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What is a SSH key?

When it comes to authenticating with remote servers, the common method is using a username and password, which is susceptible to brute force attacks. This document aims to shed light on SSH certificates and their importance, without delving into the technical intricacies but providing a high-level understanding for beginners.

Understanding SSH Keys

An SSH key, generated using tools like `openssl` or `puttygen`, consists of a unique and random private key saved in an encrypted file, and a corresponding public key installed on the desired service for SSH key authentication.

An SSH key pair comprises a private key (kept private and never shared) and a public key (meant to be shared without security risks). These keys, generated using tools like `openssl` or `puttygen`, provide global uniqueness. The private key is securely stored in a file, preferably encrypted for added protection, while the public key is installed on the service requiring SSH key authentication.

Benefits of SSH Key Authentication

  • By setting up an SSH key on your server, you can disable password authentication for the account, preventing unauthorized access even if the password is known.
  • Using the same key, you can access multiple servers or different accounts on the same server without compromising security.
  • You have the flexibility to add multiple public keys to a single account, allowing others access without sharing your own key or password. This is particularly useful for contracted developers or collaborating teams.

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