sftp authentication failure only as cronjob

Nico Kadel-Garcia nkadel at gmail.com
Mon Nov 19 06:42:13 EST 2012

On Sun, Nov 18, 2012 at 12:05 PM, Lars Schade <lars.schade at berlin.de> wrote:
> Hi all,
> my problem with the sftp connection run as cron job is finally solved.
> As in most cases the problem sits in front of the computer.
> My script ran fine from the command line in my gnome session because the
> ssh-agent provided the password for the private key in the background.
> When run by the cron daemon the ssh-agent is not started and the prompt
> for the password is for some reason not explicitly visible even in the
> verbose log. So I simply removed the password from the key and now the
> script runs fine even as cron job.

And you now have a non-passphrase protected key that can be stolen and
used. The level of security of this approach is like putting a key to
your front door in your mailbox. If you really trust your environment,
it might be tolerable, but if it's in your $HOME/.ssh/id_dsa,, and
it's usable for shell logins. The risks are enhanced by the common use
of unsecured, NFS mounted home directories and poor security of backup

> PS: On the other machine things worked fine right away because there the
> keys were not password protected to begin with.

**Ouch*. Look, this is a longstanding security issue with most SSH
clients. You can reduce the risk somewhat by using a non-standard key
location, by making sure it's only on a local disk and not backup
tapes or NFS storage, or by using wrappers like the "keychain" perl
script that stores the SSH_AUTH_SOCK settings in a text file that can
be sourced by other scripts. You can also use the "force-command" in
the published authorized_keys file settings to restrict the permitted

> Sorry to have bothered you, this was just a bit tricky to diagnose.

And I'm afraid that you've used a common approach that is the first
thing you'll find with a Google search, but has some really
fundamental risks. The fastest approach is probably to use the
"keychain" Perl script to make the keys accessible if and only if

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