Configure SSH Access

SSH remote access is useful for example in the case of a headless server or a remote machine, where you want to have control or administer it. Let’s see in this guide how we can set up an SSH server for the mentioned purpose.

Set a static IP address

On* the SERVER SIDE (host you want to control) and as a rule of thumb, setting a static IP address is the first step, since you do not want to have random IPs provided by an DHCP server. Here are 2 sources:

Install required dependencies dependencies

Not is is time to install what is needed, so:

$ sudo pacman -S openssh

Start and enable services

In this step we want to start, check status and enable the required services, so let’s follow these commands, they are self-explanatory:

$ sudo systemctl start sshd

The last command started our SSH service, so let’s double check that is already started:

$ sudo systemctl status sshd

The ‘sshd; service should be up and running but it will NOT start automatically, so let’s make sure that happens by enabling it at start-up time:

$ sudo systemctl enable sshd

A first SSH test

At this point, we should be able to connect to our remote machine via SSH default port (22) with user/pass credentials, so ON THE CLIENT SIDE run:

# Example: [email protected]
$ ssh [email protected]_ADDRESS

If you are asked (very likely), add a confirmation to add the ‘fingerprint’ to the ‘known_hosts’ and then type your password.

Securing our SSH server

There are a couple of things that are ‘kind of’ mandatory in order to add an extra layer of security to our SSH Server.

Change the default SSH Port

We can achieve this by editing the file /etc/ssh/sshd_config:

$ sudo vim /etc/ssh/sshd_config 

Let’s search and uncomment the option ‘Port’ and assign any other number, for example 844.

Disable user/pass authentication

This is very IMPORTANT, otherwise we are opening doors to brute force attacks against our SSH Server. In order to mitigate this issue first check this article:

Once we have our SSH keys generated ON THE CLIENT SIDE, we have to copy the content of our .pub file and paste it at the bottom of the file ~/.ssh/authorized_keys on the SERVER SIDE. That’s it, we should be able to connect without user/pass credentials. Please continue reading.

Other considerations

In the file /etc/ssh/sshd_config, we could also polish even more our sshd settings, depending on our needs and setup:

  • X11Forwarding: Enabling X forwarding makes our system vulnerable to X11 related issues. So it’s a good idea to set it to NO.
  • PermitRootLogin: We should NOT ALLOW root users to login directly to the system, so let’s set it to NO.

Restart your service

In order for the changes to take effect, let’s restart our service:

$ sudo systemctl restart sshd

Now let’s try out our setup:

# Example: ssh -p 844 [email protected]
$ ssh -p 844 [email protected]P_ADDRESS

The -p argument serves to specify the custom port we have already configured. Connection should succeed, thus allowing us to fully administer the remote remote machine via SSH.