Secure Shell (SSH) is a cryptographic network protocol for operating network services securely over an unsecured network. Typical applications include remote command-line login and remote command execution, but any network service can be secured with SSH.
SSH provides a secure channel over an unsecured network in a client–server architecture, connecting an SSH client application with an SSH server. The protocol specification distinguishes between two major versions, referred to as SSH-1 and SSH-2. The standard TCP port for SSH is 22. SSH is generally used to access Unix-like operating systems, but it can also be used on Microsoft Windows. Windows 10 uses OpenSSH as its default SSH client.
SSH was designed as a replacement for Telnet and for unsecured remote shell protocols such as the Berkeley rlogin, rsh, and rexec protocols. Those protocols send information, notably passwords, in plaintext, rendering them susceptible to interception and disclosure using packet analysis. The encryption used by SSH is intended to provide confidentiality and integrity of data over an unsecured network, such as the Internet, although files leaked by Edward Snowden indicate that the National Security Agency can sometimes decrypt SSH, allowing them to read the contents of SSH sessions.
SSH uses public-key cryptography to authenticate the remote computer and allow it to authenticate the user, if necessary. There are several ways to use SSH; one is to use automatically generated public-private key pairs to simply encrypt a network connection, and then use password authentication to log on.
Another is to use a manually generated public-private key pair to perform the authentication, allowing users or programs to log in without having to specify a password. In this scenario, anyone can produce a matching pair of different keys (public and private). The public key is placed on all computers that must allow access to the owner of the matching private key (the owner keeps the private key secret). While authentication is based on the private key, the key itself is never transferred through the network during authentication. SSH only verifies whether the same person offering the public key also owns the matching private key. In all versions of SSH it is important to verify unknown public keys, i.e. associate the public keys with identities, before accepting them as valid. Accepting an attacker’s public key without validation will authorize an unauthorized attacker as a valid user.