This is something that I looked into a while back and found some useful info for... but now that I actually need to do it, of course I can't find that guide I saw anymore.

Anyways, here's the situation. I have a program that runs using an ncurses menu through SSH. I want users to be able to login to that program via SSH, but only to that program.

What do I have to do so that this scenario is possible?

  • User opens Putty
  • User signs into the Linux server with their username and password
  • When logging in, they go straight to that program
  • In the even of a program close, crash, cancellation, etc... the user is forcefully loged off of the system.

My goal is to limit them from seeing a command line at all, and to be restricted to just that program. Is this possible? How do I/would I go about doing it?


This is also called a captive login.

Append to the user's ~/.profile an execution of the program and an exit.

exec /usr/local/bin/program

Clever users know they can supply a command in their ssh client that isn't the shell you expect. Prevent that with ForceCommand in your sshd config:


Forces the execution of the command specified by ForceCommand, ignoring any command supplied by the client and ~/.ssh/rc if present. The command is invoked by using the user's login shell with the -c option. This applies to shell, command, or subsystem execution. It is most useful inside a Match block.

Match Group programusers
    ForceCommand /usr/local/bin/program
  • A better way is to use command= in the authorized_keys so that you tie a specific command to a specific key. Very useful for backups. – Patrick Mevzek Feb 27 '18 at 3:53
  • A force command may be either in the sshd configuration or in the user's authorized_keys. ForceCommand also works when the user is using non-key (password) auth. And the administrator puts it in one place, versus across all user's key files. – John Mahowald Mar 1 '18 at 14:06
  • Typically, for backups, the client is some automated process so obviously using a key, not a password. And typically the user then is root, not any other user. – Patrick Mevzek Mar 1 '18 at 14:13

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