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Connecting to Tursa

On the Tursa system, interactive access can be achieved via SSH, either directly from a command line terminal or using an SSH client. In addition data can be transferred to and from the Tursa system using scp from the command line or by using a file transfer client.

This section covers the basic connection methods.

Before following the process below, we assume you have setup an account on Tursa through the DiRAC SAFE. Documentation on how to do this can be found at:

Command line terminal


Linux distributions come installed with a terminal application that can be used for SSH access to the login nodes. Linux users will have different terminals depending on their distribution and window manager (e.g. GNOME Terminal in GNOME, Konsole in KDE). Consult your Linux distribution's documentation for details on how to load a terminal.


MacOS users can use the Terminal application, located in the Utilities folder within the Applications folder.


A typical Windows installation will not include a terminal client, though there are various clients available. We recommend all our Windows users to download and install MobaXterm to access Tursa. It is very easy to use and includes an integrated X server with SSH client to run any graphical applications on Tursa.

You can download MobaXterm Home Edition (Installer Edition) from the following link:

Double-click the downloaded Microsoft Installer file (.msi), and the Windows wizard will automatically guides you through the installation process. Note, you might need to have administrator rights to install on some Windows OS. Also make sure to check whether Windows Firewall hasn't blocked any features of this program after installation.

Start MobaXterm and then click "Start local terminal"


  • If you download the .zip file rather than the .msi, make sure you unzip before attempting to run the installer.

  • If you are using a "managed desktop" machine, so do not have admin rights, you can use the Portable edition of MobaXterm which doesn't need install privilages.

  • If this is your first time using MobaXterm, check that a permanent /home directory has been set up (or all saved info will be lost from session to session). Go to "Settings" -> "Configuration"-> check path to "Persistent home directory" is set and make sure path is "private" if prompted.

  • Any ssh key generated in MobaXterm will, by default, be stored in the permanent /home directory (see above) i.e. if your /home directory is _MyDocuments_\MobaXterm\home then within that folder you will find _MyDocuments_\MobaXterm\home\.ssh with your keys. This folder will be 'hidden' by default so you may need to tick 'Hidden items' under 'View' in Windows Explorer to see it.

  • MobaXterm also allows you to set up ssh sessions with the username, login host and key details saved. You are welcome to use this, rather than using the "Local terminal" but we are not able to assist with debugging connection issues if you choose this method. We recommend sticking to command line terminal access.

Access credentials

To access Tursa, you need to use two credentials:

  • An SSH key pair protected by a passphrase and a Time-based One Time Passcode (TOTP)

You can find more detailed instructions on how to set up your credentials to access Tursa from Windows, macOS and Linux below.

SSH Key Pairs

You will need to generate an SSH key pair protected by a passphrase to access Tursa.

Using a terminal (the command line), set up a key pair that contains your e-mail address and enter a passphrase you will use to unlock the key:

$ ssh-keygen -t rsa -C ""
-bash-4.1$ ssh-keygen -t rsa -C ""
Generating public/private rsa key pair.
Enter file in which to save the key (/Home/user/.ssh/id_rsa): [Enter]
Enter passphrase (empty for no passphrase): [Passphrase]
Enter same passphrase again: [Passphrase]
Your identification has been saved in /Home/user/.ssh/id_rsa.
Your public key has been saved in /Home/user/.ssh/
The key fingerprint is:
The key's randomart image is:
+--[ RSA 2048]----+
|    . ...+o++++. |
| . . . =o..      |
|+ . . .......o o |
|oE .   .         |
|o =     .   S    |
|.    +.+     .   |
|.  oo            |
|.  .             |
| ..              |

(remember to replace "" with your e-mail address).

Upload public part of key pair to SAFE

You should now upload the public part of your SSH key pair to the SAFE by following the instructions at:

Login to SAFE. Then:

  1. Go to the Menu Login accounts and select the Tursa account you want to add the SSH key to
  2. On the subsequent Login account details page click the Add Credential button
  3. Select SSH public key as the Credential Type and click Next
  4. Either copy and paste the public part of your SSH key into the SSH Public key box or use the button to select the public key file on your computer.
  5. Click Add to associate the public SSH key part with your account

Once you have done this, your SSH key will be added to your Tursa account.

Remember, you will need to use both an SSH key and TOTP to log into Tursa so you will also need to setup your TOTP token before you can log into Tursa. We cover this next.


If you want to connect to Tursa from more than one machine, e.g. from your home laptop as well as your work laptop, you should generate an ssh key on each machine, and add each of the public keys into SAFE.

MFA Time-based one-time passcode (TOTP)

You will need to use both an SSH key and time-based one-time passcode to log into Tursa so you will also need to set up a method for generating a TOTP code before you can log into Tursa.

First login from a new account: password required


You will not use your password when logging on to Tursa after the first login for a new account.

As an additional security measure, you will also need to use a password from SAFE for your first login to Tursa with a new account. When you log into Tursa for the first time with a new account, you will be prompted to change your initial password. This is a three step process:

  1. When promoted to enter your ldap password: Enter the password which you retrieve from SAFE
  2. When prompted to enter your new password: type in a new password
  3. When prompted to re-enter the new password: re-enter the new password

Your password has now been changed. You will no longer need this password to log into Tursa from this point forwards, you will use your SSH key and TOTP as described above.

SSH Clients

Interaction with Tursa is done remotely, over an encrypted communication channel, Secure Shell version 2 (SSH-2). This allows command-line access to one of the login nodes of a Tursa, from which you can run commands or use a command-line text editor to edit files. SSH can also be used to run graphical programs such as GUI text editors and debuggers when used in conjunction with an X client.

Logging in

You can use the following command from the terminal window to login into Tursa:


You will first be prompted for the passphrase associated with your SSH key pair (if it is not already added to a local SSH Agent) and then for your TOTP.

You need to enter both credentials correctly to be able to access Tursa.


If your SSH key pair is not stored in the default location (usually ~/.ssh/id_rsa) on your local system, you may need to specify the path to the private part of the key wih the -i option to ssh. For example, if your key is in a file called keys/id_rsa_Tursa you would use the command ssh -i keys/id_rsa_Tursa to log in.


When you first log into Tursa, you will be prompted to change your initial password. This is a three step process:

  1. When promoted to enter your ldap password: Re-enter the password you retrieved from SAFE
  2. When prompted to enter your new password: type in a new password
  3. When prompted to re-enter the new password: re-enter the new password

Your password has now been changed

Host Keys

Adding the host keys to your SSH configuration file provides an extra level of security for your connections to Tursa. The host keys are checked against the login nodes when you login to Tursa and if the remote server key does not match the one in the configuration file, the connection will be refused. This provides protection against potential malicious servers masquerading as the Tursa login nodes. ssh-rsa AAAAB3NzaC1yc2EAAAADAQABAAABgQDFniRfqDM6hfnwVTQgBw6H2k+O2sM57gaTjmg7TTewrzidPLRFI8Uojl0hHljS9naSxvpyVTJTzOR5/bDtryemqiNlMBsMTCl6posQPo8tZsw9vYYpZ1NLxtbrR7fnuczeXanzIO0E/bVSSbNnydykmVj2f/jX4PXBDL6T0RbHzjr7IQG0N0HVbrj7X0izlOhinMh0mfWO6h/DuJ0HWhaXPCiVsFiFKyjhs8YnLmaBSQMOe33EZaOOiDYiLXxctJKsIOsiW1VVveBYKSbxT0pUa7WQVQI1wPTtzJlifjv3RMb5KtQypWfSwTMGBytWYa/GlkemWefRewM1WnbG5P2w59DkCIR1O551ggGxNF4By+FMs2xW04GNi6WMikpRmyPKkHPVLap+2Mkj37S0nz0AiaMPDP3D8Bu0pAj+c44A6KL81ifybZUn8GGB9SRtquOYhIxyi21zmdykyoyK2oe8JcJ6B+DBI65uqoWQh1BziLePYRXh2H1WAVQPO7tcrxU= ecdsa-sha2-nistp256 AAAAE2VjZHNhLXNoYTItbmlzdHAyNTYAAAAIbmlzdHAyNTYAAABBBLWSJYM8B0SlKQzvAyGZth4Balkgsxef09MdjJ8JGG31V4gJCrsARqQcgk/0wc2vyjC5SKMKmUZLPBn0AOO8gSE= ssh-ed25519 AAAAC3NzaC1lZDI1NTE5AAAAIIwUG93CzIVADtlbHH9aLAyig3w3605XKE3rumMjBqt4

Host key verification can fail if this key is out of date, a problem which can be fixed by removing the offending entry in ~/.ssh/known_hosts and replacing it with the new key published here. We recommend users should check this page for any key updates and not just accept a new key from the server without confirmation.

Making access more convenient using the SSH configuration file

Typing in the full command to login or transfer data to Tursa can become tedious as it often has to be repeated many times. You can use the SSH configuration file, usually located on your local machine at .ssh/config to make things a bit more convenient.

Each remote site (or group of sites) can have an entry in this file which may look something like:

Host tursa
  User username

(remember to replace username with your actual username!).

The Host tursa line defines a short name for the entry. In this case, instead of typing ssh to access the Tursa login nodes, you could use ssh tursa instead. The remaining lines define the options for the tursa host.

  • Hostname - defines the full address of the host
  • User username - defines the username to use by default for this host (replace username with your own username on the remote host)

Now you can use SSH to access Tursa without needing to enter your username or the full hostname every time:

$ ssh tursa

You can set up as many of these entries as you need in your local configuration file. Other options are available. See the ssh_config man page (or man ssh_config on any machine with SSH installed) for a description of the SSH configuration file. You may find the IdentityFile option useful if you have to manage multiple SSH key pairs for different systems as this allows you to specify which SSH key to use for each system.


There is a known bug with Windows ssh-agent. If you get the error message: Warning: agent returned different signature type ssh-rsa (expected rsa-sha2-512), you will need to either specify the path to your ssh key in the command line (using the -i option as described above) or add the path to your SSH config file by using the IdentityFile option.

SSH debugging tips

If you find you are unable to connect via SSH there are a number of ways you can try and diagnose the issue. Some of these are collected below - if you are having difficulties connecting we suggest trying these before contacting the Tursa service desk.

Use the syntax rather than -l user

We have seen a number of instances where people using the syntax

ssh -l user

have not been able to connect properly and get prompted for a password many times. We have found that using the alternative syntax:


works more reliably. If you are using the -l user option to connect and are seeing issues, then try using instead.

Can you connect to the login node?

Try the command ping -c 3 If you successfully connect to the login node, the output should include:

--- ping statistics ---
3 packets transmitted, 3 received, 0% packet loss, time 38ms

(the ping time '38ms' is not important). If not all packets are received there could be a problem with your internet connection, or the login node could be unavailable.


If you are having trouble entering your password consider using a password manager, from which you can copy and paste it. This will also help you generate a secure password. If you need to reset your password, instructions for doing so can be found in the SAFE documentation

Windows users please note that Ctrl+V does not work to paste in to PuTTY, MobaXterm, or PowerShell. Instead use Shift+Ins to paste. Alternatively, right-click and select 'Paste' in PuTTY and MobaXterm, or simply right-click to paste in PowerShell.

SSH key

If you get the error message Permission denied (publickey) this can indicate a problem with your SSH key. Some things to check:

  • Have you uploaded the key to SAFE? Please note that if the same key is reuploaded SAFE will not map the "new" key to Tursa. If for some reason this is required, please delete the key first, then reupload.

  • Is ssh using the correct key? You can check which keys are being found and offered by ssh using ssh -vvv. If your private key has a non-default name you can use the -i flag to provide it to ssh, i.e. ssh -i path/to/key

  • Are you entering the passphrase correctly? You will be asked for your private key's passphrase first. If you enter it incorrectly you will usually be asked to enter it again, and usually up to three times in total, after which ssh will fail with Permission denied (publickey). If you would like to confirm your passphrase without attempting to connect, you can use ssh-keygen -y -f /path/to/private/key. If successful, this command will print the corresponding public key. You can also use this to check it is the one uploaded to SAFE.

  • Are permissions correct on the ssh key? One common issue is that the permissions are incorrect on the either the key file, or the directory it's contained in. On Linux/MacOS for example, if your private keys are held in ~/.ssh/ you can check this with ls -al ~/.ssh. This should give something similar to the following output:

     $ ls -al ~/.ssh/
     drwx------.  2 user group    48 Jul 15 20:24 .
     drwx------. 12 user group  4096 Oct 13 12:11 ..
     -rw-------.  1 user group   113 Jul 15 20:23 authorized_keys
     -rw-------.  1 user group 12686 Jul 15 20:23 id_rsa
     -rw-r--r--.  1 user group  2785 Jul 15 20:23
     -rw-r--r--.  1 user group  1967 Oct 13 14:11 known_hosts

    The important section here is the string of letters and dashes at the start, for the lines ending in ., id_rsa, and, which indicate permissions on the containing directory, private key, and public key respectively. If your permissions are not correct, they can be set with chmod. Consult the table below for the relevant chmod command. On Windows, permissions are handled differently but can be set by right-clicking on the file and selecting Properties > Security > Advanced. The user, SYSTEM, and Administrators should have Full control, and no other permissions should exist for both public and private key files, and the containing folder.

Target Permissions chmod Code
Directory drwx------ 700
Private Key -rw------- 600
Public Key -rw-r--r-- 644

chmod can be used to set permissions on the target in the following way: chmod <code> <target>. So for example to set correct permissions on the private key file id_rsa_Tursa one would use the command chmod 600 id_rsa_Tursa.


Unix file permissions can be understood in the following way. There are three groups that can have file permissions: (owning) users, (owning) groups, and others. The available permissions are read, write, and execute. The first character indicates whether the target is a file -, or directory d. The next three characters indicate the owning user's permissions. The first character is r if they have read permission, - if they don't, the second character is w if they have write permission, - if they don't, the third character is x if they have execute permission, - if they don't. This pattern is then repeated for group, and other permissions. For example the pattern -rw-r--r-- indicates that the owning user can read and write the file, members of the owning group can read it, and anyone else can also read it. The chmod codes are constructed by treating the user, group, and owner permission strings as binary numbers, then converting them to decimal. For example the permission string -rwx------ becomes 111 000 000 -> 700.

SSH verbose output

Verbose debugging output from ssh can be very useful for diagnosing the issue. In particular, it can be used to distinguish between problems with the SSH key and password - further details are given below. To enable verbose output add the -vvv flag to your SSH command. For example:

ssh -vvv

The output is lengthy, but somewhere in there you should see lines similar to the following:

debug1: Next authentication method: keyboard-interactive
debug2: userauth_kbdint
debug3: send packet: type 50
debug2: we sent a keyboard-interactive packet, wait for reply
debug3: receive packet: type 60
debug2: input_userauth_info_req
debug2: input_userauth_info_req: num_prompts 1
debug3: send packet: type 61
debug3: receive packet: type 60
debug2: input_userauth_info_req
debug2: input_userauth_info_req: num_prompts 0
debug3: send packet: type 61
debug3: receive packet: type 51
Authenticated with partial success.
debug1: Authentications that can continue: publickey,password

If you do not see the Password: prompt you may have connection issues, or there could be a problem with the Tursa login nodes. If you do not see Authenticated with partial success it means your password was not accepted. You will be asked to re-enter your password, usually two more times before the connection will be rejected. Consider the suggestions under Password above. If you do see Authenticated with partial success, it means your password was accepted, and your SSH key will now be checked.

You should next see something similiar to:

debug1: Next authentication method: publickey
debug1: Offering public key: RSA SHA256:<key_hash> <path_to_private_key>
debug3: send_pubkey_test
debug3: send packet: type 50
debug2: we sent a publickey packet, wait for reply
debug3: receive packet: type 60
debug1: Server accepts key: pkalg rsa-sha2-512 blen 2071
debug2: input_userauth_pk_ok: fp SHA256:<key_hash>
debug3: sign_and_send_pubkey: RSA SHA256:<key_hash>
Enter passphrase for key '<path_to_private_key>':
debug3: send packet: type 50
debug3: receive packet: type 52
debug1: Authentication succeeded (publickey).

Most importantly, you can see which files ssh has checked for private keys, and you can see if any key is accepted. The line Authenticated succeeded indicates that the SSH key has been accepted. By default ssh will go through a list of standard private key files, as well as any you have specified with -i or a config file. This is fine, as long as one of the files mentioned is the one that matches the public key uploaded to SAFE.

If your SSH key passphrase is incorrect, you will be asked to try again up to three times in total, before being disconnected with Permission denied (publickey). If you enter your passphrase correctly, but still see this error message, please consider the advice under SSH key above.