A short piece of fiction.

It all starts with that small virtual machine you spun up over the weekend just for fun. To get access you implement SSH but simple password authentication won’t do. None of your friends are using it and they make fun of you when they find out. So you create your first SSH key, 2048 bits at first–soon upped to 4096. Which is ok–you’re ok. Your parents used to use RSA all the time after all.

Searching for speed and smaller keys it soon gets more exotic and essoteric. You have Ed25519 on speed dial and never leave home without fresh sheets of OTPW keys stuffed deep in your pockets. Your dreams begin to follow the Lamport scheme, the current dream a re-hash of the previous. Some nights you wake up in a cold sweat from replay attack nightmares.

Before long you are mainlining Kerberos. People cross the street as they see your shambling shape approaching; mummbling to yourself about ticket granting tickets and Heimdal variations. The Men in the Middle are after you. You can feel their signals penetrating the sanctum of your server at every turn. Dirty disgusting data sniffers. You won’t let them in, even if they come in the guise of friends and family.

You hit rock bottom the day you fall of the ferry and nearly drown from the weight of OTP tokens, gpg cards and FIDO keys stitched into the lining of your clothes. As you wake up in the hospital you make a promise. Get off the hard stuff, get clean, and begin living life again.

Eight months later and you are doing better. LDAP isn’t the same rush, it leaves you with a bit of a headache, but it keeps you steady. Mind you, you’ve been hearing good things about macaroon based alternatives.

Perhaps you should give them a try.

Image modified from the cover of Crime Incorporated No.2 (1950) via Comic Book Plus

SSH a Gateway (Drug) © 2022 by Cornelius K. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license – so feel free to share it, upload it, print it and generally get jiggy with it as long as there isn’t monetary profit in it, and you share what you make under the same license. If you enjoy this story, and you read it somewhere out there on the net, stop on by The Infrequency (my online-home abode) where you will find a mish-mash of blog posts and future short stories as they are published.