Secure remote access to FreeBSD servers using SSH keys

Last edited on 2023-12-01 Tagged under  #freebsd   #bsd   #ssh   #network   #homeServer 

Disable password logins and switch to SSH key-based authentication to secure access to remote machines.

Let's go!

Server is running FreeBSD and is configured for SSH logins from a FreeBSD client.

1. On the server and client: Create .ssh

Login to the server ...

$ ssh my_username

Create an SSH directory in $HOME ...

$ mkdir ~/.ssh && chmod 700 ~/.ssh && touch ~/.ssh/authorized_keys && chmod 600 ~/.ssh/authorized_keys


Repeat the above command on the client.

2. On the client: Aliases

Create ~/.ssh/config to hold aliases with the login options for a server.

Example ...

Host home-server
Port 22                                                                      
User foo

Test the SSH password login to the server ...

$ ssh home-server
foo@'s password: 

3. On the client: Generate keys

$ ssh-keygen -t ed25519 -C "$(whoami)@$(hostname)-$(date -I)" 

4. On the client: Upload key to server

Upload the public key to the server and append to ~/.ssh/authorized_keys ...

$ ssh-copy-id -i ~/.ssh/ home-server

Notify SSH that you have keys by running ssh-add ...

$ ssh-add
Enter passphrase for /home/foo/.ssh/id_ed25519:
Identity added: /home/foo/.ssh/id_ed25519 (/home/foo/.ssh/id_ed25519)

All SSH sessions launched from this console will access this user key stored in memory.

Make sure to test the connection before disabling password logins ...

$ ssh home-server

No request for a passphrase indicates SSH key authentication is properly configured.

5. On the server: Disable password logins

Make the following modifications in /etc/ssh/sshd_config ...

PermitRootLogin no
PubkeyAuthentication yes                                                    
PasswordAuthentication no

Restart SSH ...

# service sshd restart

6. On the client: Key management

Keychain is an OpenSSH key manager. From the package description ...

When keychain is run, it checks for a running ssh-agent, otherwise it starts one. It saves the ssh-agent environment variables to ~/.keychain/$HOSTNAME-sh, so that subsequent logins and non-interactive shells such as cron jobs can source the file and make passwordless ssh connections. In addition, when keychain runs, it verifies that the key files specified on the command-line are known to ssh-agent, otherwise it loads them, prompting you for a password if necessary.

Install ...

# pkg install keychain

Configure ~/.bashrc ...

# Use `keychain` for ssh-agent management
if [[ -x /usr/local/bin/keychain ]]; then
	keychain ~/.ssh/id_ed25519
	. "${HOME}/.keychain/${HOSTNAME}-sh"

Flush all cached keys from memory ...

$ keychain --clear                  

If using tmux terminal multiplexer, enable persistent SSH key management across sessions by editing ~/.tmux.conf ...


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