how to setup ssh server ubuntu

admin3 April 2024Last Update :

Unlocking Remote Access: A Comprehensive Guide to Setting Up an SSH Server on Ubuntu

how to setup ssh server ubuntu

Welcome to the digital age, where remote access is not just a convenience—it’s a necessity. Whether you’re managing a fleet of servers for a large enterprise or simply accessing your home computer from afar, Secure Shell (SSH) stands as a bastion of secure communication in an otherwise vulnerable online world. In this article, we’ll embark on a journey through the intricacies of setting up an SSH server on the robust and widely-used platform of Ubuntu. Prepare to arm yourself with the knowledge needed to establish a fortress of secure connectivity.

Understanding SSH: The Gateway to Secure Remote Access

Before diving into the technicalities, let’s unravel the essence of SSH. At its core, SSH is a protocol that provides a secure channel over an unsecured network, enabling encrypted communication between two devices. It’s the go-to tool for system administrators, developers, and IT professionals seeking to remotely control and transfer files between machines without exposing sensitive data to prying eyes.

The Importance of SSH in Today’s Digital Landscape

In an era where cyber threats loom at every corner, SSH serves as a critical layer of defense. By encrypting data in transit, it thwarts potential eavesdropping and man-in-the-middle attacks, ensuring that your confidential information remains just that—confidential.

Prerequisites: Before You Begin

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

  • An Ubuntu server or desktop edition installed
  • A user account with sudo privileges
  • Access to a terminal window/command line (Ctrl-Alt-T)
  • An internet connection to download necessary packages

Step-by-Step Guide to Installing and Configuring SSH on Ubuntu

Now, let’s walk through the process of installing and configuring your SSH server on Ubuntu.

Installing OpenSSH Server

OpenSSH is the most popular and widely used SSH server available. To install it on your Ubuntu system, follow these steps:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install openssh-server

Once the installation is complete, the SSH service will start automatically. To verify that the service is running, use:

sudo systemctl status ssh

Configuring SSH for Enhanced Security

With the SSH server up and running, it’s time to tighten security measures. The main configuration file for the SSH server is /etc/ssh/sshd_config. Let’s edit this file to make some key changes:

sudo nano /etc/ssh/sshd_config

Here are some recommended configurations:

  • Change the default SSH port (22) to a non-standard port to reduce the risk of automated attacks.
  • Disable root login by setting PermitRootLogin no.
  • Allow only specific users to connect by adding AllowUsers username.
  • Enable public key authentication by setting PubkeyAuthentication yes and PasswordAuthentication no to force key-based logins.

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

sudo systemctl restart ssh

Creating SSH Keys for Authentication

SSH keys provide a more secure way of logging into a server than using passwords alone. To generate an SSH key pair on your client machine, use:

ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 4096

This command creates a private key (id_rsa) and a public key ( Never share your private key!

To enable key-based authentication, copy the public key to your Ubuntu server:

ssh-copy-id username@server_ip

Replace username with your actual username and server_ip with the server’s IP address.

Connecting to Your SSH Server

With everything set up, you can now connect to your Ubuntu server via SSH:

ssh -p port_number username@server_ip

Remember to replace port_number with the port you configured earlier.

Enhancing Your SSH Experience

Beyond basic setup, there are ways to further enhance the functionality and security of your SSH server.

Using SSH Agent for Managing Keys

SSH agent is a program that holds your private keys in memory, so you don’t have to type your passphrase every time you use your SSH keys. To add your private key to the agent, use:

ssh-add ~/.ssh/id_rsa

Setting Up Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

For added security, consider setting up two-factor authentication on your SSH server. This requires users to provide not only their SSH key but also a one-time code generated by an application like Google Authenticator.

Troubleshooting Common SSH Issues

Even with careful setup, you might encounter issues. Here are quick fixes for common problems:

  • If you can’t connect, check your firewall settings and ensure the SSH port is open.
  • Permission errors can often be resolved by correcting the permissions on your ~/.ssh directory and files within it.
  • If you face authentication problems, verify that your public key is correctly installed on the server.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I change my SSH server’s port number?

Edit the /etc/ssh/sshd_config file and modify the Port directive to your desired port number. Don’t forget to restart the SSH service afterward.

Can I use SSH to transfer files?

Yes, you can use SCP or SFTP, which are protocols built on top of SSH, to securely transfer files between computers.

What should I do if I lose my private key?

If you lose your private key, you’ll need to generate a new key pair and install the new public key on the server. Ensure you remove the old key from the ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file on the server.


Setting up an SSH server on Ubuntu is a straightforward process that unlocks powerful capabilities for secure remote management. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you’ve not only established a secure connection but also fortified it against common threats. Remember, the digital realm is ever-evolving, and staying informed about security best practices is paramount. May your data always travel through the encrypted tunnels of SSH, safe from the dangers lurking in the shadows of cyberspace.


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