What is an SSH tunnel ?

Given the sudden, and often inexplicable nature of recent cyber-attacks, organizations are racing to ensure that their networks and data remain fully encrypted. When it comes to applications over HTTP, organizations have nothing to worry about. However, when it comes from legacy applications with unsecure channels such as telnet or FTP – this is where SSH tunneling comes into play. With minimal setup.

The SSH protocol is a way of optimising the security of your communication channels across an untrusted network. It lets you use port forwarding to encrypt TCP/IP traffic, and let you take advantage of any application you can think of, meaning that message confidentiality is guaranteed. This means that application data traffic is directed to flow inside an encrypted SSH connection that cannot be eavesdropped or intercepted while it is in transit. It’s also a great way to add network security to legacy applications

In this figure, we outline SSH tunneling that connects the SSH client to an SSH server on a trusted network. The connection is secure and remotely operates the “untrusted” network. It’s encrypted for confidentiality and integrity, and it logs in automatically.

You can make your local machine talk to an external server by using the SSH protocol. This is done by connecting from an application through a SSH tunnel on the host machine. The SSH client forwards the app over an encrypted channel. The server then communicates with the application server, which is also running on the same machine or in the same data center. Communication between these two are secure without changing anything.

Who uses SSH tunneling? #

One disadvantage to this approach is that the person who can log in and connect to the server is able to forward any port, which means you have less control over what is happening from a security standpoint. Enable “Remote Desktop” so this is possible. When you’ve enabled Remote Desktop, you’ll be able to connect to your remote machine and use it like if it was at your office. You can also install the application on any suitable desktop computer of your workplace network.

Hackers and malware can leave backdoors or have a level of anonymity that makes it difficult to identify the source of an attack.

A common use of SSH tunnels is to connect remotely into another server via encrypted channels. This can be used together with SSH keys and public key authentication too.

Benefits of SSH tunneling for enterprises #

SSHTunnels are widely utilized in many work environments that rely on mainframe systems as their backend. The application itself could have very limited native support for security. The use of tunneling can help with the compliance of a variety of different standards; SOX, HIPAA and PCI-DSS being just a few. With this, there is no need to modify any applications which could be incredibly expensive and time consuming.

Most applications and application servers don’t allow you to make code changes. Making code changes on them can be difficult. If a problem arises, then it’s best to call our team for assistance. Software development is a costly process, and when the vendor no longer exists, out of support products are developed with outdated technology, or the developers lose interest in the product, it can be difficult to figure out how to move forward. Establishing a secure connection, such as SSH tunneling, has enabled many applications to be more secure. For example, countries that use it for their entire ATM network (that’re usually a main target of hackers).

SSH tunneling in the corporate risk portfolio #

Usually, SSH tunneling is an indispensable tool for IT professionals, regardless of whether they are working in tech or management. In fact, it has some risks that need to be addressed with care and expertise. One of these is remote access encryption which can make data difficult or impossible to read by most monitoring systems & conventional traffic devices. OpenSSH tunnels are not inherently secure – anyone with access to your computer could exploit them. Cybercriminals and malware can use SSH chains to crack data exfiltrate from the network, or to hide unauthorized communication of the network

In an SSH back-tunneling attack, the attacker sets up a server in Amazon AWS, for example. Once they successfully access the target network, they connect to this external SSH server from their inside location. Most companies allow their employees to connect to their company’s private computers through a secure shell, or SSH. To enable SSH connections that bypass the firewall, use TCP port forwarding. It redirects traffic on the external server to a port on the internal server. Setting up an SSH back-tunnel is as easy as executing a one-line command. Most firewalls do not offer protection against it.

There are several cases of malware using the SSH protocol for data extraction and command channels. A number of cases have been encountered with malware collecting keylogged usernames, passwords and SSH keys.

Combine this vulnerability with attacks coming from unmanaged SSH keys which allow attackers to take over your machine from the internet.

When hackers use SSH tunneling, they can also use it to avoid detection because they can hide the original source of their attacks by bouncing them off other systems that allow SSH port forwarding. Bouncing attacks off of random devices can be a good thing. For example, they might try to determine what our login information is by typing in a different username and password, or use attack tools to gain control of our email. They’ll do this through encrypted tunnels carrying other traffic too.

To reduce these risks, you need to be able to monitor and control your encrypted SSH connections. Improving your IoT operating system by configuring & hardening will also help prevent bounces.

The tunneling technique is not specific to SSH. A programmer can program a networked program in a few hours, which can be accessed by any machine connected to the network. It’s true that any laptop or device on the local network can send a message to any service on the internet, if it is able to talk with the external world. Safe usage of the software can be ensured by using SSL, emulation of HTTP, or port management. The software is also safe to use via UDP. These ports are opened by software on the inside or devices connected to the internal network, so there is nothing preventing anyone from using SSH as an alternative to this even if it doesn’t provide security.

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