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I see all over the internet tutorials that are basically saying that setting up the ssh tunnel for mysql is easy, but I get an error, and no joy: Host key verification failed This error is in a log file that I created. I am attempting to use PHP's shell_exec on my Ubuntu desktop: shell_exec('ssh -p 2233 -f -L 3307:127.0.0.1:3306 email@example.com sleep 60 >> ./ssh.logfile 2>&1'); So, pretty standard according to the internet, but it's not working for me. 1) The remote server is a hosted website. It's a "semi-dedicated" plan, and just a glorified shared hosting account. 2) I can already do a passwordless SSH connection to the remote server by using the terminal. So my key based authentication is working for me. 3) I use SQLyog (MySQL tunneling through SSH) to this remote server. It's not key based, but the tunnel is there. 4) The host was not helpful. They were trying (I think), but nothing worked. 5) Yes, the remote server requires SSH connections on port 2233. Why is this failing? I need somebody to walk me through this. I saw somewhere online that the error message may mean that apache was not able to check a known_hosts file. I created an .ssh directory at /var/www/.ssh, and I put a known hosts file in there. Chowned these to www-data:www-data. Permission set at 600. Don't know what else to do or check.