Tunneling data over SSH is pretty straight-forward:

ssh -D9999 username@example.com

sets up port 9999 on your localhost as a tunnel to example.com, but I have a more specific need:

  • I am working locally on localhost
  • host1 is accessible to localhost
  • host2 only accepts connections from host1
  • I need to create a tunnel from localhost to host2

Effectively, I want to create a "multi-hop" SSH tunnel. How can I do this? Ideally, I'd like to do this without needing to be superuser on any of the machines.

  • 2
    What did you use it for? I want to use it for socks proxy. Will it work? – prongs Feb 29 '12 at 13:57
  • 2
    Yes, you should be able to use the tunneled connection as a SOCKS proxy, unless host2 denies forwarding – Mala May 3 '12 at 6:48
  • I was thinking about creating a wrapper over SSH that would set up that using multiple use of ProxyCommand. – Pavel Šimerda Oct 19 '13 at 20:52
  • @prongs Have you managed to use this for SOCKS proxy (all those years ago)? – Drux Dec 8 '17 at 7:32

13 Answers 13

up vote 284 down vote accepted

You basically have three possibilities:

  1. Tunnel from localhost to host1:

    ssh -L 9999:host2:1234 -N host1
    

    As noted above, the connection from host1 to host2 will not be secured.

  2. Tunnel from localhost to host1 and from host1 to host2:

    ssh -L 9999:localhost:9999 host1 ssh -L 9999:localhost:1234 -N host2
    

    This will open a tunnel from localhost to host1 and another tunnel from host1 to host2. However the port 9999 to host2:1234 can be used by anyone on host1. This may or may not be a problem.

  3. Tunnel from localhost to host1 and from localhost to host2:

    ssh -L 9998:host2:22 -N host1
    ssh -L 9999:localhost:1234 -N -p 9998 localhost
    

    This will open a tunnel from localhost to host1 through which the SSH service on host2 can be used. Then a second tunnel is opened from localhost to host2 through the first tunnel.

Normally, I'd go with option 1. If the connection from host1 to host2 needs to be secured, go with option 2. Option 3 is mainly useful to access a service on host2 that is only reachable from host2 itself.

  • 14
    option 3 was what i was looking for, thanks! – Mala Jan 25 '10 at 1:38
  • 1
    I want to do browsing this way. Which one's best? I tried first one but it didn't work. I set a socks proxy in my browser localhost:1234 but no luck. :( please help.. – prongs Feb 29 '12 at 13:54
  • 1
    @prongs try option 3 – Mala May 3 '12 at 6:49
  • 1
    is there a way to forward my public key from localhost, through the tunnel of host 1, on to host2? – Noli Dec 19 '12 at 8:00
  • 6
    @Noli If you use ssh-agent (which you should), you can forward it through the connections using the -A option to ssh. – Mika Fischer Dec 19 '12 at 11:36

There is an excellent answer explaining the use of the ProxyCommand configuration directive for SSH:

Add this to your ~/.ssh/config (see man 5 ssh_config for details):

Host host2
  ProxyCommand ssh host1 -W %h:%p

Then ssh host2 will automatically tunnel through host1 (also works with X11 forwarding etc.).

This also works for an entire class of hosts e.g. identified by domain:

Host *.mycompany.com
  ProxyCommand ssh gateway.mycompany.com -W %h:%p

Update

OpenSSH 7.3 introduces a ProxyJump directive, simplifying the first example to

Host host2
  ProxyJump host1
  • 3
    Is there a way to do this conditionally? I only want to do this sometimes. Also, this is specifically for commands, but I'm looking for something for all of port 22 (ssh, sftp, etc). – Stephane Sep 11 '13 at 15:08
  • 1
    @Stephane what do you mean by specifically for commands? Your SSH config is used by anything using ssh, including git, sftp etc. afaik. – kynan Sep 11 '13 at 20:58
  • 1
    @Stephane I'm not aware of a way of enabling this conditionally (e.g. only when you're outside the network of the target host). I set this option for all hosts in question in a configuration block and then (un)comment the line as needed. Not perfect, but it works. – kynan Sep 11 '13 at 20:58
  • 2
    @Stephane sure: ssh -F /path/to/altconfig. Beware this will ignore the system wide /etc/ssh/ssh_config. – kynan Sep 12 '13 at 11:39
  • 18
    An easy way to make settings "conditional" is to define two different hosts in .ssh/config, that have the same HostName. Connect to host2-tunnel when you want the tunnel, and host2 when you don't. – Steve Bennett Sep 23 '13 at 6:55

We have one ssh gateway into our private network. If I'm outside and want a remote shell on a machine inside the private network, I would have to ssh into the gateway and from there to the private machine.

To automate this procedure, I use the following script:

#!/bin/bash
ssh -f -L some_port:private_machine:22 user@gateway "sleep 10" && ssh -p some_port private_user@localhost

What is happening:

  1. Establish a tunnel for the ssh protocol (port 22) to the private machine.
  2. Only if this is successful, ssh into the private machine using the tunnel. (the && operater ensures this).
  3. After closing the private ssh session, I want the ssh tunnel to close, too. This is done via the "sleep 10" trick. Usually, the first ssh command would close after 10 seconds, but during this time, the second ssh command will have established a connection using the tunnel. As a result, the first ssh command keeps the tunnel open until the following two conditions are satisfied: sleep 10 is finished and the tunnel is no longer used.
  • 1
    Very clever!!! LOVE IT! – Hendy Irawan May 6 '12 at 6:37

After reading the above and glueing everything together, I've created the following Perl script (save it as mssh in /usr/bin and make it executable):

#!/usr/bin/perl

$iport = 13021;
$first = 1;

foreach (@ARGV) {
  if (/^-/) {
    $args .= " $_";
  }
  elsif (/^((.+)@)?([^:]+):?(\d+)?$/) {
    $user = $1;
    $host = $3;
    $port = $4 || 22;
    if ($first) {
      $cmd = "ssh ${user}${host} -p $port -o UserKnownHostsFile=/dev/null -o StrictHostKeyChecking=no";
      $args = '';
      $first = 0;
    }
    else {
      $cmd .= " -L $iport:$host:$port";
      push @cmds, "$cmd -f sleep 10 $args";
      $cmd = "ssh ${user}localhost -p $iport -o UserKnownHostsFile=/dev/null -o StrictHostKeyChecking=no";
      $args = '';
      $iport ++;
    }
  }
}
push @cmds, "$cmd $args";

foreach (@cmds) {
  print "$_\n";
  system($_);
}

Usage:

To access HOSTC via HOSTA and HOSTB (same user):

mssh HOSTA HOSTB HOSTC

To access HOSTC via HOSTA and HOSTB and use non-default SSH-portnumbers and different users:

mssh user1@HOSTA:1234 user2@HOSTB:1222 user3@HOSTC:78231

To access HOSTC via HOSTA and HOSTB and use X-forwarding:

mssh HOSTA HOSTB HOSTC -X

To access port 8080 on HOSTC via HOSTA and HOSTB:

mssh HOSTA HOSTB -L8080:HOSTC:8080
  • 1
    this is awesome – Mala Mar 25 '12 at 1:20
  • 1
    I seriously cannot thank you enough, this script makes my life easier on a daily basis. The only thing I changed was to add int(rand(1000)) to iport, to allow multiple instances to run at the same time. I definitely owe you a beer. – Mala May 3 '12 at 7:20
  • This works really well. A further improvement would be to resolve HOSTB, HOSTC etc using localhost's /etc/hosts and ~/.ssh/config – Steve Bennett Sep 23 '13 at 7:03
  • Also I second Mala's comment. Without the randomized port, if you then try to mssh HOSTA HOSTD you'll actually end up at HOSTB (and maybe won't realise..) – Steve Bennett Sep 24 '13 at 2:39

OpenSSH v7.3 onward supports a -J switch and a ProxyJump option, which allow one or more comma-separated jump hosts, so, you can simply do this now:

ssh -J jumpuser1@jumphost1,jumpuser2@jumphost2,...,jumpuserN@jumphostN user@host
  • ssh -J user1@host1 -YC4c arcfour,blowfish-cbc user2@host2 firefox -no-remote This will speed up getting firefox from host2 to localhost. – Jaur May 21 at 16:28

This answer is similar to kynan, as it involves the use of ProxyCommand. But it's more convenient to use IMO.

If you have netcat installed in your hop machines you can add this snippet to your ~/.ssh/config:

Host *+*
    ProxyCommand ssh $(echo %h | sed 's/+[^+]*$//;s/\([^+%%]*\)%%\([^+]*\)$/\2 -l \1/;s/:/ -p /') nc $(echo %h | sed 's/^.*+//;/:/!s/$/ %p/;s/:/ /')

Then

ssh -D9999 host1+host2 -l username

will do what you asked.

I came here looking for the original place where I read this trick. I'll post a link when I find it.

ssh -L 9999:host2:80 -R 9999:localhost:9999 host1

-L 9999:host2:80

Means bind to localhost:9999 and any packet sent to localhost:9999 forward it to host2:80

-R 9999:localhost:9999

Means any packet received by host1:9999 forward it back to localhost:9999

  • Brilliant, most simple answer to make a tunnel so you can access the application on host2 directly from localhost:9999 – dvtoever Jul 8 '16 at 15:45
  • Following this answer, I get a channel 3: open failed: administratively prohibited: open failed error message. – Franck Dernoncourt Mar 18 '17 at 18:16

you should be able to use port forwarding to access a service on host2 from localhost. A good guide is located here. Excerpt:

There are two kinds of port forwarding: local and remote forwarding. They are also called outgoing and incoming tunnels, respectively. Local port forwarding forwards traffic coming to a local port to a specified remote port.

For example, if you issue the command

ssh2 -L 1234:localhost:23 username@host

all traffic coming to port 1234 on the client will be forwarded to port 23 on the server (host). Note that localhost will be resolved by the sshdserver after the connection is established. In this case localhost therefore refers to the server (host) itself.

Remote port forwarding does the opposite: it forwards traffic coming to a remote port to a specified local port.

For example, if you issue the command

ssh2 -R 1234:localhost:23 username@host

all traffic which comes to port 1234 on the server (host) will be forwarded to port 23 on the client (localhost).

In your cast, replace localhost in the example with host2 and host with host1.

  • according to that article, the connection will only be secured until the middle machine (host1). Is there a way to make sure the whole thing stays secure? – Mala Jan 16 '10 at 7:21
  • I've never tried this, but if host1 and host2 are both ssh servers, you might be able to set up a tunnel from host1 to host2, then set up a tunnel from localhost to host1 for the same service (getting your local and remote ports right). I don't know if that's possible in one command from localhost. – fideli Jan 16 '10 at 16:13

I did what I think you wanted to do with

ssh -D 9999 -J host1 host2

I'm prompted for both passwords, then I can use localhost:9999 for a SOCKS proxy to host2. It's the nearest I can think of to the example you showed in the first place.

In this answer I will go through a concrete example. You just need to replace computers' hostnames, usernames and passwords by yours.

Problem statement

Let's assume we have the following network topology:

our local computer <---> server 1 <---> server 2

For the sake of concreteness, let's assume we have the following computers' hostnames, usernames and passwords:

LocalPC            <--->  hostname: mit.edu         <---> hec.edu
                          username: bob                   username: john 
                          password: dylan123              password: doe456

Goal: we want to set up a SOCKS proxy that listens on port 9991 of LocalPC so that each time a connection on LocalPC is initiated from port 9991 it goes through mit.edu then hec.edu.

Example of use case: hec.edu has an HTTP server that is only accessible on http://127.0.0.1:8001, for security reasons. We would like to be able to visit http://127.0.0.1:8001 by opening a web browser on LocalPC.


Configuration

In LocalPC, add in ~/.ssh/config:

Host HEC
    HostName hec.edu
    User john
    ProxyCommand ssh bob@mit.edu -W %h:%p

Then in the terminal of LocalPC, run:

ssh -D9991 HEC

It will ask you the password of bob on mit.edu (i.e., dylan123), then it will ask you the password of john on hec.edu (i.e., doe456).

At that point, the SOCKS proxy is now running on port 9991 of LocalPC.

For example, if you want to visit a webpage on LocalPC using the SOCKS proxy, you can do in Firefox:

enter image description here

Some remarks:

  • in ~/.ssh/config, HEC is the connection name: you may change it to anything you want.
  • The -D9991 tells ssh to set up a SOCKS4 proxy on port 9991.

If you can SSH into both machines, take a look at ssh's ProxyCommand directive. This will let you go straight from localhost into host2 (in one easy command if you use public keys!!). Then you can do whatever you want with host2.

http://www.statusq.org/archives/2008/07/03/1916/

The option 2 of the best answer could be used with different ssh users than the current one aka : user@host

    export local_host_port=30000
    export host1_user=xyz
    export host1=mac-host
    export host1_port=30000
    export host2=192.168.56.115
    export host2_user=ysg
    export host2_port=13306

    # Tunnel from localhost to host1 and from host1 to host2
    # you could chain those as well to host3 ... hostn
    ssh -tt -L $local_host_port:localhost:$host1_port $host1_user@$host1 \
    ssh -tt -L $host1_port:localhost:$host2_port $host2_user@$host2

In my case I did

localhost$ ssh -D 9999 host1
host1$ ssh -L 8890:localhost:8890 host2

where host2:8890 is running on a Jupyter Notebook.

Then I configured Firefox to use localhost:9999 as a SOCKS host.

So now I've got the notebook running on host2 accessible by Firefox at localhost:8890 on my machine.

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