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2FA SSH aka OpenSSH OATH, Two-Factor Authentication

2FA SSH aka OpenSSH OATH, Two-Factor Authentication


Good security is based on layers of protection. At some point the usability gets in the way. My thread model on accessing systems is to create a different ssh pair of keys (private/public) and only use them instead of a login password. I try to keep my digital assets separated and not all of them under the same basket. My laptop is encrypted and I dont run any services on it, but even then a bad actor can always find a way.

Back in the days, I was looking on Barada/Gort. Barada is an implementation of HOTP: An HMAC-Based One-Time Password Algorithm and Gort is the android app you can install to your mobile and connect to barada. Both of these application have not been updated since 2013/2014 and Gort is even removed from f-droid!

Talking with friends on our upcoming trip to 34C4, discussing some security subjects, I thought it was time to review my previous inquiry on ssh-2FA. Most of my friends are using yubikeys. I would love to try some, but at this time I dont have the time to order/test/apply to my machines. To reduce any risk, the idea of combining a bastion/jump-host server with 2FA seemed to be an easy and affordable solution.

OpenSSH with OATH

As ssh login is based on PAM (Pluggable Authentication Modules), we can use Gnu OATH Toolkit. OATH stands for Open Authentication and it is an open standard. In a nutshell, we add a new authorization step that we can verify our login via our mobile device.

Below are my personal notes on how to setup oath-toolkit, oath-pam and how to synchronize it against your android device. These are based on centos 6.9


We need to install the epel repository:

# yum -y install

Searching packages

Searching for oath

# yum search oath

the results are similar to these:

liboath.x86_64       : Library for OATH handling
liboath-devel.x86_64 : Development files for liboath
liboath-doc.noarch   : Documentation files for liboath

pam_oath.x86_64      : A PAM module for pluggable login authentication for OATH
gen-oath-safe.noarch : Script for generating HOTP/TOTP keys (and QR code)
oathtool.x86_64      : A command line tool for generating and validating OTPs

Installing packages

We need to install three packages:

  • pam_oath is the PAM for OATH
  • oathtool is the gnu oath-toolkit
  • gen-oath-safe is the program that we will use to sync our mobile device with our system

# yum -y install pam_oath oathtool gen-oath-safe


Before we continue with our setup, I believe now is the time to install FreeOTP


FreeOTP looks like:



Now, it is time to generate and sync our 2FA, using HOTP


You should replace username with your USER_NAME !

# gen-oath-safe username HOTP



and scan the QR with FreeOTP


You can see in the top a new entry!



Do not forget to save your HOTP key (hex) to the gnu oath-toolkit user file.


Key in Hex: e9379dd63ec367ee5c378a7c6515af01cf650c89

# echo "HOTP username - e9379dd63ec367ee5c378a7c6515af01cf650c89" > /etc/liboath/oathuserfile


# cat /etc/liboath/oathuserfile

HOTP username - e9379dd63ec367ee5c378a7c6515af01cf650c89


The penultimate step is to setup our ssh login with the PAM oath library.

Verify PAM

# ls -l /usr/lib64/security/

-rwxr-xr-x 1 root root 11304 Nov 11  2014 /usr/lib64/security/


# cat /etc/pam.d/sshd

In modern systems, the sshd pam configuration file seems:

auth       required
auth       include      password-auth
account    required
account    include      password-auth
password   include      password-auth
# close should be the first session rule
session    required close
session    required
# open should only be followed by sessions to be executed in the user context
session    required open env_params
session    required
session    optional force revoke
session    include      password-auth

We need one line in the top of the file.

I use something like this:

auth       sufficient /usr/lib64/security/  debug   usersfile=/etc/liboath/oathuserfile window=5 digits=6

Depending on your policy and thread model, you can switch sufficient to requisite , you can remove debug option. In the third field, you can try typing just the without the full path and you can change the window to something else:


auth requisite usersfile=/etc/liboath/oathuserfile window=10 digits=6

Restart sshd

In every change/test remember to restart your ssh daemon:

# service sshd restart

Stopping sshd:                                             [  OK  ]
Starting sshd:                                             [  OK  ]


If you are getting some weird messages, try to change the status of selinux to permissive and try again. If the selinux is the issue, you have to review selinux audit logs and add/fix any selinux policies/modules so that your system can work properly.

# getenforce

# setenforce 0

# getenforce


The last and most important thing, is to test it !



Post Scriptum

The idea of using OATH & FreeOTP can also be applied to login into your laptop as PAM is the basic authentication framework on a linux machine. You can use OATH in every service that can authenticate it self through PAM.

Tag(s): SSH, FreeOTP, HOTP
Install Signal Desktop to Archlinux

How to install Signal dekstop to archlinux

Download Signal Desktop

eg. latest version v1.0.41

$ curl -s \
    -o /tmp/signal-desktop_1.0.41_amd64.deb

Verify Package

There is a way to manually verify the integrity of the package, by checking the hash value of the file against a gpg signed file. To do that we need to add a few extra steps in our procedure.

Download Key from the repository

$ wget -c

--2017-12-11 22:13:34--
Loaded CA certificate '/etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt'
Connecting to connected.
Proxy request sent, awaiting response... 200 OK
Length: 3090 (3.0K) [application/pgp-signature]
Saving to: ‘keys.asc’

keys.asc                          100%[============================================================>]   3.02K  --.-KB/s    in 0s      

2017-12-11 22:13:35 (160 MB/s) - ‘keys.asc’ saved [3090/3090]

Import the key to your gpg keyring

$ gpg2 --import keys.asc

gpg: key D980A17457F6FB06: public key "Open Whisper Systems <>" imported
gpg: Total number processed: 1
gpg:               imported: 1

you can also verify/get public key from a known key server

$ gpg2 --verbose --keyserver --recv-keys 0xD980A17457F6FB06

gpg: data source:
gpg: armor header: Version: SKS 1.1.6
gpg: armor header: Comment: Hostname:
gpg: pub  rsa4096/D980A17457F6FB06 2017-04-05  Open Whisper Systems <>
gpg: key D980A17457F6FB06: "Open Whisper Systems <>" not changed
gpg: Total number processed: 1
gpg:              unchanged: 1

Here is already in place, so no changes.

Download Release files

$ wget -c

$ wget -c

Verify Release files

$ gpg2 --no-default-keyring --verify Release.gpg Release

gpg: Signature made Sat 09 Dec 2017 04:11:06 AM EET
gpg:                using RSA key D980A17457F6FB06
gpg: Good signature from "Open Whisper Systems <>" [unknown]
gpg: WARNING: This key is not certified with a trusted signature!
gpg:          There is no indication that the signature belongs to the owner.
Primary key fingerprint: DBA3 6B51 81D0 C816 F630  E889 D980 A174 57F6 FB06

That means that Release file is signed from whispersystems and the integrity of the file is not changed/compromized.

Download Package File

We need one more file and that is the Package file that contains the hash values of the deb packages.

$ wget -c

But is this file compromized?
Let’s check it against Release file:

$ sha256sum Packages

ec74860e656db892ab38831dc5f274d54a10347934c140e2a3e637f34c402b78  Packages

$ grep ec74860e656db892ab38831dc5f274d54a10347934c140e2a3e637f34c402b78 Release

 ec74860e656db892ab38831dc5f274d54a10347934c140e2a3e637f34c402b78     1713 main/binary-amd64/Packages

yeay !

Verify deb Package

Finally we are now ready to manually verify the integrity of the deb package:

$ sha256sum signal-desktop_1.0.41_amd64.deb

9cf87647e21bbe0c1b81e66f88832fe2ec7e868bf594413eb96f0bf3633a3f25  signal-desktop_1.0.41_amd64.deb

$ egrep 9cf87647e21bbe0c1b81e66f88832fe2ec7e868bf594413eb96f0bf3633a3f25 Packages

SHA256: 9cf87647e21bbe0c1b81e66f88832fe2ec7e868bf594413eb96f0bf3633a3f25

Perfect, we are now ready to continue

Extract under tmp filesystem

$ cd /tmp/

$ ar vx signal-desktop_1.0.41_amd64.deb

x - debian-binary
x - control.tar.gz
x - data.tar.xz

Extract data under tmp filesystem

$ tar xf data.tar.xz

Move Signal-Desktop under root filesystem

# sudo mv opt/Signal/ /opt/Signal/


Actually, that’s it!


Run signal-desktop as a regular user:

$ /opt/Signal/signal-desktop

Signal Desktop



Define your proxy settings on your environment:

declare -x ftp_proxy=""
declare -x http_proxy=""
declare -x https_proxy=""



Tag(s): signal, archlinux