How to install & Enable OpenSSH server on CentOS 8 Linux

SSH stands for Secure Shell. As its name implies, SSH is meant to access the Server or Desktop Shell in Windows, macOS, Linux (CentOS, Ubuntu, and all others), and other available operating systems remotely. It is basically a network protocol, which means set rules to establish a secure and encrypted connection between client and server.

The key benefit of using SSH is a secure transmission of data over insecure networks such as the Internet.  It is really useful to connect remote computers and access them securely via the command line. We can also use it to transfer files over the skeptical networks. This is the reason why most of the Data centers and Cloud Admins use it to access the servers remotely.

Here we will show the steps to install the OpenSSH server on CentOS 8 Linux. This software package uses SSH (Secure Shell protocol) to provides a secure channel over the network in a client-server architecture.

Enable SSH on CentOS 8 Linux

The below-given steps for the installation of the OpenSSH server will work not only on the CetnOS 8 but earlier versions as well such as 7 & 6.

1. Install OpenSSH Server

Open Command terminal on CentOS 8, if you are using the CLI version then you already there. The installation of OpenSSH is very simple as it is already there on the official repository of CentOS. Thus, one command and it will be on your machine.

sudo dnf –y install openssh-server

The single command will install both OpenSSH client and server daemon- sshd on the system.

2. Start SSH service on CentOS

After the installation, we need to start the service of OpenSSH otherwise, we would not be able to access it via any client tool from Windows, Linux, or other systems. However, after successfully activated it we could easily connect and establish a secure connection. Thus, run the below command:

Start OpenSSH server SSH daemon:

sudo systemctl start sshd

In case you want to stop it, the command will be

sudo systemctl stop sshd

3. Check the sshd status

To know after starting the SSH service whether it is working perfectly or not. Run the command:

sudo systemctl status sshd

You will see a green color “active (running)” text on your screen that will confirm everything is fine.

SSH status check CentOS-min

4.  Enable OpenSSH service at boot level

If you want to start the SSH automatically every time you reboot your system. Then use the below command. This will also make sure that you won’t need to start it every time manually.

sudo systemctl enable sshd

To disable it in future (options command) run:

sudo systemctl disable sshd

5. Allow port 22 firewall

In case even after performing all the steps, you wouldn’t be able to access the ssh server from the client due to a firewall, then allow it. To allow the SSH port 22 on CentOS 8 Linux run:

firewall-cmd --zone=public --add-port=22/tcp --permanent

Restart Firewall:

firewall-cmd --reload

6. Connect to the SSH server

To connect and access the CentOS via SSH, simply open a command prompt in Windows or Terminal in Linux and type a command in this syntax:

ssh username@server-IP-address

For example- let’s say the username is root and server address is, then the command will be :

ssh [email protected]

If you have changed the default port 22 to something else then it will be:

ssh [email protected]:port

7. Change the default SSh port on CentOS 8/7 (optional)

By default the port used by the SSH is 22, however, to improve security you can change it to something else. For that edit SSHD configuration file.

sudo vi /etc/ssh/sshd_config
  • Now, find the line #port 22
  • Press Insert key on the keyboard.
  • Remove # and change the sshd 22 port with something else, let’s say 5678
  • To save the file, press Esc key and then type :wq

Custom SSh port for Cento 8 OpenSSH-min

Restart sshd service to mark changes into effect.

 service sshd restart

If you get an error:

Redirecting to /bin/systemctl restart sshd.service
Job for sshd.service failed because the control process exited with error code.
See "systemctl status sshd.service" and "journalctl -xe" for details.

This means you need to give it SELinux permissions by informing that you have added a new port for the service.

semanage port -a -t ssh_port_t -p tcp 5678

Note: Replace the 5678 with the port number you have entered in the sshd configuration file above

Again if you get an error like:

ValueError: Port tcp/5678 already defined

This means the port you are choosing to use with SSH service is already assigned or reserved for some other service. Therefore, change the port number in the configuration file and again run the semange port command.

Once you successfully added it,  check which ports are allowed by the SELinux on your system for SSHD service:

semanage port -l | grep ssh

You will get something like this:

ssh_port_t tcp    5678, 22

Finally, you have two ports for a single service.

9. Block the default CentOS port 22

As we have two ports for a single Secure Shell service, thus we can block the default one that is 22 for permanently. This will increase the security of the system and let us only use the one custom port number for the service.

firewall-cmd --direct --add-rule ipv4 filter INPUT  -p tcp --dport 22 -j REJECT

Now, allow the custom port number you have created in the firewall, here in our case, it is 5678

firewall-cmd --add-port=5678/tcp --permanent
firewall-cmd --reload

Now you will not be able to connect via default one and if you try, it will through an error: ssh: connect to host port 22: Connection refused

To connect using the custom ssh port, use this command syntax:

ssh -p 5678 username@server-address

In the above command 5678 is the port number, so replace it with the one you have.

For example: 

ssh -p 5678 [email protected]

10. Disable root login (optional)

To escalate the security of the server to a further level, you can disable the root user access on SSH. This implies remotely one can access and control the server using any non-root users only.

Again edit SSHD configuration file:

sudo vi /etc/ssh/sshd_config
  • Use arrow keys and find the line: “PermitRootLogin=yes
  • Press Insert key on Keyboard.
  • Change the value “yes to no”.
  • Press Esc key and type- :wq
  • Hit the Enter Key
service sshd restart

Disable SSh root user login-min

11. Uninstall OpenSSH

To remove it:

dnf remove openssh-server

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