Secure Firefox and IM with PuTTY

There are times when you want to connect to the Internet through unknown and/or insecure networks such as the local Panera or other WiFi hotspot. If you aren’t careful, you might make it all too easy for someone to sniff your connection using Ettercap.

One of the best ways to secure your connection is to use a VPN, but that isn’t always practical. So here’s a way to securely connect to the net using only an SSH client and a remote box that you control/trust.


  1. PuTTY* loaded on your local machine
  2. Remote host running OpenSSH (e.g. Linux box at home)
  3. Firefox (obviously)
  4. Gaim for all your IM needs

Just follow these steps…

1. Create a new PuTTY session
Run PuTTY and create a new session in PuTTY to connect to the remote host that is running OpenSSH. Fill in the hostname, the port (usually 22), make sure SSH is checked, give it a session name and hit Save:

2. Configure a secure tunnel
Click on “Tunnels” on the left and set up dynamic fowarding for a local port (e.g. 7070). Under “Add new forwarded port” type in 7070 for the source port, leave the destination blank, and check Auto and Dynamic. Then it the Add button. If you did it correctly, you’ll see D7070 listed in the Forwarded Ports box:

That’s it for tunnels, as there is no need to create more than one. Remember to save your session profile in PuTTY so you don’t have to set up the tunnel next time.

3. Connect to the remote SSH box
Double click on the connection profile and type in your username and password when prompted.

4. Configure Firefox
Go to Tools, Options, General, and then click on Connection Settings…

Check Manual Proxy Configuration, leave most of the fields blank, but fill in for the SOCKS v5 host with a port of 7070 (or whatever you used in Step 2):

5. Configure Gaim
Fire up Gaim and hit the Preferences button:

Then select Network on the left and set up the Proxy Server. The Proxy Type should be SOCKS 5. The host is and the port is 7070 (or whatever you chose in Step 2).

There’s no need for a user or password. Then hit close.

6. Enjoy
That’s it. From now on, as long as you first log into the remote ssh host with PuTTY, your Firefox and IM traffic will be routed over a secure tunnel to the remote host and then out to the Net. Good stuff.

* Yes, PuTTY is available for Linux. It’s even in Portage!

Update (Email): Actually, the setup for Thunderbird to securely proxy your email traffic is pretty much the same as it is for Firefox.

And then type in and your port number:

That’s it.


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