How to SCP files with out password using keys

Posted on 10:41 AM by Bharathvn

This small HowTo will explain how to setup key-based authentication for password-less SSH and SCP usage.

This HowTo does assume the reader has some basic knowledge of ssh and a terminal, and is using an operating system that implements SSH. If you're using a Windows OS and want to use SSH, try PuTTY. For Putty, see key-based auth with Putty.

In the examples that follow please substitute 'servername' , 'ipaddress' and 'username' with the proper information for your setup. I have included a list of weblinks for the words in italic at the end of this document.

Step 1. Verify that you can connect normally (using a password) to the server you intend to setup keys for:

#### Examples ####

user@homebox ~ $ ssh username@'servername'

# Or:

user@homebox ~ $ ssh username@'ipaddress'

# If your username is the same on both the client ('homebox') and the server ('servername'):

user@homebox ~ $ ssh 'servername'

# Or:

user@homebox ~ $ ssh 'ipaddress'

# If this is your first time connecting to 'servername' (or 'ipaddress'), upon establishing a connection with the
# server you'll be asked if you want to add the servers fingerprint to the known_hosts file on your computer.
# Press 'enter' to add the fingerprint.

Step 2. Now that you're connected to the server and verified that you have everything you need for access (hopefully), disconnect by typing 'exit' .

#### Examples ####

user@servername ~ $ exit

# You should be back at:

user@homebox ~ $

Step 3. The next step is to copy a unique key generated on your 'homebox' to the server you are connecting too. First, before you generate a new key, check to see if you already have a key:

#### Example ####

user@homebox ~ $ ls -l ~/.ssh
total 20
-rwx--xr-x 1 user user 601 Feb 2 01:58 authorized_keys
-rwx--xr-x 1 user user 668 Jan 1 19:26 id_dsa
-rwx--xr-x 1 user user 599 Jan 1 19:26 id_dsa.pub
-rwx--xr-x 1 user user 6257 Feb 2 21:04 known_hosts

# The file we need to copy to the server is named id_dsa.pub. As you can see above, the file needed exists. You may or may not have other files in ~/.ssh as I do. If the key doesn't exist, however, you can make one as follows:

#### Example ####

user@homebox ~ $ ssh-keygen -t dsa
Generating public/private dsa key pair.
Enter file in which to save the key (/home/user/.ssh/id_dsa): # Press 'enter' here
Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase): # Press 'enter' here
Enter same passphrase again: # Press 'enter' here
Your identification has been saved in /home/user/.ssh/id_dsa.
Your public key has been saved in /home/user/.ssh/id_dsa.pub.
The key fingerprint is:
6f:c3:cb:50:e6:e9:90:f0:0f:68:d2:10:56:eb:1d:91 user@host

# Entering a password when asked during the key generation processes when prompted would require you to enter a password each time you SSH/SCP to the server which defeats the purpose of this document.

Step 4. Regardless whether you had a key ready to go or if you had to generate a new key, the next step is the same in either case. Now you're ready to copy the key to the server. Do so like this:

#### Example ####

user@homebox ~ $ ssh-copy-id -i ~/.ssh/id_dsa.pub user@'servername' (or 'ipaddress')

# If you are asked weather or not you wish to continue, say yes.

Step 5. Now it's time to test the setup. To do that, try to ssh to the server:

#### Example ####

user@homebox ~ $ ssh 'servername' (or 'ipaddress')

# You should log in to the remote host without being asked for a password.

Step 6. You can now SSH or SCP to the remote host without having to enter a password at each connection. To make sure your public key stays secure from prying eyes, do the following to change permissions and restrict access on 'homebox' and also on 'servername' to ~/.ssh:

#### Example ####

user@homebox ~ $ chmod 600 ~/.ssh/id_dsa ~/.ssh/id_dsa.pub

# Verify the permissions on the files:

#### Example ####

user@homebox ~ $ ls -l ~/.ssh
-rw------- 1 user user 668 Feb 4 19:26 id_dsa
-rw------- 1 user user 599 Feb 4 19:26 id_dsa.pub

Links

1. OpenSSH

2. known_hosts

3. fingerprint