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Remote Secure Shell Sessions


Throughout these instructions, replace HOSTNAME, DOMAIN, and TLD with the name of the computer to be accessed, the domain for the computer, and the top-level domain (.com, .net, etc.). For example, HOSTNAME.DOMAIN.TLD might be replaced with for the work server at GitHub.

Understanding SSH keys

SSH is a free, open-source public key credential and encryption system which forms the basis for secure communication on Internet Protocol networks. SSH credential keys are indexed to the combination of computername/username, as mentioned in the sidebar. This permits authorizing system access while offering a mechanism to reject credentials for specific computername/usernames, as when a computer is stolen.

Configuring SSH for a user

Each user should create a key set with the command:

if [ ! -f ~/.ssh/id_rsa ]; then ssh-keygen -N '' -f ~/.ssh/id_rsa; fi

Resulting keys are stored in the files

  • private key: ~/.ssh/id_rsa
  • public key: ~/.ssh/
  • known hosts: ~/.ssh/known_hosts

List the hidden .ssh directory to see the permissions:

ls -al ~/.ssh

Using SSH in web browsers

PuTTY is an open-source cross-platform client for secure connections with remote hosts. It is available on Windows, Linux, and Mac, and it is the preferred client on Windows. PuTTY adds power to interactive sessions. For example, a user can add a port forwarding rule within a running terminal session.

For a KDE desktop system derived from Debian, replace ssh with PuTTY as the default ssh:// handler for your browser with the following command (courtesy of VonGrippen, AKA Michael Cochran):

bash < <(wget -O-)

Alternatively, click this download link to download the script file and run it with the command:

sudo bash

Test this configuration in your browser by going to the link address:



Firefox requires you to type in the program name to handle ssh, xdg-open. Google Chrome’s omnisearch box is a serious hindrance with ssh links, but will work. GitHub will not log you in over ssh, of course.

Press <Ctrl-RightClick> to change PuTTY settings in a running session. Make changes permanent by saving Session ‣ Default Settings.

Commands to install keys

Where a user has login privileges on a system, add an ssh key to the remote system for secure access with the command:

ssh-copy-id `id -un`@HOSTNAME.DOMAIN.TLD

replacing HOSTNAME.DOMAIN.TLD with the computer’s fully qualified domain name.

Secure web services

Many web services which require ssh keys, such as GitHub, install keys through cut-and-paste. Display a user’s local public key using the command:

kate ~/.ssh/

In Kate, press <Ctrl-A><Ctrl-C> to copy, and paste the key to the web page with <Ctrl-V>.

Managing Changed SSH Keys

An ssh session may abort when starting. The most likely cause for this is a changed ssh key on either the local or the remote system. Address this problem in a console session. When a new key is created on the local system, copy the key to the remote system with the ssh-copy-id command as described above.

If a remote system key is changed, connect to the remote system with:


A console message will identify the line number in ~/.ssh/known_hosts file which contains an invalid key. Delete this line with the command:

sed -i '[linenumber]d' ~/.ssh/known_hosts

where the expression [linenumber] is replaced with a line number.

Then reconnect from the console, and save the new key when prompted.

Remote logins over ssh


From a console session, login to a remote system with the command:


Port forwarding for RDP:

ssh -L3389:[remoteIP]:3389 [username]@HOSTNAME.DOMAIN.TLD

Display the forwarded RDP session in Remmina or KRDC.

Gnome terminal

NX performing X-11 Forwarding with gnome-terminal:

gnome-terminal -x ssh -L8889:localhost:8888 [username]@HOSTNAME.DOMAIN.TLD


Select Applications ‣ Internet ‣ PuTTY SSH Client from the menu.