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I have some colleagues who need to go to China for work, however while they're there, they can't access a lot of sites. One of which is GMail (Google Apps), which they need for work. We have a UK based Ubuntu server, which I have root access for.

What can I do for them? I thought about a Squid proxy, but it might rely on their hotel having port 8080 open, so, not ideal. Are there any workarounds or other solutions?

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migrated from Mar 2 '11 at 18:15

This question came from our site for system and network administrators.

@Jed - I disagree. If it were just, "How do I access sites from China?" I'd agree with you. But this is, "How do I access sites from China? I have this server in the UK." So it seems to be appropriate here...but we'll see. The community opinion trumps the individual opinion. – Jason Berg Mar 2 '11 at 18:09
If it were as easy as just opening a Squid proxy server to get around the Great Firewall, I think China wouldn't have the reputation it has for limiting Internet access. Messing with their government restrictions is something I'm not sure I'd want to do, as it seems they don't have a sense of humor about that sort of thing. – Bart Silverstrim Mar 2 '11 at 18:12
up vote 10 down vote accepted

My favorite solution to this problem simply requires SSH. SSH is the poor man's vpn. If the ubuntu box isn't already running ssh:

apt-get install openssh-server

If your colleague is using OS X/Linux in China, they would simply type:

ssh -D1080 your.ubuntu.server.tld

You can also set this in putty or other windows SSH clients.

Then your colleague would set their web browser to use a SOCKS proxy at localhost:1080.

Done. Should be easier than configuring a VPN. Your colleague just has to remember to uncheck the proxy setting when they are done.

For better server security require public key authentication instead of password authentication. But this is independent of tunneling traffic through China.

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OpenVPN running over port 443 tunneling all traffic.

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The answer will ultimately be "use a VPN". You could set up something like OpenVPN to tunnel to your Ubuntu server, or use another VPN solution of your choice either to your Ubuntu server or another location. You could also run your proxy or other solution on many different ports, to ensure that a single port being blocked doesn't stop you from accessing it.

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