How to Automate SSH Login Using sshpass on Linux

Linux TLDR
Last Updated:
Reading time: 5 minutes

SSH, or Secure Shell, is a widely-used protocol for secure remote access to servers and other network devices. It allows users to connect to a remote machine or server using a command-line interface and authenticate using a password or key-based authentication.

If you want to automate certain server tasks, you must run a lot of SSH code, and authentication can be handled using key-based authentication. However, if you want to use password-based authentication, it will require manual intervention.

SSH password-based authentication

It means that you have to manually type a password for each interactive session, which is totally not cool, consumes your time, and increases the risk of a password leak.

However, this interactive method can be replaced with a non-interactive method in which you enter the password on the same line as you log in using the sshpass command-line utility.

Tutorial Details

Difficulty LevelModerate
Root or Sudo PrivilegesNo
OS CompatibilityUbuntu, Manjaro, Fedora, etc.
Internet RequiredYes

A Note for Readers

You should never use the password approach for authentication, whether interactive or non-interactive, on a server or production system.

This method always reveals your password to other users on the system. The only time I suggest you use this method of non-interactive authentication is when you’re working on something that doesn’t pose a risk even if your password leaks.

A few examples are a temporary login to a remote system, testing the automation script (when you are too lazy to create and use an authentication key), etc.

What is sshpass in Linux?

The sshpass is a command-line utility that allows automating the process of providing a password for SSH authentication, without having to manually enter the password.

This is better than traditional SSH because you don’t have to enter the password by hand. This makes the automation faster and less likely to make mistakes.

Also, sshpass gives you three ways to set the password: on the same line, as an environment variable, or in a text file. This way, you don’t have to hardcode the password into the script.

How to Install sshpass in Linux

The sshpass command-line utility can be installed in major Linux distributions by executing any one of the following commands:

$ sudo apt install sshpass                                                                            #On Debian or Ubuntu
$ sudo dnf install sshpass                                                                            #On Red Hat or Fedora
$ sudo pacman -S sshpass                                                                          #On Arch or Manjaro
$ sudo zypper install sshpass                                                                      #On openSUSE
$ brew install sshpass                                                                                   #Using HomeBrew

Once the installation is done, verify the presence of this command-line utility by executing the following command:

$ sshpass -V


Checking the sshpass Version

How to Login to a Remote System Using sshpass

As I’ve mentioned earlier, this command-line utility can be used in three ways for non-interactive SSH login: by specifying the password in a same line, as an environment variable, or in a text file. Let’s start with

1. Provide Password as an Argument

In this way, use the sshpass command-line utility and provide the password as an argument to this command using the β€œ-p” flag.

If it doesn’t respond after you run the following command, use the ssh command to log into the remote system and accept the RSA key.
$ sshpass -p 'password' ssh username@remote_host


$ sshpass -p pass@123 ssh [email protected]


sshpass login using password

To execute a command in a non-interactive way, specify it at the end of the following command as an argument:

$ sshpass -p pass@123 ssh [email protected] ls


Executing command in non-interactive SSH

Now, let’s see how you can use the environment variable with sshpass.

2. Provide an Environment Variable as an Argument

In this method, you have to specify the password to the SSHPASS environment variable using the export command.

Once you’ve done that, you can use the β€œ-e” flag to take the SSHPASS variable value as a password for the supplied SSH login.

$ export SSHPASS=pass@123
$ sshpass -e ssh [email protected]


sshpass login using environment variable

3. Provide a Text File as an Argument

Unlike the previous two examples, where your password is being captured by your shell and can be shown using the history command.

You can write your password in a text file and provide the file as an input to this command to avoid your password appearing in the history record.

1. Append your password to a text file (ex: β€œpass.txtβ€œ):

$ echo "pass@123" > pass.txt

2. Allow the read permission for owner and restrict for all other users:

$ chmod 0400 pass.txt

3. Pass the password file as an argument to sshpass using the β€œ-f” flag:

$ sshpass -f pass.txt ssh [email protected]


sshpass login using text file

4. Provide an Encrypted Password File as an Argument

The previous example, where you learn to login via text file, is better than the first and second examples. However, you can encrypt the plain password mentioned in the text file using GPG to increase the security a bit.

But this method involves multiple steps. I suggest you go with key-based authentication, but from a learning perspective, let’s see how you can use this method.

1. Append your human-readable password to a hidden text file (ex: β€œ.passβ€œ):

$ echo "pass@123" > ~/.pass

2. Encrypt the plain password using the gpg command:

$ gpg -c ~/.pass

3. Remove the plain password file:

$ rm ~/.pass

4. Now use the encrypted password for non-interactive SSH login:

$ gpg -d -q ~/.pass.gpg | sshpass ssh [email protected]


sshpass login using encrypted text file

Usage of sshpass Command

From the previous section, you learned how you can use this command-line utility for non-interactive SSH login; now let’s see what else you can do with this tool.

All of the examples will be shown using the password as an argument, although you can change it to the most relevant when practically applying.

1. Execute Command Without Login

You can execute a command on a remote server in a non-interactive way (that was already mentioned in the previous section).

Just pass the command at the end of the sshpass command, as shown.

$ sshpass -p pass@123 ssh [email protected] df


Executing single command using sshpass

2. Execute Command with Sudo Privilege Without Login

If you are executing the command as the root user, then you don’t have to worry about anything, but most of the time it’s recommended not to use the root account while accessing remote systems via SSH.

So, I consider that you want to execute a certain command as a normal user with sudo privileges. In this case, you can either remove the sudo authentication for that command or use the β€œ-S” flag with sudo to enter the password interactively.

$ sshpass -p pass@123 ssh [email protected] sudo -S df


Executing command with sudo privilege using sshpass

As you can see from the above picture, using this method will print the password on the screen, increasing the risk for password leaks by a malicious third party.

3. Copying Files From a Local Machine to a Remote Server Using SCP

You can easily copy the file from your local machine to a remote server using this tool along with scp, as shown.

$ sshpass -p pass@123 scp ~/file.txt [email protected]:/home/linuxtldr/Documents
$ sshpass -p pass@123 ssh [email protected] ls ~/Documents


Copying file to remote server using sshpass

4. Transfer File Using Rsync with sshpass

You can use rsync to sync a single (log) file or the entire directory (ex: β€œ/var/www/htmlβ€œ) between the local machine and the remote server, as shown.

$ rsync --rsh="sshpass -p pass@123 ssh -l linuxtldr"* ~/backup/html


Sync file using rsync

How to Remove/Uninstall sshpass

Execute any one of the following commands to remove it from your system once you realize that it poses a major security threat to your password.

$ sudo apt remove sshpass                                                                            #On Debian or Ubuntu
$ sudo dnf remove sshpass                                                                            #On Red Hat or Fedora
$ sudo pacman -R sshpass                                                                             #On Arch or Manjaro
$ sudo zypper remove sshpass                                                                      #On openSUSE
$ brew remove sshpass                                                                                   #Using HomeBrew

Wrap Up

As you can see, the job that you expect to do with this command is absolutely done well. Only I don’t suggest you use it everywhere; key-based authentication is easier and safer than this.

If you have any questions or queries related to this article, then feel free to ask them in the comment section.

Till then, peace!

Join The Conversation

Users are always welcome to leave comments about the articles, whether they are questions, comments, constructive criticism, old information, or notices of typos. Please keep in mind that all comments are moderated according to our comment policy.