Save Time by Automating SSH and SCP Tasks with Python

Simon Hawe
Oct 24, 2019 · 4 min read
Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

I recently helped a friend who had to flash software on more than 100 devices. For each device, he knew the MAC-address and had a corresponding password to log in via ssh. He had this information stored in an excel sheet. His manual process of flashing was

  1. Find out the device’s IP-address given its MAC-address.
  2. SSH into the device using the IP-address and the password.
  3. Upload the software installer via SCP.
  4. Execute some shell commands to install the software.

Doing this manually for one device is fine, for two you start thinking wtf and after three you think WTF! In software, it is always a goal to reduce the number of WTFs, so I thought maybe I can help him by automating his process using a nice and sweet Python script. In this article, I like to show you what we ended up with.

Find IP-Address given a MAC-Address

The first thing we needed to address is finding out the IP-addresses of our devices inside our local network. For that to work, both your PC and your devices must be connected to the same network. Given an IP-address, you can use the Python module scapy (Note that I have used a different package in a previous version of this article. However, this only worked when I already had a connection to or pinged another device) to find out which MAC-address uses the IP. In code, this looks like

from scapy.all import ARP, Ether, srp
from typing import Dict
def ip_sweep() -> Dict[str,str]:
target_ip = ""
arp = ARP(pdst=target_ip)
ether = Ether(dst="ff:ff:ff:ff:ff:ff")
packet = ether / arp
result = srp(packet, timeout=3)[0]
return {rec.hwsrc.lower(): rec.psrc for _, rec in result}
mac_to_ip = ip_sweep()

So, we just test every IP address and store the ones that gave back a MAC — address. When using scapy, you need to execute your script as root. Cool, now we know all MAC-address to IP-address connections. One problem down three left.

Establish an SSH Connection

Next problem was, how do we establish an SSH connection using Python. There is a neat library called paramiko that allows you doing that fairly simple. At the very basic, you need the IP-address you want to connect to, a username, and a password. The code looks like

import paramiko
# To allow connection without having to accept the host connection
# We need to use this policy. I've just pulled it here due to
# mediums way of displaying code ...
policy = paramiko.client.AutoAddPolicy
# Iterate over all our found mac, ip connections and SSH into
# the clients
mac, ip in mac_to_ip.items():
# Assume that to be given
pwd = mac_to_pwd[mac]
with paramiko.SSHClient() as client:
client.connect(ip, username='root', password=pwd)
except paramiko.ssh_exception.NoValidConnectionsError:
print("Connection failed")

Now, we can use the connected client to execute shell commands, and you will see that in a bit.

Upload Data via SCP

Before executing commands, we need to upload the installer to our device. To that end, we make use of the library SCP, which goes perfectly hand in hand with paramiko. In the following example, assume we’ve already established a connection using the paramiko SSHClient.

from scp import SCPClient 
import sys
def progress4(f, size, sent, p):
prog = sent / size * 100.
sys.stdout.write(f"({p[0]}:{p[1]}) {f}\'s progress: {prog}\r")
local_path = "/home/me/installer.tar.gz"
remote_path = "/home/root/inst/"
with SCPClient(client.get_transport(), progress4=progress4) as scp:
scp.put(local_path, remote_path=remote_path)

The progress4 function prints out the upload progress. To me, this is helpful to get an estimate of how long I still have to wait and not become impatient, which might create another WTF :). Now we are almost there, just one step left.

Execute Shell commands via SSH

Now, as we have a running ssh connection and uploaded the installer, we only have to unpack it and run it. This can be easily done through shell commands that we can send out using the SSH Client. In code, this looks like

def exec_blocking(cmd, client):
print(f"Executing {cmd}")
_, stdout_, stderr_ = client.exec_command(cmd)
status =
print(f"STATUS {status}")
for line in stdout_.readlines():
if status != 0:
errors = "\n".join(list(stderr_.readlines))
raise Exception(f"{cmd} failed with {errors}")
# Unpack the installer
exec_blocking("tar xzvf /home/root/inst/installer.xzvf", client)
# Run the installer
exec_blocking("./installer/", client)

The command gets sent to the device with exec_command. This is a non-blocking function that immediately returns. To wait until the command has finished execution you need to call recv_exit_status(). With this, you can make sure that your command was successful or not.


Combining all the code snippets into a single script allowed us to flash/execute our commands on all the devices we had on our list with a single command. This saved us a lot of time and WTFs :)

Hopefully, you’ve learned something new. Thank you for following along and feel free to contact me for questions, comments, or suggestions.

Simon Hawe

Written by

Tech and programming enthusiast mainly focusing on data sciene, machine learning, and python coding.

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