Working with ssh public/private keys

1. Summary

This document describes generating ssh public/private key pairs.
SSH public / private keys are used by ssh, scp and sftp protocols to authenticate. When connecting to a server, a user must provide a private key. In turn, a server must have the corresponding public key in the user's home .ssh/authorized_keys file.

It is assumed that if a Windows workstation is being used to connect from, Putty, WinSCP and PuttyGen applications are installed on the workstation. This tutorial and example describes creating ssh public/private key pairs, installing public key to a workflow's owner authorized_key file, and authenticating to the workflow with a corresponding private key.

2. SSH Key Pairs

For Security reasons, authentication via ssh protocols to a Metworx workflow is only allowed via public/private key pairs. To allow user access, a user's ssh public key has to be in the user's authorized_key file, i.e in ~/.ssh/authorized_keys

There are multiple ways to add the public key to that file, and in this document we will discuss 2 options:

  1. Creating public key pair in AWS console and configuring ssh key in Metworx Dashboard application user configuration.
  2. Creating public key on a user's workstation and inserting public ssh key to already running Metworx workflow.

2.1. Configuring ssh key in Metworx User Configuration

On the Metworx Dashboard application, a user has an option to have a user-level key defined. If the user-level key is defined, that public key will be inserted in the user's home .ssh/authorized_key file at the workflow creation time.

If a user does not have a user-key defined, then a required Organization-level key will be used instead and the ssh access to the workflow will be limited to system administrators only (assuming that only system administrators have access to the Organization private key)

Metworx-Cloud users can request a user-level ssh key configured by submitting a ticket in the Metworx Support Portal

In Metworx dashboard application, a user or organization administrator can configure the AWS Key Name key name in metworx . The name in the user configuration in Metworx and the name given to the key in AWS must be the same!

AWS documents several ways to create key pairs. Please Refer to AWS documentation for additional information:

Follow these steps to create the ssh key pairs in AWS via console:

Usually, when a new user is added to Metworx, the cloud administrator (or somebody who has admin level access to AWS) can create a new ssh key and associate that key with the user in Metworx. To create the key in AWS console:

  1. Log in to AWS console web application, go to Services->EC2, and confirm that you are in the right AWS region going to aws ec2 dashboard
  2. Go to Key Pairs, and click on "Create Key Pair" create keypair
  3. Give the key a name (and make a note of it). For key file format, use PPK (but the keys can be converted later on), and click on "Create Key Pair create key
  4. This will download the private key. Keep that key safe. If cloud administrators created the key, they need to get that key to the end user in a secure way.

A user in Metworx can be configured to use the key that is configured in AWS. In the Metworx dashboard application, the end user can click on their name, and then Account, and type in the key name exactly same way as it was named in AWS key name in metworx .

Alternatively, OrgAdmins can configure the key when they create or update org users. (see

Once the key has been configured in the Metworx application for the user, the public key will be inserted into users ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file on the workflow, and the workflow owner can authenticate to the workflow with the corresponding private key.

2.2. Inserting Public SSH key in Already running Metworx Workflow

If you do not already have private/public key pair to use for authentication, please generate the key pair first.

2.2.1 Generating SSH KeyPairs

The sections bellow describe steps to generate keypairs on Windows or Linux/Mac

2.2.1.a On Windows, generate the private/public key Pair with PuttyGen application

Follow these steps to generate the key pair on Windows.

  1. Open PuttyGen, click on "Generate" and follow instructions from application to generate the key windows puttygen key generate
  2. Once the key pair has been generated, save both private and public keys. save keys . You do not have to give it a password to protect it, but keep the private key very secure.
  3. Copy and save contents of the OpenSSH formatted public key from the application authorized keys line

2.2.1.b Generating public/private key pair on Linux and Mac

On Linux, public/private key pairs can be generated by running ssh-keygen command on a terminal, as follows:

prompt % ssh-keygen -t rsa    
Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter file in which to save the key (/Users/sergeyn/.ssh/id_rsa):
Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase): 
Enter same passphrase again: 
Your identification has been saved in id_rsa
Your public key has been saved in
The key fingerprint is:
SHA256:NJ+xTWLKe1seKcoiZXDAT48oP4obLryHYnWLew40n8Y sergeyn@Sergeys-MBP.fios-router.home
The key's randomart image is:
+---[RSA 3072]----+
|   .             |
|    o .          |
|     = oo + .    |
|  . o +o.= B     |
|   = o  S + .    |
|  ..*.+  .   .   |
|o.oooE. . o +    |
|==.o+o.. o = .   |
|=+o.+o .o . .    |

prompt % cat ~/.ssh/ 
ssh-rsa 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 sergeyn@hostname

The contents of the public key (by default ~/.ssh/ can be copied and inserted into the ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file on a workstation

2.2.2. Connecting to workflow with a username/password and appending the public key to the ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file.

  1. Log into RStudio on a running workflow with your username and password, and open a session 2021 07 04 14 31 06
  2. In the RStudio file manager, enable "Hidden Files" option under "more" menu, and select Home->.ssh->authorized_keys select hidden file
  3. With RStudio editor, edit the ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file and append the public key there. (it will always be one line starting with ssh-rsa in our case) and save the file. There are usually multiple other keys in that file on a Metworx workflow node. 2021 07 06 16 44 17

Note: On 20.x Metworx workflows, user's home directories are located on persistent disks, so the public key would only need to be added once on a new disk and it will persist between recreation of workflows, as long as same disk is used.

Now that public/private keys has been generated and the public key has been appended to the workflow user's authorized_keys file, the user can ssh in, or upload/download files, via ssh protocols. For more details, see ssh tutorial