I am now the proud owner of a secure browsing environment wherever I go, even over unsecured public Wi-Fi networks, thanks to a simple SSH tunnel that took less than 10 minutes (in my case) to set up. As usual, I found all the information I needed on other developers' and bloggers' sites, and I thought instead of rewriting what they'e already written, I would link to their pages instead. Before doing that though, I want to offer a brief explanation of how this works, and what you need.
An SSH tunnel exists between your machine (the client) and another machine (the server). On your machine you run a client like PuTTY, and on the server you run one of several servers like CopSSH or OpenSSH. If you own or manage a hosted domain, you should check whether your hosting provider offers SSH access. If so, you can avoid having to set up your own SSH server by using theirs, which is already always on.
Once your SSH server is up and running, you connect to it from your machine via PuTTY. You then configure Firefox or whatever browser you want to use to route its traffic through the SSH tunnel, and voila, all the data you transmit will be encrypted as long as you're connected to the SSH server. You can also use this for other applications that allow you to configure a proxy server, like Mozilla's Thunderbird e-mail program and Dropbox. Remember to configure your proxy as SOCKS and not HTTP.
The connection you make with the SSH server is authenticated via a private/public key pair. If you're running on a hosted SSH server, you can create these via cPanel. Otherwise, if you're setting up your own SSH server, you can create them manually using PuTTYgen.
Below are websites that will help you get going, from setting up the SSH server to configuring your client-end machine. (Don't forget the links to the software mentioned above!)
- MyEnTunnel - this little utility reconnects you automatically when you get booted off your SSH session. Not sure if it works with Windows 7.
- Tunnelier - alternative to PuTTY with more features (and a bigger footprint). It is free for under 5 users, and is available in portable versions.
- WinSSHD - commercial SSH software that's free for personal use