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Last pushed: 3 months ago
Short Description
SSH-enabled base image built upon phusion/baseimage, with support for SSH certificates.
Full Description

SSH server with certificate support

This is a base container image built upon baseimage-docker, that enables the ssh service and allows user login with certificates.


From Docker registry:

docker pull rjrivero/baseimage-ssh

Or build yourself:

git clone
docker build --rm -t rjrivero/baseimage-ssh docker-baseimage-ssh

Running the image:

docker run --rm -it --name ssh-container -v </path/to/your/ca/>:/etc/ssh/ rjrivero/baseimage-ssh

Use in your Dockerfile:

FROM rjrivero/baseimage-ssh:<tag>

SSH Certificates

This image's sshd_config file is modified to accept a CA signing certificate. The certificate must be mounted at /etc/ssh/ You mount your certificate adding a -v flag to the docker command:

-v </path/to/your/signing/>:/etc/ssh/

You generate your signing certificate first using ssh-keygen:

ssh-keygen -b 4096 -f users_ca

It is recommended that you set a strong password for your root CA certificate. Then you sign the file from your ~/.ssh folder with the signing certificate:

ssh-keygen -s users_ca -I "Your Name" -n root -V +52w ~/.ssh/

You are asked for the password you entered when creating the root CA cert, and then the tool generates a signed certificate valid for 52 weeks (roughly a year), which is what the +52w stands for in the command line.

The generated certificate is saved as ~/.ssh/ Now you can log into the container as the root user without providing any password:

CONTAINER_IP=`docker inspect -f '{{ .NetworkSettings.IPAddress }}' ssh-container`
ssh -a -l root $CONTAINER_IP

Adding users at build time

You can add users to the container at build time, so later on you can log into it using an unprivileged user account instead of root. In your Dockerfile:

# Add unprivileged user
RUN useradd -m -s /bin/bash -p PASSWORD myuser

You need to set a password to have the account unlocked. Otherwise you won't be able to ssh in, even when ssh login with passwords is actually disabled.

You can configure your users according to your needs, including adding them to any required group, for example:

# Allow my unprivileged user to run sudo
RUN usermod -a -G sudo myuser

If you are generating random user passwords, you won't be able to run sudo unless you first log into the container as root and reset the user's password to a known one. A different approach would be adding a file inside /etc/sudoers.d/, with the following contents:


That will allow your user to run passwordless sudo. You must set the file permissions to 0440, otherwise it won't work.

Adding users at boot time

You can also add your user at boot time instead of build time. You only need to provide the following environment variables when launching the container with docker:

  • NEWUSER: Username to add.

  • NEWUSER_UID: UID you want for the new user, defaults to 1000.

  • NEWUSER_GROUPS: Comma-separated list of groups to add your user to.

  • NEWUSER_SUDO: If YES, the user can run passwordless sudo.

For example, if you want to add an user named myuser, with UID 955, in groups sudo and audio, and capable of passwordless sudo, you run:

docker run --rm -it --name ssh-container \
    -v </path/to/your/ca/>:/etc/ssh/ \
    -e NEWUSER=myuser \
    -e NEWUSER_UID=995 \
    -e NEWUSER_GROUPS=sudo,audio \

Login as non root user

If you have built or booted your container with an unprivileged user account myuser, and want to log in as that user, you must generate your certificate accordingly. Instead of root, you will have to provide the proper username to ssh-keygen:

ssh-keygen -s users_ca -I "Your Name" -n myuser -V +52w
cp ~/.ssh/

CONTAINER_IP=`docker inspect -f '{{ .NetworkSettings.IPAddress }}' ssh-container`
ssh -a -l myuser $CONTAINER_IP

Managing several identities

If you need several certificates for several different usernames, you will need as many private keys as identities. For example, if you need to login as www-data in one server and as pgsql in other, you would:

  • Generate new identity files per username
ssh-keygen -f ~/.ssh/www-data_rsa
ssh-keygen -f ~/.ssh/pgsql_rsa
  • Generate a signed certificate per identity
ssh-keygen -s users_ca -I "My Name" -n www-data ~/.ssh/
ssh-keygen -s users_ca -I "My Name" -n pgsql    ~/.ssh/

cp ~/.ssh
cp    ~/.ssh
  • Use the -i flag to specify the proper identity to the ssh client when connecting to the server
ssh -a -l www-data -i ~/.ssh/www-data_rsa www-data-server
ssh -a -l pgsql    -i ~/.ssh/pgsql_rsa    pgsql-server
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