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Category: SSH

SSH RSA authentication works in IOS release 15.0M

The feature we’ve begged, prayed, sobbed, yelled, screamed for has finally been implemented in Cisco IOS: public key SSH authentication works in IOS release 15.0M (and is surprisingly easy to use).

After configuring SSH server on IOS (see also comments to this post), you have to configure the ssh pubkey-chain, where you can enter the key string (from your SSH public key file) or the key’s hash (which is displayed by the ssh-keygen command).

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SSH timeouts

The readers preparing for various certification exams are a constant source of amazing details, including this one:

I have configured ip ssh timeout 60 and exec-timeout 5 on VTY lines. Preferred input connection is ssh. How much time can I be idle?

According to the IOS documentation, the ip ssh timeout detects the problems in SSH negotiation phase (including user authentication) and the exec-timeout detects user inactivity after the user has logged in.

Do not set ip ssh timeout to a very low value or you won’t be able to type your password before the router disconnects the session.

This article is part of You've asked for it series.

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Fat finger follow-up: use the key labels

Karsten Iwen made an interesting comment to my “Don't let a lab rat anywhere near a production box” post: you should avoid the SSH/VPN key generation mistakes by using key labels. He also wrote a post explaining the concept but since it’s in German, let me rephrase it in English.

Cisco IOS release 12.2(8)T added the label parameter to the crypto key generate rsa command. You can use this parameter to assign a label to your VPN key, for example

Rtr(config)#crypto key generate rsa label VPN modulus 2048

To use the labeled key to generate your certificate, use the rsakeypair command in the CA-trustpoint configuration mode:

crypto pki trustpoint
enrollment retry count 100
enrollment mode ra
enrollment url
rsakeypair VPN
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Don't let a lab rat anywhere near a production box

I tried to do a few simple NETCONF tests yesterday (I wanted to see how the router's configuration looks like when it's encoded in XML). I didn't want to start a lab for such a simple task and decided to use my home router. SSH was the only reasonable transport (you can't run BEEP with standard Linux tools), but it was not working on the router.

Obviously I've configured too many lab devices in the past. As soon as I've realized I had SSH problems, my fingers automatically typed crypto key generate rsa. A few milliseconds after I've hit ENTER it dawned on me that my router uses PKI certificates for the VPN connection to our network ... and I've managed to invalidate the router's certificate, which is one of the few things that a reload will not solve. Although our IT guru was fantastic and approved my (router's) certificate request late in the evening, I still felt bad about the whole experience.

And the moral? Don't let a lab wizard with fast fingers too close to a production box :)

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Telnet access restrictions

A while ago I've got an interesting question from one of the readers:

I'd like to be able to configure a set of routers to only be manageable from each other. Something like an access-class matching minimum packet TTL would probably be good enough, better if some connected routes could be tagged and access granted based on that. The idea is to keep router-by-router logins in case of routing problems, without opening up access too widely.

I did a few tests with IOS release 12.4(15)T and neither access-class nor control-plane policing recognizes the TTL field in ACL (various bits and pieces of IOS use the same data structures in different procedures, thus resulting in inconsistent behavior). Alternatively, you could deploy inbound access lists on all interfaces, but this is probably way too cumbersome to manage.

The best you can do without going into weird solutions is to allocate router loopback interfaces and inter-router links from a tightly controlled address space and only allow telnet from that address space (while at the same time filtering IP packets pretending to come from that same address space on the perimeter of your network). As the IOS supports extended access lists in the access-class line configuration command, you could allow SSH from a wider set of IP addresses and limit Telnet to the address range allocated to inter-router links.

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SSH works without AAA

I was always under impression that you have to configure AAA (even if you have local passwords) if you want to use SSH on a Cisco router. Based on the comment made by shef I tried various options and found out that SSH works without AAA (at least in IOS releases 12.4 and 12.2SRC). In both cases, you can configure AAA authentication (using AAA servers or local passwords) or local username/password authentication (you can also use enhanced password security).
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Telnet/SSH session cannot be started from EEM applet

The chances that you would be able to start SSH or Telnet session from an EEM applet were pretty slim, but the comment from melwong triggered my curiosity and I simply had to try it. After all, as the action cli command uses a VTY line (like a regular user session), you might be able to use the pattern option of the action cli command to write something similar to an expect script. This was my best shot at getting it done:
event manager applet SSH
event none
action 0.9 cli command "enable"
action 1.0 cli command "ssh -l ssUser R2" pattern "word:"
action 1.1 cli command "ssPassword" pattern "#"
action 2.0 cli command "clear ip route *" pattern "#"
action 3.0 cli command "exit" pattern "#"

My applet got past the SSH authentication (debugging on R2 confirmed that the SSH session was started) but could not send data through the session itself (it hung on the clear ip route command).

This article is part of You've asked for it series.

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