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For uploading and running java apps(.jars) on my server, I recently asked Server Admin to enable remote access via SSH to the server however they shot back questions to me several times to confirm whether I really needed to enable SSH access.

I was wondering if:

  • SSH really compromises the security of the server.
  • What precautions do I have to take while working with SSH?
  • Should I really enable SSH on the server?
  • What windows SSH client would be suitable for use to remote to a Linux server?
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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

the communication with ssh protocol is secure, but i think your admins have other reasons for not granting ssh access with the first request.

when you gain ssh access to a system, you can normally copy files to the system and execute them (not only your jars). this way, you could upload files gaining root access or compromise the system in a different way.

so when granting ssh access, no matter how secure it is setup, you have direct access to the machine and this is another attack vector to the system. the philosophy should be to enable as few services as possible. but i can't imagine your admins are not already using ssh. so there should be no additional risk on enabling ssh, but perhaps on giving away a new account on the server. ask them whether they use public key authentication or password authentication. it is a good security advice to use public keys.

another reason for not granting you access, could be that they loose a bit of control over the server, because they do not know in detail what is running on the server. so tell them in detail what you want to upload and what these programs do. they might ask you some more questions or tell you you have to change something, but this way you can work together with your admins to get your jars running on the server.

as a windows client, i agree with Chris Kaufmann, putty is a very good client on windows.

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Thanks is all I can give you coz I don't have the required reputation to upvote this answer. –  Kevin Boyd Jan 24 '10 at 9:40
    
An extension to this is that they may no longer have an accurate record of what is installed and how its configured, so they cannot reliably audit it or rebuild it correctly. Arguably backup procedures should be able to deal with this but these are factors that responsible admins need to consider when opening up access to a system. –  Helvick Jan 24 '10 at 10:47
    
as good as reputation is, it is better the answer helps you to solve your problem. –  Christian Jan 24 '10 at 10:48
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I agree with Aputsiaq - if configured right, it can be safe - if not it isn't. You'll have to monitor the server more closely, I think. Set it as tight as you can handle. For windows, putty is the gold standard.

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One other reason that they might be reluctant to open ssh is it's ability to tunnel connections. SSH typically allows tunnells which means that you have the potential to open up more of their network than they might want.

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