OpenSSH key management, Part 2

    Date06 Sep 2001
    CategoryCryptography
    3107
    Posted ByAnthony Pell
    Many developers use the excellent OpenSSH as a secure, encrypted replacement for the venerable telnet and rsh commands. One of OpenSSH's more intriguing features is its ability to authenticate users using the RSA and DSA authentication protocols, which are based upon . . . Many developers use the excellent OpenSSH as a secure, encrypted replacement for the venerable telnet and rsh commands. One of OpenSSH's more intriguing features is its ability to authenticate users using the RSA and DSA authentication protocols, which are based upon a pair of complementary numerical "keys". One of the main appeals of RSA and DSA authentication is the promise of being able to establish connections to remote systems without supplying a password. In this second article, Daniel introduces ssh-agent (a private key cache) and keychain, a special bash script designed to make key-based authentication incredibly convenient and flexible.

    ssh-agent, included with the OpenSSH distribution, is a special program designed to make dealing with RSA and DSA keys both pleasant and secure (see Part 1 of this series for an introduction to RSA and DSA authentication.) ssh-agent, unlike ssh, is a long-running daemon designed for the sole purpose of caching your decrypted private keys.

    ssh includes built-in support that allows it to communicate with ssh-agent, allowing ssh to acquire your decrypted private keys without prompting you for a password for every single new connection. With ssh-agent you simply use ssh-add to add your private keys to ssh-agent's cache. It's a one-time process; after using ssh-add, ssh will grab your private key from ssh-agent, rather than bugging you by prompting for a passphrase.

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