Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I need a way of connecting to a remote server anonymously and running (with further possibility of visual manipulation) a graphical Web Browser (not text-based) - Tor has been chosen for this and therefore SOCKS support is likely a requirement. The server is currently running the latest testing release of Debian and comes with full root access. I am looking at tunneling the underlying traffic through the SSH protocol (forwarding ports, X or just utilizing the Dynamic SOCKS capability).

The initial setup looks like this: I make a connection through SOCKS5 to the remote end point via SSH and run some command.

Multiple choices come to mind, but some of them might also be more exposing than others (location / info leaking).

Is tunneling X a good idea - won't that leak something related to my original host? What about running a VNC service - I could setup a static port forwarding just for that, but won't it also expose any of my internal data (like querying my network adapters and sharing that as some protocol metadata with the server I'm connected to)? Last, but not least, I could also use the SOCKS capability integrated into the browser on my localhost and simply re-route traffic through SSH (the -D flag of the sshd), but that also seems to be not without drawbacks / shortcomings (security measures must be taken - starting a private session, using something like a NoScript add-on, relying on the browser settings not to fail and route everything through SOCKS (including DNS lookup). The most important thing to consider here is not to compromise identity (as well as to the server in the middle) or the and still be able to control the browser on the remote end.

My local host can either be a Windows or a Linux OS - any would do.

Thoughts / suggestions? Thanks.

share|improve this question
up vote 1 down vote accepted

VNC or X tunnelling are the two options from the ones listed that would not expose any information about the host.

In both of these cases, the browser is running on the remote host, the remote host is doing the connection to sites, it is downloading the data, and it is rendering the response to an X server.

The location of the X server in the case of VNC is the remote server too. That the frame buffer from VNC is passed down the wire to a vnc viewer is not something the browser can be aware of and so cannot leak.

The same applies to X tunneling realistically, where the X server is on your local machine. It is difficult to see how the browser could determine that the X server wasn't local, but there is a small potential there for leaks.

The OS of the local machine in this case doesn't make much difference.

The -D option of ssh would be the most prone to leaks, as you are running the browser locally, and it is fully aware of the machine it is running on.

share|improve this answer
Thanks for your input. I was still under the impression that VNC viewer can leak data to the VNC server (i.e. some system information)? And the same could happen with tunneling X, no? It's not unheard of to log details about the incoming connection (VNC in this case) on the server side and some details (just for the sake of an example: a version of the client connecting) could potentially expose the originating party (in perspective it could harvest my network interface specs). Well, this is obviously implementation dependent. What would you recommend for a private VNC pair? – XXL Jul 16 '13 at 13:19
If you mean in the event the browser was compromised? If the browser was compromised to the point that general access to the remote host was possible (and so observation of the vnc traffic), then any form of access could equally be observed. Hence your tor suggestion, get to the remote host via tor first? – Paul Jul 16 '13 at 13:23
Yes, in the event that the VNC housing server gets compromised. Tor is a necessity and goes without saying, but that won't really help if private data (my local system details) is encapsulated and leaked by the VNC implementation and stored either on a medium (in form of logs) or in memory (which can be dumped if root access is gained), right? – XXL Jul 16 '13 at 13:28
An adequately protected server would reduce the probability of compromise, so I assume that the reason this risk is still considered high is because the impact is high. In which case, I would ensure the originating connection was from one unassociated with yourself. Ie, an internet cafe. If someone was artful enough to compromise the remote box, they could possiblity compromise it in such a way that led you to reveal yourself unintentionally. – Paul Jul 16 '13 at 13:46

I think I've a similar configuration than what you're looking for. I'm accessing a web server in my office LAN from outside. What I did is pretty simple and works fine. I'm using the office SSH server to have remote access to my office. On the SSH client side, I've configured a tunnel, which forwards the traffic from one of my local TCP ports to a machine in my office LAN through the SSH server. I am using Mozilla to access the web page as if it was a server running in my own computer, with a different port. And that's all!

share|improve this answer

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .