What is an SSH Key Manager?

Written by Vince Lujan on February 19, 2019

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What is an SSH key manager? As the name suggests, an SSH key manager is a utility that is used to manage SSH keys. Secure Shell (SSH) keys are a user access credential that is used with the SSH protocol, which creates an encrypted pathway for system to system communication.

While effective and secure, the challenge with the SSH protocol is that the number of SSH keys in an environment can grow exponentially as an IT organization scales in size and scope, which can be difficult to manage effectively with a manual approach. Of course, this is where an SSH key manager can be useful.

Why Manage SSH Keys?

SSH keys are used to access the SSH protocol, which follows the client/server model to create an encrypted path of communication between one system and another. SSH key pairs are comprised of a public key that is used to encrypt information transferred via the SSH protocol, and a private key that is used to decrypt information received.

Without the correct SSH key pair, it is nearly impossible for a user to access and read any data transferred via the encrypted pathway. Said another way, SSH keys are an authentication method used to gain access to an encrypted connection between systems, which authorizes users to read and write encrypted data transferred via the SSH protocol.

In the modern era, SSH keys are often used to securely manage and connect users to remote resources such as AWS® cloud servers, Azure® infrastructure, and Google Compute Services® (GCE). These are often critical systems to the organization, hence the need for SSH keys to protect them. SSH keys can be provisioned on an individual basis, and the added encryption of the SSH protocol makes it ideal for securing user access to critical systems. However, when you consider that each encrypted connection between systems requires a unique SSH key pair for each user, then it’s easy to see how IT admins can easily lose control of SSH key management with a manual approach.

If IT admins lose control of the SSH keys in their environment, it’s nearly impossible to manage who can access critical systems, applications, and data. So it makes sense that managing SSH keys effectively should be a priority to ensure that only the correct users have access to the correct resources. Managing SSH keys effectively means that IT admins can provision and deprovision SSH key access for specific users, grant varying levels of access for those users, and revoke SSH keys at any time should an incident occur.

SSH Key Management Solution

SSH key management

The good news is that a next generation identity and access management platform has emerged that securely manages and connects core user identities to virtually all of the IT resources they need access to. This includes Windows®, Mac®, and Linux® systems, web and on-prem applications, physical and virtual file storage, and networks spanning multiple locations—all while providing a single secure location for users and IT admins to manage SSH keys accordingly. It’s called JumpCloud® Directory-as-a-Service®, and it is a next generation SSH key manager and so much more.

Contact JumpCloud to learn more about SSH key management with the Directory-as-a-Service platform. Better yet, sign up for a free account and check it out for yourself. We offer 10 users free forever to help get you started. You can also check out our YouTube Channel to find helpful videos covering everything that JumpCloud has to offer. Let us know if you have any questions; we would be happy to direct you to more information.

Vince Lujan

Vince is a writer and video specialist at JumpCloud. Originally from the horse capital of New Mexico, Corrales, he has lived in Boulder, Colorado for three years. When Vince is not developing content for JumpCloud, he can usually be found at the Boulder Creek.

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