how to setup ssh server on ubuntu

admin3 April 2024Last Update :

Mastering SSH Server Setup on Ubuntu: A Comprehensive Guide

how to setup ssh server on ubuntu

Welcome to the ultimate guide on setting up an SSH server on your Ubuntu machine. Secure Shell (SSH) is a cryptographic network protocol that allows for secure communication over unsecured networks. It’s widely used by system administrators and IT professionals to control remote systems securely. In this article, we’ll dive deep into the process of setting up an SSH server on Ubuntu, ensuring you have all the knowledge needed to establish a secure and efficient connection to your server.

Understanding SSH and Its Importance

Before we embark on the technical journey of setting up an SSH server, it’s crucial to understand what SSH is and why it’s so important in today’s digital landscape. SSH provides a secure channel over an insecure network, encrypting the data transmitted between the client and the server. This encryption ensures that sensitive information such as passwords, user data, and administrative commands are not exposed to potential eavesdroppers or malicious actors.

Prerequisites for Setting Up an SSH Server

To set up an SSH server on Ubuntu, you will need the following:

  • An Ubuntu server or desktop version 16.04 LTS or later
  • A user account with sudo privileges
  • Access to a terminal/command line interface
  • An internet connection to download necessary packages

Step-by-Step Installation of OpenSSH Server

OpenSSH is the most popular tool for managing SSH connections. Here’s how to install it on your Ubuntu system:

Updating System Packages

First, ensure that your package list and installed packages are up-to-date with the following commands:

sudo apt update
sudo apt upgrade

Installing OpenSSH Server Package

Next, install the OpenSSH server package using the following command:

sudo apt install openssh-server

Once the installation is complete, the SSH service should start automatically. You can verify this with:

sudo systemctl status ssh

Configuring SSH Server Settings

After installing OpenSSH, you may want to configure it to enhance security or accommodate specific requirements.

Editing the SSH Configuration File

The main configuration file for SSH is located at /etc/ssh/sshd_config. To edit it, use your preferred text editor:

sudo nano /etc/ssh/sshd_config

In this file, you can make several changes, such as:

  • Changing the default SSH port (Port 22)
  • Disabling root login (PermitRootLogin no)
  • Allowing only specific users (AllowUsers username)

After making changes, save the file and restart the SSH service:

sudo systemctl restart ssh

Securing Your SSH Server

Security is paramount when setting up an SSH server. Here are some best practices:

Using Key-Based Authentication

Passwords can be vulnerable to brute-force attacks. Using SSH keys is more secure and convenient. To generate a new SSH key pair, use:

ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096

Then, copy the public key to the server with:

ssh-copy-id username@server_ip

Remember to disable password authentication by editing the /etc/ssh/sshd_config file and setting PasswordAuthentication to no.

Implementing Fail2Ban

Fail2Ban is a tool that helps protect your server against brute-force attacks. Install it with:

sudo apt install fail2ban

Configure Fail2Ban by copying the default configuration file and editing it:

sudo cp /etc/fail2ban/jail.conf /etc/fail2ban/jail.local
sudo nano /etc/fail2ban/jail.local

Enable and start the Fail2Ban service:

sudo systemctl enable fail2ban
sudo systemctl start fail2ban

Connecting to Your SSH Server

With your SSH server configured and secured, you can now connect from a client machine. Use the following command:

ssh username@server_ip

If you’re using key-based authentication, the server will check for your public key and grant access without prompting for a password.

Troubleshooting Common SSH Issues

Even with a perfect setup, issues can arise. Here are some common problems and their solutions:

  • Connection timed out: Check your firewall settings and ensure the SSH port is open.
  • Permission denied: Verify your username, IP address, and authentication method.
  • Could not resolve hostname: Ensure the server’s DNS name is correct or use the IP address instead.

FAQ Section

How do I change the default SSH port?

Edit the /etc/ssh/sshd_config file and change the Port directive to your desired port number. Remember to allow the new port through your firewall.

Can I use SSH to transfer files?

Yes, you can use SCP (Secure Copy Protocol) or SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol) to securely transfer files over an SSH connection.

Is it safe to disable password authentication?

If you’ve set up key-based authentication, disabling password authentication can significantly improve security by preventing brute-force attacks.


Setting up an SSH server on Ubuntu is a straightforward process that can greatly enhance the security and manageability of your remote connections. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can create a robust and secure environment for administering your servers. Always remember to keep your system updated and to follow best practices for securing your SSH server.


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