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Last updated: 2 Aug 2021

SSH into machines

This document explains how to SSH into machines, and what commands exist to navigate machines and applications quickly. We use a tool called GOV.UK Connect to make this easier.


If you know the class of machine you want, you can SSH straight from the command line:

$ gds govuk connect -e staging ssh cache

This will automatically SSH into a random cache machine on AWS.

To see all classes, run:

$ gds govuk connect -e staging ssh *

You can connect to specific machines if you know their internal IP address:

$ gds govuk connect ssh -e integration

You can also start a Rails Console on a remote server, from your local machine:

$ gds govuk connect -e staging app-console publishing-api

For a full list of commands, run gds govuk connect --help.



Sometimes you might try to ssh into a server and nothing happens. Double-check that you have added the key into the keychain like so: ssh-add -K ~/.ssh/id_rsa.

Make sure you have been granted access. For example, if you have yet to be granted access to production, your attempt to SSH into a production node will fail silently.

SSH known hosts changed

If you see an error message along the lines of:

Someone could be eavesdropping on you right now (man-in-the-middle attack)!
It is also possible that a host key has just been changed.
Add correct host key in /Users/username/.ssh/known_hosts to get rid of this message.
Offending RSA key in /Users/username/.ssh/known_hosts:14

It is likely that the jumpbox machine was recently reprovisioned - ask on #govuk-2ndline to make sure. If so, simply delete the associated line (line 14 in the example above).

CLI Problems

GOV.UK Connect is a tool we use to make working with our machines quicker and easier. If it’s not working, you can try manually running the commands it normally runs for you.

  $ ssh govuk_node_list -c backend
  • SSH to one of the machines in the list using the jumpbox:
  $ ssh -J
  • Once you’re on the machine you need, you can start a Rails console.
  $ govuk_app_console publisher

These common commands, along with govuk_node_list, live in govuk-puppet.