When I travel and have to use public WiFi networks I make sure to encrypt all of my traffic. There are a number of paid VPN services that can be utilized, but there is also a way to accomplish the same security for free by accessing an SSH server.
OpenSSH has built-in support to work as a SOCKS proxy server. As most people know, most Unix and Linux systems include the ssh command. One addition to the ssh command will have you sending your data through an encrypted tunnel.
Set Up the Proxy
Setting up the proxy is simple: ssh to your client with the additional options -D PORT -C. The flag -D is used to start the SOCKS proxy, and port is any above 1024. The option -C tells it to compress the data.
ssh firstname.lastname@example.org -D 1984 -C
Depending on which OS and browser you are using, configuration settings will most likely be found under network, or in the browser under network settings. The most important detail is entering the localhost and the same port used above.
In your browser search for “what is my IP”. This should show the IP of the host you have ‘SSH’d’ to. Now all of your traffic is encrypted and running through the SSH tunnel.
I hope this post helps those looking to safely bypass a firewall or encrypt data while using a less than trustworthy network. As always, feel free to let me know if you have any questions: email@example.com.
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