I always find that I get this message when I ssh into a new machine:


What does it stand for? Will every machine have the same fingerprint every time?

How are these fingerprints generated? What parameters do they depend on?

8 Answers 8


The fingerprint is based on the host's public key, usually based on the /etc/ssh/ssh_host_rsa_key.pub file.  Generally it's for easy identification/verification of the host you are connecting to.

If the fingerprint changes, the machine you are connecting to has changed their public key. This may not be a bad thing (happens from re-installing ssh), but it could also indicate that you are connecting to a different machine at the same domain/IP (happens when you are connecting through something like a load balancer) or that you are being targeted with a man-in-the-middle attack, where the attacker is somehow intercepting/rerouting your ssh connection to connect to a different host which could be snooping your username/password.

Bottom line: if you get warned of a changed fingerprint, be cautious and double check that you're actually connecting to the correct host over a secure connection. Though most of the time this is harmless, it can be an indication of a potential issue.

See: http://www.lysium.de/blog/index.php?/archives/186-How-to-get-ssh-server-fingerprint-information.html
and: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_key_fingerprint

  • 18
    "...be cautious and double check that you're actually connecting to the correct host over a secure connection" -- stupid question, but how can you do this easily?
    – Savara
    Commented Aug 10, 2015 at 11:00
  • 15
    @Savara When you are connecting to an SSH server which you did not connect before, you should request the public key of the SSH server from the server admin. The server admin will give you a piece of text. You should append this text to the file ~/.ssh/known_hosts. This way, when you connect to the server, your SSH client will recognize this server, since you have saved its public key to known_hosts. Hence, actually you should never say "yes" when the SSH client tells you "The authenticity of the host cannot be established". You should always add the public key of the server beforehand.
    – Utku
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 16:06
  • @Savara If you do this, you will know that something fishy is going on when your SSH client tells you "The authenticity of the client cannot be established" or when it tells you "The public key of the server has been changed". Hence, you should always add the public key of the server to your ~/.ssh/known_hosts file beforehand and never say yes when your SSH client tells you "The authenticity of the client cannot be established" or when it tells you "The public key of the server has been changed".
    – Utku
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 16:09
  • 7
    Yeah, I'm fully aware of how the mechanics of viewing SSH fingerprints works, but a large percentage of the time you don't have the option to get the fingerprint through another channel. TOFU is sadly the best we often get.
    – Savara
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 17:55
  • 1
    @isxaker because the public key is used by the client to encrypt messages to the server, which needs the private key to decrypt them. the man in the middle would have to substitute their own public key, and therefore their own fingerprint, which assuming you've already seen the genuine fingerprint, you'd notice the substitution.
    – Phil
    Commented May 5, 2023 at 1:07

You can generate a fingerprint for a public key using ssh-keygen like so:

ssh-keygen -lf /path/to/key.pub

Concrete example (if you use an RSA public key):

$ ssh-keygen -lf ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub
2048 00:11:22:33:44:55:66:77:88:99:aa:bb:cc:dd:ee:ff /Users/username/.ssh/id_rsa.pub (RSA)

The first part (2048) is the key length in bits, second part (00:11:22:33:44:55:66:77:88:99:aa:bb:cc:dd:ee:ff) is the fingerprint of the public key and the third part is location of the public key file itself.

In newer versions of OpenSSH, Base64 encoded SHA-256 is shown instead of hexadecimal MD5. To show the legacy style hash, use

$ ssh-keygen -l -E md5 -f ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub
  • do u know how to translate into 12:f8:7e:78:61:b4:bf:e2:de:24:15:96:4e:d4:72:53 this format from that public key?
    – Kit Ho
    Commented Jul 24, 2012 at 16:37
  • 12
    When SSH-ing into a new machine, what one sees is not a user's pubkey fingerprint, but the host's pubkey fingerprint. So a better example for the question's context is ssh-keygen -lf /etc/ssh/ssh_host_rsa_key.pub. It shows the fingerprint that is also shown on SSH logins to localhost.
    – tanius
    Commented Aug 25, 2014 at 0:26
  • 93
    My ssh-keygen reported sha256 fingerprints. In order to get md5 fingerprints I ran ssh-keygen -l -E md5 -f ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub. #archlinux
    – Justin C
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 22:03
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    (@JustinC) OpenSSH versions 6.8 (March 2015) and up changed to SHA256, displayed in base64 rather than hex, by default. For the client use ssh -o FingerprintHash=md5 or the equivalent in ssh_config and on things that use ssh like scp. Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 19:36
  • 3
    to get a visual representation (ASCII art) of the public key: ssh-keygen -lvf ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub
    – math2001
    Commented Dec 4, 2019 at 22:20

The fingerprint is the MD5 over the binary data within the Base64-encoded public key.

$ ssh-keygen -f foo
Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase): 
Enter same passphrase again: 
Your identification has been saved in foo.
Your public key has been saved in foo.pub.
The key fingerprint is:
65:30:38:96:35:56:4f:64:64:e8:e3:a4:7d:59:3e:19 andrew@localhost
The key's randomart image is:
+--[ RSA 2048]----+
|       +*..+*    |
|      =. +.=     |
|     . . .o .    |
|         o+   E  |
|        S= . + o |
|        . o o +  |
|           .   . |
|                 |
|                 |
$ cat foo.pub
ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAADAQABAAABAQDEbKq5U57fhzQ3SBbs3NVmgY2ouYZfPhc6cXBNEFpRT3T100fnbkYw+EHi76nwsp+uGxk08kh4GG881DrgotptrJj2dJxXpWp/SFdVu5S9fFU6l6dCTC9IBYYCCV8PvXbBZ3oDZyyyJT7/vXSaUdbk3x9MeNlYrgItm2KY6MdHYEg8R994Sspn1sE4Ydey5DfG/WNWVrzFCI0sWI3yj4zuCcUXFz9sEG8fIYikD9rNuohiMenWjkj6oLTwZGVW2q4wRL0051XBkmfnPD/H6gqOML9MbZQ8D6/+az0yF9oD61SkifhBNBRRNaIab/Np7XD61siR8zNMG/vCKjFGICnp andrew@localhost
$ echo 'AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAADAQABAAABAQDEbKq5U57fhzQ3SBbs3NVmgY2ouYZfPhc6cXBNEFpRT3T100fnbkYw+EHi76nwsp+uGxk08kh4GG881DrgotptrJj2dJxXpWp/SFdVu5S9fFU6l6dCTC9IBYYCCV8PvXbBZ3oDZyyyJT7/vXSaUdbk3x9MeNlYrgItm2KY6MdHYEg8R994Sspn1sE4Ydey5DfG/WNWVrzFCI0sWI3yj4zuCcUXFz9sEG8fIYikD9rNuohiMenWjkj6oLTwZGVW2q4wRL0051XBkmfnPD/H6gqOML9MbZQ8D6/+az0yF9oD61SkifhBNBRRNaIab/Np7XD61siR8zNMG/vCKjFGICnp' \
    | base64 -D | md5

The md5sum 6530389635564f6464e8e3a47d593e19 is the fingerprint displayed when the key is generated, only without the separating colons.

However, if you’re dealing with the fingerprints that Amazon shows in the EC2 Key Pairs console, unfortunately that may be a different beast. If it’s a 32-digit hex string, it’s the standard MD5 SSH public key fingerprint above. But if it’s 40 hex digits, it’s actually a fingerprint computed by taking the SHA1 of the private key in PKCS#8 format:

$ openssl pkcs8 -in foo -nocrypt -topk8 -outform DER | openssl sha1 -c
  • 1
    I found this answer helpful in the following scenario. Your system uses SHA1 to calculate the fingerprint, but your friend's uses md5. I shared a fingerprint which was SHA1 and it didn't match the MD5 her system generated. This helped - thank you! sed 's|^ssh-rsa ||' /etc/ssh/ssh_host_rsa_key.pub |sed 's|==.*$|==|' |base64 -d| md5sum
    – Liczyrzepa
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 19:25
  • 1
    @Liczyrzepa the publickey field may or may not have '==' at the end depending on the key type and bitsize; safer and IMO easier to use awk '{print $2}' /path/to/keyfile.pub or similar. Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 19:41
  • 17
    This is the only answer that explains how the fingerprint is calculated
    – greuze
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 14:34
  • 2
    However in Linux Mint the command is: cat id_rsa.pub | cut -d' ' -f2 | base64 -d | md5sum
    – greuze
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 14:40
  • 2
    ssh, for a long time now, uses base64 encoded sha256 hashes. To calculate the sha256 fingerprint from the shell: awk '{print $2}' ~/.ssh/id_ed25519.pub | base64 -d | sha256sum | xxd -r -p | base64 | tr -d =
    – joshperry
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 18:05

If you want to check an SSH key file to see if it is the same as what is reported as the "Deploy key" by github, this is for you...

From the private URL: https://github.com/<username>/<repo_name>/settings/keys you will see screenshot from github

At the terminal:

$ ls -l id*
-rw-------  1 bruno  staff  1675 Mar 29 17:03 id_rsa
-rw-r--r--  1 bruno  staff   416 Mar 29 17:03 id_rsa.pub

$ ssh-keygen -E md5 -lf id_rsa
2048 MD5:07:b4:00:a4:65:ef:44:89:05:84:60:0c:c9:b2:36:5e [email protected] (RSA)

$ ssh-keygen -E md5 -lf id_rsa.pub
2048 MD5:07:b4:00:a4:65:ef:44:89:05:84:60:0c:c9:b2:36:5e [email protected] (RSA)

You will notice that you get the same fingerprint for both the private and public keys.

That same command can be combined with a neat feature of GitHub, which is the fact that they publicly serve users' SSH public keys at https://github.com/<username>.keys

Here is a one-liner you can use to take advantage of it.

$ curl -sL https://github.com/RichardBronosky.keys | while read; do echo -e "\nkey #$((++i)):"; ssh-keygen -E md5 -lf - <<<"$REPLY"; echo $REPLY; done

key #1:
2048 MD5:07:b4:00:a4:65:ef:44:89:05:84:60:0c:c9:b2:36:5e no comment (RSA)
ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAADAQABAAABAQDJGT35gvsFveu+80qgurrLHId0h55E9jliM7Fo0mV9b7eg3EfyagkAcJUSMFkoov3HY4CW0yzOc7WlN57ABwvpRz1ioFDex0n0FkjoSEs5ROeT1OneRK6Bf6XnplgPuQ/LSSkv3kmK6I29R+YWi6TjDvLLoA5BrXJjOMfUv36jxWCDtk/5ZdhMZqhsMuDm06Jg5JBu6n5jQaZkmaIaunz7vOfwVG9LoCI+MYyIdo2S4VTva7Ee7jfAvgSUUgHTjhzsPO0/Ww5a/Kz2ehXW27aJxj/QPLfYR2LmTMbQKm3WpB8P1LjoiU7zjPoVoZ43a4P2JLUDidGKCd3eY5b5xewz

key #2:
2048 MD5:f7:98:f1:0b:73:c6:2a:21:00:7a:70:1d:0f:cf:d8:cc no comment (RSA)
ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAADAQABAAABAQCQsZrjwKjB4WnE4SwVdDX5eEMxKzPHFBVKKpo9vvWUXRQwdTZy6iVOkyF26IPR+xDPzslzXOClKXUrWEh6La/EMpRwuMrWAbMIJFeDHOb56q4azgopoJmMJHo0yxGu0Ts4XszMACYRhlG6uK2AP5SYiOTp1zKPFjazXAdwLXyOvJurzy6KKuGJdSs/sj9+4uehgyRNOhehCSfg71tJJYwRvO2DDfLgaVEKOgZx58gEnJfhhz9D7rbvdZNhw/hCgtVNJaQF9Mdke2OPwWSo8i0/XNb9Bu/GRXqwMZrxDBhyzieocW40cwuzxWfzoi03aISdtQ1HtawH8+/sswviM1+B

For checking the fingerprint that is present on Azure Devops, you can use

$ ssh-keygen -E md5 -lf .ssh/id_rsa.pub
2048 MD5:ba:42:24:87:d6:7b:71:a2:3e:b5:9a:31:b2:2c:e0:00 CrazyGirrafe@Australasia (RSA)
ssh-keygen -r host.name.com

Will output the fingerprints for all configured public keys on an sshd instance.

These can then be put into DNS SSHFP records.


With OpenSSH 7.8 or greater, when using RSA keys, this will result in a matching fingerprint to the one that AWS is showing in their key list.

ssh-keygen -ef $path_to_private_key -m PEM | openssl rsa -RSAPublicKey_in -outform DER | openssl md5 -c

Here is another way to get fingerprint using common utilities on debian/ubuntu. This can be used to understand what ssh-keygen does behind the scene.

cat ~/.ssh/id_rsa.pub  | awk '{print $2}' | base64 -d | md5sum

Sample Output:
abcdabcd123123123123123123123123 -


  • cat to read the public key file
  • awk to pick the second word from public key file
  • base64 -d to decode the key
  • md5sum to show the checksum (fingerprint)

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