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SSH Simplified

Posted on:April 9, 2022 at 03:22 PM

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How SSH Works

In SSH, there are two keys, public(ex: and private(ex: id_rsa). Keys are generated by the client who wants to access the remote server by running ssh-keygen in the client terminal. These keys will be generated and saved on the ~/.ssh folder.

The client can share its public key with anyone. If a server wants to give access to the client, it can add the client public key to its ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file. the client can define the key generation algorithm and size using

ssh-keygen -t <algorithm-name> -b <size in bits>

for example,

ssh-keygen -t ecdsa -b 521

Generates ssh key using elliptical curve algorithm size of 521 bits. SSH does not provide any logs about ssh connection failure to the client due to security implications. It is possible to view the logs in the remote server by running

tail -f /var/log/auth.log

the remote server can change SSH configuration by editing /etc/ssh/sshd_config file. Using ssh tunneling it is possible to do local and remote port forwarding.

Local Port Forwarding

The client can forward its local port to a remote server port or any private port that the server has access to by running,

ssh -L <client-port>:<server-ip-address>:<server-port> username@server_ip/domain

Ex-1: An app running on a remote server itself on 3000 port,

ssh -L 3001:localhost:3000 user1@

now accessing localhost:3001 in the client app is the same as accessing localhost:3000 on a remote server.

Ex-2: An app is running on a different machine of the private network( at of the remote server. so the remote server can access it through

ssh -L 4002: user1@

now localhost:4002 in the client app is equivalent to on a remote server.

Remote Port Forwarding

It is the reverse of local port forwarding. Let`s say you want to give a client or someone a sneak peek of your application. you can obviously host this application to the remote server and do this. But you can do it easily by redirecting the remote server traffic to your local machine using the Remote Port Forwarding feature of ssh. Command for remote port forwarding,

ssh -R <server-port>:<local-ip-address>:<local-port> username@server_ip/domain

Let`s say the application is running on localhost:3000 on your machine, server public IP address you want to redirect the user to your local machine on 3000 port when someone enters on the browser.

ssh -R 8080:localhost:3000 user1@

if your application is running on a different machine(IP of your local network,

ssh -R 8080: user1@

Remembering the IP address and writing those large commands every time is a bit hassling. So to resolve that, the client can write configs on ~/.ssh/config file

Config file format

Host <domain-name>
HostName <IP Address>
Port <ssh-port>
User <username>
IdentityFile <private key path>
LocalForward <Client Port> <Server-local-Ip>:<Server Port>
RemoteForward <Server Port> <Client-IP>:<Client Port>


Host ec2-workstation
Port 22
User ec2-user
IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa
LocalForward 3001 localhost:3000
LocalForward 4000 localhost:4000
RemoteForward 8080 localhost:3040

ssh ec2-workstation command will enable local port forwarding 3001 to sever’s localhost 3000 and 4000 to server’s localhost 4000. Also accessing will get forwarded to the client’s localhost:3040.

Here it is good to define the private key if you have multiple private keys on your machine. If you do not define the private keys the ssh-client will brute force all the keys and some servers may block the client after too many retries.

Good Practices

If you are on a local network you can ignore most of the best practices, but if you are exposing your computer to the public internet you should follow the best practices. Else if an attacker gets into your computer he/she may get access to the cloud server of your company and can steal the client data which can put you and your company into a lawsuit.