Facing mosh UDP connection errors

For a while now, I have been looking at using a virtual machine in the cloud for some of my development. It makes sense to me, when I am out and about I don’t always carry my notebook with me; and I can use some form of ssh wherever I am to get some work done. Along that road I have been looking at using mosh to connect to the machine. I am also still enrolled in Google Cloud’s so-called ‘Free Tier’, so it made sense to play around with getting my development machine set up there. Only, using mosh to connect to my instance seemed impossible.

Mosh connection error

This clearly speaks to a problem of port connectivity issue. Mosh is either not getting into the machine, or it’s not gettting out of it again. From reading the mosh man page, I new that the way mosh tries to connect is by first establishing a simple ssh connection and then reversing the data flow and establishing a connection from the server to your client over UDP. The port it wants to use is obviously shown in the connection window itself. To figure out if mosh could get into the server, I connected over the usual ssh connection and observed processes for one called mosh.

Mosh process is running

As soon as I tried to connect with mosh a new process sprang up. So clearly getting in initially did not seem to be the problem. In hindsight this makes sense since mosh uses the normal ssh route to call up its server. If I can connect over ssh, mosh can. The problem had to be on the UDP side. I played aroung with the machine’s iptables and my ufw installation for a long time, thinking it had to be an issue with how I set up the firewall rules.

Fixing the Google Cloud firewall rules

However, turns out that while firewall rules were definitely to blame, it was not those I ever set up. Instead, Google compute engine follows its own, external, firewall rules for virtual machines you set up. It is there you have to specifically allow mosh to get into the server over UDP. Thankfully, the labelling in your cloud console is pretty straightforward. The individual steps follow as such:

Select VPC Security-Firewall Rules

Go to your Google Cloud Console and choose Firewall Rules from your big menu of stuff (tm), it is located under the ‘VPC Network’ header.

Once there, create a new firewall rule to allow incoming traffic on UDP ports 60000-61000 (or whatever ports you have configured mosh to use). Be careful to use what is called CIDR notation when specifying the source IP range. Since I want to connect from essentially everywhere to my instance, I put into the source range.

Finally set its priority to 2000, or at least a value above 1000, so that your new rule supersedes the default firewall rules for your network.

Your firewall rule should look something like this when done:

Final Firewall settings, mentioned above

Note that I chose a way smaller port range than mosh’s default since it’s only me using the machine, and what would I ever need 1000 ports for.

With all that done, you should finally be able to log into your virtual machine through mosh and not face the dreaded ‘Nothing received from UDP’ message staring at you. If mosh is still not able to connect, you should go back and double-check that both the firewall for your Google Cloud network and the firewall on your vm instance itself are set up correctly. Now go forth and mosh!