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How to track down your SSH port on a server

Whether you're troubleshooting connection issues or setting up a new software, determining the SSH port is crucial.

by Arun Kumar
tracking down your ssh port on a server

I have a keen interest in technology and enjoy experimenting with servers and network configurations. One aspect that has always piqued my curiosity is ports. They serve as gateways into the vast fortress that is your computer system. While some of these entrances are familiar, such as the default HTTP port 80 or HTTPS port 443, others are more intricate. Personally, I find the SSH port to be both intriguing and challenging to work with. Therefore, let’s embark on a joint investigation to unravel the mystery of identifying the SSH port.

The significance of SSH

SSH is a protocol that encrypts communication between servers and administrators, providing a secure connection that prevents unauthorized eavesdropping. It has become a popular choice for system administrators due to its high level of security, flexibility, and simplicity. In my tech journey, I have found SSH to be a reliable tool. However, it can be tricky at times as it may not always use its default port.

The default SSH port

SSH usually operates on port 22, but it is significant to acknowledge that numerous system administrators may alter this default port due to security reasons. Similarly, relocating the entrance of your home can discourage burglars, changing the SSH port can discourage automated attacks. Nonetheless, forgetting the new port can cause annoyance while trying to connect.

The art of discovering the SSH port

Uncovering which port SSH is running on is a mix of detective work and a pinch of tech magic. Let’s look at the methods you can use:

1. Checking the SSH configuration file

If you have direct access to the server, this is the simplest way to determine the SSH port. The main configuration file for SSH is typically located at /etc/ssh/sshd_config. Here’s what you would do:

cat /etc/ssh/sshd_config | grep Port

This command should display the port number that SSH is set to run on.

For example, if the SSH configuration file is set to use port 22, you will see the following output:

Port 22

Simple, isn’t it? But what if you don’t have direct access?

2. Scanning with tools like Nmap

Nmap is a fabulous tool! I’m personally a big fan, despite the times it left me scratching my head. Nmap can be used to scan a server’s open ports. When I first discovered it, it felt like I had gained superpowers.

To identify the SSH port, run:

nmap -p- your_server_ip

This command scans all ports and you would look for the one that mentions SSH. However, be careful! Always ensure you have permission to scan, as unauthorized scans can be illegal or against the terms of service for many providers.

3. Use the netstat command

The netstat command can be used to list all of the open ports on a server. To use the netstat command to track down your SSH port, you can use the following command:

netstat -lntu

This will print a list of all of the open ports on the server, along with the process ID (PID) of the process that is listening on each port.

To find the SSH port, look for the line that contains the following string:

tcp 0 0* LISTEN

This line indicates that SSH is listening on port 22.

If you don’t have access to the server’s console

If you don’t have access to the server’s console, you can use a remote port scanner to track down the SSH port. There are many different port scanners available, such as Nmap and Angry IP Scanner.

To use a port scanner to track down the SSH port, simply scan the server’s IP address for open ports. The port scanner will report any open ports that it finds, including the SSH port.

Once you have found the SSH port, you can use it to connect to the server using SSH.

4. Checking with hosting or service providers

Sometimes, it’s not about the tech-savviness but about taking the straightforward route. If your server is managed or hosted by a service provider, there’s a good chance they’ve documented the SSH port somewhere. A quick chat with their support team or a dive into their FAQ section might save you a lot of effort.

Why not just stick to the default?

Now, you might be wondering, “Why don’t we just keep SSH on port 22 and save ourselves the hassle?” Well, changing the default port is a commonly advised security measure. By doing so, you can avoid a lot of automated attacks that target the default SSH port. However, it’s a bit like putting a “Beware of the Dog” sign on your gate. It might deter some, but those determined to get in might still try. It’s always good to combine this with other security measures, like fail2ban, to keep your server secure.

Personal thoughts: To change or not to change?

As we conclude our discussion on SSH ports, I would like to express my perspective. Although I acknowledge the importance of security and the intention to modify the default SSH port, I believe that it is somewhat overrated. While changing the port number minimizes the interference from automated bots, actual security relies on having robust passwords, utilizing SSH keys, and regularly updating and patching software. However, there is also a thrill in deviating from the standard procedure. It’s like having a secret entrance to your digital fortress, known only to you and a select few. Hence, if you are willing to add a bit of mystery and don’t mind occasionally forgetting your entrance, feel free to modify the port!

Wrapping up

In our digital world, understanding protocols like SSH and knowing how to find out which port they’re running on is invaluable. It’s a mix of technical know-how, detective work, and sometimes, just asking the right person. I hope this guide has shed some light on the matter for you. The next time you’re faced with the puzzle of finding the SSH port, you’ll know exactly where to look! And remember, while the allure of a hidden doorway is tempting, real security lies in the strength of your walls and guards. Happy SSH-ing!

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