How To: Boot An SSH User

Today’s article will be pretty simple, though it will have a limited scope, as we discuss how to boot an SSH user. The vast majority of my regular readers are ‘simple’ desktop users. This article shouldn’t apply to them; if it does, something may have gone terribly wrong.

I need to point out that if you’re doing this for security reasons, you’ve done something wrong – or you’re getting ready to fire someone and want to ensure any logged-in accounts have been disconnected.

What is this article about?

Well, let’s say you have a server and people are logged in via SSH. Let’s also say you want to disconnect one of them. That is, you want to boot an SSH user. If you want to boot an SSH user, it’s remarkably similar to sending that SSH user a message. You might want to read that article:

Send A Message To Another Logged In User

We’ll be using similar tools, though we’ll also be using tools from this article:

How To: Kill Processes By Their PID (Process ID)

I strongly suggest that you read both of the two links. That will save you some time and I’m going to gloss over some details because one of the great things about previous articles is that it means I don’t have to duplicate work. The onus is yours to read those articles so that you’re familiar with the subject.

In case you haven’t put two and two together, we’re going to boot an SSH user by killing their process ID (PID). It’s a lovely way to do so, perfectly graceful ideally, and will accomplish the goal of booting said SSH user.

This might be something you do when you take a privileged user down to HR to fire them. When they head to HR (and are then led out of the building by security), you can kill any processes they have ownership of, including any SSH sessions they have open. In this case, we’re just going to learn how to boot an SSH user.

So, put on your steel-toed boots ’cause we’re going to boot an SSH user!

(I do… I crack me up!)

Boot An SSH User:

You’re going to need an open terminal and you’re going to need to be connected to the same SSH server(s) as the user. As this is a bit of an advanced article, I’m going to assume you know what those things mean. If you don’t know what those things mean, you probably shouldn’t be operating a server, and definitely shouldn’t be operating a server that has multiple people connected to it.

If you remember (or clicked to read) the previous article, we are going to start with the ‘who’ command. You can simply try this command:

That has all the information you need and you’re looking for the PID as that’s what we’re going to be using to boot the SSH user. We’ll be killing their PID and logging them out immediately. You only need the first field to identify them by username and the sixth field to know the PID. So, you can just use this command:

This will give you an output similar to this:

Using the first field to identify the user, you can see their PID. You can kill their process with the following command:

Or, for example:

If that doesn’t work, and sometimes a process can’t be killed, you can bring out the hammer and tell the kernel to drop the process. You should try the first way as it’s more graceful and using a hammer may result in a zombie process. But, if you want to bring out the hammer, you would use this command:

If the user is logged in more than once, you can boot the SSH user by adding the rest of their PIDs. You just simply add them to either of the two commands. For example:

And that’s how you boot multiple SSH users in one command.

Again, if you’re relying on this for security you’re doing it wrong. This should just be a part of the security process, such as when you’re letting someone go while they were still at their desk. You bring them to HR while security cleans their desk and IT make sure they’re logged out of any and every system. You then escort them out of the building.

Of course, there are probably other reasons why you might want to boot an SSH user. It’s your system, you can decide what to do. You shouldn’t be using this to boot an adversarial SSH connection because if it has reached that point you’re doing security very, very wrong.


So, why not? We might as well have an article about how you boot an SSH user. It does not apply to much of my readership, but it’s certainly something worth knowing. It was also tied into a couple of earlier articles, including one from yesterday, so I figured I’d cover this subject while it was still fresh in my memory.

That memory ain’t what it once was! Welcome to old age!

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