Using PuTTY to set up a SOCKS Proxy Connection

You can use the free PuTTY program on Microsoft Windows systems to establish an encrypted Sockets Secure (SOCKS) proxy connection. Note: a SOCKS proxy itself doesn't provide a secure path for your data - see Is SOCKS Secure? - but establishing an SSH connection to a server via PuTTY and then tunneling your web traffic through the encrypted SSH connection to a SOCKS proxy thus created ensures that no one in between the system on which you are running PuTTY and the SSH server to which you connect can observe your traffic or know what websites you are visiting.

To use PuTTY to establish a local SOCKS proxy that will use an SSH server to which you are connecting with PuTTY, take the following steps (written for PuTTY 0.63, but will apply to other versions as well):

  1. Create a new session or open an existing one to modify it then click on the plus sign (+) next to SSH in the left pane of the window then click on Tunnels.

    PuTTY tunnels

  2. Select "Dynamic", if you want PuTTY to provide a local SOCKS 4/4A/5 proxy on a local port (note that this proxy only supports TCP connections; the SSH protocol does not support forwarding UDP) and put a port number in the source port field. Port 1080 is often used for SOCKS proxies, but you can pick any port that is not in use on the system on which you are running PuTTY. After putting the port number in the source port field, click on the Add button, which will put "D" followed by the port number, e.g. "D1080", in the "Forwarded ports" field.
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    PuTTY dynamic socks

  3. Scroll up in the left pane of the PuTTY window to "Session", then click on Save. Note: the connection type must be SSH.

    PuTTY example

Once you have PuTTY set up to establish a SOCKS proxy connection, you can log into the remote SSH server by clicking on the Open button in PuTTY with the system selected for which you configured the SOCKS proxy support.

If you open a command prompt window on the system on which you are running PuTTY, you should then see that it is listening for connections on port 1080, or whatever port you picked for the SOCKS proxy connection on the localhost address, 127.0.0.1.

C:\Users>netstat -a | find "1080"
  TCP    127.0.0.1:1080         North1:0               LISTENING
  TCP    [::1]:1080             North1:0               LISTENING

You then need to configure your browser to use the SOCKS proxy.

References:

  1. Creating a Socks Proxy Server with SSH
    Date: November 28, 2006
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