Connect to a server by using SSH on Linux or Mac OS X

To generate an SSH key pair on UNIX and UNIX-like platforms using the ssh-keygen utility: Navigate to your home directory: $ cd $HOME. Run the ssh-keygen utility, providing as filename your choice of file name for. Enter a passphrase for the private key, or press Enter to create a private key.

  • Many Git servers authenticate using SSH public keys. In order to provide a public key, each user in your system must generate one if they don’t already have one. This process is similar across all operating systems. First, you should check to make sure you don’t already have a key.
  • To generate an RSA key pair for version 2 of the SSH protocol, follow these steps: Generate an RSA key pair by typing the following at a shell prompt: $ ssh-keygen -t rsa Generating public/private rsa key pair.

This article provides steps for connecting to a cloud server froma computer running Linux® or MacOS® X by using Secure Shell (SSH).It also discusses generating an SSH key and adding a public key tothe server.


SSH is a protocol through which you can access your cloud server and runshell commands. You can use SSH keys to identify trusted computers withoutthe need for passwords and to interact with your servers.

SSH is encrypted with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which makes it difficultfor these communications to be intercepted and read.

Note: Many of the commands in this article must be run on your localcomputer. The default commands listed are for the Linux command line orMacOS X Terminal. To make SSH connections from Windows®, you can use a clientsimilar to the free program, PuTTY.To generate keys, you can use a related program, PuTTYGen.

Log in

Using the Internet Protocol (IP) address and password for your cloud server, log in byrunning the following ssh command with [email protected] as the argument:

The system prompts you to enter the password for the account to which you’reconnecting.

Remote host identification

If you rebuilt your cloud server, you might get the following message:

One of the security features of SSH is that when you log in to a cloudserver, the remote host has its own key that identifies it. When you tryto connect, your SSH client checks the server’s key against any keysthat it has saved from previous connections to that IP address. After yourebuild a cloud server, that remote host key changes, so your computerwarns you of possibly suspicious activity.

To ensure the security of your server, you canuse the web console in the Cloud Control Panel to verify your server’s new key.If you’re confident that you aren’t being spoofed, you can skip thatstep and delete the record of the old SSH host key as follows:

On your local computer, edit the SSH known_hosts file and remove anylines that start with your cloud server’s IP address.

Note: Use the editor of your choice, such as nano on Debian or theUbuntu operating systemor vi on RPM or CENTOS servers. For simplicity, this article just uses nano. If you prefer to use vi,substitute vi for nano in the edit commands.For more on using nano, see

If you are not using Linux or MacOS X on your local computer, thelocation of the known_hosts file might differ. Refer to your OS forinformation about the file location. PuTTY on Windows gives you theoption to replace the saved host key.

Generate a new SSH key pair

You can secure SSH access to your cloud server against brute forcepassword attacks by using a public-private key pair. A public key is placed onthe server and a matching private key is placed on your local computer. If youconfigure SSH on your server to accept only connections using keys,then no one can log in by using just a password. Connecting clientsare required to use a private key that has a public key registered onthe server. For more on security, reviewLinux server security best practices.

Use the following steps to generate an SSH key pair:

  1. Run the following command using your email address as a label.Substitute your email address for [email protected] inthe command.

    A message indicates that your public-private RSA key pair isbeing generated.

    At the prompt, press Enter to use the default location or entera file in which to save the key and press Enter.

  2. If you want the additional security of a password for the key pair,enter a passphraseand press Enter. If you don’t want to use a passwordwith the key pair, press Enter to continue without setting one.

    Your key pair is generated, and the output looks similar to the following example:

  3. Optionally, add your new key to the local ssh-agent file to enableSSH to find your key without the need to specify its location everytime that you connect:

    You can use an SSH configuration shortcut instead of the ssh-agent fileby following the instructions in the Shortcut configuration sectionlater in this article.

Add the public key to your cloud account

To make it easy to add your key to new cloud servers that you create,upload the public key to your cloud account by following these steps:

  1. Log in to the Cloud Control Panel.
  2. In the top navigation bar, click Select a Product > Rackspace Cloud.
  3. Select Servers > SSH Keys.
  4. Click Add Public Key.
  5. Enter a key name, such as Work Laptop, to remind you which computer this key is for.
  6. Select the region for which you want to store the public key. Tostore your key in multiple regions, repeat these steps foreach region. The key must reside in the same region as the server.
  7. Paste the contents of the file that you created intothe Public Key field. You can get the file contents by eitheropening the file in a text editor or by running the followingcommand:

  8. Click Add Public Key.

If you want to add the key manually, instead of by using the Control Panel, reviewLinux server security best practicesand use the following command:

Create a new server by using a stored key

When you create a new cloud server, you can add a stored key to the newserver.

  1. On the Create Server page, expand the Advanced Options section.

  2. From the SSH Key menu, select your key from the list.

  3. If you don’t see a stored key in the list, you can perform one of the following actions:

    • Switch the region for the new server to the region where you have stored the SSH key.
    • Repeat the steps in the preceding section, Add the public key to your cloud account,to add the key to the region in which you want to create the new server.

Add the key to an existing server

You can’t use the Cloud Control Panel to add a public key to anexisting server. Follow these steps to add the key manually:

  1. On your cloud server, create a directory named .ssh in the homefolder of the user that you connect to by using SSH.

  2. Create or edit the authorized_keys file and add your public key tothe list of authorized keys by using the following command:

    A key is all on one line, so ensure that the key isn’t broken byline breaks. You can have multiple keys in the authorized_keysfile, with one key per line.

  3. Set the correct permissions on the key by using the following commands:

  4. If you have any issues and need to fix permissions issues, run the following comand:

After you have added the public key to the authorized_keys, you can make an SSHconnection by using your key pair instead of the account password.

Shortcut configuration

Use the following instructions to set up a connection shortcut by creating a~/.ssh/config file on your local computer and adding your server and keydetails to it.

  1. Using a text editor, add the following text to the ~/.ssh/config file, changing thevalues to match your server information:

    Each of the following entries describes a feature of the server:

    • Host: A shortcut name that you use to tell SSH to use thisconnection.
    • HostName: The address of the server to which you connect.
    • User: The name of the user account to connect to on theserver.
    • IdentityFile: The location of the private key file (id_rsa).
  2. After you set up the config file, connect to the server by usingthe following command with your shortcut name:


If you have trouble making a new connection after you restart theserver, use the following steps to help you resolve the issue:

  • The best way to troubleshoot SSH or SFTP login issues is to attempt tologin through SSH while logged into the Emergency Console and to watch the log,which typically includes the reason for a failure. If no reason is given,it could be a firewall issue. For RPM servers, run the following command to watch the log:

    For Debian servers, run the following command to watch the log:

  • If you get a connection timeout error, check the IP address thatyou used to ensure that it’s correct. You might also check theserver’s iptables to ensure that it isn’t blocking the port used by SSH.
  • If you get a connection refused error, you might be trying to useSSH with the wrong port. If you changed your server to listen to aport other than 22, use the -p option with SSH to specifythe port.
  • If your login is rejected, then you might have an issuewith your key. Change the sshd configuration to allow passwordconnections by setting PasswordAuthentication to yes. Restartthe server and try again. If you connect after these changes, thenthe issue is with the key and you must verify that the key is in theright place on the server.
  • If all else fails, review your changes and restart the SSH daemon onthe server by running the following command:

    If you get a message that the SSH service is unknown, run thecommand with sshd as the service name instead.

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Secure Shell (SSH) is an encrypted protocol used by Linux users to connect to their remote servers.

Generally, there are two ways for clients to access their servers – using password based authentication or public key based authentication.

Using SSH keys for authentication is highly recommended, as a safer alternative to passwords.

This tutorial will guide you through the steps on how to generate and set up SSH keys on CentOS 7. We also cover connecting to a remote server using the keys and disabling password authentication.

1. Check for Existing Keys

Prior to any installation, it is wise to check whether there are any existing keys on the client machines.

Open the terminal and list all public keys stored with the following command:

The output informs you about any generated keys currently on the system. If there aren’t any, the message tells you it cannot access /.ssh/id_*.pub , as there is no such file or directory.

2. Verify SSH is Installed

To check if thw package is installed, run the command:

If you already have SSH, the output tells you which version it is running. Currently, the latest version is OpenSSH 8.0/8.0p1.

Note: Refer to our guide If you need to install and enable SSH on your CentOS system.

Steps to Creating SSH keys on CentOS

Step 1: Create SSH Key Pair

1. Start by logging into the source machine (local server) and creating a 2048-bit RSA key pair using the command:

If you want to tighten up security measures, you can create a 4096-bit key by adding the -b 4096 flag:

2. After entering the command, you should see the following prompt:

3. To save the file in the suggested directory, press Enter. Alternatively, you can specify another location.

Note: If you already have a key pair in the proposed location, it is advisable to pick another directory. Otherwise it will overwrite existing SSH keys.

4. Next, the prompt will continue with:

Although creating a passphrase isn’t mandatory, it is highly advisable.

5. Finally, the output will end by specifying the following information:

Now you need to add the public key to the remote CentOS server.

You can copy the public SSH key on the remote server using several different methods:

Generate Public Key Linux

  1. using the ssh-copy-id script
  2. using Secure Copy (scp)
  3. manually copying the key

The fastest and easiest method is by utilizing ssh-copy-id. If the option is available, we recommend using it. Otherwise, try any of the other two noted.

1. Start by typing the following command, specifying the SSH user account, and the IP address of the remote host:

If it is the first time your local computer is accessing this specific remote server you will receive the following output:

2. Confirm the connection – type yes and hit Enter.

3. Once it locates the key created on the local machine, it will ask you to provide the password for the remote account. Type in the password and hit Enter.

4. Once the connection has been established, it adds the public key on the remote server. This is done by copying the ~/.ssh/ file to the remote server’s ~/.ssh directory. You can locate it under the name authorized_keys.

5. Lastly, the output tells you the number of keys added, along with clear instructions on what to do next:

1. First, set up an SSH connection with the remote user:

2. Next, create the ~/.ssh directory as well as the authorized_keys file:

3. Use the chmod command to change the file permission:

chmod 700 makes the file executable, while chmod 600 allows the user to read and write the file.

4. Now, open a new terminal session, on the local computer.

5. Copy the content from (the SSH public key) to the previously created authorized_keys file on the remote CentOS server by typing the command:

With this, the public key has been safely stored on the remote account.

1. To manually add the public SSH key to the remote machine, you first need to open the content from the ~/.ssh/ file:

2. As in the image below, the key starts with ssh-rsa and ends with the username of the local computer and hostname of the remote machine:

3. Copy the content of the file, as you will need later.

4. Then, in the terminal window, connect to the remote server on which you wish to copy the public key. Use the following command to establish the connection:

5. Create a ~/.ssh directory and authorized_keys file on the CentOS server with the following command:

6. Change their file permission by typing:

7. Next, open the authorized_keys file with an editor of your preference. For example, to open it with Nano, type:

8. Add the public key, previously copied in step 2 of this section, in a new line in (under the existing content).

9. Save the changes and close the file.

10. Finally, log into the server to verify that everything is set up correctly.

Once you have completed the previous steps (creating an RSA Key Pair and copying the Public Key to the CentOS server), you will be able to connect to the remote host without typing the password for the remote account.

All you need to do is type in the following command:

If you didn’t specify a passphrase while creating the SSH key pair, you will automatically log in the remote server.

Otherwise, type in the passphrase you supplied in the initial steps and press Enter.

Once the shell confirms the key match, it will open a new session for direct communication with the server.

Generate Ssh Key Pair Linux

Although you managed to access the CentOS server without having to provide a password, it still has a password-based authentication system running on the machine. This makes it a potential target for brute force attacks.

You should disable password authentication entirely by following the outlined steps.

View Public Key Linux


Note: Consider performing the following steps through a non-root account with sudo privileges, as an additional safety layer.

1. Using the SSH keys, log into the remote CentOS server which has administrative privileges:

2. Next, open the SSH daemon configuration file using a text editor of your choice:

3. Look for the following line in the file:

Generate Ssh Keys Linux

4. Edit the configuration by changing the yes value to no. Thus, the directive should be as following:

5. Save the file and exit the text editor.
6. To enable the changes, restart the sshdservice using the command:

7. Verify the SSH connection to the server is still functioning correctly. Open a new terminal window and type in the command:

In this article, you learned how to generate SSH key pairs and set up an SSH key-based authentication. We also covered copying keys to your remote CentOS server, and disabling SSH password authentication.

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