I have a production system where several different people are allowed to log in to a single account - the account is for the application and not for the person as we don't have personal accounts on production servers.

For auditing purposes I want to be able to tell who logged in at what time, and as we use SSH keys to log in it seems logical to track that (as there is no other identifier to track).

When SSH authenticates a user, it logs the user name to the system's security log, but it does not log which of the authorized public keys was used in the log in. Is it possible to get OpenSSH to also report which public key was used, or maybe just the comment associated with that key?

The operating system being used is CentOS 5.6, but I'd like to also hear if its possible on other operating systems.


3 Answers 3


If you raise the LogLevel to VERBOSE in your configuration file (/etc/sshd/sshd_config or similar) it will log the fingerprint of the public key used to authenticate the user.


Then you get messages like this:

Jul 19 11:23:13 centos sshd[13431]: Connection from port 63529
Jul 19 11:23:13 centos sshd[13431]: Found matching RSA key: 54:a2:0a:cf:85:ef:89:96:3c:a8:93:c7:a1:30:c2:8b
Jul 19 11:23:13 centos sshd[13432]: Postponed publickey for user from port 63529 ssh2
Jul 19 11:23:13 centos sshd[13431]: Found matching RSA key: 54:a2:0a:cf:85:ef:89:96:3c:a8:93:c7:a1:30:c2:8b
Jul 19 11:23:13 centos sshd[13431]: Accepted publickey for user from port 63529 ssh2

You can use:

 ssh-keygen -lf /path/to/public_key_file

to get the fingerprint of a particular public key.

  • 4
    Thanks! I need to confirm the key fingerprints against the authorized_keys file, so I made this little script to printout the fingerprints of authorized keys: (p="$(mktemp)";cat ~/.ssh/authorized_keys|while IFS="$(printf "\n")" read key; do echo $key > $p; ssh-keygen -lf $p; done; rm -f $p)
    – Guss
    Jul 19, 2011 at 13:06
  • I noticed that SSH now logs the key twice for each login - any idea why and/or how to get it to log it once?
    – Guss
    Jul 19, 2011 at 13:10
  • Why, that's a level of detail I'm not familiar with. Can you stop it, probably not without poking around with the source code.
    – user9517
    Jul 19, 2011 at 14:05
  • 2
    This thread looks relevant. It finds the matching key twice: once to determine if the key would be acceptable or not, then a second time to check the signature the client provides.
    – mpontillo
    Oct 24, 2014 at 0:56

If your people are using ssh-agent, you could put this in your .bashrc:

SSH_KEY_NAME=$(ssh-add -L | cut -d' ' -f 3 || 'unknown')
if [[ ! $SSH_KEY_NAME ]]; then SSH_KEY_NAME="no agent"; fi
echo `/bin/date` $SSH_KEY_NAME >> ~/.login.log
  • Its a good idea, unfortunately one of the reasons I want to log this is that I'm using authorized_keys commands for the users that I want to log, and they don't normally get a bash shell.
    – Guss
    Jun 17, 2013 at 12:40

Try playing around with the LogLevel parameter in sshd_config. For details, refer to man sshd_config


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