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Secure SSH key distribution with support for custom workflow logic

Inki is a tool which makes it trivially easy to manage a dynamic list of SSH keys on a host. This is achieved through a daemon which holds an in-memory list of keys and provides an HTTP API via which new keys may be added, as well as a client which consumes the API.

To prevent the possibility of bad actors registering keys against your hosts, it is possible to configure Inki to require SSH keys to be PGP signed before they are accepted.


  • Support for multiple users, allowing you to register keys for individual user accounts and potentially requiring unique PGP keys for individual users.
  • Integrates with AuthorizedKeysCommand to remove the need for modifications to your authorized_keys file and also enable Inki to add keys even when the host has no diskspace remaining.
  • Straightforward HTTP API to enable other services to quickly and easily integrate with it. You can even send commands using Curl if need be!


$ inki key add -f -p sign.key
Enter PGP key password:
Added keys:
 - Username:     bpannell
   Fingerprint:  7646dd89cbbcecbfeda2ba1d80ec9451
   Expires:      2016-12-15 14:30:42.9195054 +0000 UTC
$ inki key list
Authorized keys:
 - Username:     bpannell
   Fingerprint:  7646dd89cbbcecbfeda2ba1d80ec9451
   Expires:      2016-12-15 14:30:42.9195054 +0000 UTC

$ inki authorized-keys bpannell

Use Case

Inki was originally designed to enable automated tools to request access to servers for remediation purposes, allowing the servers to decide whether to allow the tool access on a case-by-case basis and ensuring that credentials could be flexibly rotated at any time.

That being said, it offers a great way to enable access to your servers using a PGP key like your Keybase one and any SSH key, potentially saving you from the loss of an SSH key while keeping your systems secure.

Running a Server

The Inki server is available as a Docker container, you will need to setup your server configuration file and mount it into the container to allow keys to be published.

  - name: root
    keyring: |
      Version: GnuPG v2
      -----END PGP PUBLIC KEY BLOCK-----
docker run --rm -p 3000:3000 -v "./config.yml:/etc/inki/server.yml" sierrasoftworks/inki:latest

Inki's server stores its configuration in memory, as its use case involves providing transient key access to various servers. Stopping the container will therefore remove any active keys and they will need to be added again.

Adding a Key

Inki uses an HTTP API to add keys, requiring that a request to add a key is sent as a signed PGP message with the JSON payload describing the key to be added.

Due to the design, you can add keys using curl and the gpg command line tools, alternatively Inki's command line can be used to submit the keys if you find that easier.

Using Inki

inki key add http://user@inki_server:3000 \
  --file \
  --pgp-key pgp_private_key.gpg \
  --expire 12h

Using Curl

cat <<JSON
  "username": "user",
  "expire": "2016-12-25T00:00:00Z",
  "key": "$(cat"
JSON | gpg --clearsign | curl -X POST http://inki_server:3000/api/v1/keys

Using the Keys

Inki is designed to work with sshd's AuthorizedKeysCommand to prevent situations where a lack of disk space prevents you from accessing the server, as well as avoiding corruption of your authorized_keys file. This has the added benefit of allowing you to use Inki in conjunction with your existing set of authorized_keys.

To use Inki, you will need to create a script which calls the Inki agent to gather the list of authorized keys.

# $1 :  The username of the account that someone is attempting to sign in with

inki keys list http://$1@inki_server:3000 --authorized-keys

# You can also use this, if you don't want to have inki installed on your server
# curl http://inki_server:3000/api/v1/user/$1/authorized_keys

Then set the Inki agent as your AuthorizedKeysCommand in /etc/ssh/sshd_config



An agent which allows you to register new SSH keys on a host through a combination of PGP signing, an HTTP API and host-side checks.





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