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29 May 2008 @ 12:17 pm
copysshenv: Extract the ssh-agent environment variables from a running process  
Dated 2008-04-20, copysshenv extracts the ssh-agent variables from the environment of any running process.  It may only work on Linux (but might work on Solaris, and any other OS that maintains /proc/<process id>/environ containing the current environment for the process).

ssh-agent is used to cache your SSH keys in memory, so that you don't have to retype your SSH key passphrase each time you run ssh or scp.  It works by setting two environmental variables: SSH_AGENT_PID and  SSH_AUTH_SOCK.  Any process (owned by the same user who ran ssh-agent in the first place) can use the contents of these variables to communicate to the running ssh-agent process, specifically to ask it to handle a challenge from an SSH server.  There are a couple of ways to make sure these variables are in your environment (see the ssh-agent man page), but once in a while you find yourself in a situation where your current shell doesn't have the variables set.  This can happen, for instance, when you are logged in remotely to a system, and want to use the ssh-agent already on running on that system to log you in to the next system.  The shell you get when you log in to the system won't have the environmental variables set, even though ssh-agent is already running on that machine.


jdimpson@artoo:~/bin$ copysshenv  21527
export SSH_AUTH_SOCK=/tmp/ssh-cxNeNz8550/agent.8550
export SSH_AGENT_PID=8625


For it to work successfully, you need to determine a process that you know has the environmental variables already set.  That's a little beyond the scope of this post, but it's a safe bet that any other shell (e.g. bash) process running might have it.  In the above example, process 21527 was an instance of bash running on my Gnome desktop. 

BEGIN copysshenv


if [ -z "$PID" ];

sed -e 's/\x00/\n/g' < /proc/$PID/environ | awk '/SSH/ { print "export " $1}'

END copysshenv

Without any arguments, copysshenv checks it's own environment for the variables, which is only useful if you are running it in a shell that already has the right variables.  (And if that were our only requirement, we could have done it like this: env | grep SSH .)  The business with setting PID to $$ makes that happen.

The last line is the main one.  It uses sed to read in the contents of /proc/<proc id>/environ, which is a null-delimited group of strings, each one a key=value pair, one for each environmental variable.  The 's/\x00/\n/g' replaces all the nulls with newlines.  (Effectively, this re-implements the env command, but for any process, not just the current one.)  awk is used to filter for only ones relevant to SSH, and the print command outputs the variables, prepending "export " in front, making the output appropriate for "source"ing, like this:

jdimpson@artoo:~/bin$ `copysshenv  21527`

Now if you check the current environment with env, you'll see the SSH variables have been set.

Note that since /proc/<process id>/environ is owned by the user running the process, you can only get access to the environment of processes that you own.  Similarly, ssh-agent remains secure because the SSH_AUTH_SOCK file is also owned by the user running the ssh-agent process.  So you can't get access to someone else's SSH keys via this method, unless you are root, or the user has foolishly opened up permissions on both those files.