Most of the development work on a Linux PC is via the terminal. Hence having a good remote terminal is essential. As you can’t always have a VM instances running your Linux. It become difficult over time.
The best is to have either a headless PC or an old Laptop that would act as our Linux box.
In my case I had an old Celeron Core 2 Duo a.k.a
Since the loss of
Windows XP the laptop was running Ubuntu 16.04.
There were several tutorials on the Net telling about how to configure an SSH server however every time I tried them some thing was wrong or some thing did not work.
Hence I decided to document my journey to have a good secure SSH server running on my old Laptop.
Fortunately the same process also worked on my Workstation running a storage server on Ubuntu 17.10.
Lets Begin !
Steps that we are going to take
- Installation of SSH on Ubuntu
- Setup of Public/Private Key for SSH
- Configuration for hardened SSH on Ubuntu
- Integration of Keys with Windows/Linux
- Setup for Connecting Windows to SSHD on Linux
Install SSH on Ubuntu
ssh is same name used for a cluster of packages that would be installed by giving the command:
sudo apt install ssh
Here is a List of packages that would be installed :
You can look at the individual distributions in the link above.
Typically there are few important ones to note:
openssh-client= This gives all the important features needed in Linux to connect to other SSH servers and generate keys .etc.
SSHDThe famous SSH server for Linux. This enables your Linux box to become a server and provide ssh terminal connection features from windows.
With these two installed its most likely that your SSH Server is already running.
WARNING Your service is UNSAFE ! - Just after install
So first stop the server with the command:
sudo service ssh stop
To check if the SSH is running then type the following command:
ps -e|grep ssh
If this shows an empty list then you have successfully turned off your unsafe ssh server.
Generate the keys for SSH
Generating the keys is easy :
ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096 -C "firstname.lastname@example.org"
Follow the rest from Github Tutorial
We would Recommend to have a Password for the SSH key.
Next we need to insert this key into the Authorized Keys.
In case you have used the default path for key generation you can do this:
cat $HOME/.ssh/id_rsa.pub >> .ssh/authorized_keys
This would add the currently generated keys to the Authorized Keys register for connection.
In case you have used a different folder or filename for the key then you need to provide the public key version of that name.
For Example if we have created
/home/user/priv.key then the public key would be available at
It is important that the particular user or the global list of the Authorized keys needs to be updated. This would allow only a specific private key to be used. In case the system has multiple users then perform the command as:
cat $HOME/.ssh/id_rsa.pub >> /etc/ssh/global_authorized_keys
Configuration for Basic Security on sshd Server
We need to open the
sudo nano -c /etc/ssh/sshd_config
Here are some of the Important Modifications:
... # Changing the Default SSH Port helps to make a more secure - Its more like a no-brainier, but make sure to remember. Port 1221 ... # Better Logging LogLevel VERBOSE ... # Authentication: - Full Enabled #LoginGraceTime 2m #PermitRootLogin prohibit-password PermitRootLogin no #StrictModes yes #MaxAuthTries 6 MaxAuthTries 3 #MaxSessions 10 MaxSessions 2 # Make sure to <UserName> is changed to the Respective users you wish to allow. The usernames separated by coma. AllowUsers <UserName> PubkeyAuthentication yes ... AuthorizedKeysFile .ssh/authorized_keys .ssh/authorized_keys2 /etc/ssh/global_authorized_keys ... # To disable tunneled clear text passwords, change to no here! #PasswordAuthentication yes PasswordAuthentication no PermitEmptyPasswords no ... # Change to yes to enable challenge-response passwords (beware issues with # some PAM modules and threads) ChallengeResponseAuthentication no ... #AllowAgentForwarding yes AllowAgentForwarding no #AllowTcpForwarding yes AllowTcpForwarding no #GatewayPorts no GatewayPorts no PermitTunnel no X11Forwarding yes #X11DisplayOffset 10 #X11UseLocalhost yes #PermitTTY yes PrintMotd no #PrintLastLog yes #TCPKeepAlive yes #UseLogin no #PermitUserEnvironment no #Compression delayed #ClientAliveInterval 0 #ClientAliveCountMax 3 #UseDNS no #PidFile /var/run/sshd.pid #MaxStartups 10:30:100 #PermitTunnel no #ChrootDirectory none #VersionAddendum none ...
You can find a Full file from here Raw
sshd_config file for download
Once you have this setup ready you can restart the PC to restart the SSHD service.
Configuring Windows to Connect using the New Key
In order to make both of them work, we need to convert our Private key to a WinSCP/Putty acceptable form.
For that we use the tool call
PuTTYgen its used to convert the binary file to
id_rsa to a usable
- First copy the
id_rsafile or where ever you have stored the Private Key to the Windows PC.
NOTE : This is extremely risky step. Make sure to take proper precaution to securely transfer your private key
Next open the
PuTTYgentool it would open a Window by the title PuTTY Key Generator. We are going to use this to convert the keys.
Click on the Load button and select the
All Files (*.*)Filter, since the
id_rsa/Private Key file is not normally visible. Select the Private Key file and open it.
In case you have set password on the Private Key File it would now ask for the password. Enter the same password you set earlier.
Finally the Key would be read back into the tool. Check if the
Key Commentfiled says
imported-openssh-key, this means that the key has been successfully imported.
Now click Save private key button and this would generate a
.ppkformat file that us used by both PuTTY/WinSCP
Save this new format Private Key in a safe location on the Windows PC. This location would later be used when we confirm the PuTTY/WinSCP connection.
.ppk file in place you can delete the
id_rsa binary version of the Private key from Windows PC.
Setup Windows to Linux Connection over SSH
In the PuTTY write the
Host Name (or IP address) and the correct
Port (configured earlier in the
In the Tag
Connection>SSH>Auth find the Field
Private key file for authentication:.
Browse for the
.ppk file we generated in the above steps and select ok.
This sets up the connection, now you can click on
Open to start the SSH connection.
In the WinSCP Connection dialog set the follow:
Hostname and Port number (configured earlier in the
Username that we selected in the
Finally click on the
This opens an
Advanced Site SettingsDialog where you can select the Tag
Allow agent forwardingas Unchecked
Private key file:field click on the
...button the browse for the
.ppkfile generated earlier.
Okto confirm the settings.
Finally you can click
Loginto begin the session.
Compatibility & Testing:
This Works for Ubuntu 16.04, 16.10, 17.04, 17.10, 18.04 !
Note : you must have all restricted extras enabled in Ubuntu 18.04.
A Piece of Disclaimer
Though we are talking of secure connection to Linux PC, but method described in previous sections is still vulnerable.
One must use hardware key store or HSM modules like YubiHSM for better security.
At any point if the Private key is compromised in the above process due to weak password, no-password or direct Hacking the whole network security to the Linux is compromised.
WARNING: This free document / guide is for your convenience and its use is at your own risk. It is available as a reference only, and IS NOT INHERENTLY A SECURE WAY to connect to Linux. The author/providers cannot and do not guarantee the privacy of your data, its security and communication. There are potentially serious security issues with any computer connected to the Internet without the appropriate protection, ranging from viruses, worms and other programs that can damage the user’s computer both ways, to attacks on the computer by unauthorized or unwanted third parties. By following this guide, you acknowledge and knowingly accept the potentially serious risks of accessing your hardware unsecured over network. It is recommended that users take steps to protect their own computer system, such as installing current anti-virus software and maintaining appropriate firewall protection. You acknowledge and agree that YOUR USE OF THIS DOCUMENT & ABOVE PROCESS IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.