Setting up a SSH server

From Alpine Linux


This article provides a short overview of SSH on Alpine Linux.

Also see Secure Shell (Wikipedia).

Note: This article describes two popular SSH implementations: OpenSSH and Dropbear. Either can be installed using the setup-sshd script, or by following the instructions below.


OpenSSH is a popular SSH implementation for remote encrypted login to a machine. OpenSSH defines sshd as the daemon, and ssh as the client program.

The openssh package provides OpenSSH on Alpine Linux.


Install the openssh package:

apk add openssh

Note: To use the ACF-frontend for openssh, install acf-openssh instead (assuming that you have the setup-acf script).

Also see Alpine Linux package management.

Service commands

Enable the sshd service so that it starts at boot:

rc-update add sshd

List services to verify sshd is enabled:


Start the sshd service immediately and create configuration files:

rc-service sshd start

Note: If you are running from RAM, ensure you save your settings using the 'lbu ci' command as necessary. See Alpine local backup.

Also see Alpine Linux Init System.

Fine tuning

You may wish to change the default configuration. This section describes some of the configuration options as examples, however it is by no means an exhaustive list. See the manual for full details.

The fine-tuning is done by editing /etc/ssh/sshd_config. Any line starting with "#" is ignored by sshd.

UseDNS no   # By setting this to no, connection speed can increase.
PasswordAuthentication no  # Do not allow password authentication.

Other configuration options are shown in etc/ssh/sshd_config. The file includes comments that explain many of the options.

Firewalling and Port Changes

By default, sshd will communicate on TCP port 22.

Sometimes 22/tcp is blocked by a firewall over which you have no control. Changing the Port option to an unused port number in /etc/ssh/sshd_config may be useful in this situation.

Port 443   # Use whichever port number fits your needs
Note: Ensure the port you wish to use is not already in use by running netstat -lnp on the machine running sshd.

Restart sshd after making modifications to the configuration file:

rc-service sshd restart

Note: If you are running from RAM, ensure you save your settings using the 'lbu ci' command as necessary. See Alpine local backup.


Dropbear is a lightweight SSH client/server alternative to OpenSSH.


Tip: You can use ~/.ssh/authorized_keys in the same way as with OpenSSH

dropbear can be install through the Alpine setup scripts, or manually with:

apk add dropbear

Start it:

rc-service dropbear start

Add it to the default runlevel:

rc-update add dropbear

Use the following command to check all available server options:

dropbear -h

The config file is located at /etc/conf.d/dropbear

Tip: DROPBEAR_OPTS="-w -s" will forbid root login and password login


dropbear-dbclient contains the SSH client and can be installed manually with:

apk add dropbear-dbclient

In its simplest form it can be used like this:

dbclient <user>


dbclient x.x.x.x

(where x.x.x.x is the IP address of the remote machine).

Use dbclient -h to see all available options.

See also

Further Reading

OpenSSH (
OpenSSH (