Cache the password if SSH-keys are forbidden


I have a server which I have to access frequently via ssh, because I compute on it.
Now, the computing center explicitly forbids SSH-keys because they are "insecure". They feel that typing my password, on a keyboard, everytime, possible in front of other humans, is a much safer way to login.

Now; I cannot change their minds (I tried).

Is there a way to at least temporarily store SSH passwords, the way GIT can store passwords in a cache for some defined time?

Best Answer

Connection reuse

SSHv2 allows the same authenticated connection to establish multiple 'channels' – interactive shell, batch command, SFTP, along with the secondary ones such as agent-forwarding or TCP-forwarding. Your server probably supports connection multiplexing by default. (If your admins complain, it's not caching your password anywhere – it's caching the whole connection.)

With OpenSSH you have ControlMaster and ControlPath options (-M and -S) to make use of this:

  1. Start a 'master' SSH connection using -M. (Since you don't have a ControlPath in your config yet, you need to specify it in command line using -S. It needs to live long, so I add the -fN options to drop to background; they're technically optional otherwise.)

    $ ssh -fNMS ~/.ssh/bar.socket's password:

    You're back to the local shell.

  2. Start a new connection through the master:

    $ ssh -S ~/.ssh/bar.socket

    You're in.

  3. To make this useful for Git/rsync/SFTP, you need to set up ControlPath in your configuration, because you won't be able to specify -S all the time:

    Host *
        ControlPath ~/.ssh/S.%r@%h:%p

You can automate this – recent OpenSSH versions also have ControlPersist which automatically establishes a master connection in background if there isn't one yet. This allows you to skip step 1 and just use ssh as you normally would.

  1. Configuration in ~/.ssh/config:

    Host *
        ControlPath ~/.ssh/S.%r@%h:%p
        ControlMaster auto
        ControlPersist 15m
  2. First connection asks for password:

    $ ssh's password:
    [foo@bar:~]$ exit
  3. The second doesn't:

    $ ssh
    [foo@bar:~]$ yay

To control the multiplex master (stop it or configure TCP forwardings), use the -O option.

A similar method is supported by recent PuTTY versions.

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