How to Fix SSH Connection Issues with “Host Key Verification Failed” Error?

The Importance of SSH and Overview of Common Connection Issues

Secure Shell (SSH) is a network protocol that provides a secure way to access a remote computer or server. It is widely used by system administrators, developers, and other professionals who need to remotely manage or access resources.

SSH encrypts all data sent between the client and the server, ensuring that sensitive information is protected from eavesdropping and tampering. Despite its many benefits, SSH can sometimes experience connection issues that can be frustrating for users.

Some common connection issues include slow response times, authentication failures, or disconnections due to network issues. One particular error message that users may encounter is the “Host Key Verification Failed” error.

Understanding the Problem: Host Key Verification Failed Error

The “Host Key Verification Failed” error occurs when an SSH client fails to verify the authenticity of the host it is trying to connect to. When an SSH client connects to a server for the first time, it checks if the host key fingerprint matches what it expects. If there is a mismatch, this means that either the server’s configuration has changed since last connecting or there may be a security threat.

This error message typically looks like this:



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.

Please contact your system administrator. Add correct host key in /home/user/.ssh/known_hosts to get rid of this message.

Offending RSA key in /home/user/.ssh/known_hosts:1 RSA host key for has changed and you have requested strict checking.

Host key verification failed. In the next section, we will explore some of the possible causes of this error message.

Understanding the Problem

Explanation of Host Key Verification Failed error

SSH (Secure Shell) is a protocol used to securely communicate with remote servers or devices. When connecting to a server for the first time, your client checks the server’s host key fingerprint to verify its identity. If this verification fails, you will encounter a “Host Key Verification Failed” error.

This error occurs when your SSH client cannot authenticate the host you are trying to connect to, or it believes there is an imposter trying to intercept your connection. The SSH client does not trust the server’s identity and therefore terminates the connection.

Possible causes of the error

There are several reasons why this error can occur: Changes made to the server’s SSH configuration: If changes have been made recently to the server’s SSH configuration, such as new certificates or keys, it could cause issues with authentication.

Network connectivity issues: A weak internet connection or network connectivity issues can cause problems when authenticating with remote servers. If packets are lost during transmission, it may result in an incomplete or distorted authentication handshake.

Security concerns: The SSH client may be configured with strict security settings that check for any suspicious activity on remote servers. This could potentially result in false positives and cause host key verification errors.

Troubleshooting Steps

When you encounter an SSH connection issue with the “Host Key Verification Failed” error, there are several steps you can take to resolve the problem. Below is a step-by-step guide to follow:

Disabling StrictHostKeyChecking temporarily

If you’re getting the “Host Key Verification Failed” error message, it’s likely that your SSH client is checking the server’s host key against a previously stored copy. If these keys do not match, then the connection cannot be established.

To disable StrictHostKeyChecking and allow for new host keys to be accepted temporarily, run:

ssh -o "StrictHostKeyChecking=no" user@hostname 

Note that this method should only be used as a temporary measure while troubleshooting and should not be considered a permanent solution.

Resetting known_hosts file

The known_hosts file stores information about SSH servers’ public keys. It is possible that your known_hosts file may contain outdated or incorrect information for the server you’re trying to connect to.

To reset this file and allow new key verification for your SSH client, follow these steps:

  1. Navigate to your home directory by running cd ~.
  2. Locate and open the .ssh/known_hosts file in a text editor.
  3. Delete the line corresponding to the server you’re having trouble connecting to.
  4. Save and close the file.

Checking network connectivity and firewall settings

In some cases, network connectivity or firewall settings may prevent SSH connections from being established. To check whether there are any issues with either of these, try the following:

  1. Check that your network connection is stable and that your device is connected to the internet.
  2. Ensure that any firewalls or security software on your device (including antivirus programs) are not blocking SSH connections.
  3. If you’re connecting from a corporate network, check if there are any restrictions in place that prevent SSH connections from being established.

Verifying server’s host key fingerprint

One possible reason for the “Host Key Verification Failed” error message could be that you’re attempting to connect to a different server than the one you intended. To verify that you’re connecting to the correct server and prevent man-in-the-middle attacks, verify the server’s host key fingerprint by running:

ssh-keygen -lf /etc/ssh/ 

You should compare this fingerprint with the one provided by your system administrator or hosting provider before proceeding with your connection attempt. If they don’t match, do not proceed with establishing an SSH connection as this could indicate a security risk.

Preventive Measures

Tips to prevent future Host Key Verification Failed errors

To avoid encountering “Host Key Verification Failed” errors in the future, it’s important to take some preventive measures. One of the easiest ways to prevent these errors is by regularly updating your known_hosts file. This file stores the host keys of remote servers you connect to via SSH.

By updating this file frequently, you ensure that you have the latest host key for each server and avoid encountering any verification failures. Another way to prevent SSH connection issues is by configuring SSH with strict security measures.

Strict security measures include disabling password authentication and using public key authentication only. Public key authentication verifies your identity using a public and private key pair instead of a password, which makes it more secure and less prone to attacks.

Monitor network connectivity and firewall settings

Monitoring your network connectivity and firewall settings can also prevent future “Host Key Verification Failed” errors. Network connectivity issues can cause timeouts or connection drops during an SSH session, leading to verification failures. Keeping an eye on your firewall settings is also crucial as firewalls often block incoming or outgoing traffic on specific ports required for SSH connections.

Taking preventive measures such as regularly updating known_hosts files, configuring SSH with strict security measures, and monitoring network connectivity and firewall settings can help prevent future “Host Key Verification Failed” errors. By implementing these simple tips, you can ensure a smoother and more secure SSH experience without any verification failures.


In this solution article, we have discussed the most common SSH connection issue “Host Key Verification Failed” error. We have analyzed the potential causes of this error and provided detailed troubleshooting steps to fix it. Additionally, we have outlined some essential preventive measures to prevent future errors.

SSH connections are widely used for remote access and file transfer purposes. A failure in establishing a secure connection could result in data loss, security threats, or interruption of critical business operations. Addressing SSH connection issues promptly is crucial to achieve uninterrupted connectivity and maintain data security.

Encouragement for readers to share their own experiences or suggestions

We hope that this article has been helpful in resolving your SSH connection issues. However, there may be other solutions that you have found useful in your experience with this problem.

We encourage you to share your own experiences or suggestions in the comments section below. Your input will greatly benefit other readers who may be struggling with similar issues.

While SSH connection issues can be frustrating and time-consuming to troubleshoot, addressing them promptly is essential for maintaining secure remote access and file transfer capabilities. By following the suggestions outlined in this article and sharing your own experiences and solutions with others, you can effectively manage any future SSH connection problems that may arise.

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