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SSH in a nutshell

Secure Shell (SSH) is a protocol suite to securely access services over an unsecured network. Its most common use cases are remote login to a shell and file transfers.

This document was written with a focus on accessing the central services provided by SCC, such as GridKa, HPC, the central web server cluster, or the KIT GitLab instance. For the most part, the content should be applicable to SSH in general.

OpenSSH is the most relevant implementation today. This document may recommend settings, which are incompatible with alternative implementations like Dropbear or TinySSH.

The OpenSSH recommendations consist of three parts. Client Basics is targeted to end users with little or no prior exposure to SSH. It is intended to get you started with a secure configuration that is still convenient to use. It may well be worth a read for more advanced users if you want to learn about the following

Five Rules of OpenSSH Security

  1. Keep your computer up-to-date
  2. Be careful with ~/.ssh/*
  3. Protect your SSH private keys
  4. Protect your ssh-agent
  5. Avoid using scp

The remaining parts discuss more advanced topics and server configuration.

A Note on Cryptography

Although SSH builds on cryptography, we will not discuss or recommend any specific settings in this document at this time. Keeping systems up-to-date on both the server and client side will lead to safe cryptographic defaults. If you absolutely want to tweak these settings, there are projects documenting the strongest possible configuration. This will lead to interoperability issues and create operational burden, since these settings need to be adjusted over time as research in cryptopgraphy yields new results.

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