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I've been struggling with this for a couple hours so any help is greatly appreciated...

I have 2x servers both of which I can ssh to with public keys from OSX, no issues at all there so I'm certain everything is good with sshd_config.

I'm trying to configure a cron job for rsync to sync the two servers and need server B (backup) to ssh into server A using a public key.

I cannot for the life of me work out why it doesn't find my public keys - they are in ~/.ssh/ (ie. /root/.ssh) and all file permissions are correct on A & B.

This is the output:

debug2: we did not send a packet, disable method
debug3: authmethod_lookup publickey
debug3: remaining preferred: keyboard-interactive,password
debug3: authmethod_is_enabled publickey
debug1: Next authentication method: publickey
debug1: Trying private key: /root/.ssh/identity
debug3: no such identity: /root/.ssh/identity
debug1: Trying private key: /root/.ssh/id_rsa
debug3: no such identity: /root/.ssh/id_rsa
debug1: Trying private key: /root/.ssh/id_dsa
debug3: no such identity: /root/.ssh/id_dsa
debug2: we did not send a packet, disable method
debug3: authmethod_lookup password
debug3: remaining preferred: ,password
debug3: authmethod_is_enabled password
debug1: Next authentication method: password

Also note it is looking for private keys which don't exist...

drwx------. 2 root root 4096 May 25 10:15 .
dr-xr-x---. 4 root root 4096 May 24 18:52 ..
-rw-------. 1 root root  403 May 25 01:37 authorized_keys
-rw-------. 1 root root    0 May 25 01:41 config
-rw-------. 1 root root 1675 May 25 02:35 id_rsa_tm1
-rw-------. 1 root root  405 May 25 02:35 id_rsa_tm1.pub
-rw-------. 1 root root  395 May 25 02:36 known_hosts
share|improve this question
please give us the output of ls -la /root/.ssh/ – mreithub May 25 '14 at 10:16
@mreithub Thanks for the quick reply - added above. – Danny May 25 '14 at 10:18
try removing the _tm1 from your key file names (i.e. mv id_rsa_tm1 id_rsa and mv id_rsa_tm1.pub id_rsa.pub) – mreithub May 25 '14 at 10:20
@mreithub That worked! Thanks you very much, however i don't understand why i cannot append other strings to the file name. I do so on my iMac to connect to the servers without any issues... ie I can use id_rsa.tm1.imac.pub without any issues. What if i wanted multiple keys? – Danny May 25 '14 at 10:26
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Have a look at your ssh man page:

   -i identity_file
          Selects a file from which the identity (private key) for public
          key authentication is read.  The default is ~/.ssh/identity for
          protocol   version   1,   and  ~/.ssh/id_dsa,  ~/.ssh/id_ecdsa,
          ~/.ssh/id_ed25519 and ~/.ssh/id_rsa  for  protocol  version  2.
          Identity files may also be specified on a per-host basis in the
          configuration file.  It is possible to have multiple -i options
          (and  multiple  identities  specified  in configuration files).

or the ssh_config man page:

          Specifies a file from which the user's DSA, ECDSA,  ED25519  or
          RSA   authentication   identity   is   read.   The  default  is
          ~/.ssh/identity for  protocol  version  1,  and  ~/.ssh/id_dsa,
          ~/.ssh/id_ecdsa, ~/.ssh/id_ed25519 and ~/.ssh/id_rsa for proto‐
          col version 2.  Additionally, any identities represented by the
          authentication  agent  will  be  used for authentication unless
          IdentitiesOnly is set.

You see, there are a few special file names which are tried if you do not specify a key. Those are also the files you see in your log output.

To use a key in a file with different name you have three options:

  • specify the file explicitly using the above -i option.
  • configure the file in your client config using the above IdentityFile option.
  • add the key to your agent using ssh-add.

For interactive sessions the agent is the most flexible one. For your cron job the -i option is probably the easiest one.

share|improve this answer
Thanks @michas - very helpful indeed, much appreciated. – Danny May 25 '14 at 13:28

The default file names ssh is looking for are id_rsa and id_rsa.pub.

If you want to use other file names, you either have to specify them in ssh_config (using the IdentityFile setting) or via the ssh command line parameter -i.

share|improve this answer
Thanks @mreithub - very helpful indeed. – Danny May 25 '14 at 13:27


/sbin/restorecon -r /root/.ssh

A possible problem with selling context

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I had the same issue on RedHat; checked logs and found that home directory had incorrect user rights.

sshd[2507]: Authentication refused: bad ownership or modes for directory /home/user

Fixing home dir rights solved this.

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Welcome to U+L Stack Exchange site. You could make your answer more helpful to others by providing an example of what correct permissions should look like. – Erathiel May 20 '15 at 9:50

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