In this post, I will go through how to setup OpenSSH, secure your keys, set up SSH Tunnel, socks proxy, use jump hosts and batch mode is ssh.

Installing SSH

  • For Linux, sudo apt install openssh-server
  • For Mac, SSH is already installed.
  • For Windows, in powershell with elevated access Add-WindowsCapability -Online -Name OpenSSH.Server~~~~

Note: For windows you can verify if it installed or not by using Get-WindowsCapability -Online | Where-Object Name -like 'OpenSSH*'

Enabling SSH service

  • For Linux,
    sudo systemctl enable ssh
    sudo systemctl start ssh
  • For macOS, open “System Preferences” => Sharing => enable “Remote Login” (You can restrict access to specific users.). You can also enable it through a command line like below
    sudo systemsetup -setremotelogin on
  • For Windows, in PowerShell with elevated access.
    # Start the sshd service
    Start-Service sshd
    # OPTIONAL but recommended:
    Set-Service -Name sshd -StartupType 'Automatic'

Hardening SSH login

Hackers might be running scans on public hosts/ips on the default SSH port, so it is recommended to have the below settings, before you start ssh server (sshd). There are a couple of settings that can be done to harden SSH login.

  • Disable Root login (Make sure you have a valid user with sudo permissions created)
  • Disable password authentication
  • Enable public-key authentication
  • Change default to port 22 For Linux and MacOS, the config file is /etc/ssh/sshd_config, For Windows, the config file is ` %programdata%\ssh\sshd_config (mostly C:\ProgramData\ssh\sshd_config`).

Have below settings in the ssh config file

PermitRootLogin no
PasswordAuthentication no
AuthenticationMethods publickey
PubkeyAuthentication yes
ChallengeResponseAuthentication no
Port 2222

For Linux, reload sshd daemon

sudo systemctl reload sshd

For MacOS, reload sshd like below

sudo launchctl unload /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ssh.plist
sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ssh.plist

Securing SSH keys

Linux and MacOS

Usually, if you are using ssh-keygen, it will create ~/.ssh folder with keys with correct permissions. If you want to copy your existing keys, you need to set proper permissions for keys to work.

mkdir ~/.ssh
chmod 700 ~/.ssh
chmod 600 ~/.ssh/authorized_keys
chmod 600 id_rsa
chmod 644


You can use cd $env:USERPROFILE\.ssh; ssh-keygen.exe to generate keys. Your keys would be at $env:USERPROFILE\.ssh You can also create authorized_keys file - cd $env:USERPROFILE; mkdir .ssh; cd .ssh; New-Item authorized_keys; To use existing keys,

  • cd $env:USERPROFILE:\.ssh go to .ssh folder
  • Run start . to open explorer with the current folder ($env:USERPROFILE.ssh);
  • Right-click authorized_keys, go to Properties -> Security -> Advanced
  • Click “Disable inheritance”
  • Choose “Convert inherited permissions into explicit permissions on this object” when prompted
  • Remove all permissions on file except for the SYSTEM and yourself. There must be exactly two permission entries on the file. Some guides suggest running the Repair-AuthorizedKeyPermission $env:USERPROFILE.ssh\authorized_keys - this will try to add the sshd user to the permission list will break the authentication, so don’t do that. Both SYSTEM and yourself should have full control over the file.1


Accessing remote application

If you want to access an application on a remote port, you can use SSH Tunneling without opening the port to the public. For example, if you have a Jupyter notebook running at port 8888 in your remote host, you can run the below command in your current host and access it through localhost:8888.

ssh -N -f -L localhost:8888:localhost:8888 user@remote-server -p 2222
Access applications using SSH tunnel

If you want to do RDP to a remote machine, you can do to like below

ssh -N -f -L localhost:3389:localhost:3389 user@remote-server -p 2222

In your RDP client, you can use localhost with port 3389 to do RDP.

Socks Proxy

You can create socks proxy using the below command and route all your network traffic through the remote host.

ssh -D 8889 -f -C -q -N user@host
Access internet using socks proxy

Now you can go to any application which supports socks proxy and give localhost and 8889 to route traffic. Below is for firefox browser to route traffic through socks proxy.

firefox socks proxy settings

To stop SSH Tunneling, find the ssh tunnel process and kill it with kill -9

ps -ef | grep ssh

Jump servers

You can use jump servers to log in to a blocked host.

ssh -J user@jump-host user@blocked-host 

You can do multiple jumps

ssh -J user@jump-host1,user@jump-host2 user@blocked-host 

For older versions, where you don’t have -J option, you can use ProxyCommand

ssh -v -o ProxyCommand="ssh -W %h:%p user@jump-host" user@blocked-host

Tunnel + Jump servers

Accessing remote application

ssh -v -N -J user@jump-host user@blocked-host -L

Socks Proxy

ssh -D 8889 -f -C -q -J user@jump-host -N user@blocked-host 

Running SSH in Batch mode

If you are using ssh in batch mode, you can use the below options

  • set ConnectTimeout in seconds. If the remote server is not responding, go to the next one.
  • set UserKnownHostsFile to /dev/null to avoid prompts to add to known host file
  • set LogLevel to ERROR to restrict logging to errors
  • set StrictHostKeyChecking to no to avoid key checking
  • set BatchMode to yes; if your key is not added to authorized_keys, then it will error and continue to the next host.

Below is one example of running ssh in batch mode.

$ cat 

# iterate through each host
for i in "$@"
    ssh -o ConnectTimeout=10 \
        -o UserKnownHostsFile=/dev/null \
        -o LogLevel=ERROR \
        -o StrictHostKeyChecking=no \
        -o BatchMode=yes \
        user@$i 'sar -u 1 1 | tail -1' | awk -v vip="$i" '{print vip" "100 - $8"%"}'

$ ./ host1 host2

I hope this helps.

– RC