd(8) manual page for more information.


This file is for host-based authentication (see above). It should only be writable by root.


This file is used in exactly the same way as hosts.equiv, but allows host-based authentication without permitting login with rlogin/rsh.


Systemwide configuration file. The file format and configuration options are described in ssh_config(5).


These files contain the private parts of the host keys and are used for host-based authentication. If protocol version 1 is used, ssh must be setuid root, since the host key is readable only by root. For protocol version 2, ssh uses ssh-keysign(8) to access the host keys, eliminating the requirement that ssh be setuid root when host-based authentication is used. By default ssh is not setuid root.


Systemwide list of known host keys. This file should be prepared by the system administrator to contain the public host keys of all machines in the organization. It should be world-readable. See sshd(8) for further details of the format of this file.


Commands in this file are executed by ssh when the user logs in, just before the user’s shell (or command) is started. See the sshd(8) manual page for more information.

ssh exits with the exit status of the remote command or with 255 if an error occurred.

ssh-based virtual private


ssh contains support for Virtual Private Network (VPN) tunnelling using the tun(4) network pseudo-device, allowing two networks to be joined securely. The sshd_config(5) configuration option PermitTunnel controls whether the server supports this, and at what level (layer 2 or 3 traffic).

The following example would connect client network with remote network using a point-to-point connection from to, provided that the SSH server running on the gateway to the remote network, at, allows it.

On the client:

# ssh -f -w 0:1 true
# ifconfig tun0 netmask
# route add

On the server:

# ifconfig tun1 netmask
# route add

Client access may be more finely tuned via the /root/.ssh/authorized_keys file (see below) and the PermitRootLogin server option. The following entry would permit connections on tun(4) device 1 from user ’’jane’’ and on tun device 2 from user ’’john’’, if PermitRootLogin is set to ’’forced-commands-only’’:

tunnel="1",command="sh /etc/netstart tun1" ssh-rsa ... jane
tunnel="2",command="sh /etc/netstart tun2" ssh-rsa ... john

Since an SSH-based setup entails a fair amount of overhead, it may be more suited to temporary setups, such as for wireless VPNs. More permanent VPNs are better provided by tools such as ipsecctl(8) and isakmpd(8).

tcp forwarding

Forwarding of arbitrary TCP connections over the secure channel can be specified either on the command line or in a configuration file. One possible application of TCP forwarding is a secure connection to a mail server; another is going through firewalls.

In the example below, we look at encrypting communication between an IRC client and server, even though the IRC server does not directly support encrypted communications. This works as follows: the user connects to the remote host using ssh, specifying a port to be used to forward connections to the remote server. After that it is possible to start the service which is to be encrypted on the client machine, connecting to the same local port, and ssh will encrypt and forward the connection.

The following example tunnels an IRC session from client machine ’’’’ (localhost) to remote server ’’’’:

$ ssh -f -L 1234:localhost:6667 sleep 10
$ irc -c ’#users’ -p 1234 pinky

This tunnels a connection to IRC server ’’’’, joining channel ’’#users’’, nickname ’’pinky’’, using port 1234. It doesn’t matter which port is used, as long as it’s greater than 1023 (remember, only root can open sockets on privileged ports) and doesn’t conflict with any ports already in use. The connection is forwarded to port 6667 on the remote server, since that’s the standard port for IRC services.

The -f option backgrounds ssh and the remote command ’’sleep 10’’ is specified to allow an amount of time (10 seconds, in the example) to start the service which is to be tunnelled. If no connections are made within the time specified, ssh will exit.


If the ForwardX11 variable is set to ’’yes’’ (or see the description of the -X, -x, and -Y options above) and the user is using X11 (the DISPLAY environment variable is set), the connection to the X11 display is automatically forwarded to the remote side in such a way that any X11 programs started from the shell (or command) will go through the encrypted channel, and the connection to the real X server will be made from the local machine. The user should not manually set DISPLAY. Forwarding of X11 connections can be configured on the command line or in configuration files.

The DISPLAY value set by ssh will point to the server machine, but with a display number greater than zero. This is normal, and happens because ssh creates a ’’proxy’’ X server on the server machine for forwarding the connections over the encrypted channel.

ssh will also automatically set up Xauthority data on the server machine. For this purpose, it will generate a random authorization cookie, store it in Xauthority on the server, and verify that any forwarded connections carry this cookie and replace it by the real cookie when the connection is opened. The real authentication cookie is never sent to the server machine (and no cookies are sent in the plain).

If the ForwardAgent variable is set to ’’yes’’ (or see the description of the -A and -a options above) and the user is using an authentication agent, the connection to the agent is automatically forwarded to the remote side.

verifying host keys

When connecting to a server for the first time, a fingerprint of the server’s public key is presented to the user (unless the option StrictHostKeyChecking has been disabled). Fingerprints can be determined using ssh-keygen(1):

$ ssh-keygen -l -f /etc/ssh/ssh_host_rsa_key

If the fingerprint is already known, it can be matched and the key can be accepted or rejected. Because of the difficulty of comparing host keys just by looking at hex strings, there is also support to compare host keys visually, using random art. By setting the VisualHostKey option to ’’yes’’, a small ASCII graphic gets displayed on every login to a server, no matter if the session itself is interactive or not. By learning the pattern a known server produces, a user can easily find out that the host key has changed when a completely different pattern is displayed. Because these patterns are not unambiguous however, a pattern that looks similar to the pattern remembered only gives a good probability that the host key is the same, not guaranteed proof.

To get a listing of the fingerprints along with their random art for all known hosts, the following command line can be used:

$ ssh-keygen -lv -f ~/.ssh/known_hosts

If the fingerprint is unknown, an alternative method of verification is available: SSH fingerprints verified by DNS. An additional resource record (RR), SSHFP, is added to a zonefile and the connecting client is able to match the fingerprint with that of the key presented.

In this example, we are connecting a client to a server, ’’’’. The SSHFP resource records should first be added to the zonefile for

$ ssh-keygen -r

The output lines will have to be added to the zonefile. To check that the zone is answering fingerprint queries:

$ dig -t SSHFP

Finally the client connects:

$ ssh -o "VerifyHostKeyDNS ask"
Matching host key fingerprint found in DNS.
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)?

See the VerifyHostKeyDNS option in ssh_config(5) for more information.

see also

scp , sftp , ssh-add , ssh-agent , ssh-argv0 , ssh-keygen , ssh-keyscan , ssh-vulnkey , tun, hosts.equiv, ssh_config, ssh-keysign, sshd

The Secure Shell (SSH) Protocol Assigned Numbers


RFC 4250 ,
2006 .

The Secure Shell (SSH) Protocol Architecture


RFC 4251 ,
2006 .

The Secure Shell (SSH) Authentication Protocol


RFC 4252 ,
2006 .

The Secure Shell (SSH) Transport Layer Protocol


RFC 4253 ,
2006 .

The Secure Shell (SSH) Connection Protocol


RFC 4254 ,
2006 .

Using DNS to Securely Publish Secure Shell (SSH) Key Fingerprints


RFC 4255 ,
2006 .

Generic Message Exchange Authentication for the Secure Shell Protocol (SSH)


RFC 4256 ,
2006 .

The Secure Shell (SSH) Session Channel Break Extension


RFC 4335 ,
2006 .

The Secure Shell (SSH) Transport Layer Encryption Modes


RFC 4344 ,
2006 .

Improved Arcfour Modes for the Secure Shell (SSH) Transport Layer Protocol


RFC 4345 ,
2006 .

Diffie-Hellman Group Exchange for the Secure Shell (SSH) Transport Layer Protocol


RFC 4419 ,
2006 .

The Secure Shell (SSH) Public Key File Format


RFC 4716 ,
2006 .

Elliptic Curve Algorithm Integration in the Secure Shell Transport Layer


RFC 5656 ,
2009 .

A. Perrig


D. Song ,
Hash Visualization: a New Technique to improve Real-World Security
1999 ,
International Workshop on Cryptographic Techniques and E-Commerce (CrypTEC ’99) .


OpenSSH is a derivative of the original and free ssh 1.2.12 release by Tatu Ylonen. Aaron Campbell, Bob Beck, Markus Friedl, Niels Provos, Theo de Raadt and Dug Song removed many bugs, re-added newer features and created OpenSSH. Markus Friedl contributed the support for SSH protocol versions 1.5 and 2.0.

BSD July 18, 2013 BSD

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