The OpenBSD project has implemented the ability to view SSH keys as an ASCII visualisation in the latest version of the OpenSSH tool, which was released yesterday.

Previously, SSH keys had been displayed solely in hexadecimal format, but OpenBSD hopes that the new visualisation will aid in remembering keys so as to know when an SSH key has changed, thus preventing certain security problems.

The OpenSSH ASCII visualisation in action (Credit: Robert Buchholz)

The technique used to render the visualisation, called “random art”, is inspired from a 1999 paper entitled “Hash Visualization: a New Technique to improve Real-World Security”.

As the algorithm to produce the visualisation has not been finalised, the feature is currently disabled — curious users can activate it with option VisualHostKey yes.