TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Aug 01 MacTech Online

Volume Number: 17 (2001)
Issue Number: 08
Column Tag: MacTech Online

SSH

by Jeff Clites

SSH

When the Internet was first growing up, it was developing in a rather safe environment. In fact, to the inventors it was probably a miracle that it worked at all. Now, however, those halcyon days are gone, and we live in less innocent times, where security is a genuine concern—it isn’t practical these days to just assume that things will be safe by default. There are a number of steps that users need to take these days to secure their systems, and this month we are going to look at one of them, ssh. It’s a small but important piece.

What’s ssh?

In brief, ssh (the Secure Shell) is a cryptographically secure replacement for telnet. The name is actually a bit of a misnomer—it isn’t really a shell itself, but rather a mechanism for interacting with a remote shell over a secure communication channel. It’s an indispensable tool for working with Mac OS X in a networked environment—like telnet, it allows you to quickly connect to remote machines, which is handy if not essential for a variety of administration and other tasks. In fact, the most significant security enhancement that ssh gives you may not be that it encrypts the contents of your remote session (which it does), but rather that it encrypts the login exchange itself, meaning that your password is never sent unencrypted over the network. Even in a supposedly secure environment, for instance behind a corporate firewall, it’s a good idea to use ssh instead of telnet whenever possible (which basically means whenever the two machines which are communicating both have it installed), both because it adds an extra bit of security, and also because it will get you into the habit of using it and making sure it is installed and available on all machines you routinely connect to, so that when you are operating in a less secure environment (for instance, if you need to connect from off site) you will be in the habit of reaching for ssh and will be opting for security by default.

Mac OS X has ssh installed by default (as part of a regular update package), and you can use it to connect with remote machines without further setup. To enable connections to your machine you merely need to enable remote login in the Sharing pane of System Preferences (after the update which installs ssh on Mac OS X, this setting is connected to ssh rather than to telnet, which is then disabled by default). The ssh “server” component (sshd) can be run out of inetd, but it is more commonly run as a standalone daemon. If you need to install ssh separately (either because you wish to install a newer version or because your current install is damaged), there are instruction on Stepwise for building and installing OpenSSH under Mac OS X. (The article also includes instructions for compiling in support for using tcpwrappers to further secure things by restricting remote login to a specific set of hosts and adding additional logging.) This version of ssh is free and open-source (part of the OpenBSD project, in fact), and leverages the OpenSSL library for many of its cryptographic algorithms. There are commercial versions available as well (and older free version from commercial vendors), but for most users OpenSSH is a good choice. OpenSSH tries very hard to avoid the use of patented algorithms in its implementation, in order to avoid the attendant restrictions to free development and distribution, and consequently does not support some of the algorithms found in commercial versions. This can be seen as either a virtue or a shortcoming, but in practice it does not interfere with its use.

Building OpenSSH 2.9 on Mac OS X 10.0.x
http://www.stepwise.com/Articles/Workbench/2001-05-02.03.html

Securing your Host—tcpwrappers
http://www.theorygroup.com/Theory/Systems/tcpwrappers.html

The SHH Suite

Overall, ssh has a great deal of flexibility in the details of its use. It supports a variety of authentication schemes, from RSA or Kerberos-based authentication to simple passwords or automatic login between trusted hosts; you can choose from several different algorithms (also called ciphers) for the encryption; and you can use ssh for port-forwarding to wrap insecure protocols inside of a secure transfer stream. And in addition to enabling remote login sessions, the ssh distribution contains several related tools which take advantage of ssh’s base facilities for secure communication. For file transfer, there is scp (an analog of rcp and ultimately cp, if you are familiar with those), which is used to copy files between systems over an ssh-based, encrypted channel. Server environments today are often set up without ftp installed in order to enhance security, and in such situations scp is the tool of choice for moving files onto and off of these systems. In addition to encryption, scp also supports compression of files during transit in order to speed transfer, using the same algorithm as gzip. (Compression is also supported by ssh itself, but the benefits are more likely to be noticeable during large file transfers than during a standard interactive login session, although over slow connections compression could make ssh “faster” than telnet for interactive use.) The scp tool has the same semantics as cp, so that source and destination are specified when invoking the tool, rather then being chosen interactively as is commonly done with ftp tools. This can be somewhat inconvenient, as you need to know the exact path to use on the remote system before invoking the tool, which will often necessitate a separate ssh login to “browse around” the remote filesystem to determine the correct path. On the plus side, scp can be used to transfer files between remote systems—neither the source nor the destination needs to be local.

On the other hand, if you need the convenience and flexibility of the interactivity of ftp, you might find sftp more to your liking. It’s a newer addition to the ssh family, and is likely to be less widely deployed at this time. It provides an ftp-like interactive session for file transfer, with similar commands to those used by ftp. Technically, sftp is not itself a secure protocol, but rather it is a protocol designed to be used over a secure channel, provided by ssh. There is a separate executable, sftp-server, which is used by OpenSSH to enable sftp on the server side, but it is invoked by the sshd daemon rather than running separately, so it requires minimal configuration and setup to get it running. One caveat is that sftp is reported to be significantly slower than the traditional scp, although it’s not clear whether this is inherent to the protocol it uses, or if it’s just the result of a still-evolving implementation. Note also that sftp is not simply ftp secured via ssh port-forwarding, because ftp’s use of two separate TCP/IP connections for control commands and data transfer makes this difficult to do; instead, sftp uses a single stream to do its work.

References

Online, you can find most of the essential information you need at the OpenSSH web site, including download locations, online manual pages, and a short FAQ, as well as links to other sites with articles and even more information. There is also another ssh FAQ available online, more general but somewhat geared toward the commercial versions of ssh.

OpenSSH
http://openssh.org

OpenSSH Manual pages
http://openssh.org/manual.html

OpenSSH FAQ
http://openssh.org/faq.html

OpenSSH Articles
http://openssh.org/press.html

The Secure Shell Frequently Asked Questions
http://www.tigerlair.com/ssh/faq/ssh-faq.html

There are also a couple of books available devoted entirely to ssh. They can provide you with all the details and options you have for setting up and using ssh on your systems, as well as using it for advanced applications such as tcp port forwarding. Possibly more importantly, they’ll guide you through the minefield of terminology surrounding different version of ssh products and protocols (which are very easy to confuse), and spell out differences and interoperability issues surrounding the different implementations. Try either SSH, The Secure Shell: The Definitive Guide (ISBN: 0-596-00011-1) from O’Reilly and Associates, or UNIX Secure Shell (ISBN: 0071349332) from Osborne. There is also an excellent web site to accompany the O’Reilly book, with extensive reference information and links to protocol specifications and other reference material.

SSH, The Secure Shell: The Definitive Guide
http://www.snailbook.com

For further helpful info, check out the top 10 FAQ list from Richard Silverman, one of the authors of the O’Reilly book. The security-minded user (which should be everyone, right?) will also want to check out a recent article on SecurityPortal.com about a potential security weakness with ssh, as well as the follow-up rebuttal article from Richard Silverman which corrects some factual errors and gives a less alarmist perspective. For further security info, take a look at the OpenSSH Security page.

Top Ten Secure Shell FAQs
http://sysadmin.oreilly.com/news/sshtips_0101.html

The End of SSL and SSH?
http://www.securityportal.com/cover/coverstory20001218.html

dsniff and SSH: Reports of My Demise are Greatly Exaggerated
http://sysadmin.oreilly.com/news/silverman_1200.html

OpenSSH Security
http://openssh.org/security.html

Finally, for those interested in some of the more advanced features of ssh, start with the SSH Protocol Architecture internet-draft from the IETF for an extensive high-level overview of the protocol. Then, check out an article from the O’Reilly Network on using an ssh tunnel to increase the security of 802.11b wireless networking, such as that used by AirPort.

SSH Protocol Architecture
http://openssh.org/txt/draft-ietf-secsh-architecture-07.txt

Using SSH Tunneling
http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/wireless/2001/02/23/wep.html

If you are not yet using Mac OS X (and why aren’t you, huh?), then you can still connect via ssh to remote machines using one of the two clients for the Classic Mac OS. There is NiftyTelnet SSH (based on NiftyTelnet itself) supporting the SSH1 protocol, including scp capabilities, and MacSSH, which is a modified version of BetterTelnet supporting SSH2. Both are available free of charge. If you are running Mac OS X but would prefer a graphical file-transfer tool, try RBrowser, a GUI-based ftp tool which also supports ssh- and scp-based file browsing and transfer. It is still in beta testing, and will require a licensing fee once it is final.

NiftyTelnet SSH
http://www.lysator.liu.se/~jonasw/freeware/niftyssh/

MacSSH
http://www.macsecsh.com/

RBrowser
http://www.rbrowser.com/RBrowser_main.html

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Suitcase Fusion 7 18.2.4 - Font manageme...
Suitcase Fusion 7 is the creative professional's font manager. Every professional font manager should deliver the basics: spectacular previews, powerful search tools, and efficient font organization... Read more
SoftRAID 5.6.1 - High-quality RAID manag...
SoftRAID allows you to create and manage disk arrays to increase performance and reliability. SoftRAID allows the user to create and manage RAID 4 and 5 volumes, RAID 1+0, and RAID 1 (Mirror) and... Read more
BetterTouchTool 2.25 - Customize Multi-T...
BetterTouchTool adds many new, fully customizable gestures to the Magic Mouse, Multi-Touch MacBook trackpad, and Magic Trackpad. These gestures are customizable: Magic Mouse: Pinch in / out (zoom... Read more
Google Chrome 59.0.3071.115 - Modern and...
Google Chrome is a Web browser by Google, created to be a modern platform for Web pages and applications. It utilizes very fast loading of Web pages and has a V8 engine, which is a custom built... Read more
Google Chrome 59.0.3071.115 - Modern and...
Google Chrome is a Web browser by Google, created to be a modern platform for Web pages and applications. It utilizes very fast loading of Web pages and has a V8 engine, which is a custom built... Read more
SoftRAID 5.6.1 - High-quality RAID manag...
SoftRAID allows you to create and manage disk arrays to increase performance and reliability. SoftRAID allows the user to create and manage RAID 4 and 5 volumes, RAID 1+0, and RAID 1 (Mirror) and... Read more
Suitcase Fusion 7 18.2.4 - Font manageme...
Suitcase Fusion 7 is the creative professional's font manager. Every professional font manager should deliver the basics: spectacular previews, powerful search tools, and efficient font organization... Read more
BetterTouchTool 2.25 - Customize Multi-T...
BetterTouchTool adds many new, fully customizable gestures to the Magic Mouse, Multi-Touch MacBook trackpad, and Magic Trackpad. These gestures are customizable: Magic Mouse: Pinch in / out (zoom... Read more
WhiteCap 6.7.1 - Visual plug-in for iTun...
WhiteCap is a sleek and sophisticated music visualizer and screensaver that features futuristic, wireframe mesh visuals with dynamic backgrounds and colors. WhiteCap contains thousands of visual... Read more
DiskMaker X 6.0 rc5 - Make a bootable OS...
DiskMaker X (was Lion DiskMaker) helps you to build a bootable drive from the official OS X installer app (the one you download from the Mac App Store). It detects the OS X Install program with... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

This War of Mine gets a new ending and m...
This War of Mine just got a big new update, featuring free DLC that adds a new ending to the game, among other exciting changes. The update is celebrating the game's two-year release anniversary. Apart from the new ending, which will be quite... | Read more »
Summon eight new heroes in Fire Emblem H...
Nintendo keeps coming at us with Fire Emblem Heroes updates, and it doesn't look like that trend is stopping anytime soon. The folks behind the game have just announced the new War of the Clerics Voting Gauntlet, expected to start next Tuesday. [... | Read more »
The best deals on the App Store this wee...
iOS publishers are pulling out all the stops this week -- there's a huge number of seriously great games at discounted prices this week. Let's not waste any time and get right down to business. [Read more] | Read more »
The House of da Vinci (Games)
The House of da Vinci 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: Enter The House of Da Vinci, a new must-try 3D puzzle adventure game. Solve mechanical puzzles, discover hidden... | Read more »
Solve the disappearance of history’s gre...
Blue Brain Games invites you to indulge in an immersive hands-on 3D puzzle adventure in similar vein to The Room series, with its debut release The House of Da Vinci. Set during the historic period of the Italian Renaissance (when Leonardo himself... | Read more »
Age of Rivals (Games)
Age of Rivals 3.3 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 3.3 (iTunes) Description: Deep civilization-building strategy in a fast-paced card game! | Read more »
Panthera Frontier (Games)
Panthera Frontier 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Angry Birds Evolution beginner's gu...
Angry Birds changes things up a fair bit in its latest iteration, Angry Birds Evolution. The familiar sling-shot physics mechanics are still there, but the game now features team-based gameplay, RPG elements, and a new top-down view. With all of... | Read more »
Sega Forever is for the retro game fans
Sega is launching a new retro games service titled Sega Forever, in a move that's sure to delight games enthusiasts with a bit of nostalgia. Sega's releasing five classic games for free. The titles include Sonic the Hedgehog, Phantasy Star II,... | Read more »
The Little Acre (Games)
The Little Acre 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

13-inch 1.8GHz/256GB MacBook Air on sale for...
B&H Photo has the updated 2017 13″ 1.8GHz/256GB MacBook Air (MQD42LL/A) in stock and on sale for $1129 including free shipping plus NY & NJ tax only. Their price is $70 off MSRP. Read more
27-inch 3.4GHz iMac on sale for $1699, save $...
B&H Photo has the new 2017 27″ 3.4GHz iMac (MNE92LL/A) in stock and on sale for $1699 including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
21-inch 2.3GHz iMac on sale for $1049, save $...
B&H Photo has the new 2017 21″ 2.3GHz iMac (MMQA2LL/A) in stock and on sale for $1049 including free shipping plus NY & NJ tax only. Their price is $50 off MSRP. Read more
ABBYY TextGrabber 6 for iOS Implements Instan...
ABBYY has announced the release of TextGrabber 6.0.0, an important feature update to the company’s productivity app developed for iOS and Android devices. TextGrabber 6.0 now offers Real-Time... Read more
vPhone, First Smartphone That Can’t Be Lost,...
Austin, Texas based Hypori has introduced the vPhone, a virtual smartphone that affords every business user the benefits of separate work and personal phones, conveniently delivered on a single... Read more
Save this weekend with 2016 refurbished MacBo...
Apple has dropped prices on Certified Refurbished 2016 15″ and 13″ MacBook Pros by as much as $590 off original MSRP. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: -... Read more
New 27-inch 3.4GHz iMac on sale for $1699, sa...
MacMall has the new 2017 27″ 3.4GHz iMac (MNE92LL/A) in stock and on sale for $1699 including free shipping. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
Clearance 2016 MacBook Pros available for up...
B&H Photo has clearance 2016 13″ and 15″ MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for up to $400 off original MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY & NJ sales tax only: - 15″ 2.7GHz... Read more
Apple Ranks 9th In comScore Top 50 U.S. Digit...
comScore, Inc. has released its monthly ranking of U.S. online activity at the top digital media properties for May 2017 based on data from comScore Media Metrix Multi-Platform. * Entity has... Read more
10.5-inch iPad Pros available for up to $20 o...
B&H Photo has the new 2017 10.5″ iPad Pros available for up to $20 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only: - 64GB iPad Pro WiFi: $649 - 256GB iPad Pro WiFi: $749 - 512GB... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* News Product Marketing Mgr., Publish...
…organizational consensus on strategy and vision for publisher tools, authoring, and Apple News Format.Carries this strategy and vision across the organization to Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Security Data Analyst - *Apple* Information...
…data sources need to be collected to allow Information Security to better protect Apple employees and customers from a wide range of threats.Act as the subject matter Read more
Lead *Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple I...
…integrity, and trust.Success Metrics/Key Performance Indicators:Quantitative* Year over Year growth in Apple Product and Beyond the Box sales in the assigned Point of Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant till v%u00E5r...
…ethics, integrity, and trust.Success Metrics/Key Performance Indicators:QuantitativeYear over Year growth in Apple Product and Beyond the Box sales in the assigned Point Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.