Friday, 20 September 2019

SSH and "Too many authentication failures" - a new one on me

Having created a new user on an Ubuntu 16.04 boxen, I started seeing this: -

Received disconnect from port 22:2: Too many authentication failures
Disconnected from port 22

whilst trying to SSH into the box, using the new account: -

ssh testfest@

even though I was able to SSH using my own account ....

On the target box, I was seeing: -

 Sep 19 16:21:24 ubuntu sshd[192635]: error: maximum authentication attempts exceeded for testfest from port 54324 ssh2 [preauth]
 Sep 19 16:21:24 ubuntu sshd[192635]: Disconnecting: Too many authentication failures [preauth]
 Sep 19 16:21:48 ubuntu su[192609]: pam_unix(su:session): session closed for user testfest

One key (!) difference ....

For my own user, I'm using my SSH private key ...

For this new user, I'm using a password ...

There was a correlation ...

In my Mac's local SSH directory ( ~/.ssh ) I had a file: -


which was set to: -

Host *
 AddKeysToAgent yes
 UseKeychain yes
 IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa

In broad terms, my Mac was trying to be helpful and send MY private key to assert the identity of this new user ... which wasn't ever going to work ...

I tried moving ~/.ssh/config to ~/.ssh/cheese but to no avail.

As ever, Google had the answer ( and, yes, Google is my friend ) : -

This is usually caused by inadvertently offering multiple ssh keys to the server. The server will reject any key after too many keys have been offered.

You can see this for yourself by adding the -v flag to your ssh command to get verbose output. You will see that a bunch of keys are offered, until the server rejects the connection saying: "Too many authentication failures for [user]". Without verbose mode, you will only see the ambiguous message "Connection reset by peer".

To prevent irrelevant keys from being offered, you have to explicitly specify this in every host entry in the ~/.ssh/config (on the client machine) file by adding IdentitiesOnly like so:

  IdentityFile ~/.ssh/key_for_somehost_rsa
  IdentitiesOnly yes
  Port 22

If you use the ssh-agent, it helps to run ssh-add -D to clear the identities.

Of course, I didn't think to enable verbose mode on the SSH client via ssh -v but ...

I did try the tip of clearing the identities: -

ssh-add -D

and ... IT WORKED!!

Every day, it's a school day !

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