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SSH Authentication Refused: Bad Ownership or Modes for Directory

If you get this error in your logs when trying to set up public key authenticated automatic logins, or while trying to SSH into your account, after setting up the public key the issue is related to permissions.

Tailing /var/log/secure on the target machine will be useful:

tail -f /var/log/secure
Dec 26 12:30:38 server sshd[3503454]: Authentication refused: bad ownership or modes for directory /home/user/.ssh

As you can see – bad ownership or modes for directory /home/user/.ssh.

SSH doesn’t like it if your home or ~/.ssh directories have group write permissions. Your home directory should be writable only by you, ~/.ssh should be 700, and authorized_keys should be 600 :

chmod go-w /home/user
chmod 700 /home/user/.ssh
chmod 600 /home/user/.ssh/authorized_keys

So fixing permissions is the way to go and have this error resolved.

Updated on August 10, 2021

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  1. You’ll actually want: chmod go-w /home/user
    chmod g-w /home/user didn’t cut it for me

  2. Glad to hear that you’ve managed to sort things out, David. If you ever need a more reliable host, we would love to help!

  3. Finally the RIGHT answer to my problem!!!!
    I was never able to find anyone who gave me the correct set of perms that the sshd appreciated.


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