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Whenever I get a new laptop, I copy the public and private ssh keys from the older one. But since I sometimes hold on to the old laptops, I'll be logging into servers and such using the same dsa keypair from up to 3 different computers. Is there any harm in doing this? Or is it better to have a distinct public and private keys for each computer you own?

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3 Answers 3

Your key identifies YOU, so it's semantically correct, to use the same key everywhere. However, using the same key on 3 different computer makes 3 times bigger the chance to the key get stolen.

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Agreed. If you want to help your security, make sure to use a passphrase, and leverage ssh-agent on your behalf. –  Matt Simmons Jan 30 '10 at 21:24

I typically create an ssh key for each machine I connect from. That key has a useful comment so that I can identify each one, such as "mike-phone" vs "mike-laptop". In this way, if I lose one of the devices, I can easily remove its public key from systems I connect to without affecting my connection from other machines I use.

From a sysadmin perspective, its much better to have multiple public/private key pairs when things go south, while its more of a pain up front.

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I agree with Erenon: those keys identify the user not the machine, so it's the same (only stronger) as using username/password to access a site from many computers. I suggest anyway to use a USB key or an external repository to store your keys, so you can use them everywhere without worring too much about stealing issues.

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