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[c2k8]: Developer Blog: grunk@ - SSH Fingerprint Visualization Support
Contributed by johan on Thu Jun 26 12:51:50 2008 (GMT)
from the artsy dept.

Alexander von Gernler (grunk@) has committed support for SSH fingerprint visualization. This is a technique to make it possible for users to remember SSH fingerprints more easily. Instead of just looking at the ssh fingerprint in clear text you can now get a graphical pattern where your key is represented by a worm inside a field, the worm will look slightly different depending on the fingerprint.

Update (Thu Jun 26 2008, 16:42:30 CET): Some changes has been made since this article was written. Instead of having to specify "CheckHostIP fingerprint" to turn on visualization, you now have to use "VisualHostKey yes". "CheckHostIP fingerprint" won't work anymore, and has returned to be a normal bool yes/no option.

Please read on for Alexander's blog...

In December 2006, I attended a talk by Dan Kaminsky [1] [2],
a security expert well known for his creative approaches towards
problems and for his extremely entertaining style of presentation.
His talk dealt a lot with visualization of problems from different
areas, and was fun to watch, as always.
Dan managed to tie together some loose ends in my head about various
topics, and also managed to draw my attention to the problem of
SSH and the hex fingerprints.

As many of you know, a fingerprint may be as secure as it can be,
but the security of the system stands and falls with the user.
So if people don't verify fingerprints because it is too complicated
and annoying for them, we have to catch them where they can't escape:
Actually, the human brain is the most powerful pattern recognition
system ever known, so why not make use of it, and show a little
image to the users every time they log in.
If the image is the same all the time, then everything feels normal.
And if not, it starts feeling fishy immediately.

One of the problems I had to solve was the output format.  As you all
know we're operating on text terminals most of the
time, and high-resolution graphics are not available always.
However, the schemes available all tried to do some random graphical
output that aimed to be characteristic and easy to remember.

So there I was with my constraints:  The output had to be
7-bit clean ASCII text, with no colors, no scrolling, no animation,
no nothing.  I then designed a very simple algorithm that
nevertheless takes all the bits of a hex fingerprint into account.
I am still doing research towards the question of how easy it is
to forge these pictures.
(If you're at a University and doing Theoretical Computer Science,
Graph Theory or Cryptography and have any remarks to make,
I'll be glad to hear from you :)

Now perhaps you'll be curious and want to play around with the
new feature.  Just do the following steps:

1.  (Of course) compile a -current ssh
2.  Insert the option
        CheckHostIP     fingerprint
    to your ~/.ssh/config file.  Now you will get the ASCII art
    displayed on every login.
3.  If you want to know what your known hosts "look" like,
    type in
        ssh-keygen -lv -f ~/.ssh/known_hosts | less
    and learn!  There's a canadian anoncvs mirror that looks
    like a cat, for example ;)

[1] the the talk recorded in mpeg-4 format
[2] slides

[topicconf]

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more by johan


  Re: [c2k8]: Developer Blog: grunk@ - SSH Fingerprint Visualization Support (mod 0/68)
by anonymous pedro (201.53.102.38) on Sun Jun 15 03:22:55 2008 (GMT)
  That's exactly how I envisioned it.
  [ Show thread ] [ Reply to this comment ] [ Mod Up ] [ Mod Down ]

  Re: [c2k8]: Developer Blog: grunk@ - SSH Fingerprint Visualization Support (mod 6/74)
by Anonymous Coward (209.139.249.129) on Sun Jun 15 03:48:43 2008 (GMT)
  Cool stuff. Checking out tree now on a -current "play with me" box.

Love the whole idea of it.


  [ Show thread ] [ Reply to this comment ] [ Mod Up ] [ Mod Down ]

  Re: [c2k8]: Developer Blog: grunk@ - SSH Fingerprint Visualization Support (mod 9/73)
by Anonymous Coward (84.0.5.102) on Sun Jun 15 07:47:28 2008 (GMT)
  Picture, anyone?
  [ Show thread ] [ Reply to this comment ] [ Mod Up ] [ Mod Down ]

  Re: [c2k8]: Developer Blog: grunk@ - SSH Fingerprint Visualization Support (mod 5/71)
by Anonymous Coward (158.64.153.152) on Sun Jun 15 09:37:48 2008 (GMT)
  Thanks, for your work!

I tried it, but you still have to get used to it. I'm not sure these graphics are easy to remember ...

+--[ RSA]---------+
|.o |
|... |
|= ... |
| = ... |
|+ . .ES |
|.. o ..o . |
| . o ..+ o o |
| . o o. . = . |
| . . . o |
+-----------------+

+--[ RSA]---------+
| .. . |
| . . . |
| . . o |
| . . = |
| . oSo |
| . . ..= . |
|E . o.B = |
| o =.* |
| +o. |
+-----------------+
  [ Show thread ] [ Reply to this comment ] [ Mod Up ] [ Mod Down ]

  the talk (mod 4/72)
by Anonymous Coward (121.116.178.61) on Sun Jun 15 09:40:19 2008 (GMT)
  Dan's talk is very interesting but you can skip the beginning 10 min if you are only interested in ssh hex problem.
  [ Show thread ] [ Reply to this comment ] [ Mod Up ] [ Mod Down ]

  Re: [c2k8]: Developer Blog: grunk@ - SSH Fingerprint Visualization Support (mod -2/76)
by Krunch (91.106.223.231) on Sun Jun 15 17:49:59 2008 (GMT)
  Is there a PDF version of the slides somewhere?
  [ Show thread ] [ Reply to this comment ] [ Mod Up ] [ Mod Down ]

  Re: [c2k8]: Developer Blog: grunk@ - SSH Fingerprint Visualization Support (mod 7/77)
by Peter (129.132.27.180) on Thu Jun 26 09:30:31 2008 (GMT)
  Am I the only one who does not like it? Numbers are cumbersome, but they are precise.

Pictures can be confuse the viewer. I think it should be possible to write a small program that generates thousands of keys, trying to create one where the fingerprint picture is close to the original picture. Assuming that the user has no picture reference, it seems likely that he will accept the false key as his own. The brain is great in recognizing things even if they are not 100% the same.

This looks like a security facade to me, weakening the security.
  [ Show thread ] [ Reply to this comment ] [ Mod Up ] [ Mod Down ]

  Re: [c2k8]: Developer Blog: grunk@ - SSH Fingerprint Visualization Support (mod -2/68)
by martin f. krafft (2001:41e0:ff12:0:211:2fff:fe6b:c869) (undeadly.org@pobox.madduck.net) on Fri Oct 31 09:00:29 2008 (GMT)
http://madduck.net
  I wish this feature didn't exist, it's useless.
  [ Show thread ] [ Reply to this comment ] [ Mod Up ] [ Mod Down ]

  Re: [c2k8]: Developer Blog: grunk@ - SSH Fingerprint Visualization Support (mod -4/52)
by Anonymous Coward (103.10.197.61) on Sat Sep 24 06:02:05 2016 (GMT)
  Wow. Just one word for them Splendid!! I have seen many sites in my whole life but have never seen anything like this! It is amazingly beautiful! You should also consider them.castlehillelectrician.com
  [ Show thread ] [ Reply to this comment ] [ Mod Up ] [ Mod Down ]

  Re: [c2k8]: Developer Blog: grunk@ - SSH Fingerprint Visualization Support (mod 1/51)
by Anonymous Coward (45.116.232.59) on Wed Sep 28 07:03:56 2016 (GMT)
  You have to waste less time to search your obligatory matter on web, because these days the searching ways of search engines are nice. That's why I found this article at this point. pest control
  [ Show thread ] [ Reply to this comment ] [ Mod Up ] [ Mod Down ]

  Re: [c2k8]: Developer Blog: grunk@ - SSH Fingerprint Visualization Support (mod -1/57)
by tom (103.10.197.146) (jasonbynum13@gmail.com) on Mon Oct 31 06:55:30 2016 (GMT)
  Your website is terribly informative and your articles are wonderful. Anthony
  [ Show thread ] [ Reply to this comment ] [ Mod Up ] [ Mod Down ]

  Re: [c2k8]: Developer Blog: grunk@ - SSH Fingerprint Visualization Support (mod 4/52)
by tom (103.10.197.213) (jasonbynum13@gmail.com) on Tue Nov 1 06:06:52 2016 (GMT)
  Your articles make whole sense of every topic. home security
  [ Show thread ] [ Reply to this comment ] [ Mod Up ] [ Mod Down ]

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