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If I understand correctly, SSH tunneling works as follows:

  1. Machine B is running the SSH daemon (process b).
  2. Machine A opens an ssh client (process a)
  3. Machine A connects its ssh client to machine B's server (say on port 22). In other words, process a on machine A is communicating with process b on machine B.
  4. A tunnel is opened, say by running -L 4444:localhost:5555 on machine A.
  5. Any traffic to localhost:4444 on machine A is intercepted and sent to process a, who sends a special message over the connection on port 22
  6. Process b receives the special message, and redirects to localhost:5555 on machine B.

Is there a replacement for processes a and b that performs this tunneling trick but that isn't SSH? In other words, it doesn't have to perform encryption, and importantly, does not require the user on machine A to log into machine b?

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Yes, you could use a VPN solution, such a OpenVPN. You will still have a client and a server though.

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  • How would I use openVPN to do this? Can machine B install it as a server? Doesn't machine A still have to log into machine B? – Mahkoe Mar 5 at 20:52
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There has to be some sort of server at the final end to which you connect. There are several alternatives to set up something like this (VPNs, ssh, other tunneling software). SSH is just easy to set up, and clients are available even for cellphones...

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  • Can you suggest a particular method that does not require the administrator of machine B to create an account for machine A? – Mahkoe Mar 5 at 20:52
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I find frp to be better at doing this kind of job.

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