How to secure SSH such that multiple users can log in to one account?

  • Consider a generic up-to-date Linux distro hosting a web server. I need three humans to occasionally SSH into the same user account to perform some action that can only be done by that particular user account.

    The 'easy way' to do this would be to simply allow SSH by password and to give the username/password combo to all three humans. However, I prefer to disable password logins and to require RSA keys. Is there a way to configure SSH to accept the RSA keys from three different users? I don't want to distribute the same keys to those users as they do log into other servers as well.

    man authorized_keys

  • Yes, you can have multiple keys that are allowed to log into an account. This is a common configuration among users who have multiple trusted machines and keep a separate private key on each one.

    This is also a reasonable configuration for a service account that is only meant to access one application. In this situation it is usually combined with a restricted or special-purpose login shell that only allows access to that specific application. For example, gitosis is a gateway to the Git version control system, and handles user authentication by itself, sticking to a joint git account at the unix level. If multiple people can run arbitrary command through this account, you should really give them different unix accounts.

    Get the users to send you a public key, and concatenate the public keys together to form the ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file, or equivalently append each public key starting from an empty file.

    You can put restrictions on the keys themselves in the authorized_keys file. For example, ssh-rsa AAAA… [email protected] declares a key with no restrictions, whereas a user who logs in with the following key is only allowed to log in from a specific IP subnet, may not forward ports, and may only run a specific command:

    command="/usr/local/bin/restricted-app",from="",no-agent-forwarding,no-port-forwarding,no-x11-forwarding ssh-rsa AAAA… [email protected]

    If you rely on command restrictions, be careful that the command doesn't allow any indirect way to obtain a shell or to edit files in the .ssh directory or any other sensitive location. You may make the account's home directory, the ~/.ssh directory and its contents owned by root and accessible for reading by the user, which would prevent privilege escalation in case the restricted application has a file overwrite vulnerability but no shell escape vulnerability.

    Set LogLevel VERBOSE (one step up from the default level INFO) in the server configuration (sshd_config) to log which key was used to log into the account each time.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM