Disable SSH Access via Empty Passwords

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Disallow SSH login with empty passwords. The default SSH configuration disables logins with empty passwords. The appropriate configuration is used if no value is set for PermitEmptyPasswords.

To explicitly disallow SSH login from accounts with empty passwords, add or correct the following line in


PermitEmptyPasswords no

Any accounts with empty passwords should be disabled immediately, and PAM configuration should prevent users from being able to assign themselves empty passwords.


Configuring this setting for the SSH daemon provides additional assurance that remote login via SSH will require a password, even in the event of misconfiguration elsewhere.


Shell script

The following script can be run on the host to remediate the issue.


# Remediation is applicable only in certain platforms
if [ ! -f /.dockerenv ] && [ ! -f /run/.containerenv ]; then

mkdir -p /etc/ssh/sshd_config.d
touch /etc/ssh/sshd_config.d/01-complianceascode-reinforce-os-defaults.conf

LC_ALL=C sed -i "/^\s*PermitEmptyPasswords\s\+/Id" "/etc/ssh/sshd_config"
LC_ALL=C sed -i "/^\s*PermitEmptyPasswords\s\+/Id" "/etc/ssh/sshd_config.d"/*.conf
if [ -e "/etc/ssh/sshd_config.d/01-complianceascode-reinforce-os-defaults.conf" ] ; then
    LC_ALL=C sed -i "/^\s*PermitEmptyPasswords\s\+/Id" "/etc/ssh/sshd_config.d/01-complianceascode-reinforce-os-defaults.conf"
    touch "/etc/ssh/sshd_config.d/01-complianceascode-reinforce-os-defaults.conf"
# make sure file has newline at the end
sed -i -e '$a\' "/etc/ssh/sshd_config.d/01-complianceascode-reinforce-os-defaults.conf"

cp "/etc/ssh/sshd_config.d/01-complianceascode-reinforce-os-defaults.conf" "/etc/ssh/sshd_config.d/01-complianceascode-reinforce-os-defaults.conf.bak"
# Insert at the beginning of the file
printf '%s\n' "PermitEmptyPasswords no" > "/etc/ssh/sshd_config.d/01-complianceascode-reinforce-os-defaults.conf"
cat "/etc/ssh/sshd_config.d/01-complianceascode-reinforce-os-defaults.conf.bak" >> "/etc/ssh/sshd_config.d/01-complianceascode-reinforce-os-defaults.conf"
# Clean up after ourselves.
rm "/etc/ssh/sshd_config.d/01-complianceascode-reinforce-os-defaults.conf.bak"

    >&2 echo 'Remediation is not applicable, nothing was done'

Ansible playbook

The following playbook can be run with Ansible to remediate the issue.

- name: Disable SSH Access via Empty Passwords

  - name: Deduplicate values from /etc/ssh/sshd_config
      path: /etc/ssh/sshd_config
      create: false
      regexp: (?i)^\s*{{ "PermitEmptyPasswords"| regex_escape }}\s+
      state: absent

  - name: Check if /etc/ssh/sshd_config.d exists
      path: /etc/ssh/sshd_config.d
    register: _etc_ssh_sshd_config_d_exists

  - name: Check if the parameter PermitEmptyPasswords is present in /etc/ssh/sshd_config.d
      paths: /etc/ssh/sshd_config.d
      recurse: 'yes'
      follow: 'no'
      contains: (?i)^\s*{{ "PermitEmptyPasswords"| regex_escape }}\s+
    register: _etc_ssh_sshd_config_d_has_parameter
    when: _etc_ssh_sshd_config_d_exists.stat.isdir is defined and _etc_ssh_sshd_config_d_exists.stat.isdir

  - name: Remove parameter from files in /etc/ssh/sshd_config.d
      path: '{{ item.path }}'
      create: false
      regexp: (?i)^\s*{{ "PermitEmptyPasswords"| regex_escape }}\s+
      state: absent
    with_items: '{{ _etc_ssh_sshd_config_d_has_parameter.files }}'
    when: _etc_ssh_sshd_config_d_has_parameter.matched

  - name: Insert correct line to /etc/ssh/sshd_config.d/01-complianceascode-reinforce-os-defaults.conf
      path: /etc/ssh/sshd_config.d/01-complianceascode-reinforce-os-defaults.conf
      create: true
      regexp: (?i)^\s*{{ "PermitEmptyPasswords"| regex_escape }}\s+
      line: PermitEmptyPasswords no
      state: present
      insertbefore: BOF
      validate: /usr/sbin/sshd -t -f %s
  when: ansible_virtualization_type not in ["docker", "lxc", "openvz", "podman", "container"]
  - CJIS-5.5.6
  - DISA-STIG-UBTU-20-010047
  - NIST-800-171-3.1.1
  - NIST-800-171-3.1.5
  - NIST-800-53-AC-17(a)
  - NIST-800-53-CM-6(a)
  - NIST-800-53-CM-7(a)
  - NIST-800-53-CM-7(b)
  - PCI-DSS-Req-2.2.4
  - PCI-DSSv4-2.2.6
  - high_severity
  - low_complexity
  - low_disruption
  - no_reboot_needed
  - restrict_strategy
  - sshd_disable_empty_passwords