SSH(1) BSD General Commands Manual SSH(1)
ssh -- OpenSSH SSH client (remote login program)
ssh [-l login_name] hostname | user@hostname [command]
ssh [-afgknqstvxACNTX1246] [-b bind_address] [-c cipher_spec] [-e escape_char] [-i identity_file] [-l login_name] [-m mac_spec] [-o option]
[-p port] [-F configfile] [-L port:host:hostport] [-R port:host:hostport] [-D port] hostname | user@hostname [command]
ssh (SSH client) is a program for logging into a remote machine and for executing commands on a remote machine. It is intended to replace
rlogin and rsh, and provide secure encrypted communications between two untrusted hosts over an insecure network. X11 connections and arbi-
trary TCP/IP ports can also be forwarded over the secure channel.
ssh connects and logs into the specified hostname. The user must prove his/her identity to the remote machine using one of several methods
depending on the protocol version used:
SSH protocol version 1
First, 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, the user is immediately permitted to log in. Second, if .rhosts or .shosts exists in the user's home directory
on the remote machine and contains a line containing the name of the client machine and the name of the user on that machine, the user is
permitted to log in. This form of authentication alone is normally not allowed by the server because it is not secure.
The second authentication method is the rhosts or hosts.equiv method combined with RSA-based host authentication. It means that if the login
would be permitted by $HOME/.rhosts, $HOME/.shosts, /etc/hosts.equiv, or /etc/ssh/shosts.equiv, and if additionally the server can verify the
client's host key (see /etc/ssh/ssh_known_hosts and $HOME/.ssh/known_hosts in the FILES section), only then login is permitted. This authen-
tication method closes security holes due to IP spoofing, DNS spoofing and routing spoofing. [Note to the administrator: /etc/hosts.equiv,
$HOME/.rhosts, and the rlogin/rsh protocol in general, are inherently insecure and should be disabled if security is desired.]
As a third authentication method, ssh supports RSA based authentication. The scheme is based on public-key cryptography: there are cryp-
tosystems where encryption and decryption are done using separate keys, and it is not possible to derive the decryption key from the encryp-
tion key. RSA is one such system. 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. The file $HOME/.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 server
checks if this key is permitted, and if so, sends the user (actually the ssh program running on behalf of the user) a challenge, a random
number, encrypted by the user's public key. The challenge can only be decrypted using the proper private key. The user's client then
decrypts the challenge using the private key, proving that he/she knows the private key but without disclosing it to the server.
ssh implements the RSA authentication protocol automatically. The user creates his/her RSA key pair by running ssh-keygen(1). This stores
the private key in $HOME/.ssh/identity and the public key in $HOME/.ssh/identity.pub in the user's home directory. The user should then copy
the identity.pub to $HOME/.ssh/authorized_keys in his/her home directory on the remote machine (the authorized_keys file corresponds to the
conventional $HOME/.rhosts file, and has one key per line, though the lines can be very long). After this, the user can log in without giv-
ing the password. RSA authentication is much more secure than rhosts authentication.
The most convenient way to use RSA authentication may be with an authentication agent. See ssh-agent(1) for more information.
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 protocol version 2
When a user connects using protocol version 2 similar authentication methods are available. Using the default values for
PreferredAuthentications, the client will try to authenticate first using the hostbased method; if this method fails public key authentica-
tion is attempted, and finally if this method fails keyboard-interactive and password authentication are tried.
The public key method is similar to RSA authentication described in the previous section and allows the RSA or DSA algorithm to be used: The
client uses his private key, $HOME/.ssh/id_dsa or $HOME/.ssh/id_rsa, to sign the session identifier and sends the result to the server. The
server checks whether the matching public key is listed in $HOME/.ssh/authorized_keys and grants access if both the key is found and the sig-
nature is correct. The session identifier is derived from a shared Diffie-Hellman value and is only known to the client and the server.
If public key authentication fails or is not available a password can be sent encrypted to the remote host for proving the user's identity.
Additionally, ssh supports hostbased or challenge response authentication.
Protocol 2 provides additional mechanisms for confidentiality (the traffic is encrypted using 3DES, Blowfish, CAST128 or Arcfour) and
integrity (hmac-md5, hmac-sha1). Note that protocol 1 lacks a strong mechanism for ensuring the integrity of the connection.
Login session and remote execution
When the user's identity has been accepted by the server, the server either executes the given command, or logs into the machine and gives
the user a normal shell on the remote machine. All communication with the remote command or shell will be automatically encrypted.
If a pseudo-terminal has been allocated (normal login session), the user may use the escape characters noted below.
If no pseudo tty 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/IP connections have been closed. The exit
status of the remote program is returned as the exit status of ssh.
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:
~^Z Background ssh
~# List forwarded connections
~& Background ssh at logout when waiting for forwarded connection / X11 sessions to terminate
~? Display a list of escape characters
~C Open command line (only useful for adding port forwardings using the -L and -R options)
~R Request rekeying of the connection (only useful for SSH protocol version 2 and if the peer supports it)
X11 and TCP forwarding
If the ForwardX11 variable is set to ``yes'' (or, see the description of the -X and -x options described later) 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 described later) and the user is using an
authentication agent, the connection to the agent is automatically forwarded to the remote side.
Forwarding of arbitrary TCP/IP connections over the secure channel can be specified either on the command line or in a configuration file.
One possible application of TCP/IP forwarding is a secure connection to an electronic purse; another is going through firewalls.
ssh automatically maintains and checks a database containing identifications for all hosts it has ever been used with. Host keys are stored
in $HOME/.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 a trojan horse from getting the user's password. Another purpose of this mechanism is to prevent man-in-
the-middle attacks which could otherwise be used to circumvent the encryption. The StrictHostKeyChecking option can be used to prevent
logins to machines whose host key is not known or has changed.
The options are as follows:
-a Disables forwarding of the authentication agent connection.
-A Enables forwarding of the authentication agent connection. This can also be specified on a per-host basis in a configuration file.
Agent forwarding should be enabled with caution. Users with the ability to bypass file permissions on the remote host (for the
agent's Unix-domain socket) can access the local agent through the forwarded connection. An attacker cannot obtain key material from
the agent, however they can perform operations on the keys that enable them to authenticate using the identities loaded into the
Specify the interface to transmit from on machines with multiple interfaces or aliased addresses.
Selects the cipher to use for encrypting the session. 3des is used by default. It is believed to be secure. 3des (triple-des) is
an encrypt-decrypt-encrypt triple with three different keys. blowfish is a fast block cipher, it appears very secure and is much
faster than 3des. des is only supported in the ssh client for interoperability with legacy protocol 1 implementations that do not
support the 3des cipher. Its use is strongly discouraged due to cryptographic weaknesses.
Additionally, for protocol version 2 a comma-separated list of ciphers can be specified in order of preference. See Ciphers for more
Sets the escape character for sessions with a pty (default: '~'). The escape character is only recognized at the beginning of a
line. The escape character followed by a dot ('.') closes the connection, followed by control-Z suspends the connection, and fol-
lowed by itself sends the escape character once. Setting the character to ``none'' disables any escapes and makes the session fully
-f Requests ssh to go to background just before command execution. This is useful if ssh is going to ask for passwords or passphrases,
but the user wants it in the background. This implies -n. The recommended way to start X11 programs at a remote site is with some-
thing like ssh -f host xterm.
-g Allows remote hosts to connect to local forwarded ports.
Selects a file from which the identity (private key) for RSA or DSA authentication is read. The default is $HOME/.ssh/identity for
protocol version 1, and $HOME/.ssh/id_rsa and $HOME/.ssh/id_dsa for protocol version 2. Identity files may also be specified on a
per-host basis in the configuration file. It is possible to have multiple -i options (and multiple identities specified in configu-
Specifies which smartcard device to use. The argument is the device ssh should use to communicate with a smartcard used for storing
the user's private RSA key.
-k Disables forwarding of Kerberos tickets and AFS tokens. This may also be specified on a per-host basis in the configuration file.
Specifies the user to log in as on the remote machine. This also may be specified on a per-host basis in the configuration file.
Additionally, for protocol version 2 a comma-separated list of MAC (message authentication code) algorithms can be specified in order
of preference. See the MACs keyword for more information.
-n Redirects stdin from /dev/null (actually, prevents reading from stdin). This must be used when ssh is run in the background. A com-
mon trick is to use this to run X11 programs on a remote machine. For example, ssh -n shadows.cs.hut.fi emacs & will start an emacs
on shadows.cs.hut.fi, and the X11 connection will be automatically forwarded over an encrypted channel. The ssh program will be put
in the background. (This does not work if ssh needs to ask for a password or passphrase; see also the -f option.)
-N Do not execute a remote command. This is useful for just forwarding ports (protocol version 2 only).
Can be used to give options in the format used in the configuration file. This is useful for specifying options for which there is
no separate command-line flag.
Port to connect to on the remote host. This can be specified on a per-host basis in the configuration file.
-q Quiet mode. Causes all warning and diagnostic messages to be suppressed.
-s May be used to request invocation of a subsystem on the remote system. Subsystems are a feature of the SSH2 protocol which facilitate
the use of SSH as a secure transport for other applications (eg. sftp). The subsystem is specified as the remote command.
-t Force pseudo-tty allocation. This can be used to execute arbitrary screen-based programs on a remote machine, which can be very use-
ful, e.g., when implementing menu services. Multiple -t options force tty allocation, even if ssh has no local tty.
-T Disable pseudo-tty allocation.
-v Verbose mode. Causes ssh to print debugging messages about its progress. This is helpful in debugging connection, authentication,
and configuration problems. Multiple -v options increases the verbosity. Maximum is 3.
-x Disables X11 forwarding.
-X Enables X11 forwarding. This can also be specified on a per-host basis in a configuration file.
X11 forwarding should be enabled with caution. Users with the ability to bypass file permissions on the remote host (for the user's
X authorization database) can access the local X11 display through the forwarded connection. An attacker may then be able to perform
activities such as keystroke monitoring.
-C Requests compression of all data (including stdin, stdout, stderr, and data for forwarded X11 and TCP/IP connections). The compres-
sion algorithm is the same used by gzip(1), and the ``level'' can be controlled by the CompressionLevel option for protocol version
1. Compression is desirable on modem lines and other slow connections, but will only slow down things on fast networks. The default
value can be set on a host-by-host basis in the configuration files; see the Compression option.
Specifies an alternative per-user configuration file. If a configuration file is given on the command line, the system-wide configu-
ration file (/etc/ssh/ssh_config) will be ignored. The default for the per-user configuration file is $HOME/.ssh/config.
Specifies that the given port on the local (client) host is to be forwarded to the given host and port on the remote side. This
works by allocating a socket to listen to port on the local side, and whenever a connection is made to this port, the connection is
forwarded over the secure channel, and a connection is made to host port hostport from the remote machine. Port forwardings can also
be specified in the configuration file. Only root can forward privileged ports. IPv6 addresses can be specified with an alternative
Specifies that the given port on the remote (server) host is to be forwarded to the given host and port on the local side. This
works by allocating a socket to listen to port on the remote side, and whenever a connection is made to this port, the connection is
forwarded over the secure channel, and a connection is made to host port hostport from the local machine. Port forwardings can also
be specified in the configuration file. Privileged ports can be forwarded only when logging in as root on the remote machine. IPv6
addresses can be specified with an alternative syntax: port/host/hostport
Specifies a local ``dynamic'' application-level port forwarding. This works by allocating a socket to listen to port on the local
side, and whenever a connection is made to this port, the connection is forwarded over the secure channel, and the application proto-
col is then used to determine where to connect to from the remote machine. Currently the SOCKS4 protocol is supported, and ssh will
act as a SOCKS4 server. Only root can forward privileged ports. Dynamic port forwardings can also be specified in the configuration
-1 Forces ssh to try protocol version 1 only.
-2 Forces ssh to try protocol version 2 only.
-4 Forces ssh to use IPv4 addresses only.
-6 Forces ssh to use IPv6 addresses only.
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).
ssh will normally set the following environment variables:
The DISPLAY variable indicates the location of the X11 server. It is automatically set by ssh to point to a value of the form
``hostname:n'' where hostname indicates the host where the shell runs, and n is an integer >= 1. ssh uses this special value to for-
ward X11 connections over the secure channel. The user should normally not set DISPLAY explicitly, as that will render the X11 con-
nection insecure (and will require the user to manually copy any required authorization cookies).
HOME Set to the path of the user's home directory.
Synonym for USER; set for compatibility with systems that use this variable.
MAIL Set to the path of the user's mailbox.
PATH Set to the default PATH, as specified when compiling ssh.
If ssh needs a passphrase, it will read the passphrase from the current terminal if it was run from a terminal. If ssh does not have
a terminal associated with it but DISPLAY and SSH_ASKPASS are set, it will execute the program specified by SSH_ASKPASS and open an
X11 window to read the passphrase. This is particularly useful when calling ssh from a .Xsession or related script. (Note that on
some machines it may be necessary to redirect the input from /dev/null to make this work.)
Identifies the path of a unix-domain socket used to communicate with the agent.
Identifies the client and server ends of the connection. The variable contains four space-separated values: client ip-address,
client port number, server ip-address and server port number.
The variable contains the original command line if a forced command is executed. It can be used to extract the original arguments.
This is set to the name of the tty (path to the device) associated with the current shell or command. If the current session has no
tty, this variable is not set.
TZ The timezone variable is set to indicate the present timezone if it was set when the daemon was started (i.e., the daemon passes the
value on to new connections).
USER Set to the name of the user logging in.
Additionally, ssh reads $HOME/.ssh/environment, and adds lines of the format ``VARNAME=value'' to the environment if the file exists and if
users are allowed to change their environment. See the PermitUserEnvironment option in sshd_config(5).
Records host keys for all hosts the user has logged into that are not in /etc/ssh/ssh_known_hosts. See sshd(8).
$HOME/.ssh/identity, $HOME/.ssh/id_dsa, $HOME/.ssh/id_rsa
Contains the authentication identity of the user. They are for protocol 1 RSA, protocol 2 DSA, and protocol 2 RSA, respectively.
These files contain sensitive data and should be readable by the user but not accessible by others (read/write/execute). Note that
ssh ignores a private key file if it is accessible by others. It is possible to specify a passphrase when generating the key; the
passphrase will be used to encrypt the sensitive part of this file using 3DES.
$HOME/.ssh/identity.pub, $HOME/.ssh/id_dsa.pub, $HOME/.ssh/id_rsa.pub
Contains the public key for authentication (public part of the identity file in human-readable form). The contents of the
$HOME/.ssh/identity.pub file should be added to $HOME/.ssh/authorized_keys on all machines where the user wishes to log in using pro-
tocol version 1 RSA authentication. The contents of the $HOME/.ssh/id_dsa.pub and $HOME/.ssh/id_rsa.pub file should be added to
$HOME/.ssh/authorized_keys on all machines where the user wishes to log in using protocol version 2 DSA/RSA authentication. These
files are not sensitive and can (but need not) be readable by anyone. These files are never used automatically and are not neces-
sary; they are only provided for the convenience of the user.
This is the per-user configuration file. The file format and configuration options are described in ssh_config(5).
Lists the public keys (RSA/DSA) that can be used for logging in as this user. The format of this file is described in the sshd(8)
manual page. In the simplest form the format is the same as the .pub identity files. This file is not highly sensitive, but the
recommended permissions are read/write for the user, and not accessible by others.
Systemwide list of known host keys. This file should be prepared by the system administrator to contain the public host keys of all
machines in the organization. This file should be world-readable. This file contains public keys, one per line, in the following
format (fields separated by spaces): system name, public key and optional comment field. When different names are used for the same
machine, all such names should be listed, separated by commas. The format is described on the sshd(8) manual page.
The canonical system name (as returned by name servers) is used by sshd(8) to verify the client host when logging in; other names are
needed because ssh does not convert the user-supplied name to a canonical name before checking the key, because someone with access
to the name servers would then be able to fool host authentication.
Systemwide configuration file. The file format and configuration options are described in ssh_config(5).
/etc/ssh/ssh_host_key, /etc/ssh/ssh_host_dsa_key, /etc/ssh/ssh_host_rsa_key
These three files contain the private parts of the host keys and are used for RhostsRSAAuthentication and HostbasedAuthentication.
If the protocol version 1 RhostsRSAAuthentication method is used, ssh must be setuid root, since the host key is readable only by
root. For protocol version 2, ssh uses ssh-keysign(8) to access the host keys for HostbasedAuthentication. This eliminates the
requirement that ssh be setuid root when that authentication method is used. By default ssh is not setuid root.
This file is used in .rhosts authentication to list the host/user pairs that are permitted to log in. (Note that this file is also
used by rlogin and rsh, which makes using this file insecure.) Each line of the file contains a host name (in the canonical form
returned by name servers), and then a user name on that host, separated by a space. On some machines this file may need to be world-
readable if the user's home directory is on a NFS partition, because sshd(8) reads it as root. Additionally, this file must be owned
by the user, and must not have write permissions for anyone else. The recommended permission for most machines is read/write for the
user, and not accessible by others.
Note that by default sshd(8) will be installed so that it requires successful RSA host authentication before permitting .rhosts
authentication. If the server machine does not have the client's host key in /etc/ssh/ssh_known_hosts, it can be stored in
$HOME/.ssh/known_hosts. The easiest way to do this is to connect back to the client from the server machine using ssh; this will
automatically add the host key to $HOME/.ssh/known_hosts.
This file is used exactly the same way as .rhosts. The purpose for having this file is to be able to use rhosts authentication with
ssh without permitting login with rlogin or rsh(1).
This file is used during .rhosts authentication. It contains canonical hosts names, one per line (the full format is described on the
sshd(8) manual page). If the client host is found in this file, login is automatically permitted provided client and server user
names are the same. Additionally, successful RSA host authentication is normally required. This file should only be writable by
This file is processed exactly as /etc/hosts.equiv. This file may be useful to permit logins using ssh but not using rsh/rlogin.
Commands in this file are executed by ssh when the user logs in just before the user's shell (or command) is started. See the
sshd(8) manual page for more information.
Commands in this file are executed by ssh when the user logs in just before the user's shell (or command) is started. See the
sshd(8) manual page for more information.
Contains additional definitions for environment variables, see section ENVIRONMENT above.
ssh exits with the exit status of the remote command or with 255 if an error occurred.
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.
rsh(1), scp(1), sftp(1), ssh-add(1), ssh-agent(1), ssh-keygen(1), telnet(1), ssh_config(5), ssh-keysign(8), sshd(8)
T. Ylonen, T. Kivinen, M. Saarinen, T. Rinne, and S. Lehtinen, SSH Protocol Architecture, draft-ietf-secsh-architecture-12.txt, January 2002,
work in progress material.
September 25, 1999 BSD