Use Only FIPS 140-2 Validated Ciphers


Limit the ciphers to those algorithms which are FIPS-approved. Counter (CTR) mode is also preferred over cipher-block chaining (CBC) mode. The following line in /etc/ssh/sshd_config demonstrates use of FIPS-approved ciphers:

Ciphers aes128-ctr,aes192-ctr,aes256-ctr,aes128-cbc,3des-cbc,aes192-cbc,aes256-cbc

The man page sshd_config(5) contains a list of supported ciphers.

The rule is parametrized to use the following ciphers: aes128-ctr,aes192-ctr,aes256-ctr,aes128-cbc,3des-cbc,aes192-cbc,aes256-cbc,


Unapproved mechanisms that are used for authentication to the cryptographic module are not verified and therefore cannot be relied upon to provide confidentiality or integrity, and system data may be compromised.

Operating systems utilizing encryption are required to use FIPS-compliant mechanisms for authenticating to cryptographic modules.

FIPS 140-2 is the current standard for validating that mechanisms used to access cryptographic modules utilize authentication that meets industry and government requirements. For government systems, this allows Security Levels 1, 2, 3, or 4 for use on Ubuntu 20.04.


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


# Strip any search characters in the key arg so that the key can be replaced without
# adding any search characters to the config file.
stripped_key=$(sed 's/[\^=\$,;+]*//g' <<< "^Ciphers")

# shellcheck disable=SC2059
printf -v formatted_output "%s %s" "$stripped_key" "$sshd_approved_ciphers"

# If the key exists, change it. Otherwise, add it to the config_file.
# We search for the key string followed by a word boundary (matched by \>),
# so if we search for 'setting', 'setting2' won't match.
if LC_ALL=C grep -q -m 1 -i -e "^Ciphers\\>" "/etc/ssh/sshd_config"; then
    escaped_formatted_output=$(sed -e 's|/|\\/|g' <<< "$formatted_output")
    LC_ALL=C sed -i --follow-symlinks "s/^Ciphers\\>.*/$escaped_formatted_output/gi" "/etc/ssh/sshd_config"
    if [[ -s "/etc/ssh/sshd_config" ]] && [[ -n "$(tail -c 1 -- "/etc/ssh/sshd_config" || true)" ]]; then
        LC_ALL=C sed -i --follow-symlinks '$a'\\ "/etc/ssh/sshd_config"
    printf '%s\n' "$formatted_output" >> "/etc/ssh/sshd_config"

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

Ansible playbook

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

- name: XCCDF Value sshd_approved_ciphers # promote to variable
    sshd_approved_ciphers: !!str aes128-ctr,aes192-ctr,aes256-ctr,aes128-cbc,3des-cbc,aes192-cbc,aes256-cbc,
    - always

- name: Use Only FIPS 140-2 Validated Ciphers

  - name: Check for duplicate values
      path: /etc/ssh/sshd_config
      create: true
      regexp: (?i)^\s*Ciphers\s+
      state: absent
    check_mode: true
    changed_when: false
    register: dupes

  - name: Deduplicate values from /etc/ssh/sshd_config
      path: /etc/ssh/sshd_config
      create: true
      regexp: (?i)^\s*Ciphers\s+
      state: absent
    when: dupes.found is defined and dupes.found > 1

  - name: Insert correct line to /etc/ssh/sshd_config
      path: /etc/ssh/sshd_config
      create: true
      regexp: (?i)^\s*Ciphers\s+
      line: Ciphers {{ sshd_approved_ciphers }}
      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
  - NIST-800-171-3.1.13
  - NIST-800-171-3.13.11
  - NIST-800-171-3.13.8
  - NIST-800-53-AC-17(2)
  - NIST-800-53-AC-17(a)
  - NIST-800-53-CM-6(a)
  - NIST-800-53-IA-5(1)(c)
  - NIST-800-53-MA-4(6)
  - NIST-800-53-SC-12(2)
  - NIST-800-53-SC-12(3)
  - NIST-800-53-SC-13
  - PCI-DSSv4-2.2.7
  - low_complexity
  - low_disruption
  - medium_severity
  - no_reboot_needed
  - restrict_strategy
  - sshd_use_approved_ciphers


The system needs to be rebooted for these changes to take effect.