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Comparison Of SSH Keys Authentication & Traditional Password Authentication

· Network Security,Business,technology,Information Technology,Database

In cybersecurity and secure remote access, the choice between SSH (Secure Shell) key authentication and traditional password authentication is crucial. Each method has its own strengths and weaknesses, impacting the security and ease of access to your systems.

In this article, we'll compare these two authentication methods in-depth to help you make informed decisions about which one best suits your needs.

SSH Keys Authentication

This authentication involves the use of cryptographic keys for authentication instead of relying solely on passwords. It uses a pair of keys: a public key, which is stored on the server, and a private key, which is kept secure on your local device.

When you attempt to log in to the server, your private key is used to prove your identity, and if it matches the public key stored on the server, access is granted.

Why Use SSH Key Authentication?

This authentication offers several advantages over password-based authentication:

  1. Enhanced Security: These keys are much more secure than passwords as they are nearly impossible to crack through brute force attacks.
  2. No Passwords to Remember: Users don't need to remember complex passwords, reducing the risk of weak or reused passwords.
  3. Automation: SSH keys pair can be used for automation and scripting, making server administration more efficient.
  4. Access Control: You can manage access to your server more granularly by controlling who can access the private keys.
SSH Keys

What is Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)?

Multi-factor authentication is a security practice that requires users to provide two or more authentication factors to gain access to a system. These factors typically fall into three categories:

  1. Something You Know: This includes something like a password or a PIN.
  2. Something You Have: This involves a physical item only you possess, such as a hardware token or a mobile device.
  3. Something You Are: This includes biometric factors like fingerprints or facial recognition.


  1. Robust Security: This key authentication is renowned for its robust security. It uses asymmetric cryptography, with a pair of keys - a public key (stored on the server) and a private key (kept securely on the client side). This setup makes it extremely difficult for attackers to compromise the authentication process.
  2. Protection Against Brute Force Attacks: These keys are not susceptible to brute force attacks because the private key remains secure and is never transmitted over the network.
  3. Passwordless Authentication: Once set up, this key authentication allows for passwordless logins, enhancing security and improving user convenience.
  4. Easy Key Management: These keys can be easily managed and rotated, allowing for enhanced control over access to your systems.


  1. Initial Setup Complexity: This key authentication can be more complex for beginners. It involves generating key pairs, distributing public keys to servers, and securing private keys.
  2. Lost or Stolen Private Keys: If a private key is lost or stolen, it can pose a security risk. It's crucial to have procedures in place for key revocation and reissuance.

Traditional Password Authentication


  1. Familiarity: Passwords are a familiar and well-understood authentication method for most users, reducing the learning curve for new employees or system users.
  2. Ease of Setup: Setting up password authentication is straightforward, requiring users to create and remember their passwords.
  3. Account Recovery: In the event of a forgotten password, account recovery mechanisms, such as password reset emails, are readily available.


  1. Susceptible to Brute Force Attacks: Passwords can be vulnerable to brute force attacks if not properly configured with vital complexity requirements. Attackers can repeatedly attempt to guess passwords until they succeed.
  2. Password Reuse and Weaknesses: Users often reuse passwords across multiple accounts, making them susceptible to credential-stuffing attacks. Weak passwords are also a significant concern.
  3. Phishing Vulnerability: Users may fall victim to phishing attacks, where malicious actors trick them into revealing their passwords.
  4. Limited Control: Passwords provide little control over access. Once a password is compromised, an attacker can gain unauthorized access until the password is changed.

Conclusion -

They use SSH keys authentication for administrative access and critical systems, where security is paramount, while still employing password authentication for less sensitive user accounts.

Whichever method you choose, it's crucial to implement best practices, such as strong password policies or critical management procedures, to enhance your overall security posture.