The Little known SSH ForceCommand

There may be times when you want to restrict what commands a user can issue when they attempt to login over an SSH connection. Instead of executing the users shell, you can instead execute a custom script that limits the user to a specific set of commands. This is known as ForceCommand.

There are two ways one can choose to use this. Today, I’ll describe a scenario where you don’t have permissions to modify the SSH server config (/etc/ssh/sshd_config) but still want to enforce specific commands for certain users (identified by their SSH key).

First, create a script somewhere that you have write permissions. We’ll reference this later in our config. Here’s a quick example to get you started that only allows you to get a process list (ps -ef) and print system statistics (vmstat).

# script: /home/shane/bin/ 

		ps -ef
		vmstat 1 100
		echo "Only these commands are available to you:"
		echo "ps, vmstat, cupsys stop, cupsys start"
		exit 1

Be sure to set the script to be executable.

chmod +x /home/shane/bin/

Now, we just need to edit our ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file to reference this script. Note, you could create multiple scripts and assign them to different users’s SSH keys to allow different commands.

command="/home/shane/bin/",no-port-forwarding,no-agent-forwarding ssh-ed25519 AAAAC3NzaC....snip...

Here’s how it would look in practice.

User can only run “ps” or “vmstat”
User running “vmstat”