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Changing private keys on Amazon (AWS) EC2 instances (authorized_keys)

It is unfortunate, but as CEOs of small start-up companies, sometimes we have to fire key players of our organizations. Nowadays, for many IT organizations entire infrastructure runs in the cloud (Amazon AWS, for example). As a result of unfortunate events we need to take necessary security measures and forbid access to our infrastructure. Even though it is easy to change password to AWS console, changing SSH keys is not that trivial. Below please find several steps that need to be performed to change keys on your running AWS instances.

  1. Login into AWS management console. Go the EC2 tab, then select “Key Pairs”->”Create Key Pair” to generate a new private key, which will start downloading immediately. This is your private key that you cannot loose, so save it in a safe place.
  2. Upload new key file to one of the instances where you want to change the keys. DO NOT FORGET TO DELETE THIS FILE ONCE ALL THESE STEPS ARE COMPLETED.
  3. Just in case, change permissions on the file by running “chmod 0600 FILENAME.pem”.
  4. Run ‘ssh-keygen -y’ command next, where you will then be prompted for the private key file path. Upon completion, you should get an output on your console of the public key, which you will need to save.
  5. Change directory to /home/USER/.ssh and open authorized_keys file for editing. Now, here you can either add to or replace the old value with newly generated public key value. If added to, you will be able to use both keys. I would recommend doing that to make sure new key works and then remove the old key once validated.
  6. Remember to start all your new Amazon EC2 instances with new key pair.