Davide Gerosa

Local browser from a remote server

This is a short guide to browse the internet using a local browser via a remote server. This is useful to login into a University machine with your RSA key and then browse the internet as if you are on campus.

Option 1 (best): a dedicated Chrome session

The best option I found was to open a dedicated Chrome session through an SSH tunnel. First, open an ssh connection to your server (user@host) specifying the port number (in this case 1337 but you can pick whatever you want):

ssh -D 1337 -f -C -q -N user@host

Then open Google Chrome using that SSH tunnel as a proxy. You need to specify a cache directory, otherwise, it interferes with your main Chrome session:

ssh -D $portid -f -C -q -N $host
/Applications/Google\ Chrome.app/Contents/MacOS/Google\ Chrome --proxy-server=socks5://localhost:1337 --user-data-dir=~/chromesession

A new Chrome window will open: in that window (but not elsewhere) it’s like you’re browsing from the remote location. Wow!

You can put these two operations in a convenient function for your bashrc

function portssh {
echo Port $portid $host
ssh -D $portid -f -C -q -N $host
/Applications/Google\ Chrome.app/Contents/MacOS/Google\ Chrome --proxy-server=socks5://localhost:${portid} --user-data-dir=~/chromesession

This can be called with

portssh <server>

where <server> is an entry of your ssh config file.

Option 2 (manual): a global proxy

This is a more manual solution where you redirect the entire web traffic through the remote server. First open the ssh tunnel

ssh -D 1337 -f -C -q -N user@host

On mac then do the following:

  • Go to: “Settings”, “Network”, “Wi-Fi”, “Advanced”, “Proxies”.
  • Click on “SOCKS Proxies” and write “localhost” and “1337” in the two white boxes separated by a colon.
  • Click “Ok” and “Apply”

Here you go, your browser will now believe you’re elsewhere. Remember you switch the proxy option off when you want to go back to your usual internet setup.