A simple recipe for forwarding webhooks to your local development environment

A simple recipe for forwarding webhooks to your local development environment

If your web application integrates with third party services via Webhooks, you will likely have encountered the need to forward Webhook requests to a local development server.

My solution to this had long been a free utility called Localtunnel, which forwards requests from a randomly-generated public host (i.e. [random-prefix].localtunnel.me) to your local machine. A major problem with Localtunnel is that it will not provide you a persistent URL, so you end up having to constantly reconfigure services to point to newly-allocated/temporary URLs.

If you have a VPS or dedicated server, you can use SSH remote forwarding to accomplish the same thing that Localtunnel does, but maintain a persistent remote hostname and port. This way you can configure development Webhooks once for your third-party integrations and be set.

sshd configuration

In order for SSH remote forwarding of TCP traffic to work, you will need to make sure that the ssh daemon (sshd) on your remote host is appropriately configured (we are assuming a Unix/Posix server environment here). Shell into your remote host and check the sshd configuration (at /etc/ssh/sshd_config for most Unix/Posix OSes). The two configuration items that you will need to confirm are set are the following:

Note that if you only want to enable forwarding only for a single user (i.e. non-root user for host security) you can use a “Match User” rule in the file:

Once you have saved the configuration file, you will need to restart sshd. On Ubuntu you do this with:

The remote host should now be ready to forward TCP connections to you.

The local ssh tunnel

On your local machine, you will use ssh with the -R flag. The simplified version is:

This forwards traffic from port 8888 on the remote host to port 5555 on your local machine.

You likely also want to supply the -nNT flags, as otherwise you will be logged in to a shell on the remote host in addition to having the tunnel created. You may also want to use the -v flag for a verbose debug-style log if you encounter issues connecting or with the tunnel.

Since I use remote tunneling so often in development, I prefer to have the code in an executable shell script. I also like to do this because I otherwise tend to forget the ordering of the arguments (i.e. remote vs local port, which is not obvious at a glance). You can create an executable file anywhere in your PATH (I keep a user binaries directory at ~/bin on my PATH and keep the script in there). For my own purposes I’ve named the executable “tnl” (i.e. “tunnel”):

That’s it! When you run the tunnel script, you will now be able to access your local server running on port 5555 via the remote host at http://[remote-host]:8888. You want to be mindful to kill the tunnel session when you’re not using it and be generally conscious of the security of the local server you are running on the tunneled port, as you are by design exposing it on the internet.


Hi! I'm Nicholas and I like building stuff. I'm software consultant working primarily with web technologies. I write here on related topics such as the Ruby on Rails web framework and DevOps solutions, in addition to travel and other matters of personal interest. I keep a homepage at nicholas.zaillian.com and am available for contract work (both remote and on-site depending on location. Send an email to hi@hackernotes.io).

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