How to Set Up and Use SSH Key Authentication on Linux


Secure Shell (SSH) is a widely used protocol for secure remote access and management of Linux servers. By default, SSH authentication relies on passwords, which can be vulnerable to brute-force attacks. SSH key authentication is a more secure and convenient method that uses public-key cryptography to authenticate users. In this guide, we will show you how to set up and use SSH key authentication on your Linux system.


Step 1: Open Terminal

Open the terminal by pressing Ctrl + Alt + T on your keyboard or by searching for it in the applications menu.

Step 2: Generate SSH Key Pair

First, you need to generate an SSH key pair, which consists of a private key and a public key. To generate a new key pair, run the following command:

ssh-keygen -t ed25519 -C “”

This command generates a new Ed25519 key pair, which is considered more secure and efficient than the older RSA key type. You can replace with your actual email address or any other identifier.

When prompted, choose a location to save the keys (default is ~/.ssh/id_ed25519 for the private key and ~/.ssh/ for the public key) and set a passphrase for added security. Make sure to keep your private key safe and secret, as it’s used to authenticate your identity.

Step 3: Copy Public Key to Remote Server

To set up SSH key authentication, you need to copy your public key to the remote server’s authorized_keys file. You can do this using the ssh-copy-id command:

ssh-copy-id -i ~/.ssh/ username@remote_server_ip

Replace username with your remote server’s username and remote_server_ip with the IP address or domain of the remote server. If prompted, enter your remote server’s password to complete the process.

Step 4: Test SSH Key Authentication

Now that your public key is on the remote server, you can test SSH key authentication by connecting to the server:

ssh -i ~/.ssh/id_ed25519 username@remote_server_ip

If the setup is successful, you will be logged into the remote server without entering a password. However, if you set a passphrase during key generation, you’ll be prompted to enter it.

Step 5 (Optional): Disable Password Authentication

For added security, you can disable password-based authentication on the remote server, allowing only key-based authentication. To do this, edit the SSH configuration file on the remote server:

sudo nano /etc/ssh/sshd_config

Find the line that contains #PasswordAuthentication yes, uncomment it by removing the #, and change yes to no:

PasswordAuthentication no

Save the file and restart the SSH service:

sudo systemctl restart sshd

Now, only users with authorized SSH keys can access the remote server.


Setting up and using SSH key authentication on Linux is a simple and effective way to enhance the security of your remote connections. By following the steps in this guide, you can create an SSH key pair, set up key-based authentication, and optionally disable password authentication. This will help you protect your Linux system from unauthorized access and make remote management more convenient.

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