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Following AWS best practices I’ve set up an infrastructure to which I ssh via a bastion box:

localhost → bastion → target server

To connect to the target server I have keyfiles on localhost and the bastion box, and then I use ssh to hop as follows:

localhost > ssh -i key.pem bastion
bastion > ssh -i key.pem target

It looks like this question is related. How do I execute a command on the target server from localhost directly?

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You need to use ProxyCommand in your SSH config. So, in case you haven't set up your ~/.ssh/config, I'd refer to here

So You would want to do the following:

  1. Place the bastion as a Forward Agent in your SSH config.

  2. Use ProxyCommand to proxy your connection from the bastion to your target server.

Here is a quick example:

Host <bastion>
    ForwardAgent yes

Host <target_server>
        User <user>
        Hostname <Ip/Hostname>
        ProxyCommand ssh -q -W %h:%p <user>@<bastion> nc 2> /dev/null
        IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa
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From the command line I use the following to execute remote commands, for instance to run top on the target system.

$ ssh -qt bastion "ssh -qt target \"top\"\"

This will even work with sudo or sudo su - user to run as a specific user.

$ ssh -qt bastion "ssh -qt target \"sudo su - user1 -c 'ls -l'\""

Here's what the ssh options in the examples do.

  • ssh -q = quiet, suppresses the banners from the server to miniminize distratctions.
  • ssh -t = terminal, forces allocation of a pseudo-terminal so that terminal oriented commands like top and sudo will accept the session as interactive.

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