OpenSSH SSH client (remote login program)


Connect to a remote server

$ ssh [username]@[remote_host]

Connect to a remote server with a specific identity (private key)

$ ssh -i [path/to/key_file] [username]@[remote_host]

Connect to a remote server using a specific port

$ ssh [username]@[remote_host] -p [2222]

Run a command on a remote server

$ ssh [remote_host] [command -with -flags]

SSH tunneling: Dynamic port forwarding (SOCKS proxy on localhost:1080)

$ ssh -D [1080] [username]@[remote_host]

SSH tunneling: Forward a specific port (localhost:9999 to along with disabling pseudo-[t]ty allocation and executio[n] of remote commands

$ ssh -L [9999]:[]:[80] -N -T [username]@[remote_host]

SSH jumping: Connect through a jumphost to a remote server (Multiple jump hops may be specified separated by comma characters)

$ ssh -J [username]@[jump_host] [username]@[remote_host]

Agent forwarding: Forward the authentication information to the remote machine (see man ssh_config for available options)

$ ssh -A [username]@[remote_host]


ssh [-46AaCfGgKkMNnqsTtVvXxYy] [-B bind_interface] [-b bind_address] [-c cipher_spec] [-D [] [-E log_file] [-e escape_char] [-F configfile] [-I pkcs11] [-i identity_file] [-J destination] [-L address] [-l login_name] [-m mac_spec] [-O ctl_cmd] [-o option] [-p port] [-Q query_option] [-R address] [-S ctl_path] [-W host : port] [-w local_tun [: remote_tun]] destination [command]



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


S. Lehtinen and C. Lonvick, January 2006, RFC 4250, The Secure Shell (SSH) Protocol Assigned Numbers

T. Ylonen and C. Lonvick, January 2006, RFC 4251, The Secure Shell (SSH) Protocol Architecture

T. Ylonen and C. Lonvick, January 2006, RFC 4252, The Secure Shell (SSH) Authentication Protocol

T. Ylonen and C. Lonvick, January 2006, RFC 4253, The Secure Shell (SSH) Transport Layer Protocol

T. Ylonen and C. Lonvick, January 2006, RFC 4254, The Secure Shell (SSH) Connection Protocol

J. Schlyter and W. Griffin, January 2006, RFC 4255, Using DNS to Securely Publish Secure Shell (SSH) Key Fingerprints

F. Cusack and M. Forssen, January 2006, RFC 4256, Generic Message Exchange Authentication for the Secure Shell Protocol (SSH)

J. Galbraith and P. Remaker, January 2006, RFC 4335, The Secure Shell (SSH) Session Channel Break Extension

M. Bellare and T. Kohno and C. Namprempre, January 2006, RFC 4344, The Secure Shell (SSH) Transport Layer Encryption Modes

B. Harris, January 2006, RFC 4345, Improved Arcfour Modes for the Secure Shell (SSH) Transport Layer Protocol

M. Friedl and N. Provos and W. Simpson, March 2006, RFC 4419, Diffie-Hellman Group Exchange for the Secure Shell (SSH) Transport Layer Protocol

J. Galbraith and R. Thayer, November 2006, RFC 4716, The Secure Shell (SSH) Public Key File Format

D. Stebila and J. Green, December 2009, RFC 5656, Elliptic Curve Algorithm Integration in the Secure Shell Transport Layer

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


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.


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. If only legacy (MD5) fingerprints for the server are available, the ssh-keygen(1) -E option may be used to downgrade the fingerprint algorithm to match.

Because of the difficulty of comparing host keys just by looking at fingerprint 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. 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 -literal -offset indent $ 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: -literal -offset indent $ 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.


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

On the server: -literal -offset indent # 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 :'' -literal -offset 2n 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).


ssh will normally set the following environment variables:

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).


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.


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

ssh connects and logs into the specified destination , which may be specified as either off [ on or a URI of the form off ssh:// [ on The user must prove his/her identity to the remote machine using one of several methods (see below).

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

The options are as follows:

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 protocol 2.

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 PreferredAuthentications can be used to change the default order.

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, Ed25519 or RSA algorithms. The HISTORY section of ssl(8) 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 server may inform the client of errors that prevented public key authentication from succeeding after authentication completes using a different method. These may be viewed by increasing the LogLevel to DEBUG or higher (e.g. by using the -v flag).

The user creates his/her key pair by running ssh-keygen(1). This stores the private key in ~/.ssh/id_dsa (DSA), ~/.ssh/id_ecdsa (ECDSA), ~/.ssh/id_ed25519 (Ed25519), or ~/.ssh/id_rsa (RSA) and stores the public key in ~/.ssh/ (DSA), ~/.ssh/ (ECDSA), ~/.ssh/ (Ed25519), or ~/.ssh/ (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) and (optionally) the AddKeysToAgent directive in ssh_config(5) for more information.

Challenge-response authentication works as follows: The server sends an arbitrary "challenge" text, and prompts for a 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 in a non-interactive session or, if no command has been specified, logs into the machine and gives the user a normal shell as an interactive session. All communication with the remote command or shell will be automatically encrypted.

If an interactive session is requested ssh by default will only request a pseudo-terminal (pty) for interactive sessions when the client has one. The flags -T and -t can be used to override this behaviour.

If a pseudo-terminal has been allocated the user may use the escape characters noted below.

If no pseudo-terminal 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.


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:


Forwarding of arbitrary TCP connections over a 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 for an IRC client, even though the IRC server it connects to does not directly support encrypted communication. This works as follows: the user connects to the remote host using , specifying the ports to be used to forward the connection. After that it is possible to start the program locally, and ssh will encrypt and forward the connection to the remote server.

The following example tunnels an IRC session from the client to an IRC server at `` ,'' joining channel ``#users ,'' nickname ``pinky ,'' using the standard IRC port, 6667: -literal -offset 4n $ ssh -f -L 6667:localhost:6667 sleep 10 $ irc -c '#users' pinky IRC/

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 program which is going to use the tunnel. If no connections are made within the time specified, ssh will exit.


scp(1), sftp(1), ssh-add(1), ssh-agent(1), ssh-keygen(1), ssh-keyscan(1), tun(4), ssh_config(5), ssh-keysign(8), sshd(8)

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