Difference Between SSL and SSH Tunnel

Difference Between SSL and SSH Tunnel

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Anshuman
Anshuman Singh
Senior Executive - Content
Updated on Feb 24, 2023 14:28 IST

In today’s era, we all can agree that the internet has become an integral part of our daily lives. And, with the increase in internet usage, the chances of getting your data stolen or eavesdropped on have also increased. So, an important question arises: how to protect your data or keep it safe from prying eyes? The answer to such queries is to use robust methods such as SSL tunneling or SSH tunneling.

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Both of these methods or techniques allow data transmission securely but work differently and serve different protocols. So, what is the difference between SSL and SSH tunnel? Which one should you use? This article will explore SSL vs SSH tunnels in great depth and provide answers to all such queries.

The main difference between SSL tunnel and SSH tunnel is that an SSL tunnel is created using the SSL/TLS protocol and allows you to encrypt data in transmission between a client and a server. In contrast, a SSH tunnel is created using SSH protocol and allows you to connect to remote machines over an insecure network securely. 

You can also explore: Difference Between SSL and TLS

Before we dive deeper into the article and explore the difference between SSL and SSH tunnel, let’s go through the list of topics listed under the table of contents (TOC) that we will cover in this article. Here’s the table:

Table of Contents (TOC)

Difference Between SSL and SSH Tunnel

For a better understanding, let’s explore the difference between SSH and SSL tunnels in a tabular format. Here’s the table: 

Benchmark SSH Tunnel SSL Tunnel
Purpose Allows secure remote access to a computer or server Provides secure communication between a client and server (e.g., web browser and web server)
Encryption Encrypts data transmitted between a client and server using a secure “tunnel” Encrypts data transmitted between a client and server using SSL/TLS protocol
Authentication Uses public key authentication or password authentication for access control Uses digital certificates from trusted third-party certificate authorities to verify server identity and client authenticity
Port Uses default port 22 for SSH connections Uses default port 443 for HTTPS connections
Implementation Requires SSH software to be installed on both client and server Implemented at the application layer, requires an SSL certificate on the server side.

What is an SSL Tunnel?

Before we understand what an SSL tunnel is, let’s first understand what SSL is. A Secure Socket Layer, or SSL, is a network protocol that allows you to establish an encrypted link or a connection between a web server and a web browser. 

SSL Tunnel Definition: SSL tunnel is a type of tunnel created between a client, such as a browser, and a server using SSL/TLS protocols, to provide secure data transmission between them. 

SSL tunnel establishes a secure link or connection between the client and server through a handshake process. During this process, the client and server decide or negotiate which protocol they will be using to secure the connection. Once the protocol type is decided, the data is transmitted through the SSL tunnel in an encrypted format, making it challenging for attackers to eavesdrop on or intercept the communication.   

In short, we can say that SSL tunneling is a technique that creates a secure “tunnel” between a browser and server, giving a secure transmission in an insecure network. In layman’s terms, SSL tunneling technique protects data transmitted between a web server and a client, like a web browser. 

SSL protocol is best for performing activities like e-commerce transactions, online banking, or transmitting sensitive or confidential information.

You can also explore: What is the Difference Between HTTP and HTTPS?

What is an SSH Tunnel?

Before we understand what an SSH tunnel is, let’s first understand what SSH is. SSH, or Secure Shell, is a cryptographic network protocol. This protocol allows you to log in securely to another computer over a network/internet to execute commands in a remote machine and transfer files from one computer to another.

SSH Tunnel Definition: An SSH tunnel is a type of tunnel created between a local and a remote machine (between two computers) using SSH protocols to provide secure data transmission between them. 

The SSH tunnel works by establishing an encrypted connection between the client and server through the SSH protocol. Once the connection is established, data is transmitted through the tunnel in an encrypted form, protecting it from unauthorized access or interception.

In short, we can say that SSH tunneling is a technique that provides secure remote access to a computer or server. This technique is best for people or users who want to access their computer or server from a different location while ensuring that the connection remains secure and private.

SSH tunnel is best to use when performing activities like accessing a remote server securely, transferring files securely, or accessing a local network securely from a remote location.

Must explore: What Is A Network Protocol? Working and It’s Type

Key Differences Between SSL and SSH Tunnels

Here are the key differences between SSL and SSH tunnels:

  • The SSH tunnel uses default port 22 for SSH connections, but an SSL tunnel uses default port 443 for HTTPS connections.
  • The SSH tunnel allows secure remote access to a computer or server, whereas an SSL tunnel provides secure communication between a client and server.
  • An SSH tunnel encrypts data transmitted between a client and server using a secure “tunnel.” In contrast, an SSL tunnel encrypts data transmitted between a client and server using SSL/TLS protocol.
  • An SSH tunnel uses public key authentication or password authentication for access control. In comparison, an SSL uses digital certificates from trusted third-party certificate authorities to verify server identity and client authenticity.

What is SSH over SSL technique?

SSH over SSL is a technique that combines the security of both SSH and SSL. When you use SSH over SSL technique, you establish an SSL connection between your web browser and the server and then establish an SSH connection within the SSL tunnel. 

By using SSH over SSL technique, you receive an extra layer of security, as the data is encrypted twice. It is encrypted once by SSL and once by SSH. Hence, this technique is getting more popular day by day.

SSH vs HTTPS

When it comes to comparing SSH vs HTTPS, the most significant distinction lies in their primary usage. SSH is a secure method of remotely accessing computers or servers, while HTTPS is employed for safe communication between a web browser and a web server. 

Typically, system administrators tend to prefer SSH, whereas regular people use HTTPS for their daily activities, including online shopping, banking, and more.

Must explore: OSI Model Explained: 7 Layers and Their Functions

Conclusion

After going through all the above information regarding the difference between SSL and SSH tunnels, we can conclude that both methods create secure tunnels to transmit data. However, they differ in their purpose and implementation. Here are the primary differences between SSL vs SSH:

  • SSL tunneling is primarily used for securing web traffic, while SSH tunneling is commonly used for remote access to servers. 
  • SSL tunneling uses SSL/TLS protocol for encryption and digital certificates for authentication, while SSH tunneling uses a secure “tunnel” and public key or password authentication. 

Ultimately, the choice between SSL and SSH tunneling depends on the specific use case and security requirements.

About the Author
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Anshuman Singh
Senior Executive - Content

Anshuman Singh is an accomplished content writer with over three years of experience specializing in cybersecurity, cloud computing, networking, and software testing. Known for his clear, concise, and informative wr... Read Full Bio