some or all of the following steps may be taken to secure your SSH server. The steps are sorted roughly in order of entirely sensible precaution to completely paranoid:

Choose a strong password
Install “DenyHosts” to auto-block bad clients
Change the default port
Disable insecure Protocol 1; allowing only Protocol 2
Disable root login
Reduce MaxStartups
Reduce LoginGraceTime
Allow only specific users or groups to connect
Allow only specific IP addresses to connect
Allow only users with keys to connect; no passwords allowed
Bind the ssh server to a specific network interface
If you do nothing else, it is of utmost importance to choose strong passwords for all accounts, especially root, since it is the #1 attacked account. It is very enlightening to see the accounts on your system that attackers have been targeting lately; to do this either use the lastb command to quickly see recent failed logins of all types, or, better, parse /var/log/secure to get stats only for failed ssh logins. Three examples:

### top 5 most recently attacked accounts####
[root@www]# lastb | awk ‘{print $1}’ | sort | uniq -c | sort -rn | head -5
29 root
24 admin
16 sales
14 test
14 staff

### top 5 most attacked accounts####

[root@www]# awk ‘gsub(“.*sshd.*Failed password for (invalid user )?”, “”) {print $1}’ /var/log/secure* | sort | uniq -c | sort -rn | head -5
723 root
66 admin
45 test
39 ftpuser
34 mysql

### top 5 attacker IP addresses (obscured for privacy)####

[root@www]# awk ‘gsub(“.*sshd.*Failed password for (invalid user )?”, “”) {print $3}’ /var/log/secure* | sort | uniq -c | sort -rn | head -5
1042 193.251.XXX.XXX
556 85.21.XXX.XXX
373 218.189.XXX.XXX
284 121.156.XX.XXX
228 121.140.XX.XXX
Centos uses to force normal users to choose semi-strong passwords of 6 characters or more when changing their passwd, but root can still choose weak passwords anytime he wants (but will be warned). Also note that the first user account added to the system after an installation (using firstboot) is allowed to be weak if you ignore the warning.
You may want to use a utility called “john the ripper” to audit the strength of passwords on your system – if it cracks any too quickly, they’re too weak.
Install Denyhosts which watches the /var/log/secure logfile for invalid ssh login attempts, and if a configurable threshold is crossed, they are automatically blocked by being added to /etc/hosts.deny. Install Denyhosts, and optionally edit the good default configuration in /etc/denyhosts.conf:
# yum install denyhosts
# chkconfig denyhosts on
# service denyhosts start
The vast majority of ssh attacks are directed by compromised zombie machines against ssh servers listening on the default port of “22″. By changing this port to something else you greatly reduce the risk of an automated break-in. Edit /etc/ssh/sshd_config and change the line which reads “Port 22″ to “Port 2222″, or any other unused port of your choosing, preferably above 1024. A line preceded by a ‘#’ is the commented out default value.
#Port 22
Port 2222
SSH speaks two protocols: The old and insecure Protocol 1, and the newer Protocol 2. Almost all SSH clients now speak Protocol 2, so it is best to disable the older one. Edit sshd_config to include only Protocol 2, and not both:
#Protocol 2,1
Protocol 2
Note: This should be unnecessary as only Protocol 2 is enabled by default.
There is no good reason for root to be allowed to interactively login directly; after connecting as a normal user, you can still “su -” to root. edit sshd_config:
#PermitRootLogin yes
PermitRootLogin no
If root login is required – e.g. for remote system backups – you may alternatively permit root to login, but only if using ssh keys, not interactive password entry:
PermitRootLogin without-password
Finally, it’s also possible to limit root access to only be able to run specific commands, such as backup scripts (beyond the scope of this article):
PermitRootLogin forced-commands-only
Limit the maximum number of unauthenticated connections that the ssh server will handle at the same time. The smaller this is, the harder it is for script kiddies to make parallel, coordinated cracking attempts with multiple connections. edit sshd_config and change MaxStartups from the default of “10″ to “3:50:10″. The colon separated values tells the ssh server to, “allow 3 users to attempt logging in at the same time, and to randomly and increasingly drop connection attempts between 3 and the maximum of 10″. Note: this should be increased on servers with substantial numbers of valid ssh users logging in.
#MaxStartups 10
MaxStartups 3:50:10>
Reduce the maximum amount of time allowed to successfully login before disconnecting. The default of 2 minutes is too much time to hold open an unauthenticated connection attempt (see above); 30 seconds is more than enough time to log in:
#LoginGraceTime 2m
LoginGraceTime 30
By default, all valid users on the system are allowed to log in. A more secure policy is to only allow a whitelist of users or groups to log in. For example, to allow only the users “john”, “mary”, “joeblow”, “joeschmoe”, “joejoe”, and any username that starts with “joe” to login, add the following line to sshd_config:
AllowUsers john mary joe*
STEP 10:
Alternatively, you may instead allow only users who are members of certain groups to login. For example, to allow only the members of the “sshusers” group to connect, first make sure the group exists (groupadd sshusers) and add your users to it (usermod -a -G sshusers username), then add the following line to sshd_config:
AllowGroups sshusers
STEP 11:
Allow only users from certain IP addresses to connect. Before allowing specific IPs, the default policy must first be set to DENY to be effective. edit /etc/hosts.deny and add the following line:
sshd: ALL
STEP 12:
Next add to /etc/hosts.allow the networks you want to allow. For example, to allow all 254 hosts on the class C network “192.168.1.*”, all 16million hosts from the class A network “″, and the lonely IP, you would add the following to /etc/hosts.allow:
STEP 13:
You may also allow/deny connections via a firewall, but to maintain sanity it’s best to stick to one method or the other.
STEP 14:
To remove the possibility of anybody ever guessing a user’s password, disable password authentication completely, and require that public/private key pairs be used instead. While much more secure than passwords, a user’s private key can still be compromised, especially if not protected by a passphrase. To disable password logins, add the following to sshd_config:
PasswordAuthentication no
STEP 15:
By default, the ssh server listens for connections on ALL interfaces ( If a ssh server is to only be accessible internally, bind it to a LAN IP. For example: edit sshd_config: