Secure Terminal Sharing

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Upterm is an open-source solution for sharing terminal sessions instantly over the public internet via secure tunnels. Upterm is good for

This is a blog post to describe Upterm in depth.


The host starts a terminal session:

$ upterm host -- bash

The host displays the ssh connection string:

$ upterm session current
Command:                bash
Force Command:          n/a
Host:                   ssh://uptermd.upterm.dev:22
SSH Session:            ssh IqKsfoiclsNnxqztDKoj:MTAuMC40OS4xNjY6MjI=@uptermd.upterm.dev

The client opens a terminal and connects to the host’s session:

$ ssh IqKsfoiclsNnxqztDKoj:MTAuMC40OS4xNjY6MjI=@uptermd.upterm.dev



brew install jingweno/upterm/upterm


upterm can be easily installed as an executable. Download the latest compiled binaries and put it in your executable path.

From source

git clone git@github.com:jingweno/upterm.git
cd upterm
go install ./cmd/upterm/...


upterm comes with a command to upgrade

$ upterm upgrade # upgrade to the latest version

$ upterm upgrade VERSION # upgrade to a version


brew upgrade upterm

Quick Reference

# Host a terminal session that runs $SHELL with
# client's input/output attaching to the host's
$ upterm host

# Display the ssh connection string and share it with
# the client(s)
$ upterm session current
Command:                /bin/bash
Force Command:          n/a
Host:                   ssh://uptermd.upterm.dev:22
SSH Session:            ssh TOKEN@uptermd.upterm.dev

# A client connects to the host session with ssh
$ ssh TOKEN@uptermd.upterm.dev

# Host a terminal session that only allows specified client public key(s) to connect
$ upterm host --authorized-key PATH_TO_PUBLIC_KEY

# Host a session with a custom command
$ upterm host -- docker run --rm -ti ubuntu bash

# Host a session that runs 'tmux new -t pair-programming' and
# force clients to join with 'tmux attach -t pair-programming'.
# This is similar to what tmate offers.
$ upterm host --force-command 'tmux attach -t pair-programming' -- tmux new -t pair-programming`,

# Connect to uptermd.upterm.dev via WebSocket
$ upterm host --server wss://uptermd.upterm.dev -- bash

# A client connects to the host session via WebSocket
$ ssh -o ProxyCommand='upterm proxy wss://TOKEN@uptermd.upterm.dev' TOKEN@uptermd.upterm.dev:443

More advanced usage is here.


Why doesn’t upterm session current show current session in Tmux?

upterm session current needs the UPTERM_ADMIN_SOCKET environment variable to function. And this env var is set in the specified command. Unfotunately, Tmux doesn’t carry over environment variables that are not in its default list to any Tmux session unless you tell it to (Ref). So to get upterm session current to work, add the following line to your ~/.tmux.conf

set-option -ga update-environment " UPTERM_ADMIN_SOCKET"

How to make it obvious that I am in an upterm session?

It can be confusing whether your shell command is running in an upterm session or not, especially if the shell command is bash or zsh. Add the following line to your ~/.bashrc or ~/.zshrc and decorate your prompt to show a sign if the shell command is in a terminal session:

export PS1="$([[ ! -z "${UPTERM_ADMIN_SOCKET}"  ]] && echo -e '\xF0\x9F\x86\x99 ')$PS1" # Add an emoji to the prompt if `UPTERM_ADMIN_SOCKET` exists



How it works

You run the upterm program by specifying the command for your terminal session. Upterm starts an SSH server (a.k.a. sshd) in the host machine and sets up a reverse SSH tunnel to a Upterm server (a.k.a. uptermd). Clients connect to your terminal session over the public internet via uptermd using ssh using TCP or WebSocket. A community Upterm server is running at uptermd.upterm.dev and upterm points to this server by default.

upterm flowchart

Deploy Uptermd


You can deploy uptermd to a Kubernetes cluster. Install it with helm:

$ helm repo add upterm https://upterm.dev
$ helm repo update
$ helm search repo upterm
upterm/uptermd  0.1.0           0.4.1           Secure Terminal Sharing
$ helm install uptermd upterm/uptermd


The cheapest way to deploy a worry-free Upterm server (a.k.a. uptermd) is to use Heroku. Heroku offers free Dyno hours which should be sufficient for most casual uses.

You can deploy with one click of the following button:


You can also automate the deployment with Heroku Terraform. The Heroku Terraform scripts are in the terraform/heroku folder. A util script is provided for your convenience to automate everything:

$ git clone https://github.com/jingweno/upterm
$ cd upterm

# Provinsion uptermd in Heroku Common Runtime.
# Follow instructions
$ bin/heroku-install

# Provinsion uptermd in Heroku Private Spaces.
# Follow instructions
$ TF_VAR_heroku_region=REGION TF_VAR_heroku_space=SPACE_NAME TF_VAR_heroku_team=TEAM_NAME bin/heroku-install

You must use WebScoket as the protocol for a Heroku-deployed Uptermd server because the platform only support HTTP/HTTPS routing. This is how you host a session and join a session:

# Use the Heroku-deployed Uptermd server via WebSocket
$ upterm host --server wss://YOUR_HEROKU_APP_URL -- YOUR_COMMAND

# A client connects to the host session via WebSocket
$ ssh -o ProxyCommand='upterm proxy wss://TOKEN@YOUR_HEROKU_APP_URL' TOKEN@YOUR_HEROKU_APP_URL:443

How is Upterm compared to prior arts?

Upterm is an alternative to Tmate.

Tmate is a fork of an older version of Tmux. It adds terminal sharing capability on top of Tmux 2.x. Tmate doesn’t intend to catch up with the latest Tmux, so any Tmate & Tmux users must maintain two versions of the configuration. For example, you must bind the same keys twice with a condition.

Upterm is designed from the group up not to be a fork of anything. It builds around the concept of linking the input & output of any shell command between a host and its clients. As you see above, you can share any command besides tmux. This opens up a door for securely sharing a terminal session using containers.

Upterm is written in Go. It is more friendly hackable than Tmate that is written in C because Tmux is C. The Upterm CLI and server (uptermd) are compiled into a single binary. You can quickly spawn up your pairing server in any cloud environment with zero dependencies.


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