How KubeOne uses SSH

As KubeOne requires SSH access to control plane nodes, SSH public/private keys should be handled somehow. KubeOne doesn’t handle decryption of private SSH keys but instead rely on ssh-agent. In most cases, we recommend using ssh-agent as the easiest way to have your SSH keys encrypted at rest and still useful for KubeOne.

sshd requirements

KubeOne actively uses tunneling features of the SSH protocol. The following list demonstrates what options of the sshd are expected on the control plane instances / bastion host:

  • AllowTcpForwarding is either not present or set to yes
  • PermitOpen is either not present or set to any
  • PermitTunnel is either not present or set to yes


If your operating system of choice doesn’t do this for you automatically, you can use something like

eval `ssh-agent`

and then later

ssh-add ~/.ssh/my_cool_custom_private_key

in order to cache it in ssh-agent memory for later use.

KubeOne is able to contact ssh-agent via socket (environment variable SSH_AUTH_SOCK) and ask for authentication without getting unencrypted private key.

Providing SSH private keys directly, without ssh-agent

In rare case when it’s not possible to use ssh-agent, you can provide private key directly to KubeOne. The caveat is that private SSH key should be unencrypted and thus we DON’T recommend this.

Option 1, config manifest

You can point KubeOne to the unencrypted private SSH key using config API.

- publicAddress: ''
  sshPrivateKeyFile: '/home/me/.ssh/my_cleantext_private_key'

Option 2, terraform output

You can also provide unencrypted private SSH key using terraform integration.

output "kubeone_hosts" {
  value = {
    control_plane = {
      public_address       = my_vm_provider_server.control_plane.*.ipv4_address
      ssh_private_key_file = "/home/me/.ssh/my_cleantext_private_key"

gpg-agent and ssh

It’s possible to use GnuPG agent (gpg-agent) in replace of ssh-agent. It has number of advantages, but it’s also more complicated to setup.

In your .bash_profile:

export SSH_AUTH_SOCK=$(gpgconf --list-dirs agent-ssh-socket)
gpgconf --launch gpg-agent

See more info about how to setup your SSH keys in GnuPG: