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We're looking for a maven repo with a better browser interface, and a question has come up about whether plaintext passwords in .m2/settings.xml can be replaced with an SSH key when using either Artifactory or Nexus. Is it possible?

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Artifactory will not authenticate with SSH keys in the maven settings.xml; if you're after a more secure way to authenticate other than the clear-text passwords, it does give you the option of generating and using encrypted passwords.
See this for more info: Centrally Secure Passwords

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