Top Reasons to Avoid Passwords for SSH Access

December 2021

Looking to beef up security on your dedicated server? If so, setting up some form of multi-factor authentication is one of the easiest yet most effective steps you can take. Specifically, multi-factor authentication is a safeguard that requires users to provide at least two verification factors to gain access to an account.

When it comes to setting up multi-factor authentication on your server, you have many different options. One common authentication choice is setting up a password; however, this method comes with some inherent security weaknesses. This is why many of today’s users are opting to use Secure Shell (SSH) keys for authentication instead.

What Is an SSH Key?

An SSH key is a more complex, secure, and effective authentication method than a traditional password. Specifically, an SSH key pair (including a public and private key) is generated by a computer and then stored on the server upon login. Meanwhile, the private SSH key is stored on your computer or another device.

From there, the server will automatically check for the public key before generating an encrypted “code” as a private key. This PIN is then sent back to the computer or device, where it is decrypted and checked for a match. As long as the codes and keys match up, the login attempt can continue successfully. Otherwise, the user will be denied.

Advantages of SSH Keys

Compared to traditional passwords for authentication, SSH keys are significantly more challenging to hack. Typically, these keys are much longer than a traditional password, so they can’t be easily “cracked” by hackers’ software. Meanwhile, because they’re computer-generated rather than human-generated, these codes are more secure and not as easy to guess.

Of course, because private SSH keys are stored on devices rather than on servers, your code will remain safe even if hackers compromise your server.

Drawbacks of Password Authentication

While it may be more convenient to use a traditional password for authentication, the reality is that SSH keys are much more secure. This isn’t to say that you can’t still use passwords as one of your layers of authentication. However, it is important to acknowledge some of the inherent weaknesses of passwords, starting with the fact that passwords can often be “cracked” with simple software. 

Additionally, the same passwords are often used across multiple accounts or services. When one password is compromised, this can affect security on every other account where it is used.

Optimize Security with the Right Hosting Plan

In general, using SSH keys for authentication is the most effective way to beef up security on your dedicated server. Implementing SSH access, in addition to taking some other practical steps to enhance security on your server, can go a long way in keeping your sensitive data safe.

For more information on authentication options or to upgrade your dedicated hosting plan, contact ReliableSite today. We offer dedicated server hosting solutions to meet your needs and budget while going above and beyond with our security features.