Getting started

Changes from Debian defaults

The debops.sshd role will configure the OpenSSH server to lookup the client hostnames in DNS by setting the UseDNS option to yes (the Debian and upstream default is no). This allows use of the DNS hostnames and domains in the authorized keys files and PAM access control rules. DNS lookup can be controlled using the sshd__use_dns variable.

The role will divert the original /etc/pam.d/sshd configuration file and generate a new one, with PAM access control enabled and using the separate /etc/security/access-sshd.conf configuration file. The ACL rules are defined in the sshd__pam_access__dependent_rules variable and are managed by the debops.pam_access Ansible role.

To disable the custom access control configuration, set the sshd__pam_deploy_state variable to absent. The PAM access control file will still be generated, but it will not be used by the sshd service.

Global root access

By default the debops.pam_access configuration restricts access to the root account to hosts on the same DNS domain, for security. This might cause unintended lockouts if your Ansible Controller host is on a completely different domain than the remote host.

To disable the restricted access and allow connections to the root account from anywhere on the network, you can set in your Ansible inventory, for example in ansible/inventory/group_vars/all/pam_access.yml file:


  - name: 'sshd'
    state: 'append'

      - name: 'allow-root'
        origins: 'ALL'

Then, you need to apply the changes to the configuration using the "context" of the debops.sshd role, for example by executing the command:

$ debops run service/sshd -l <host> --tags role::pam_access --diff

This command will apply the PAM access configuration defined by the debops.sshd role with modifications from the inventory; they won't be applied in other contexts of the debops.pam_access role is used in and shouldn't affect other access lists.

You could also add subnets, domains or other origins instead of allowing access from any host; refer to the pam_access__rules for more details.

Access to the root account via password

The debops.sshd role checks if the /root/.ssh/authorized_keys file is present on the host, using Ansible local facts defined by the debops.root_account role. If the file is present, we assume that the sysadmin SSH keys are on the host, and password-based access to the root account is disabled by setting the PermitRootLogin option to without-password and the PasswordAuthentication option to no.

If the SSH authorized keys file is not present, the host is assumed to not be fully provisioned yet. The PermitRootLogin option as well as the PasswordAuthentication option will be set to yes to permit access to the root account via SSH. Note that the default PAM access policy set in the sshd__pam_access__dependent_rules variable still applies and access to the root account will be limited to hosts on the same DNS domain.

Alternatively, if the sysadmin accounts are configured using the debops.system_users Ansible role, access to the root account via password and password authentication will also be disabled.

Useful variables

This is a list of role variables which you most likely want to define in Ansible inventory to customize OpenSSH server:

sshd__whitelist / sshd__group_whitelist / sshd__host_whitelist

Lists which contain IP addresses or CIDR subnets that are permitted to connect to OpenSSH without restrictions or firewall limits. Adding entries here will not impose additional restrictions, unlike using sshd__*_allow lists.

sshd__known_hosts / sshd__group_known_hosts / sshd__host_known_hosts

Here you can add lists of FQDN hostnames which should be added to systemwide /etc/ssh/ssh_known_hosts file. For example, setting:

sshd__known_hosts: [ '' ]

will add GitHub SSH fingerprint and allow you to clone git repositories over SSH with proper host authentication, without the need to ignore host fingerprints.


Boolean. If True, role will enable lookup of SSH public keys in external authentication databases, like LDAP. This might require additional configuration using sshd__ldap_* variables.

LDAP key lookup depends on system-wide LDAP configuration in /etc/ldap/ldap.conf, which can be performed (at the moment) using debops.ldap role. It will be configured when LDAP-POSIX integration is enabled on a given host.

Example inventory

debops.sshd role is part of the common.yml DebOps playbook. It will be executed automatically on every host managed by DebOps.

Example playbook

If you are using this role without DebOps, here's an example Ansible playbook that uses the debops.sshd role:


- name: Manage OpenSSH Server
  collections: [ 'debops.debops', 'debops.roles01',
                 'debops.roles02', 'debops.roles03' ]
  hosts: [ 'debops_all_hosts', 'debops_service_sshd' ]
  become: True

  environment: '{{ inventory__environment | d({})
                   | combine(inventory__group_environment | d({}))
                   | combine(inventory__host_environment  | d({})) }}'


    - name: Prepare sshd environment
        name: 'sshd'
        tasks_from: 'main_env'
      tags: [ 'role::sshd', 'role::ldap' ]


    - role: apt_preferences
      tags: [ 'role::apt_preferences', 'skip::apt_preferences' ]
        - '{{ sshd__apt_preferences__dependent_list }}'

    - role: ferm
      tags: [ 'role::ferm', 'skip::ferm' ]
        - '{{ sshd__ferm__dependent_rules }}'

    - role: tcpwrappers
      tags: [ 'role::tcpwrappers', 'skip::tcpwrappers' ]
        - '{{ sshd__tcpwrappers__dependent_allow }}'

    - role: python
      tags: [ 'role::python', 'skip::python', 'role::ldap' ]
        - '{{ ldap__python__dependent_packages3 }}'
        - '{{ ldap__python__dependent_packages2 }}'

    - role: ldap
      tags: [ 'role::ldap', 'skip::ldap' ]
        - '{{ sshd__ldap__dependent_tasks }}'

    - role: pam_access
      tags: [ 'role::pam_access', 'skip::pam_access' ]
        - '{{ sshd__pam_access__dependent_rules }}'

    - role: sudo
      tags: [ 'role::sudo', 'skip::sudo' ]
        - '{{ sshd__sudo__dependent_sudoers }}'

    - role: sshd
      tags: [ 'role::sshd', 'skip::sshd' ]

Ansible tags

You can use Ansible --tags or --skip-tags parameters to limit what tasks are performed during Ansible run. This can be used after a host was first configured to speed up playbook execution, when you are sure that most of the configuration is already in the desired state.

Available role tags:


Main role tag, should be used in the playbook to execute all of the role tasks as well as role dependencies.


Execute tasks related to sshd configuration file.


Scan specified host fingerprints and add them to system-wide known_hosts.