SSH Tectia

Server Authentication with Public Keys

The server is authenticated with a digital signature based on a DSA or RSA public-key algorithm. At the beginning of the connection, the server sends its public key to the client for validation.

Server authentication is done during Diffie-Hellman key exchange through a single public-key operation. When public-key authentication is used to authenticate the server, the first connection is very important. During the first connection the client will display a message similar to the one in Figure 6.2.

SSH Tectia Client on Windows – first connection to a remote host

Figure 6.2. SSH Tectia Client on Windows – first connection to a remote host

To help you to verify the identity of the server host, the message displays a fingerprint of the host's public key. The fingerprint is represented using the SSH Babble format, and it consists of a pronounceable series of five lowercase letters separated by dashes.

At this point, you should verify the validity of the fingerprint, for example by contacting the administrator of the remote host computer (preferably by telephone) and asking the administrator to verify that the key fingerprint is correct. If the fingerprint is not verified, it is possible that the server you are connecting to is not the intended one (this is known as a man-in-the-middle attack).

After verifying the fingerprint, it is safe to continue connecting. A copy of the server public key will then be stored on the client machine. On SSH Tectia Client on Unix it is stored in the $HOME/.ssh2/hostkeys directory. On SSH Tectia Client and SSH Tectia Connector on Windows it is stored in the "%USERPROFILE%\Application Data\SSH\HostKeys" directory.