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What does this mean?

Suppose you are trying to ssh into, and you see the following thing pop up on your screen:

Someone could be eavesdropping on you right now (man-in-the-middle attack)!
It is also possible that a host key has just been changed.
The fingerprint for the RSA key sent by the remote host is
Please contact your system administrator.
Add correct host key in /Users/ChrisGaucho/.ssh/known_hosts to get rid of this message.
Offending RSA key in /Users/ChrisGaucho/.ssh/known_hosts:12
RSA host key for has changed and you have requested strict checking.
Host key verification failed.

It is possible but not very likely, that someone is launching a man-in-the-middle attack on your connection to CSIL.

Far more likely: the Engineering staff has replaced the physical hardware for the machine known as with another machine.

Here’s what you should do:

  1. First, starting with Fall 2016, you probably shouldn’t be accessing in the first place. You can, but instead, use,, etc. through You’ll likely get better performance.

  2. Despite what the message says, you don’t need to contact the system administrator.

  3. Instead, just delete the known_hosts file that the system tells you contains the problem. The system will recreate the file for you:

    E.g. in the message above, the file is:


    The file in your message will be different, but will have a similar name. Find this file on your system, and delete it.

What is this known_hosts file, and why am I deleting it?

What this file contains are numbers that get cached when you answer yes to this question, which you get asked, once, the first time you connect to any system over ssh:

The authenticity of host ' (' can't be established.
RSA key fingerprint is 4a:0e:85:b5:7c:c4:1c:af:3f:02:c5:75:61:da:ae:55.
Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)? 

If you were paranoid, or your ssh connection were likely to contain sensitive information that made it the target of state-sponsored surveillance or hackers connected to organized crime, you might send a highly trusted and armed person over to Harold Frank Hall to verify using paper, or carrier pigeon, or some other secure form of communication, that this RSA key fingerprint, 4a:0e:85:b5:7c:c4:1c:af:3f:02:c5:75:61:da:ae:55 was indeed the correct one.

But it is far more expedient to simply “assume” it is correct, and let the system store it in the known_hosts file, where you’ll never hear another peep about it unless and until the number changes again.

When you get rid of this file, the system will ask you about each host again the first time you connect to it. It will take a while to build up all of the known_host RSA key fingerprints again. But then, you’ll be golden—at least until the next major hardware upgrade to all the systems to which you connect.