So, again, I needed to test something on a customer's network, and I still don't have a dedicated VPN. I keep thinking I'll set one up, but I just don't need to use it that often. And usually, the only thing I'd want a dedicated VPN for, is to connect a physical device to their network from home. In order to do that, I'd need like a dedicated VPN box and a dedicated vlan for traffic to each customer setup like that. But I wouldn't have them connected 24/7, so really, it just doesn't make sense. It's much easier to just create an adhoc VPN with ssh when needed.
So for the un-initiated, openssh for quite a while now, has had support for creating virtual network adapters (tun and tap) on both sides of an ssh connection, and all traffic between the two virtual adapters are tunneled over your ssh connection. It's pretty slick. You can either create a point-to-point connection (tun device) or virtual ethernet (tap device). The latter lets you create a bridged network, which is what I tend to do.
So, I had a customer with an asterisk phone system issue. Their handsets weren't configured properly, and DTMF signals were either not being sent, or being interpreted incorrectly. But I needed a handset like theirs, on their network, connected to their phone system to test out the various settings to find the right combination. I really didn't want to drive in. Luckily, I had one of their spare handsets at my house. Now all I needed was a way to make this wired phone think it was physically on their network. SSH to the rescue.
Now, this isn't a setup that you can pull off easily. There are many caveats. For example, to created an ethernet bridge, you need machines with SSH on both sides, that also have an ethernet adapter setup in bridge mode. Luckily, I have an embedded debian box on their premise just for SSH'ing into. I just had to change it's network config to create a bridge device, and add it's eth0 to the bridge on startup, then reboot and hope i didn't screw up. Luckily, this time, I didn't screw up, and I was able to get back in after reboot.
So here's my setup, I had a debian desktop at my house with a spare ethernet adapter (I've also used a laptop with a usb to ethernet adapter in the past). I set up the spare ethernet adapter (eth1) to be part of a bridge.
Next, I made sure the other end was set up similarly, I simply edited it's
ifconfig eth1 0.0.0.0 promisc up
brctl addbr br0
brctl addif br0 eth1
iface eth0 inet manual
iface br0 inet static
Made it look something along those lines, and rebooted the machine, crossed my fingers and waited for it to come back up. Luckily it did, because if it didn't, I'd be driving out late at night, and that didn't sound fun to me.
Now, you just use SSH and tell it to use 'ethernet' tunnel devices (i.e. tap devices):
sudo ssh root@REMOTE -o Tunnel=ethernet -w any:anyA couple things to note above. First of all, notice I'm both doing sudo, and also ssh'ing to the remote hosts root account. This is because it seems that only root can create the necessary tun/tap devices on either end. The next thing to note, I had to specify the extra -o option before the -w option. If the -w option came first in the command line, it created tun devices on both ends instead of tap devices (tun can only do point to point networks, i.e. routed networks, I want bridged networks).
Once you do that, you should be logged into the remote machine, and it should have an extra tap0 device (or some other number if you already have tap devices defined). At this point, you simply bring up the tap0 device on both ends, and add the device to your bridge. So something like:
ifconfig tap0 0.0.0.0 promisc up
brctl addif br0 tap0
Run that on both ends, replacing tap0 with the tap device that was created, and br0 with the name of the bridge device you created. At this point, you now have a bridge between your local spare ethernet device, and your remote network. Essentially, anything you connect to your local spare ethernet device will act as if it was directly plugged into the remote network!
So what I did, was connect up a small 10/100 switch to the spare ethernet port, so now this 10/100 switch is essentially bridged to the switch at the remote network. Pretty cool. Now I just plug in my SIP phone, power it on, and what do you know, it gets a dhcp address from the remote network, and registers itself with the phone system at my client's location. At this point, I can test the phone system at my leisure just like I was physically on their premises.
But every time I use SSH to pull off something cool like that, it just feels awesome. I just wish all sysadmin tasks were as exciting. I think it's more that I over came the challenge of testing something without having to physically go there. Either way, it's cool, at least I think so.