is a program to hold private keys used for public key authentication (RSA, DSA, ECDSA, Ed25519). ssh-agent
is usually started in the beginning of an X-session or a login session, and all other windows or programs are started as clients to the ssh-agent program. Through use of environment variables the agent can be located and automatically used for authentication when logging in to other machines using ssh(1)
The agent initially does not have any private keys. Keys are added using ssh(1)
for details) or ssh-add(1)
. Multiple identities may be stored in ssh-agent
concurrently and ssh(1)
will automatically use them if present. ssh-add(1)
is also used to remove keys from ssh-agent
and to query the keys that are held in one.
The options are as follows:
Bind the agent to the UNIX-domain socket bind_address. The default is $TMPDIR/ssh-XXXXXXXXXX/agent.<ppid>.
Generate C-shell commands on stdout. This is the default if SHELL looks like it's a csh style of shell.
Foreground mode. When this option is specified ssh-agent will not fork.
Debug mode. When this option is specified ssh-agent will not fork and will write debug information to standard error.
Specifies the hash algorithm used when displaying key fingerprints. Valid options are: “md5” and “sha256”. The default is “sha256”.
Kill the current agent (given by the SSH_AGENT_PID environment variable).
Specify a pattern-list of acceptable paths for PKCS#11 shared libraries that may be added using the -s option to ssh-add(1). The default is to allow loading PKCS#11 libraries from “/usr/lib/*,/usr/local/lib/*”. PKCS#11 libraries that do not match the whitelist will be refused. See PATTERNS in ssh_config(5) for a description of pattern-list syntax.
Generate Bourne shell commands on stdout. This is the default if SHELL does not look like it's a csh style of shell.
Set a default value for the maximum lifetime of identities added to the agent. The lifetime may be specified in seconds or in a time format specified in sshd_config(5). A lifetime specified for an identity with ssh-add(1) overrides this value. Without this option the default maximum lifetime is forever.
If a command line is given, this is executed as a subprocess of the agent. When the command dies, so does the agent.
The idea is that the agent is run in the user's local PC, laptop, or terminal. Authentication data need not be stored on any other machine, and authentication passphrases never go over the network. However, the connection to the agent is forwarded over SSH remote logins, and the user can thus use the privileges given by the identities anywhere in the network in a secure way.
There are two main ways to get an agent set up: The first is that the agent starts a new subcommand into which some environment variables are exported, eg ssh-agent xterm &
. The second is that the agent prints the needed shell commands (either sh(1)
syntax can be generated) which can be evaluated in the calling shell, eg eval `ssh-agent -s`
for Bourne-type shells such as sh(1)
and eval `ssh-agent -c`
looks at these variables and uses them to establish a connection to the agent.
The agent will never send a private key over its request channel. Instead, operations that require a private key will be performed by the agent, and the result will be returned to the requester. This way, private keys are not exposed to clients using the agent.
-domain socket is created and the name of this socket is stored in the SSH_AUTH_SOCK
environment variable. The socket is made accessible only to the current user. This method is easily abused by root or another instance of the same user.
environment variable holds the agent's process ID.
The agent exits automatically when the command given on the command line terminates.