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Tunnels on Subdomains


Starting with rport version 0.9.5 you can access http-based tunnels on subdomains.

This feature was introduced to comply with strict firewall rules that block outgoing connections to none-default ports. After a tunnel has been created you access it on a random port according to the port range reserved for tunnels. With the new feature an additional random subdomain is created typically on port 443 as an alternative way to access the tunnel.

That means you can access a tunnel on https://rport.example.com:34567 or on https://pio0toazivaeGheif2.tunnels.example.com

Subdomains can be created for http(s) based tunnels such as RDP or VNC via browser or remote web-uis. SSH over web is currently not supported.

For the subdomain to tunnel routing rportd uses caddy as reverse-proxy. Starting, stopping and configuring the caddy server is entirely done by rportd. No manual caddy configuration is needed.



You must have caddy installed on the same host with rportd. Using caddy inside a separated docker container is not supported. Rportd takes full control over caddy and the communication is handled over a unix socket.

Either install caddy manually by just downloading it

sudo curl -L "https://caddyserver.com/api/download?os=linux&arch=amd64" -o /usr/local/bin/caddy
sudo chmod +x /usr/local/bin/caddy

or install via package manager. This way you make sure you get caddy updates together with OS updates.

Once installed execute

sudo setcap 'cap_net_bind_service=+ep' $(which caddy)

Allow privileged port binding
Because either rportd nor caddy run with root privileges, by default caddy cannot bind to port 443 or any port below 1024. You must explicitly allow this by executing sudo setcap 'cap_net_bind_service=+ep' $(which caddy). If the command setcap is not available, install with sudo apt-get install libcap2-bin.

Disable caddy systemd unit
When installing caddy via package manager, caddy will start automatically on system start. This might conflict with caddy being run as subprocess from rportd. You would be well advised to switch caddy systemd autostart off with systemctl disable caddy

Wildcard DNS record

To make the random subdomain available you must create a wildcard DNS record. This is usually done by entering *. as prefix for a subdomain. For example, if you want to use *.tunnels.example.com you must create a new host *.tunnels for the domain example.com. Using the API and UI inside the range of the wildcard is supported, for example *.example.com for the tunnel subdomains, and rport.example.com. In such case the second DNS record is not needed.

Wildcard SSL Certificate

For the dynamic creation of the subdomains you need a wildcard SSL certificate that covers the DNS record. You can buy a commercial certificate or use Let’s encrypt. For the latter you must confirm your ownership of the domain by a DNS record. Look at the example below:

certbot certonly --manual --preferred-challenges dns -d *.tunnels.example.com

Before executing the above command, make sure you are logged in to the admin panel of your DNS. The command will display a DNS text record you must create, and then it waits for your confirmation. Before continuing open a new terminal and make sure your DNS TXT record has become available using for example dig:

dig -t txt _acme-challenge.tunnels.example.com

If your record is listed as indicated by certbot, continue.

Doublecheck your certificate is a wildcard certificate with:

openssl x509 -noout -subject -in  /etc/letsencrypt/live/<YOUR-DOMAIN>/fullchain.pem

Make sure the rport user has read-rights on the certificate and key file. By default, Let’s encrypt creates files
readable just for root. Consider giving read access to anyone or create a user group.

find /etc/letsencrypt/archive/ -type d -exec chmod o+rx {} \;
find /etc/letsencrypt/archive/ -type f -exec chmod o+r {} \;
find /etc/letsencrypt/live/ -type d -exec chmod o+rx {} \;
find /etc/letsencrypt/live/ -type f -exec chmod o+r {} \;

Configure rportd

For the configuration of the caddy integration you have two options.

  1. split port setup: The rportd-API/UI and the subdomains will listen on different TCP ports. Subdomains will typically use 443, and the API/UI any other free port, e.g. 8443. Caddy will route subdomains only, the API/UI has its independent built-in web server.
  2. shared port setup: The rportd-API/UI and the subdomains will listen on the same TCP port, typically 443. Caddy will route all http connection. The built-in API/UI web server acts as a backend behind the reverse proxy.

Common and split port setup

For any kind of setup, add a configuration like this to your /etc/rport/rportd.conf file.

  ## Enable https tunnels on random subdomains. 
  ## See https://oss.rport.io/advanced/tunnels-on-subdomains/
  ## Note: no defaults currently.

  ## Specifies the path to the caddy executable. mandatory.
  # caddy="/usr/bin/caddy"
  ## The bind address where caddy should listen for subdomain tunnels connections. mandatory.
  # address=""
  ## All caddy subdomain tunnels will have the domain prefix listed below. mandatory.
  # subdomain_prefix="tunnels.example.com"
  ## An SSL wildcard certificate is required that matches the subdomain prefix above. mandatory.
  # cert_file="/etc/letsencrypt/live/<YOUR-DOMAIN>/fullchain.pem"
  # key_file="/etc/letsencrypt/live/<YOUR-DOMAIN>/privkey.pem"
  • For the subdomain_prefix do not enter the * sign. If your DNS record is *.rport.example.com enter rport.example.com.
  • Make sure the port of the address does not conflict with the port of the address in the [api] section.

If you want to run the subdomains managed by caddy and the rport API/UI on different TCP ports, you can stop here and restart rportd.

Shared port setup

Additionally, to the above setting, add the following lines to the [caddy-integration] block.

  ## If you want to run the API and the tunnel subdomains on the same HTTPs port,
  ## you must specify a hostname for the API.
  api_hostname = "rport-api.example.com"
  ## Even if the above api_hostname is  inside the validity of the above certificate, 
  ## you must specify wich certificate to use for the API.
  api_cert_file = "/etc/ssl/certs/rport/api.crt"
  api_key_file = "/etc/ssl/certs/rport/api.key"
  ## Port of the API with TLS switched off. Port must match the port of "[api] address"
  api_port = "3000"

The address on the [api] must match the api_port on the [caddy-integration] section. Also, the api must have SSL/TLS switched off, by commenting out the paths to the key and certificate.

For the above example the corresponding [api] config is:

  ## Defines the IP address and port the API server listens on.
  ## Specify non-empty {address} to enable API support.
  address = ""
  ## <snip snap>
  ## If both cert_file and key_file are specified, then rportd will use them to serve the API with https.
  ## Intermediate certificates should be included in cert_file if required.
  #cert_file = "/etc/letsencrypt/live/rport/fullchain.pem"
  #key_file = "/etc/letsencrypt/live/rport/privkey.pem"


  1. If rport doesn’t start with the new configuration, inspect the start errors with

    journalctl -u rportd.service --no-pager -e
  2. Also, look at /var/log/rport/rportd.log.

  3. Consider increasing the log_level to debug in the /etc/rport/rportd.conf file.

  4. To query the current caddy routing and the active subdomains, use:

    curl http://localhost/config/apps/http/servers/srv0/routes \
    --unix-socket /var/lib/rport/caddy-admin.sock -H "host:unix"|jq

Use it

  • Create a tunnel for RDP and activate “Enable RDP via browser” or
  • Create a tunnel for VNC and select “Enable NoVNC (VNC via Browser)” or
  • Create a tunnel for HTTP/HTTPs and activate “Enable HTTP Reverse proxy”

All the above tunnel settings will trigger the creation of a subdomain. After tunnel creation you will notice that the API returns a field tunnel_url. The “access tunnel” button of the UI will point to that URL instead of pointing to the random port on the main domain of the rport server.