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I need to login to an ssh server which doesn't support key based authentication. And I don't want to type the passwords every time.

I am using OS X Lion (10.7.2). I have added the passwords to the OS X keychain[1]. Now I can retrieve the password automatically from the keychain using /usr/bin/security, however I can't find a way to send this password to the ssh prompt.

I also tried sshpass. However when I try to run it ssh exits with the following error:

ssh_askpass: exec(/usr/libexec/ssh-askpass): No such file or directory
Permission denied, please try again.
ssh_askpass: exec(/usr/libexec/ssh-askpass): No such file or directory
Permission denied, please try again.
ssh_askpass: exec(/usr/libexec/ssh-askpass): No such file or directory
Permission denied (publickey,password).

Is there anyway I can login to this server without having to enter the password every time?


  1. The scheme I use in keychain looks like this
    • Kind: Internet password
    • Account: username
    • Where: ssh://server-name
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Non-interactive SSH sessions

If you don't need to have an interactive session on the remote server, you can execute ssh in an environment without tty, e.g. as part of a Run Shell Script action in Automator.

You need to create a program that when called prints the password to standard out, e.g. the following bash script you need to make executable using chmod +x

#!/usr/bin/env bash
echo "password"

Then, set the SSH_ASKPASS environment variable to the path to this program, and then run ssh in the Automator action, like this:

export SSH_ASKPASS=/Users/danielbeck/
ssh user@hostname ls

When there is no tty, but SSH_ASKPASS and DISPLAY (for X11, set by default) are set, SSH executes the program specified by SSH_ASKPASS and uses its output as password. This is intended to be used in graphical environments, so that a window can pop up asking for your password. In this case, we just skipped the window, returning the password from our program. You can use security to read from your keychain instead, like this:

#!/usr/bin/env bash
security find-generic-password -l password-item-label -g 2>&1 1>/dev/null | cut -d'"' -f2

ls (on the ssh command line) is the command executed when ssh has logged in, and its output is printed in Automator. You can, of course, redirect it to a file to log output of the program you start.

Interactive SSH sessions using sshpass

I downloaded, compiled and installed sshpass and it worked perfectly. Here's what I did:

  1. Get the Apple developer tools
  2. Download and open sshpass-1.05.tar.gz
  3. Open a shell to the directory sshpass-1.05
  4. Run ./configure
  5. Run make
  6. Run make install (you might need sudo for it)

Now the program is installed to /usr/local/bin/sshpass. Execute using a line like the following:

sshpass -pYourPassword ssh username@hostname

You can read the password from security just before doing that, and use it like this:

SSHPASSWORD=$( security find-generic-password -l password-item-label -g 2>&1 1>/dev/null | cut -d'"' -f2 )
sshpass -p"$SSHPASSWORD" ssh username@hostname

Wrap this in a shell function and you can just type e.g. ssh-yourhostname to connect, having it retrieve and enter the password automatically.

share|improve this answer
Hi, I have upvoted your answer since it led me to the solution. However, what you described here didn't exactly work (this might be specific to Lion's version of ssh) 1) For non-interactive sessions, ssh still asked me for a password, and after I entered it, I got STDIN is not a terminal. 2) For interactive sessions with sshpass, the -p option apparently doesn't do anything. But running sshpass while SSH_ASKPASS is set does work! – Chaitanya Gupta Feb 28 '12 at 4:34
@ChaitanyaGupta Odd. It worked for me non-interactively from within Automator on Lion. Regarding that second issue, it's possible I had a dirty shell session at that point, I'm not sure anymore. +1 to you, and thanks for adding your solution to the site. – Daniel Beck Feb 28 '12 at 7:53
My bad (regarding 1) -- I was trying to run the non-interactive session in the terminal and not Automator. I tried it in Automator now, and I still get STDIN is not a terminal error. However, I wasn't prompted for any password this time; I do believe SSH_ASKPASS is working in the Automator since, if I make the file in SSH_ASKPASS return the wrong password, I get a Permission denied, please try again. error. – Chaitanya Gupta Feb 28 '12 at 8:40
For the last examples note that under Unix like OSes command line arguments and environment variables can be visible to other users on the system, so this is not secure in a sensitive multi user environment. – Jürgen Strobel Mar 27 '14 at 15:39
up vote 6 down vote accepted

I found a solution (thanks to Daniel Beck for providing the key info needed for this). Note that I have only tested this with OS X Lion 10.7.2. If this doesn't work for you, try Daniel's solution.

First we need to set the SSH_ASKPASS environment variable -- its value should be the path to a program which prints the password to standard output. To get the password from the keychain, this is what it needs to look like (I call it


/usr/bin/security find-internet-password -a "$SSH_PASSWORD_USER" -s "$SSH_PASSWORD_HOSTNAME" -r "ssh " -g 2>&1 1>/dev/null | cut -d\" -f2

A couple of points to note:

  1. This assumes that you have stored the password in the keychain in the way I have described in the question

  2. The program given in SSH_ASKPASS will be called without any arguments; so we use environment variables to pass the user and hostname to it.

Now we can set SSH_PASSWORD_USER and SSH_PASSWORD_HOSTNAME and run sshpass to login to our server.

I created another script, ssh-kcpass, to do this:


export SSH_ASKPASS=~/bin/
export SSH_PASSWORD_USER=$(echo "$1" | cut -d@ -f1)
export SSH_PASSWORD_HOSTNAME=$(echo "$1" | cut -d@ -f2)

sshpass ssh "$1"

To login to the ssh server without typing any password, you just need to run ssh-kcpass user@hostname.

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