What is Bastion host?

Bharat Kalluri / 2020-11-14

The function of a bastion host is to provide a safe and secure entry point into servers/instances in the private cluster/subnet.

It is not advised for servers to have a public IP. Usually in set ups involving AWS, the server runs on an auto scaling group. And there will be a load balancer sitting in front of the auto scaling group serving the website/API's. The servers are placed in a private subnet, none of them will get a public IP, which also implies direct SSH is also not possible. This is a good thing. But there is sometimes a need to login into the server to check on processes. In that case, there will be a dummy instance in the public subnet which also has a public IP. Since they are in the same VPC, SSH can be done from the this dummy instance. This dummy instance is called as a bastion host.

Bastion host infra illustration
So now to SSH into the server, we first SSH into the bastion host and then SSH into the server. Now since this is a single entry point into your private subnets, it is very important to make sure that this system is hardened security wise. Have a SSH key with a strong password, allow SSH only through particular IP's and make sure the bastion host is shut down when no one is accessing the private systems.

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