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Quick VPN using Sshuttle via SSH

ruanbekker profile image Ruan Bekker ・3 min read

This was originally posted on blog.ruanbekker.com

Theres a utility called sshuttle which allows you to VPN via a SSH connection, which is really handy when you quickly want to be able to reach a private range, which is accessible from a public reachable server such as a bastion host.

In this tutorial, I will demonstrate how to install sshuttle on a mac, if you are using a different OS you can see their documentation and then we will use the VPN connection to reach a "prod" and a "dev" environment.

SSH Config

We will declare 2 jump-boxes / bastion hosts in our ssh config:

  • dev-jump-host is a public server that has network access to our private endpoints in 172.31.0.0/16
  • prod-jump-host is a public server that has network access to our private endpoints in 172.31.0.0/16

In this case, the above example is 2 AWS Accounts with the same CIDR's, and wanted to demonstrate using sshuttle for this reason, as if we had different CIDRs we can setup a dedicated VPN and route them respectively.

$ cat ~/.ssh/config
Host *
    Port 22
    StrictHostKeyChecking no
    UserKnownHostsFile /dev/null
    ServerAliveInterval 60
    ServerAliveCountMax 30

Host dev-jump-host
    HostName dev-bastion.mydomain.com
    User bastion
    IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa

Host prod-jump-host
    HostName prod-bastion.mydomain.com
    User bastion
    IdentityFile ~/.ssh/id_rsa
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Install sshuttle

Install sshuttle for your operating system:

# macos
$ brew install shuttle

# debian
$ apt install sshuttle
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Usage

To setup a vpn tunnel to route connections to our prod account:

$ sshuttle -r prod-jump-host 172.31.0.0/16
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Or to setup a vpn tunnel to route connections to our dev account:

$ sshuttle -r dev-jump-host 172.31.0.0/16
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Once one of your chosen sessions establishes, you can use a new terminal to access your private network, as example:

$ nc -vz 172.31.23.40 22
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Bash Functions

We can wrap this into functions, so we can use vpn_dev or vpn_prod which aliases to the commands shown below:

$ cat ~/.functions
vpn_prod(){
  sshuttle -r prod-jump-host 172.31.0.0/16
}

vpn_dev(){
  sshuttle -r dev-jump-host 172.31.0.0/16
}
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Now source that to your environment:

$ source ~/.functions
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Then you should be able to use vpn_dev and vpn_prod from your terminal:

$ vpn_prod
[local sudo] Password:
Warning: Permanently added 'xx,xx' (ECDSA) to the list of known hosts.
client: Connected.
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And in a new terminal we can connect to a RDS MySQL Database sitting in a private network:

$ mysql -h my-prod-db.pvt.mydomain.com -u dbadmin -p$pass
mysql>
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Sshuttle as a Service

You can create a systemd unit file to run a sshuttle vpn as a service. In this scenario I provided 2 different vpn routes, dev and prod, so you can create 2 seperate systemd unit files, but my case I will only create for prod:

$ cat /etc/systemd/system/vpn_prod.service
[Unit]
Description=ShuttleProdVPN
Wants=network-online.target
After=network-online.target
StartLimitIntervalSec=500
StartLimitBurst=5

[Service]
User=root
Group=root
Type=simple
Restart=on-failure
RestartSec=10s
ExecStart=/usr/bin/sshuttle -r prod-jump-host 172.31.0.0/16

[Install]
WantedBy=multi-user.target
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Reload the systemd daemon:

$ sudo systemctl daemon-reload
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Enable and start the service:

$ sudo systemctl enable vpn_prod
$ sudo systemctl start vpn_prod
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Thank You

Thanks for reading.

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