My situation:

  • There are several servers on my LAN which I do not administer
  • I access them using SSH for sshfs, shells, and remote X11 apps
  • I have set ControlMaster auto in my ~/.ssh/config file so I don't experience authentication lag
  • I use Compression and fast/weak Ciphers since I'm either on a private LAN or using VPN
  • Wherever possible, I have exported my (passwordless) public RSA key to the servers

I've started using autofs to make my life easier, but autofs wants to run all of its mount commands as root. I can, of course, generate a new RSA keypair as root and export that, and also replicate my own ~/.ssh/config options to the superuser's config file, but I'd rather not maintain two copies of these things, and it doesn't solve my desire to have only one open SSH connection to each host. Therefore, I want to have autofs run sshfs as an unprivileged user, just like it does when manually invoked at the terminal.

I've looked into autofs scripts, but those don't appear to be a solution to my problem. Any suggestions?

4 Answers 4


JFTR, I've modified (and simplified) ssh_user so that it first tries to contact the user's ssh-agent:

# Open a ssh connection as a given user, thus using his/hers authentication
# agent and/or config files.
: ${ADDOPTS:="-2Ax"}
: ${LOCAL:="kreator"}
export SSH_AUTH_SOCK=$(find /tmp/ssh-* -type s -user ${LOCAL} -name agent* | tail -1)
declare -a options=( $* )

# Remove unwanted options
for (( i=0,fin=${#options[*]} ; i < fin ; i++ ))
    case ${options[$i]} in
            (-a|-oClearAllForwardings=*)    unset options[$i]

exec /bin/su ${LOCAL} -c "$(which ssh) ${ADDOPTS} ${options[*]}"

Taken directly from the afuse homepage (emphasis mine):

afuse is an automounting file system implemented in user-space using FUSE. afuse currently implements the most basic functionality that can be expected by an automounter; that is it manages a directory of virtual directories. If one of these virtual directories is accessed and is not already automounted, afuse will attempt to mount a filesystem onto that directory. If the mount succeeds the requested access proceeds as normal, otherwise it will fail with an error. See the example below for a specific usage scenario.

The advantage of using afuse over traditional automounters is afuse runs entirely in user-space by individual users. Thus it can take advantage of the invoking users environment, for example allowing access to an ssh-agent for password-less sshfs mounts, or allowing access to a graphical environment to get user input to complete a mount such as asking for a password.

This option seems like a shoo-in.


Drawing heavily from another similar question, I've found a solution. It required some serious experimentation and tweaking, though. Note that this modified script is now incompatible with mounting from /etc/fstab.


/- /etc/auto.sshfs uid=1000,gid=1000,--timeout=30,--ghost


/local/mountpoint -fstype=fuse,rw,nodev,nonempty,noatime,allow_other,workaround=rename,ssh_command=/usr/local/sbin/ssh_user :sshfs\#remoteuser@server\:/remote/path

This needs to be executable, of course: /usr/local/sbin/ssh_user


# declare arrays for ssh options
declare -a ADD_OPTIONS

# add options to be automatically added to the ssh command here.
# example
# empty default
# The following options to SSH cause it to open a connection and immediately
# become a background task. This allow this script to open a local socket
# for future invocations of ssh. (use "ControlMaster auto" in ~/.ssh/config)

for OPT in "$@"; do 
  # Add list of values to be removed from sshfs ssh options. By default, sshfs
  # disables X11 forwarding. We're overriding that behavior.
  case $OPT in
     # this and these like this will be removed
      # These are ok.. add

# For some reason, I needed to generate strings of the ssh command before
# passing it on as an argument to the 'su' command. It simply would not
# work otherwise.
# Throwing the $SOCKET_OPTIONS in with the rest of the arguments is kind
# of hackish, but it seems to handily override any other specified behavior.

# Establishes an ssh socket if none exists...
su localuser -c "$SSH_SOCKET_CMD"

# ...and use that socket to mount the remote host
exec su localuser -c "$SSH_SSHFS_CMD"

And, in case anyone cares: ~/.ssh/config

Host *
ControlMaster auto
ControlPath /tmp/%u@%l→%r@%h:%p
ServerAliveInterval 10
Compression yes

Host host1 host1.myschool.edu host2 host2.myschool.edu
ForwardX11 yes
Ciphers arcfour256,arcfour128,arcfour,blowfish-cbc

Host host3 host3.myschool.edu
ForwardX11 no
Ciphers arcfour256,arcfour128,arcfour,blowfish-cbc

autosshfs might come close to what you're after: it is a "per user SSHFS automount using user’s SSH config and keys".

  • I like this. The problem I have is that not all of my remote hosts allow me to use public/private keypairs for login (yes, this sucks and makes no sense).
    – billyjmc
    Sep 24, 2013 at 18:29

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