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« Updated 2021-10-11 » « Back to Tutorials

This tutorial uses Fedora 34 and assumes that you have ThinLinc server and a ThinLinc client installed.

Read more section 9.4 (ThinLinc Administrator's Guide for ThinLinc - Using Smart Card Public Key Authentication)

1. Install the necessary drivers for smart card readers on your client machine, as well as the machine you want to use for step 2-5:

$ sudo dnf install pcsc-lite
$ sudo dnf install pcsc-lite-ccid
$ sudo service pcscd start

2. Install OpenSC to get tools for extracting information from the smart cards:

$ sudo dnf install opensc

3. Plug in the smart card reader and insert the card in the reader.

4. List the certificates on your Smart Card to find the ID of the certificate you want to use:

$ pkcs15-tool --list-certificates

5. Use the ID to read the ssh key:

$ pkcs15-tool --read-ssh-key <id> > my_smartcard.key

6. Make sure that your authorized_keys file has the correct permissions on all your agent and master server(s):

$ mkdir -p /home/<username>/.ssh
$ chown <username>:<username> /home/<username>/.ssh
$ chmod 700 /home/<username>/.ssh
$ touch /home/<username>/.ssh/authorized_keys
$ chown <username>:<username> /home/<username>/.ssh/authorized_keys
$ chmod 600 /home/<username>/.ssh/authorized_keys

7. Place the ssh key in your user's home directory on your server on all your agent and master server(s):

$ cat my_smartcard.key >> /home/<username>/.ssh/authorized_keys

8. Configure your ThinLinc client to authenticate using smart card. This is found under client Options->Security->Details. You can now login via smart cards:


Automatically login when inserting a smart card (OPTIONAL)

Read more section 9.4.6 (ThinLinc Administrator's Guide for ThinLinc - Automatic Connection)

9. Extract the certificate in DER format from the smart card:

$ pkcs15-tool --read-certificate <id> | openssl x509 -outform DER > smartcard_cert.der

10. If the DER file was created on another machine, copy this DER file to one of your ThinLinc servers:

$ scp smartcard_cert.der <adminuser>@<server>:~/

10.1. Connect to your server using ssh if needed:

$ ssh <adminuser>@<server>

11. Extract the subject name from the DER file:

$ cat smartcard_cert.der | /opt/thinlinc/libexec/tl-certtool --subject

12. Find the user id for the user you want to login with on your server(s):

$ id -u <username>

13. Continue the following steps on all your agent and master server(s). Associate the subject name with the user id in the passwdaliases file on all your agent and master server(s):

$ sudo vim /etc/passwdaliases

It should be in the format <subject-name>:<uid> and can look something like this:

# Sample /etc/passwdaliases
# A few invalid lines, for testing

# A valid line

# Example of RFC4514 DN - a username derived from a Smart Card certificate
#serialNumber=197703012570,givenName=Peter Alf G\c3\b6ran,sn=\c3\85strand,cn=Peter \c3\85strand,c=SE:4711

organizationalUnitName=temp,cn=Jan Andersson:1000

14. Activate the passwdaliases module in NSS on all your agent and master server(s) by adding 'passwdaliases' to the list of modules for the passwd database:

$ sudo vim /etc/nsswitch.conf

 It should look something like this:

passwd:     sss files systemd passwdaliases
group:      sss files systemd
netgroup:   sss files



15. Disable the 'account'-step in PAM for sshd by adding "account sufficient" on all your agent and master server(s). Note that this new line needs to be the first account step:

$ sudo vim /etc/pam.d/sshd

 It should look something like this:

auth       substack     password-auth
auth       include      postlogin
account    sufficient
account    required
account    required
account    include      password-auth
password   include      password-auth

16. Restart sshd on all your agent and master server(s).

$ sudo systemctl restart sshd

17. Configure your ThinLinc client to login using the subject name on your card. This is found under client Options->Security->Details (for Smart card).


18. If you want to, you can automatically connect when inserting the card. Note that if your smart card has multiple certificates, the user will have to select a certificate. If you want to, you can add a filter for the certificates. The default filter works for most smart cards. If the filters result in only one certificate being available the ThinLinc client will be able to automatically connnect. Also, you can also disconnect when removing the card. The setting for this is found at the same place as the one described in step 17.

19. You can now log in by simply inserting the smart card (and entering the PIN for the card), you don't have to specify a username.