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Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)


NERSC users are required to use Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) for logging into NERSC resources. MFA provides greater protection than regular passwords against phishing and other modern threats to your digital security. With NERSC's MFA, you authenticate using your NERSC password plus a "one-time password" (OTP). As the name implies, you can use an OTP only once.


MFA at NERSC makes use of an app that you install on your mobile device, which you configure through Iris (If you do not have an iOS or Android mobile device, see below for alternatives). The authenticator presents a 6-digit password that changes every 30 seconds. Each password can be used only one time, thus the name "one time password" or "OTP." When you log into an MFA-enabled system, you will enter your NERSC password followed by the OTP displayed on your authenticator app.

Configuring and Using an MFA Token

The one-time password entry in the authenticator app is sometimes called a "token," or more specifically, a "soft token." To use MFA, you create a token for NERSC and install it on the authenticator app.

The four basic steps for configuring your NERSC token are:

flowchart LR
  first[Install the authenticator app]
  second[Enable MFA in your Iris account]
  third[Generate a NERSC OTP token via Iris]
  fourth[Install the token on the authenticator app]
  first --> second --> third --> fourth

Installing the Authenticator App

NERSC primarily supports the Google Authenticator app, which runs on an Android or iOS device. Other TOTP (Time-based OTP) authenticator apps can work, too - you can search for "TOTP" to find other options.

If you do not have such a device, NERSC also supports and provides instructions for desktop tools, a desktop app for Mac, Windows and Linux computers.

You can download Google Authenticator for Android on the Google Play Store; or Google Authenticator for Apple on the Apple Store.

Please note that you do not need to have a cell phone signal or WiFi to use Google Authenticator since OTPs are generatedusing the internal clock in your device. Once configured, you can use the app without any phone or internet service.

Creating and Installing a Token

In this step you will "connect" the app on your mobile device to your Iris account. You first create a token in Iris, and then install it on your app.

Login to your Iris account using your login ID, NERSC password and OTP at The login page looks as shown below:

Iris login page

After you login, click the 'MFA' tab:

Iris MFA table

To add a new token, first add a descriptive text in the 'Description' box.

Iris MFA token description

In the above example ("my phone"), the user is trying to generate a token that will be used with the Google Authenticator on a phone. If you have more than one token from different devices, you can add a proper description for each token for your reference.

Click the '+ Add Token' button. Then, the webpage will display a token and a QR code that is to be scanned into your device. Note the token ID (e.g., TOTP45564581).

Iris MFA token

Using Google Authenticator

If you use Google Authenticator, start up the app on your device and click the red '+' button on the bottom right (in case of an Android device), then 'Scan a barcode'.

Google authenticator scan a barcode on Android

On Apple devices, look for the '+' sign at the top right of the app:

Google authenticator scar a barcode on Apple

If necessary, allow the app to access your camera, and point the camera at the QR code.

If you prefer not to scan the QR code with your device's camera, select 'Enter a provided key' and enter the 'secret' field value shown in the MFA token. For the 'Account name' field, you can use the TOTP number shown in the MFA token (e.g., NERSC-TOTP18941BFC). Then, select 'Time based'.

After either scanning the QR code or entering the secret code manually, it should register automatically and then show the new token in your list. Your mobile device is now connected to your Iris account for MFA logins.

When you add the token on your device, the token name, in the form of NERSC-_nersc_login_id-token_id_ (NERSC-elvis-TOTP18941BFC in the above example), appears in the far left side under the token list on your device.

Using Desktop Tools

There are several apps with the TOTP functionality that all work on Mac, Windows and Linux desktop/laptop computers. Below is a selected list. Many are password managers that can generate OTPs for accounts associated with the stored passwords.

Name App type Free?
KeePassXC Password manager Yes
Bitwarden Password manager TOTP functionality only for paid users
1Password Password manager No
Keeper Password manager No
Yubico Authenticator Authenticator Need to buy a hardware token, Yubikey

For KeePassXC, please use the NIST approved AES256 algorithm for encrypting their keystore (in 'Advanced Settings' for 'Encryption Settings').

Some tools such as KeePassXC don't accept dashes in a secret code. If Iris displays 'A2B3-C4D5-...', for example, you need to enter 'A2B3C4D5...'.

Many password managers, including those listed above, are also available as web browser extensions. Others are provided as browser extensions only. There are other TOTP authenticator browser extensions that may work, too.

macOS (Monterey or newer) has a built-in TOTP functionality for password items stored in iCloud Keychain. If you decide to use the capability, below is what to do:

  1. Make sure to turn on iCloud Keychain on your Mac, following the Setup iCloud Keychain directions.
  2. Choose 'Apple menu > System Settings...' from the top menu bar.
  3. Click 'Passwords' from the side bar menu and unlock with your Mac password. The listed password items are those in iCloud Keychain.
  4. If your NERSC password item is not there, create one first, by clicking '+' and selecting 'New Password'.
  5. Right-click on the password item in question and select 'Details...' (or simply click the information icon). Click 'Edit'.
  6. Scroll down and enter the secret code of a MFA token in the 'Verification Code' field. Click 'Save'.

An OTP is then displayed in the Verification Code field. You can use a different Apple device with the same Apple ID as it will show the identical OTP. As a bonus, when connecting to the website for a password item in the Keychain, Safari autofills the password and OTP fields for you.

Please compare the options above and other tools not mentioned, and use the one that best suits the needs in your working environment. If none of the above work, please reach out to NERSC support for help.

Testing Your New Token

To test if the new token is set correctly, click on the 'Test' button for the token in Iris, and you will see the following:

Iris MFA test dialog

Enter the one time password generated on your authenticator app in the 'Password' field (do not enter your NERSC password). Then, click on the 'Test!' button. If everything is successfully configured, the Iris page will show 'Success':

Iris FA test dialog, success

Multiple Tokens

If you have more than one mobile device, you can create a token for each one. For example, you can have one for each phone and also for a tablet, as shown below:

List of MFA tokens in Iris

You can have up to 4 tokens.

When you login to NERSC resources, you can use any token for authentication, and do not have to specify which one you will use – the server will match your one-time password against all of the tokens that you have created.

Checking and Managing Tokens

You can view all the tokens you have created from the 'MFA' tab in Iris (see the picture above).

Deleting a Token

If you don't need a particular token any more, you can delete it. Select the token in Iris that you want to remove and press the '- Delete' button.

Backup OTPs

If you lose your device or don't have it with you, you cannot log in. Backup passwords are a small set of one-time passwords that you can use if you don't have your mobile device on-hand.

Click the 'Backup Passwords' button to generate backup OTPs:

Back One-time passwords in Iris

Please print or store these passwords in a document and keep in a safe place. When you need one, you simply enter the first unused password on the list and then scratch it out. Next time you need a backup password, you enter the next password on the list, and so on. You must use the passwords in the order given to you by Iris.

Note that if you generate a new set of backup OTPs, any unused ones generated previously become invalid.

If You Lost Your Tokens

If your MFA tokens are lost permanently (for example, you replaced your mobile device) or if you are a first-time user and didn't complete the MFA token configuration process before logging out of Iris, you can request a one-time password that can be used for you to log into Iris for setting up an MFA token. Please follow the steps below.

  1. Click the 'MFA not working?' link on the Iris login page.

  2. Enter your username and password. Click OK.

    Iris: Lost your tokens, username and password

  3. A dialog box shows up and asks if you want to create a MFA token. Click OK.

    Iris: Lost your tokens, confirmation

  4. A new dialog box will show up.

    Iris: Lost your tokens, request accepted

  5. If you have entered the correct password, NERSC will send an email. The email contains a single-use OTP.

  6. Use it to login to Iris. Create and install a new MFA token. If your previous MFA tokens are lost forever, make sure to delete them all.

Using MFA with SSH

The simplest way to use MFA with ssh is to ssh to a NERSC system. When you login with ssh to a NERSC machine, you will be prompted to enter 'Password + OTP':

$ ssh
 *                                                               *
 *                      NOTICE TO USERS                          *
 *                      ---------------                          *
Password + OTP:

Open your authenticator app and read the OTP code corresponding to the token generated for your device:

Google authenticator OTP codes

Enter your NERSC password immediately followed by the OTP, all in one line at the "Password + OTP: " prompt. For example, if your NERSC password is iL0ve_Burrit0\$ and your app shows 015 691, as displayed in the screenshot, you must type iL0ve_Burrit0$015691. (Don't type the space shown in the app).


NERSC has developed a service, called sshproxy, that allows you to use MFA to get an ssh key that is valid for a limited time (24 hours by default). sshproxy provides a type of single-sign-on capability for ssh to NERSC systems. Once you have obtained a key, you can use it to ssh to NERSC systems without further authentication until the key expires.

The sshproxy service uses a RESTful API for requesting keys. NERSC provides a bash client script that you can use from the command line on a Unix-like computer.

sshproxy on Unix-like Systems (macOS, Cygwin and Windows Subsystem for Linux included)

Installing the Client

You can download the bash client via scp:

scp .

where myusername is your NERSC login ID. The above command uses a data transfer node (dtn01), but you can use any machine which you can access that can access the Community file system.

Using sshproxy

The sshproxy client, without any arguments, will use your local username, and obtain an ssh key with the default lifetime (24 hours). The private and public key will have the names nersc and, and will be stored in your ~/.ssh directory.

Run the script from where you installed it. The script will prompt you to enter your password and OTP, in the same manner as you would do to ssh to a NERSC system with MFA:

$ ./ -u <nersc_username>
Enter your password+OTP:

Enter your NERSC password immediately followed by OTP as a single string, as before. Upon successfully authenticating, the client will install an ssh key and display a message showing the path to the key pair installed on your local computer and the expiration date and time for the keys. By default, the name of the files will be ~/.ssh/nersc and ~/.ssh/ (you can change the name with a command-line argument).


A quote character in your password could cause to fail. This is a limitation of the script - you can either change your password to not contain quotes, or login without using by entering your password and OTP each time you login

$ ./ -u elvis
Enter your password+OTP:
Successfully obtained ssh key /Users/elvis/.ssh/nersc
Key /Users/elvis/.ssh/nersc is valid: from 2018-08-30T12:24:00 to 2018-08-31T12:25:52

You will see three ssh key files (private and public keys, and a certificate containing the corresponding public key) installed in the ~/.ssh directory on your computer:

$ ls -l ~/.ssh/nersc*
-rw-------  1 elvis  elvis  3179 Aug 30 12:25 /Users/elvis/.ssh/nersc
-rw-------  1 elvis  elvis  1501 Aug 30 12:25 /Users/elvis/.ssh/
-rw-------  1 elvis  elvis  1501 Aug 30 12:25 /Users/elvis/.ssh/

The above example shows that an ssh key pair has been created on your local machine. With these keys, you can ssh to NERSC machines without further authentication until these keys expire.

Checking Certificate Expiration

You can check the expiration date and time of an existing ssh key pair. If the ssh key certificate file is ~/.ssh/, run the following command on your local computer:

$ ssh-keygen -L -f ~/.ssh/ | grep Valid
        Valid: from 2018-08-30T12:24:00 to 2018-08-31T12:25:52

Please note that the times printed are local time (your computer's time), not NERSC time (Pacific Time).

Using sshproxy Keys

You can use the keys you get from the sshproxy to log into NERSC systems by specifying the key file on the command line. For example, to log into with a key named nersc:

ssh -l <nersc_username> -i ~/.ssh/nersc

This will allow you to log in without having to authenticate again. The -l option allows you to pass a username other than the one on your local computer.

sshproxy Command-line Options has several command-line options to override its default behavior. You can run -h to get a help message.

$ ./ -h
Usage: [-u <user>] [-o <filename>] [-s <scope>] [-c <account>] [-p] [-a] [-x <proxy-URL>] [-U <server URL>] [-v] [-h]
         -u <user>  Specify remote (NERSC) username
                        (default: <your_login_name>)
         -o <filename>  Specify pathname for private key
                        (default: <your_home_directory>/.ssh/nersc)
         -s <scope>     Specify scope (default: 'default')
         -p             Get keys in PuTTY compatible (ppk) format
         -a             Add key to ssh-agent (with expiration)
         -c <account>   Specify a collaboration account (no default)
         -x <URL>       Specify alternate URL for sshproxy server
                        (format: <protocol>://<host>[:port], see curl manpage
                        section on --proxy for details)
         -U <URL>       Specify alternate URL for sshproxy server
                        (generally only used for testing purposes)
         -v             Print version number and exit
         -h             Print this usage message and exit

If your NERSC username is not the same as your local username, you can specify your NERSC username with the -u option:

./ -u myusername

If you would like to have a different name for the ssh key file, you can use the -o option to specify the output filename:

./ -o mynersc

Note the -a option can be used to automatically add the new key to your ssh-agent. It will also be set with an expiration that matches the keys expiration so that ssh does not try to use the key after it has expired.

If your computer has an old version of ssh (e.g., OpenSSH_7.2), you may have to use the -a flag. Otherwise, ssh and scp commands will require additional flags to work as in the example cases shown below. To see the version info, run the command, ssh -V.

To generate an key for a collaboration account, use the -c option followed by the name of the collaboration account. You will authenticate using your personal password and MFA token. For example, here is how you would create a key for the collaboration account "cacct" for user "elvis". The generated key will have the same name as the collaboration account (e.g., cacct).

./ -u elvis -c cacct
Long-term SSH Keys

The scope option (-s flag) is to accommodate special needs for your work. For cases where an automatic workflow requires long-term key you must make a request for a long term key. All requests are subject to review and if your request is approved we will provide information on how to set the scope.

SSH Configuration File Options

We recommend some options to put in your ssh config file. These options help avoid some potential problems with expiring ssh keys, and provide default key filenames to ssh so that you don't have to specify the key on the command line every time you use ssh. These options can all be overridden on the command-line at any time.

If you typically use only the default nersc key from sshproxy, you can modify your ssh config file to automatically use that key, instead of having to specify it on the command line every time. To do so, edit the file ~/.ssh/config on your local computer to include the following lines:

Host perlmutter* saul* dtn*
    User <myusername>
    IdentityFile ~/.ssh/nersc
    IdentitiesOnly yes
    ForwardAgent yes

With that entry, whenever you ssh to one of those NERSC systems, your ssh client will automatically use your proxy key. If your local username is the same as your NERSC username, then you do not need to add the User <myusername> line. Otherwise substitute your NERSC username for <myusername>.

If your ssh client does not present a valid ssh key to the ssh server, the server will prompt you to authenticate with NERSC password + OTP. Neither the server nor the client will tell you that your key has expired.

After you set up ssh keys as above, you login with ssh to a NERSC computational machine without further authentication, as long as the keys haven't expired:

$ ssh
 *                                                               *
 *                      NOTICE TO USERS                          *
 *                      ---------------                          *
$                    # You're on Perlmutter

After you log in, you can build your code, submit batch jobs, debug your code, etc. as you would normally do on any login node.

You can transfer a file to or from a NERSC machine with scp, in the same manner as you use ssh:

$ scp myfile
 *                                                               *
 *                      NOTICE TO USERS                          *
 *                      ---------------                          *
myfile                                        100%   13     0.5KB/s   00:00

You will not be prompted to authenticate, either.

sshproxy on Windows Systems

There is an sshproxy client that supports PuTTY, a popular Windows SSH tool. Upon successful authentication to the sshproxy server, the client generates an ssh private key in the PPK (PuTTY Private Key) format that is to be used for connecting to a NERSC computational host with PuTTY or tools that support this format. With the key file, you can ssh to NERSC hosts without further authentication for key's lifetime (24 hours by default).

Installing the Client

Use your favorite file transfer tool and download the following Windows executable:

Using sshproxy

Open Windows 'Command Prompt,' the command-line interpreter. A quick way to get a Command Prompt terminal is by typing CMD in your Windows search box. Run the downloaded executable with your NERSC username:

C:\Users\myaccount\Documents>sshproxy.exe -u <username>

where <username> is your NERSC login ID. You will be prompted to enter your NERSC password and OTP. Enter your NERSC password immediately followed by OTP as a single string, as before. Upon successfully authenticating, the client will install a PPK file in the current directory and display a message about what to do next:

C:\Users\myaccount\Documents>sshproxy.exe -u <username>
Enter the password+OTP for <sername>: ***************
Key was written to nersckey.ppk.
Run "pageant nersckey.ppk" to load the key.
Then run putty instances like this: putty -agent <username>

 Directory of C:\Users\myaccount\Documents
03/03/2019  05:20 PM             1,438 nersckey.ppk
sshproxy Command-line Options

sshproxy.exe has several command-line options to override its default behavior. You can run sshproxy.exe -h to get a help message:

C:\Users\myaccount\Documents>sshproxy.exe -h
   sshproxy - sshproxy grabs keys from NERSC

   sshproxy.exe [global options] command [command options] [arguments...]


     help, h  Shows a list of commands or help for one command

   --debug, -d               Debug logging
   --user value, -u value    Specify remote (NERSC) username
   --output value, -o value  Specify pathname for private key (default: "nersckey.ppk")
   --scope value, -s value   key scope (default: "default")
   --collab value, -c value  Specify a collaboration account
   --server value, -U value  server to grab keys from (default: "")
   --help, -h                show help
   --version, -v             print the version

If you would like to have a different name for the PPK file, you can use the -o option to specify the output filename:

C:\Users\myaccount\Documents>sshproxy.exe -u myusername -o mynersc.ppk
Long-term SSH Key

The scope option (-s flag) is to accommodate special needs for your work. For cases where an automatic workflow requires long-term key you must make a request for a long term key. All requests are subject to review and if your request is approved we will provide information on how to set the scope.

Loading the Key into Pageant

As the sshproxy.exe command output message suggests, you must load this key into Pageant, PuTTY's ssh authentication agent (similar to the Unix counter-part, ssh-agent):

C:\Users\myaccount\Documents>pageant nersckey.ppk

By loading the key in Pageant, you can ssh to NERSC machines without further authentication until the key expires (24 hours by default).

If you see an error message that the PPK file is not "a recognized key file format," one possible suspect is that your authentication to the sshproxy server was not successful. Try running the sshproxy.exe command again.

Note that you have to rerun the command after you log out from the Windows machine and log back in if you want to use a unexpired PPK file that was generated previously. You can avoid this manual step by creating a PuTTY configuration as explained in the next subsection.

Login to NERSC Machines

As the sshproxy.exe command output message above suggests, you can ssh to a NERSC host using Pageant with the command:

C:\Users\myaccount\Documents>putty -pageant

Then, a PuTTY window pops up that shows you are on Perlmutter.

Note that, if this is the first time to login to the host, you may see a 'PuTTY Security Alert' window about the new host key encountered. If the key matches what is shown on the NERSC index page, click the 'Yes' button.

If you are going to use the same PPK file name for all ssh sessions, you can set PuTTY configuration for using the PPK file. Then, you don't have to run the pageant command above each time you run sshproxy.exe or when you log out from the Windows machine and log back in. To set the configuration, click on the PuTTY icon on your machine. Let's say that you want to create a configuration for connecting to Perlmutter,

  • Put in the 'Host Name (or IP address)' field.

  • After selecting the 'Connection' category and 'Credentials' from the 'Auth' submenu, click the 'Browse...' button in the 'Private key file for authentication' field to select a PPK file.

  • Go back to the 'Session' category. Put a name in the 'Saved Sessions' field (e.g., perlmutter) and click the 'Save' button to save the configuration.

Screenshot of PuTTy configuration {: align="center" } Screenshot of PuTTy configuration {: align="center" } Screenshot of PuTTy configuration

When you want to login to Perlmutter next time, you choose that configuration in the 'Saved Sessions' area, click the 'Load' button and then 'Open'.

Login Attempts with an Expired Key

If you try to login with an expired key, the server will not tell you that the key has expired. It will just prompt you to login with MFA, as if you did not have an ssh key:

$ ssh
 *                                                               *
 *                      NOTICE TO USERS                          *
 *                      ---------------                          *
Password + OTP:

You can generate new ssh keys by running the script at any time, as shown in the 'Using sshproxy' section above.

Host-Based Authentication

NERSC HPC hosts are configured to use ssh "host-based" authentication for logins among NERSC hosts. This means that, once you log in to a NERSC host from a remote host, you can ssh from there to another without having to authenticate.

$ ssh
 *                                                               *
 *                      NOTICE TO USERS                          *
 *                      ---------------                          *
$ echo $NERSC_HOST  # You're on Perlmutter

$ ssh dtn01
                            NOTICE TO USERS
$ echo $NERSC_HOST         # You're on dtn01

Since host based authentication is enabled with NoMachine, you can go to Perlmutter from NoMachine without any authentication.


Host-based authentication is currently not working on Perlmutter

MFA for NoMachine

To authenticate to NoMachine, you can use either the ssh keys generated with sshproxy or your NERSC password plus an OTP. Once logged into NoMachine, no further authentication is required to connect to Perlmutter, or DTNs.

MFA for MyProxy

The NERSC MyProxy service will require MFA-enabled users to authenticate using their password and OTP.

MFA for Web Services

Most NERSC web sites authenticate users using an authentication service, Shibboleth, which provides single sign-on capability across participating sites. This means, once you have authenticated to one NERSC site, you will be able to access all other sites using that service without having to authenticate again for 24 hours. Shibboleth will require MFA-enabled users to enter their OTP in addition to their password.

Sites that use Shibboleth will present a login page displays NERSC login banner as shown below. Login with your NERSC user name and password.

NERSC login page

Then, you will be prompted to enter an OTP:

NERSC login page, one-time password prompt

A few NERSC sites do not use Shibboleth for various technical reasons. For those sites, single sign-on is unavailable and you will have to individually authenticate to them using MFA. Login using NERSC password and an OTP: login page

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

(Q) I don't have a smartphone or tablet. What do I do?

Please check the Using Desktop Tools section above.

We encourage you to install the app or a web extension on a different machine from the one you use to connect to NERSC for a security reasons.

(Q) Can I use OTPs generated on a device with clock drift?

This can happen a cellphone when traveling overseas with no cell phone connectivity.

The NERSC server adjusts for your clock skew and will drift with it, as long as each drift is less than 180 seconds. Where you will have a problem is if your clock drifts more than 180 seconds between successive MFA authentications. Most often that happens when your phone clock has been drifting for a while, then you get it online again, it syncs to the cell tower, and the clock suddenly changes by a large amount. In that case, the solution we have at the moment is to delete the token and have you create a new one.

(Q) What if I lose my device?

If you have another device where you have configured a NERSC MFA token with its app, you should log into your Iris account as soon as possible and delete all the MFA tokens associated with the lost device.

If you have no other device, please follow the instructions in the 'If You Lost Your Tokens' section, to get an OTP that you will use to login into your Iris account.

(Q) I have two devices. How do I copy or transfer my token from one to the other?

If you are using Google Authenticator, then follow Google's instructions under the section "Transfer Google Authenticator codes to a new phone".

Alternatively, when Iris generates a QR code along with the "secret" code (see the 'Creating and Installing a Token' section), you can create a token on each device using the same QR or secret code, if you want. Then, if multiple devices' internal clocks are running at the same rate and the time on the devices is the same, the authenticator apps on the multiple devices will show the identical OTP.

(Q) MFA is enabled for my account but I didn't set a MFA token on an authenticator app. How can I log into Iris to set it up?

Please follow the instructions in the 'If You Lost Your Tokens' section, to get an OTP that you will use to login into your Iris account in order to setup a MFA token.

(Q) I have enabled MFA. My logins fail repeatedly. What should I do?

If this is with a particular host (Perlmutter, etc.) only, then login to your Iris account. Select the 'Profile' tab, and click the 'Account Locked?' button, and click the 'Unlock Account' button in a dialog box that will appear. That will clear login failures that may have accumulated for the host. Then, try to login to the host again.

If you enter incorrect OTPs too many times, the NERSC MFA server locks you out. In that case, you have to wait for 15 minutes before you try again.

If you are using ssh keys generated via for authentication, check if the keys have expired.

A popular way of using ssh key authentication is via ssh-agent, the "authentication agent." You add an ssh private key to ssh-agent and it uses the key to authenticate to a remote host that has the matching public key. You may be knowingly or unknowingly using this method (especially, when you use the -a option with Ssh-agent goes through the saved keys one by one to see if the correct key is found. If it cannot find the matching key within 6 tries, ssh authentication fails. When you have many keys stored in ssh-agent, including the correct one, login can fail if the correct key is not selected within the first 6 tries. To see how many keys are stored in ssh-agent, run the command ssh-add -l on your laptop/desktop. If you see many keys there, you can delete all of them with the command ssh-add -D and run the command again. You can also selectively remove an individual key with the -d flag (for info, see the ssh-add man page).

If you added an ssh key in ssh-agent by running a -a ... command in a previous login session for your local machine (that is, you logged out from your local desktop/laptop and logged back in now) and if you still want to use the key for ssh'ing to NERSC hosts, make sure you have the key added to ssh-agent manually.

If you don't remember your password, then follow the steps in the 'Forgotten Passwords' section.

If all your MFA tokens don't seem to work, click the 'Lost your tokens?' link in the Iris login page) to request for a single-use OTP that you can use to login to your Iris account. Delete all the MFA tokens in Iris, and create a new one.

(Q) Can I use the same OTP to login to multiple resources?

No, it will not work. It's because an OTP (One Time Password) can be used only once for authentication. You have to wait until the next 30-second time window starts to get a new OTP.

(Q) We are running automated jobs on NERSC machines. How can we continue to do this with MFA?

Please try the sshproxy service. It currently serves keys that are good for 24 hours, but longer ones are possible, depending on what your needs are. To request for long-term keys you need to supply additional details about your workflow so that we may review the request.

(Q) What if a NERSC resource doesn't support MFA yet?

You can login to that resource with your NERSC password only.

(Q) How can I use a tool that requires authentication to a NERSC host?


  • BBEdit
  • FileZilla
  • WinSCP
  • etc

If the tool supports ssh key authentication, you can use the SSH keys generated by the sshproxy client. In that case, the settings in the 'SSH configuration File Options' section above can be the only thing required for authenticating properly. Please check the tool's user manual or documentation for specific info. BBEdit and FileZilla support ssh key authentication although FileZilla appears to require some manual setup.

If you use WinSCP, select 'SCP' in the 'File protocol' field and enter your username in the 'User name' field in the 'Login' window. Leave the 'Password' field blank. Then, click the 'Login' button. Click 'Continue' in the 'Authentication Banner' window. Then, you will see the 'Server prompt' window where you enter your password immediately followed by an OTP.

(Q) Can I access 3rd party hosts from NERSC with my personal ssh keys?

Yes. SSH keys generated on your laptop/desktop with the public key stored in a 3rd part host such as GitHub or GitLab can be used via SSH Agent Forwarding.

If your laptop/desktop is a Linux-like machine, set ForwardAgent yes in ~/.ssh/config. Run ssh-add with the private key before you ssh to a NERSC host. After you're on the NERSC host, run ssh-add -L to confirm that the key is included.

Questions, Comments, ...

If you have any questions, problems or comments, please contact us via the NERSC Help Desk.