Paper 2018/389

Distributed SSH Key Management with Proactive RSA Threshold Signatures

Yotam Harchol, Ittai Abraham, and Benny Pinkas


SSH is a security network protocol that uses public key cryptography for client authentication. SSH connections are designed to be run between a client and a server and therefore in enterprise networks there is no centralized monitoring of all SSH connections. An attractive method for enforcing such centralized control, audit or even revocation is to require all clients to access a centralized service in order to obtain their SSH keys. Doing this will introduce security and availability issues. The benefits of centralized control come with new challenges in security and availability. In this paper we present ESKM - a \emph{distributed enterprise SSH key manager}. ESKM is a secure and fault-tolerant logically-centralized SSH key manager. ESKM leverages $k$-out-of-$n$ threshold security to provide a high level of security. SSH private keys are never stored \emph{at any single node}, not even when they are used for signing. On a technical level, the system uses $k$-out-of-$n$ threshold RSA signatures, which are enforced with new methods that refresh the shares in order to achieve proactive security and prevent many side-channel attacks. In addition, we support password-based user authentication with security against offline dictionary attacks, that is achieved using threshold oblivious pseudo-random evaluation. ESKM does not require modification in the server side or of the SSH protocol. We implemented the ESKM system, and a patch for OpenSSL libcrypto for client side services. We show that the system is scalable and that the overhead in the client connection setup time is marginal.

Available format(s)
Public-key cryptography
Publication info
Published elsewhere. MAJOR revision.ACNS 2018
distributed cryptographyimplementationRSAsecret sharingthreshold cryptography
Contact author(s)
yotamhc @ cs huji ac il
2018-05-01: received
Short URL
Creative Commons Attribution


      author = {Yotam Harchol and Ittai Abraham and Benny Pinkas},
      title = {Distributed SSH Key Management with Proactive RSA Threshold Signatures},
      howpublished = {Cryptology ePrint Archive, Paper 2018/389},
      year = {2018},
      note = {\url{}},
      url = {}
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