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Oct 05, 2007 To generate a pair of public and private keys execute the following command: ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 2048 You can use “dsa” instead of the “rsa” after the -t to generate a DSA key. The number after the -b specifies the key length in bits. An SSH key consists of a pair of files. One is the private key, which you should never give to anyone. No one will ever ask you for it and if so, simply ignore them - they are trying to steal it. The other is the public key. When you generate your keys, you will use ssh-keygen to store the keys in a safe location so you can authenticate with.

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With a secure shell (SSH) key pair, you can create virtual machines (VMs) in Azure that use SSH keys for authentication, eliminating the need for passwords to sign in. This article shows you how to quickly generate and use an SSH public-private key file pair for Linux VMs. You can complete these steps with the Azure Cloud Shell, a macOS or Linux host, the Windows Subsystem for Linux, and other tools that support OpenSSH.

The.pub file is your public key, and the other file is the corresponding private key. If you don’t have these files (or you don’t even have a.ssh directory), you can create them by running a program called ssh-keygen, which is provided with the SSH package on Linux/macOS systems and comes with Git for Windows. The purpose of ssh-copy-id is to make setting up public key authentication easier. The process is as follows. Generate an SSH Key. With OpenSSH, an SSH key is created using ssh-keygen. In the simplest form, just run ssh-keygen and answer the questions. The following example illustates this. # ssh-keygen Generating public/private rsa key pair. Apr 28, 2018  With Bash on Ubuntu on Windows, you can use a Windows Subsystem for Linux on Windows 10. With that, you can run many Linux commands, for example, ssh.This post shows you how to create an SSH key, which should be used on both, the Linux subsystem and Windows.

Note

VMs created using SSH keys are by default configured with passwords disabled, which greatly increases the difficulty of brute-force guessing attacks.

For more background and examples, see Detailed steps to create SSH key pairs.

For additional ways to generate and use SSH keys on a Windows computer, see How to use SSH keys with Windows on Azure.

Supported SSH key formats

Azure currently supports SSH protocol 2 (SSH-2) RSA public-private key pairs with a minimum length of 2048 bits. Other key formats such as ED25519 and ECDSA are not supported.

Create an SSH key pair

Use the ssh-keygen command to generate SSH public and private key files. By default, these files are created in the ~/.ssh directory. You can specify a different location, and an optional password (passphrase) to access the private key file. If an SSH key pair with the same name exists in the given location, those files are overwritten.

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The following command creates an SSH key pair using RSA encryption and a bit length of 4096:

If you use the Azure CLI to create your VM with the az vm create command, you can optionally generate SSH public and private key files using the --generate-ssh-keys option. The key files are stored in the ~/.ssh directory unless specified otherwise with the --ssh-dest-key-path option. The --generate-ssh-keys option will not overwrite existing key files, instead returning an error. In the following command, replace VMname and RGname with your own values:

Provide an SSH public key when deploying a VM

To create a Linux VM that uses SSH keys for authentication, specify your SSH public key when creating the VM using the Azure portal, Azure CLI, Azure Resource Manager templates, or other methods:

If you're not familiar with the format of an SSH public key, you can display your public key with the following cat command, replacing ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub with the path and filename of your own public key file if needed:

A typical public key value looks like this example:

If you copy and paste the contents of the public key file to use in the Azure portal or a Resource Manager template, make sure you don't copy any trailing whitespace. To copy a public key in macOS, you can pipe the public key file to pbcopy. Similarly in Linux, you can pipe the public key file to programs such as xclip.

The public key that you place on your Linux VM in Azure is by default stored in ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub, unless you specified a different location when you created the key pair. To use the Azure CLI 2.0 to create your VM with an existing public key, specify the value and optionally the location of this public key using the az vm create command with the --ssh-key-values option. In the following command, replace VMname, RGname, and keyFile with your own values:

If you want to use multiple SSH keys with your VM, you can enter them in a space-separated list, like this --ssh-key-values sshkey-desktop.pub sshkey-laptop.pub.

SSH into your VM

With the public key deployed on your Azure VM, and the private key on your local system, SSH into your VM using the IP address or DNS name of your VM. In the following command, replace azureuser and myvm.westus.cloudapp.azure.com with the administrator user name and the fully qualified domain name (or IP address):

If you specified a passphrase when you created your key pair, enter that passphrase when prompted during the login process. The VM is added to your ~/.ssh/known_hosts file, and you won't be asked to connect again until either the public key on your Azure VM changes or the server name is removed from ~/.ssh/known_hosts.

If the VM is using the just-in-time access policy, you need to request access before you can connect to the VM. For more information about the just-in-time policy, see Manage virtual machine access using the just in time policy.

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Next steps

  • For more information on working with SSH key pairs, see Detailed steps to create and manage SSH key pairs.

  • If you have difficulties with SSH connections to Azure VMs, see Troubleshoot SSH connections to an Azure Linux VM.

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With a secure shell (SSH) key pair, you can create a Linux virtual machine on Azure that defaults to using SSH keys for authentication, eliminating the need for passwords to sign in. VMs created with the Azure portal, Azure CLI, Resource Manager templates, or other tools can include your SSH public key as part of the deployment, which sets up SSH key authentication for SSH connections.

This article provides detailed background and steps to create and manage an SSH RSA public-private key file pair for SSH client connections. If you want quick commands, see How to create an SSH public-private key pair for Linux VMs in Azure.

For additional ways to generate and use SSH keys on a Windows computer, see How to use SSH keys with Windows on Azure.

Overview of SSH and keys

SSH is an encrypted connection protocol that allows secure sign-ins over unsecured connections. SSH is the default connection protocol for Linux VMs hosted in Azure. Although SSH itself provides an encrypted connection, using passwords with SSH connections still leaves the VM vulnerable to brute-force attacks or guessing of passwords. A more secure and preferred method of connecting to a VM using SSH is by using a public-private key pair, also known as SSH keys.

  • The public key is placed on your Linux VM, or any other service that you wish to use with public-key cryptography.

  • The private key remains on your local system. Protect this private key. Do not share it.

When you use an SSH client to connect to your Linux VM (which has the public key), the remote VM tests the client to make sure it possesses the private key. If the client has the private key, it's granted access to the VM.

Depending on your organization's security policies, you can reuse a single public-private key pair to access multiple Azure VMs and services. You do not need a separate pair of keys for each VM or service you wish to access.

Your public key can be shared with anyone, but only you (or your local security infrastructure) should possess your private key.

Private key passphrase

The SSH private key should have a very secure passphrase to safeguard it. This passphrase is just to access the private SSH key file and is not the user account password. When you add a passphrase to your SSH key, it encrypts the private key using 128-bit AES, so that the private key is useless without the passphrase to decrypt it. If an attacker stole your private key and that key did not have a passphrase, they would be able to use that private key to sign in to any servers that have the corresponding public key. If a private key is protected by a passphrase, it cannot be used by that attacker, providing an additional layer of security for your infrastructure on Azure.

Supported SSH key formats

Azure currently supports SSH protocol 2 (SSH-2) RSA public-private key pairs with a minimum length of 2048 bits. Other key formats such as ED25519 and ECDSA are not supported.

SSH keys use and benefits

When you create an Azure VM by specifying the public key, Azure copies the public key (in the .pub format) to the ~/.ssh/authorized_keys folder on the VM. SSH keys in ~/.ssh/authorized_keys are used to challenge the client to match the corresponding private key on an SSH connection. In an Azure Linux VM that uses SSH keys for authentication, Azure configures the SSHD server to not allow password sign-in, only SSH keys. Therefore, by creating an Azure Linux VM with SSH keys, you can help secure the VM deployment and save yourself the typical post-deployment configuration step of disabling passwords in the sshd_config file.

If you do not wish to use SSH keys, you can set up your Linux VM to use password authentication. If your VM is not exposed to the Internet, using passwords may be sufficient. However, you still need to manage your passwords for each Linux VM and maintain healthy password policies and practices, such as minimum password length and regular updates. Using SSH keys reduces the complexity of managing individual credentials across multiple VMs.

Generate keys with ssh-keygen

To create the keys, a preferred command is ssh-keygen, which is available with OpenSSH utilities in the Azure Cloud Shell, a macOS or Linux host, the Windows Subsystem for Linux, and other tools. ssh-keygen asks a series of questions and then writes a private key and a matching public key.

SSH keys are by default kept in the ~/.ssh directory. If you do not have a ~/.ssh directory, the ssh-keygen command creates it for you with the correct permissions.

Basic example

The following ssh-keygen command generates 2048-bit SSH RSA public and private key files by default in the ~/.ssh directory. If an SSH key pair exists in the current location, those files are overwritten.

Detailed example

The following example shows additional command options to create an SSH RSA key pair. If an SSH key pair exists in the current location, those files are overwritten.

Command explained

ssh-keygen = the program used to create the keys

-m PEM = format the key as PEM

-t rsa = type of key to create, in this case in the RSA format

-b 4096 = the number of bits in the key, in this case 4096

-C '[email protected]' = a comment appended to the end of the public key file to easily identify it. Normally an email address is used as the comment, but use whatever works best for your infrastructure.

-f ~/.ssh/mykeys/myprivatekey = the filename of the private key file, if you choose not to use the default name. A corresponding public key file appended with .pub is generated in the same directory. The directory must exist.

-N mypassphrase = an additional passphrase used to access the private key file.

Example of ssh-keygen

Saved key files

Enter file in which to save the key (/home/azureuser/.ssh/id_rsa): ~/.ssh/id_rsa

The key pair name for this article. Having a key pair named id_rsa is the default; some tools might expect the id_rsa private key file name, so having one is a good idea. The directory ~/.ssh/ is the default location for SSH key pairs and the SSH config file. If not specified with a full path, ssh-keygen creates the keys in the current working directory, not the default ~/.ssh.

List of the ~/.ssh directory

Key passphrase

Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase):

It is strongly recommended to add a passphrase to your private key. Without a passphrase to protect the key file, anyone with the file can use it to sign in to any server that has the corresponding public key. Adding a passphrase offers more protection in case someone is able to gain access to your private key file, giving you time to change the keys.

Generate keys automatically during deployment

If you use the Azure CLI to create your VM, you can optionally generate SSH public and private key files by running the az vm create command with the --generate-ssh-keys option. The keys are stored in the ~/.ssh directory. Note that this command option does not overwrite keys if they already exist in that location.

Provide SSH public key when deploying a VM

To create a Linux VM that uses SSH keys for authentication, provide your SSH public key when creating the VM using the Azure portal, CLI, Resource Manager templates, or other methods. When using the portal, you enter the public key itself. If you use the Azure CLI to create your VM with an existing public key, specify the value or location of this public key by running the az vm create command with the --ssh-key-value option.

If you're not familiar with the format of an SSH public key, you can see your public key by running cat as follows, replacing ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub with your own public key file location:

Output is similar to the following (here redacted):

If you copy and paste the contents of the public key file into the Azure portal or a Resource Manager template, make sure you don't copy any additional whitespace or introduce additional line breaks. For example, if you use macOS, you can pipe the public key file (by default, ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub) to pbcopy to copy the contents (there are other Linux programs that do the same thing, such as xclip).

If you prefer to use a public key that is in a multiline format, you can generate an RFC4716 formatted key in a pem container from the public key you previously created.

To create a RFC4716 formatted key from an existing SSH public key:

SSH to your VM with an SSH client

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With the public key deployed on your Azure VM, and the private key on your local system, SSH to your VM using the IP address or DNS name of your VM. Replace azureuser and myvm.westus.cloudapp.azure.com in the following command with the administrator user name and the fully qualified domain name (or IP address):

If you provided a passphrase when you created your key pair, enter the passphrase when prompted during the sign-in process. (The server is added to your ~/.ssh/known_hosts folder, and you won't be asked to connect again until the public key on your Azure VM changes or the server name is removed from ~/.ssh/known_hosts.)

If the VM is using the just-in-time access policy, you need to request access before you can connect to the VM. For more information about the just-in-time policy, see Manage virtual machine access using the just in time policy.

Use ssh-agent to store your private key passphrase

To avoid typing your private key file passphrase with every SSH sign-in, you can use ssh-agent to cache your private key file passphrase. If you are using a Mac, the macOS Keychain securely stores the private key passphrase when you invoke ssh-agent.

Verify and use ssh-agent and ssh-add to inform the SSH system about the key files so that you do not need to use the passphrase interactively.

Now add the private key to ssh-agent using the command ssh-add.

The private key passphrase is now stored in ssh-agent.

Use ssh-copy-id to copy the key to an existing VM

If you have already created a VM, you can install the new SSH public key to your Linux VM with a command similar to the following:

Create and configure an SSH config file

You can create and configure an SSH config file (~/.ssh/config) to speed up log-ins and to optimize your SSH client behavior.

The following example shows a simple configuration that you can use to quickly sign in as a user to a specific VM using the default SSH private key.

Create the file

Edit the file to add the new SSH configuration

Example configuration

Add configuration settings appropriate for your host VM.

You can add configurations for additional hosts to enable each to use its own dedicated key pair. See SSH config file for more advanced configuration options.

Now that you have an SSH key pair and a configured SSH config file, you are able to sign in to your Linux VM quickly and securely. When you run the following command, SSH locates and loads any settings from the Host myvm block in the SSH config file.

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The first time you sign in to a server using an SSH key, the command prompts you for the passphrase for that key file.

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Next steps

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Next up is to create Azure Linux VMs using the new SSH public key. Azure VMs that are created with an SSH public key as the sign-in are better secured than VMs created with the default sign-in method, passwords.