Creating a new user with an SSH key on Linux

The various steps to successfully setup a new user with the best security.

First, create a new user with useradd:

sudo useradd -m -d /home/username -s /bin/bash username

Next, set the user’s password:

passwd username

Note: Even if you don’t want the user to have a password, you should set the password to an empty string.

Then, create the user’s .ssh directory:

mkdir /home/username/.ssh

And copy the user’s public key into the authorized_keys file. This is a plain text file where you can paste one public key per line. Here’s an example of downloading the public key from their GitHub profile:

curl<username>.keys > /home/username/.ssh/authorized_keys

After that, set up the correct permissions for both the .ssh directory and the authorized_keys file:

# ensure the directory ir owned by the new user
chown -R username:username /home/username/.ssh

# make sure only the new user has permissions
chmod 700 /home/username/.ssh
chmod 600 /home/username/.ssh/authorized_keys

Last, if you want the new user to have sudo access, be sure to add them to the sudo group:

sudo usermod -a -G sudo username

If you don’t have a sudo group, you can manually edit the /etc/sudoers file.

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