Setting Up SSH Public Key Authentication for iPhone Remote Access

Lately, after jailbreaking my iPhone and installing the toolchain on my Mac, I’ve started doing some iPhone development. Currently, due to lack of official development tools and a device simulator, the development process involves frequently loading up the app you’re coding to your iPhone. I use the scp command to copy the app bundle as shown below.

scp -r ~/iPhone/Sample/build/Release/ root@

This works fine, except that it asks for the root password each time you execute the command. And this additional step can become an annoying time-waster when you end up issuing the command literally hundreds of times throughout the course of a coding session. So, SSH public key authentication comes to the rescue! A quick Google search revealed the solution at Game Over’s wiki.

Here are the few simple steps to enable this feature (please note that you must already have the BSD subsystem and the OpenSSH apps installed on your iPhone):

1) Start up your and run the following command on your mac to generate the keys. Accept the defaults when it asks for a place to save the keys on your machine. Enter a passphrase when asked if you like, but it’s ok if you leave it blank too.

ssh-keygen -t rsa -b 2048

2) Now, copy the generated public key to your iPhone. Don’t forget to substitute your phone’s ip address.

scp ~/.ssh/ root@

3) Next, start the Term-vt100 app on your iPhone, and type the following commands.

mkdir -p ~/.ssh
chmod 0700 ~/.ssh
mv ~/authorized_keys ~/.ssh/authorized_keys
chmod 600 ~/.ssh/authorized_keys
chmod go-w /private/var/root

That’s it. From now on, you can login to your iPhone without entering a password. Try it. Type this on your mac.

ssh root@

Don’t forget to substitute your own ip address. Also note that you may be asked for a passphrase if you entered one in the first step. If you check the box to store the phrase in your keychain, you will not be asked for it anymore.

Written on January 2, 2008