In ProxyCommand we saw an alternative to ProxyJump for older releases of OpenSSH. What if we need to go even backwards in time?

The solution described in ProxyCommand relies upon the -W option for ssh (well, OpenSSH’s ssh, of course), which was introduced exactly 10 years ago (8th of March, 2010) in release-5.4:

Added a ‘netcat mode’ to ssh(1): “ssh -W host:port …”

I wholeheartedly wish you don’t need to go any backwards in time, but just in case rest assured that -W is a nice to have but not necessarily a must.

As a matter of fact - as also observed by crimson-egret - it’s possible to not rely upon the ‘netcat mode’ and use Netcat directly. This is how our example would have to be changed:

Host jumphost
   HostName jumphost.local
   User bar
   IdentityFile ~/.ssh/jumphost.key
Host target
   HostName target.internal
   User galook
   IdentityFile ~/.ssh/target.key
   ProxyCommand ssh jumphost nc %h %p

This, of course, requires to have nc installed in the jumphost, which might not always be the case. A few ideas about it:

  • first, check whether Netcat is installed with a different name in jumphost. It might be there as ncat or netcat, for example;
  • then, if the jumphost is Linux-based and you can place an executable there, you can put a statically compiled binary version and avoid intrusive installations of packages.

If you go for the second route, you might be interested into Busybox - multipurpose executable, a component of the #toolbox which contains an implementation of nc that should do the trick.