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Setup for an easy to use, simple reverse http tunnels with nginx and ssh. It's that simple there's no authentication at all. The end result, a single ssh command invocation gives you a public url for your web app hosted on your laptop.


A lot of times you are developing a web application on your own laptop or home computer and would like to demo it to the public. Most of those times you are behind a router/firewall and you don't have a public IP address. Instead of configuring routers (often not possible), this solution gives you a public URL that's reverse tunnelled via ssh to your laptop.

Because of the relaxation of the sshd setup, it's best used on a dedicated virtual machine just for this (an Amazon micro instance for example).


Server side:

  • a server with a public ip ( in this document)
  • a domain name (domain.tld in this document)
  • a wildcard dns entry in the domain pointing to the public ip (* 1800 IN A
  • nginx
  • sshd

Client side:

  • ssh client (even plink would work on Windows)

Nginx config

A wildcard dns should point to this nginx instance. Every www<port>.domain.tld will be proxied to<port>

Where <port> needs to be 4 or 5 digits.

server {
  server_name   "~^www(?<port>\d{4,5})\.domain\.tld$";

  location / {
    proxy_set_header  X-Real-IP  $remote_addr;
    proxy_set_header  Host $host;

SSH configuration

A sshd configuration to allow a user with no password and a forced command, so that the user can't get shell access.

Match User tunnel
  # ChrootDirectory
  ForceCommand /bin/echo do-not-send-commands
  AllowTcpForwarding yes
  PasswordAuthentication yes
  PermitEmptyPasswords yes

PAM needs to be disabled if sshd is to allow login without a password. That's not always possible, is not even smart. Another approach would be a separate instance of sshd, on a different port, just for the tunnel user.

Make a copy of the config file, change/add these settings:

UsePAM no
AllowUsers tunnel
Port 722

And then run sshd -f /etc/ssh/sshd_config_tunnel.

The tunnel user has an empty password field in /etc/shaddow.



Just connect with:

ssh -N -T -l tunnel -R 0:localhost:5050 -p 722

ssh will respond with a Allocated port 56889 for remote forward to localhost:5050 message. Then you can use www56889.domain.tld


Test ChrootDirectory in sshd

#! /bin/sh
exec 3>&1
eval ssh -N -T $ssh_server -l $ssh_user -R 0:localhost:$local_port -p $ssh_port 2>&1 1>&3 \
| sed 's|^Allocated port \([[:digit:]]\+\) for remote forward to|Your url is '$url_tmpl' will be forwarded to|'
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gkop commented Dec 3, 2015

Folks, be aware the above nginx config may be unnecessarily loose with regard to the ports it forwards, depending on your environment. For example sshd will dynamically allocate a free ephemeral port in Linux on the range 32768 to 61000 and in some other environments on the IANA recommended range 49152 to 65535. Therefore in such environments it is unnecessary and imprudent to match ports 0-99999 (eg. 00022 gives you port 22) with \d{4,5}. A quick and better match for Linux is on [3-6]\d{4}. Unfortunately regex doesn't provide a convenient way to lock the match down precisely to the desired range.

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dejlek commented Dec 7, 2015

Hell, this is exactly what I was looking for! Thanks man!

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I don't quite get this.

So imagine we have 3 machines:

  1. your laptop at home running the web application (let's call this L)
  2. a server with a public ip address and domain which is basically acting as a middleman of some sorts (let's call this M for middleman)
  3. a client machine which is trying to access your web application hosted on a laptop at home using its browser (let's call this C)

So SSH Config and Nginx Config are on the M machine?

no config or any steps needed on the L machine?

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Or you can use ngrok

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gboddin commented Jun 16, 2017

Brilliant, thanks !

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askz commented Jul 31, 2017

Or you can use
I'm not the official developper but I loved the idea, simpler and more out-of-the-box than ngrok! No setup required, just your ssh client.
The plus is the request & response analyzer/replayer ! Give it a go ;)

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its very good techniques

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seahorsepip commented Aug 6, 2019

For anyone looking for a more feature complete script that can be used with ForceCommand:

Sadly I couldn't change the forwarded port, woud have been nice to forward to a specific external port too.

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This will work well for http based connection
But what about TCP connections?

Nginx isn't support TCP reverse proxy over domain name

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mwt commented Nov 14, 2021

This will work well for http based connection But what about TCP connections?

Nginx isn't support TCP reverse proxy over domain name

You can use the "GatewayPorts" feature in sshd to support anything you want. The point of this guide is to use vhost on the standard http and https ports.

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Hi, I got problem on https protocol on original node.
server {
server_name "~^www(?\d{4,5}).domain.tld$";

location / {
proxy_set_header X-Real-IP $remote_addr;
proxy_set_header Host $host;
HTTPS must be define on upstream, but upstream doesn't support variable, such as $port
any idea?

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