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Connecting seamlessly with ssh through intermediate hosts

December 21st, 2011

Having machines in a network that is only reachable through an intermediate machine (e.g. a firewall) can make using ssh less comfortable. When using VPN or changing the network layout is not an option – the ssh ProxyCommand option can help. The result is being able to connect to hosts with one command through the intermediate machine. This also enables using rsync or versioning systems over ssh which otherwise wouldn’t work directly.

The intermediate machine is named “intermediate” and the target machine (which is in the not directly reachable network) “target”. The ~/.ssh/config entries should look like this:

Host intermediate
Hostname 192.168.1.1
....

Host target
ProxyCommand ssh -e none intermediate exec nc -w 1000 %h %p
....

So when you execute:

$ ssh target

An ssh connection to “intermediate” is opened. netcat is started on “intermediate” to forward the ssh session to “target”. nc -w sets a connection timeout, this should make sure that “intermediate” doesn’t run abandoned nc processes. ssh -e none disables escape chars, they are not useful in this case and can only cause problems.

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