5 Linux SSH Security Best Practices to Secure Your Systems

Secure Shell (SSH) is a popular network protocol used to remotely access and manage Linux-based systems. As an administrator, you should take appropriate measures to ensure security of your systems, data, and users. In this article, we will discuss five Linux SSH security best practices to secure your systems.

Use Strong Authentication Methods

Authentication is process of verifying identity of a user or system. By default, SSH uses a combination of username and password for authentication. However, this method is susceptible to brute force attacks and can be easily compromised if password is weak or reused across multiple systems.

To enhance security of your SSH authentication, you should consider using stronger methods such as public key authentication. Public key authentication uses a pair of keys - a private key and a public key. private key is kept secret and is used to generate a digital signature, while public key is shared with SSH server to verify signature.

To use public key authentication, you need to generate a key pair on your local system and then copy public key to remote system's authorized_keys file. Once configured, you can log in to remote system without entering a password.

Disable Root Login

The root user is most powerful account on a Linux system and has complete control over system. By default, SSH allows root login, which makes it an easy target for hackers to gain access to your system. Hence, it's recommended to disable root login and use a regular user account to access system.

To disable root login, you need to edit SSH configuration file (/etc/ssh/sshd_config) and set value of PermitRootLogin to "no." This will prevent anyone from logging in as root user over SSH.

Use Firewall to Limit Access

Firewall is a network security tool used to control incoming and outgoing traffic based on predefined rules. A properly configured firewall can prevent unauthorized access to your SSH server and protect your system from malicious attacks.

You can use a firewall to limit access to your SSH server by allowing only trusted IP addresses to connect. For example, you can allow access only from your organization's IP address range or from a specific VPN connection. This will prevent unauthorized access from external networks and reduce attack surface.

To configure firewall rules, you need to use a firewall management tool such as UFW (Uncomplicated Firewall) or iptables. You can create rules to allow SSH traffic from specific IP addresses or networks and block all other traffic.

Keep SSH Software Up to Date

Software updates are essential for maintaining security and stability of your system. SSH software is no exception. It's recommended to keep your SSH software up to date to ensure that you have latest security patches and bug fixes.

Most Linux distributions provide updates for SSH software through their package management system. You can use package manager to check for updates and install them as needed.

Monitor SSH Logs

SSH logs contain information about SSH connections, including login attempts, successful logins, and failed logins. Monitoring SSH logs can help you detect and prevent unauthorized access to your system and identify suspicious activities.

You can use a log management tool such as rsyslog or syslog-ng to collect and store SSH logs. These tools can also filter and analyze logs to identify specific events or patterns of behavior.

Limit User Access

Limiting user access is an essential step in securing your Linux SSH server. You should only grant access to users who require it and remove access once it's no longer needed. This reduces attack surface and prevents unauthorized access to your system.

To limit user access, you can create user accounts with specific permissions and roles. For example, you can create a user account with read-only access to specific directories or files, or create an account with sudo privileges for system administration tasks.

Use SSH Hardening Tools

SSH hardening tools are software packages that provide additional security features and configurations for SSH. These tools can help you implement best practices and secure your SSH server with minimal effort.

Some popular SSH hardening tools include sshguard, Fail2ban, and DenyHosts. These tools can automatically block IP addresses that attempt to brute-force your SSH server or engage in suspicious activity.

Configure SSH Security Options

SSH provides several security options that you can configure to enhance security of your server. These options include −

  • Disabling SSH protocol version 1

  • Changing default SSH port

  • Setting maximum number of login attempts

  • Enabling TCP forwarding restrictions

  • Restricting SSH access to specific users or groups

By configuring these security options, you can further reduce attack surface and prevent unauthorized access to your system.

Use Strong Passwords

If you are using password authentication, it's essential to use strong passwords that cannot be easily guessed or cracked. Strong passwords should be at least 12 characters long and contain a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.

To enforce strong passwords, you can use tools such as PAM (Pluggable Authentication Modules) or password quality checkers. These tools can ensure that passwords meet specific requirements and prevent users from using weak passwords.

Educate Users on Security Best Practices

Finally, educating users on security best practices is crucial in securing your Linux SSH server. Users should be aware of risks and vulnerabilities associated with SSH and follow best practices such as −

  • Keeping their passwords confidential

  • Logging out after each session

  • Reporting suspicious activity

  • Using secure networks to access SSH server

By educating users, you can create a culture of security and reduce risk of security incidents.


SSH is a powerful tool for managing Linux systems, but it can also be a security risk if not properly secured. By following best practices outlined in this article, you can enhance security of your SSH server and protect your systems from unauthorized access and malicious attacks. Remember to use strong authentication methods, disable root login, use a firewall to limit access, keep SSH software up to date, and monitor SSH logs regularly to ensure security of your system. Additionally, you should also consider implementing other security measures such as two-factor authentication, intrusion detection systems, and network segmentation to further enhance security of your system.

In conclusion, securing your SSH server is essential for maintaining security of your Linux-based systems. By following best practices outlined in this article and implementing additional security measures, you can protect your systems from unauthorized access and malicious attacks. Remember, security is a continuous process, and you should always stay vigilant and proactive to ensure security of your systems.

Updated on: 11-Apr-2023


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