Ever been to a coffee shop and got worried about hopping on their public wifi network to check your email?  If not, you should have been, and you should presently be concerned about wifi security anywhere you go — a topic we have covered here many times.

If you have remote access to a computer that runs SSH, you can quickly and effectively create a tunnel which will encrypt and protect your traffic while on a public wifi network.  It’s easy to set up and easy to use, as long as you can SSH into a server somewhere using Putty (on Windows) or the command line on Mac or Linux.

Setting Up Firefox

  • First, go get yourself hooked up with the FoxyProxy extension for Firefox.  Once that is set up and installed, you will see a new link for FoxyProxy in the bottom-right part of Firefox’s status bar.
  • Right-click that link and choose “Options”.
  • Click “Add new proxy”.  On the “General” tab, make sure all checks are enabled. You can give this new proxy connection a name if you want to.
  • On the “Proxy Details” tab, check “Manual Proxy Configuration”.
  • In “Host or IP” enter: localhost
  • Choose a port number, such as 8080 for the Port field. Remember that number.
  • Click the “SOCKS Proxy?” checkbox.
  • Click OK to close the settings tab. If you receive a warning about URLs, click OK to accept it.

Creating A Tunnel

Now fire up Putty or otherwise make a connection to your machine running SSH.  Be sure to use the following format:

That will start your SSH connection using the dynamic port forwarding option, and tells it to run over port 8080 (the port you set up in FoxyProxy) when it does so.  You will still be connecting to your server on the standard port 22.

Back in Firefox, right-click the FoxyProxy link again in the bottom bar, and select the proxy you set up before.  Voila – you are now tunneled.

You need to know that all that is being tunneled is what you are doing in Firefox.  Other apps you might want to use will need to be set up for using a proxy if you intend to have their traffic tunneled as well!

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