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1-step to create user with SSH keys

Project Description


This simple script Imagine that you have SSH access to a server and you need to grant access to a coworker. You must remember to perform multiple steps, such as creating a home directory, setting a password, making sure the user is included in the correct groups, etc. If the server requires public key authentication (the default for Amazon EC2), then you must also put the keys in the right place, with the right ownership and permissions. Screw up any tiny part and OpenSSH will stubbornly and unhelpfully block the new user without any explanation why.

Yo dawg, I heard you like -vvv flags so I put some LogLevel VERBOSE in your sshd_config.

-Xzibit’s endorsement of sshadduser (paraphrased)


The sshadduser script does the following things:

  • Create account and home directory.
  • Prompt for password or generate random password.
  • Append keys to user’s authorized_keys, creating if necessary and setting correct ownership/permissions. (optional)
  • Add user to supplemental groups. (optional)

You could do these things yourself, but if you’re like me, you tend to miss a step every now and then. Or you could write a bash script to do it, but then you’d have to copy that bash script everywhere you ever wanted to use it. And if you wanted somebody else to grant SSH access to you, then you’d have to explain to them how to use your script first.

On the other hand, sshadduser has super simple syntax. It runs interactively, so you don’t need to memorize a bunch of command line flags to use it. It’s easy to install on any reasonably modern *nix. And if you want somebody else to use it, just point them at this README.


python3 and pip3 are prerequisites. Once you have those, run:

$ sudo pip3 install sshadduser


Specify the name of the user to create followed by supplemental groups (if any). You will be prompted for a password and optional OpenSSH keys. For example to create a user jane and add her to sudo and rockstar groups:

$ sudo sshadduser jane sudo rockstar
Enter a password (or leave blank to generate random password):

Enter SSH keys one per line. A blank line terminates.
ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAAblahblahblah jane@laptop
ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAAdoowopdoowop jane@desktop

Created an account named jane with password e0UkMmvPW6mT and 2 SSH keys.
Added supplemental groups: sudo and rockstar.

That’s it! If something goes wrong, remove the user and try again:

$ sudo userdel -r jane

If you want to file a bug report, run the command with verbose logging enabled and attach the complete output:

$ sudo sshadduser -v debug jane


Designed for POSIX environments, this is still a beta-quality project and it has not been tested on many platforms. It has been tested on Ubuntu 14.04 and 16.04, and it should work on other systems, too. If you find that it does not run somewhere that you need it, file an issue or — better yet — submit a pull request.

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