I'm trying to configure sshd on a VPS instance, and would like to have an authentication witch is publickey,keyboard-interactive (public key AND keyboard-interactive).

The problem is that the server keeps asking for serveruser password on login after the public key was sent and accepted. It should only ask for the 2FA code. I am able to login using publickey, serveruser password and 2FA code.

I have two other similar setups that work great but I remember having trouble setting those up, like using black magic in bizarre configuration files.

I spent countless hours trying to configure sshd this way on other hosts and now I don't seem to achieve it.

I also tried to compare client and server logs on a working setup and this one but the logs are the same! (Except with IPs, ports and fingerprints)

SSH client log : https://pastebin.com/P1xsKTwm

Server's /etc/ssh/sshd_config : https://pastebin.com/qSH7GAmR

Server's /etc/pam.d/sshd : https://pastebin.com/YBKY91Rk

(sshd was restarted using sudo systemctl restart sshd.service)

EDIT : keyboard-interactive is not only for 2FA

Read the comments in mforsetti's answer below, I did not understood that keyboard-interactive was not for 2FA only.

The trick was to edit /etc/pam.d/sshd file to disable password authentication (explained in mforsetti's post and comments below)

1 Answer 1


The problem is that the server keeps asking for serveruser password on login after the public key was sent and accepted.

well, you specifically asked for it.

AuthenticationMethods publickey,keyboard-interactive

Quoting sshd_config manual,


Specifies the authentication methods that must be successfully completed for a user to be granted access. ... by the single string any to indicate the default behaviour of accepting any single authentication method ...

... For example, "publickey,password publickey,keyboard-interactive" would require the user to complete public key authentication, followed by either password or keyboard interactive authentication. ...

So, adding AuthenticationMethods publickey,keyboard-interactive to your sshd_config, means you expect to have publickey authentication completed first, then keyboard-interactive authentication completed next.

If you expect to only authenticate with publickey, probably change

AuthenticationMethods publickey,keyboard-interactive


AuthenticationMethods publickey

or, if you enable any other authentication methods and expect any single successful authentication method as an OK, you may use

AuthenticationMethods any

I want to authenticate both with public key and 2FA

You may want to disable common-auth from PAM configs, as in most Linux/Unix distributions, common-auth includes pam-unix.so or pam-unix2.so which requires account password.

  • Thanks for the answer! :D Maybe I was not clear above, I want to authenticate both with public key and 2FA but not the serveruser password. What I don't understand is that keyboard-interactive keeps asking me for serveruser's password ; it shouldn't right, it's only 2FA?
    – user862265
    Aug 22, 2021 at 11:10
  • keyboard-interactive is a catch-all key for, well, keyboard interactivity, including password, PAM, Kerberos, etc. try using AuthenticationMethods publickey,keyboard-interactive:pam if you're using PAM to configure your 2FA stuff.
    – mforsetti
    Aug 22, 2021 at 12:31
  • have you commented @include common-auth in /etc/pam.d/sshd?
    – mforsetti
    Aug 22, 2021 at 12:44
  • Ohhh... I thought that keyboard-interactive was only for 2FA... Commenting the line did exactly what I wanted to do, many thanks!
    – user862265
    Aug 22, 2021 at 12:52
  • added info about common-auth in the answer.
    – mforsetti
    Aug 22, 2021 at 13:09

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