This guide assumes you already have a server installed with Go. If you need help, please follow our Basic Server Setup guide. The instructions below are adapted from They will take you through downloading shapeshifter and proving that it works at its most basic level. For using shapeshifter-dispatcher with OpenVPN, see our guide here.

Downloading and building shapeshifter-dispatcher

This will install shapeshifter-dispatcher into its own directory one level down from your home directory. You should do this on both your server and client machine.

cd ~
git clone

Now, navigate to that directory, and build shapeshifter-dispatcher with all of its dependencies.

cd ~/shapeshifter-dispatcher
go build

To prove that the program itself is working, run this command:


That will return basic usage instructions and an error to let you know that you need parameters to successfully run the program.

Using Netcat

We’re going to use Netcat, a network tool to communicate between machines. If you already know that Netcat is working, you can skip to the section Configuring Netcat to use shapeshifter. At its simplest, information typed into the client can be displayed on the server, and vice versa.

Let’s try it on the server and client you’re using, over port 3344. If you followed our Basic Server Setup guide, you will need to allow traffic to and from port 3344 on your server. To do this, use the following command:

sudo ufw allow proto tcp from any to any port 3344

It should return a statement to tell you that the rule has been updated

On the server, run the command:

nc -l 3344

This will start a server session, listening on port 3344. We’re going to use the example address for the server. You will replace that with your server’s IP address. On your client, use this command to connect to port 3344 on your server:

nc 3344

Now type in anything you like, and it will also display on your server. Type something on your server, and it will display on the client. This shows that our server and client are able to talk to each other. Now we’re going to get them to talk over shapeshifter.

Configuring Netcat and ufw to use shapeshifter

Now that you know you can use Netcat, you can configure shapeshifter to use it. In this case, traffic is received on your server by shapeshifter, and passed to the port that Netcat is listening to. On the client, Netcat sends its traffic to shapeshifter to obfuscate and send to the server. This means the path for data sent to the server and back is:

Client: Netcat -> Client: shapeshifter —> Server: shapeshifter -> Server: Netcat -> Server: shapeshifter —> Client: shapeshifter -> Client: Netcat

We’re going to use obfs2 for this first example, which is the simplest configuration for shapeshifter. We’ll add other transports in the near future!

To prepare, you need to know what ports to use, and you may need to enable them on your server as in the previous section. First, let’s configure the server to use Netcat on port 3344, and shapeshifter on port 2233. You’ll need to make sure port 2233 is open. If you are using ufw, you would do this with the following command:

sudo ufw allow proto tcp from any to any port 2233


In this first example, we’re going to use obfs2, the simplest transport to configure with shapeshifter. In one window, run the shapeshifter command, substituting the IP address with your server’s IP address:

cd ~/shapeshifter-dispatcher
./shapeshifter-dispatcher -server -transparent -ptversion 2 -transports obfs2 -state state -bindaddr obfs2- -orport -enableLogging -logLevel DEBUG

Note that this binds obfs2 to port 2233, while it will send traffic to port 3344, where Netcat will be listening.

In a separate server session, run this command to start Netcat listening on port 3344:

nc -l 3344

Now switch to your client. On this machine, we’re going to configure shapeshifter to talk to the server’s shapeshifter, and for Netcat to connect via shapeshifter.

To do this, you will be setting a proxy port on your client to connect Netcat to. This is the port that shapeshifter will be listening on, and in our example we’re going to use port 4455. Don’t forget to change the address to the IP address of your server.

cd ~/shapeshifter-dispatcher
./shapeshifter-dispatcher -transparent -client -state state -target -transports obfs2 -proxylistenaddr -logLevel DEBUG -enableLogging

Now you’re going to connect Netcat to that proxy, and it will talk to your server using shapeshifter.

nc 4455

Anything you type into Netcat will be seen on your server, and vice versa.


The next level for configuring shapeshifter is to use obfs4. This is a slightly more complicated setup, but allows for better obfuscation of your traffic. We’re going to use the same ports as we used in the obfs2 example. First, you’re going to run shapeshifter in a window on your server, again substituting the IP address with your server’s IP address:

cd ~/shapeshifter-dispatcher
./shapeshifter-dispatcher -transparent -server -state state -orport -transports obfs4 -bindaddr obfs4- -logLevel DEBUG -enableLogging

This will create a file in your state directory, called obfs4_bridgeline.txt. To view that file, type the command:

cat ~/shapeshifter-dispatcher/state/obfs4_bridgeline.txt

It will look something like this:

# obfs4 torrc client bridge line
# This file is an automatically generated bridge line based on
# the current obfs4proxy configuration.  EDITING IT WILL HAVE
# Before distributing this Bridge, edit the placeholder fields
# to contain the actual values:
#  <IP ADDRESS>  - The public IP Address of your obfs4 bridge.
#  <PORT>        - The TCP/IP port of your obfs4 bridge.
#  <FINGERPRINT> - The bridge's fingerprint.

Bridge obfs4 <IP ADDRESS>:<PORT> <FINGERPRINT> cert=1234567890ABCDEfghijKLMNOpqrstUVWXYz1234567890/+=abcdefghIJKLMnopqrSTU iat-mode=0

The value you need for your client machine is the long string of characters after cert= and before the following space. In the example, that would be: 1234567890ABCDEfghijKLMNOpqrstUVWXYz1234567890/+=abcdefghIJKLMnopqrSTU

On your client machine, edit the file obfs4.json in the shapeshifter directory:

cd ~/shapeshifter-dispatcher
nano obfs4.json

You will need to replace the sample certificate string with the one from your server. Using our key above, it will look like this:

{"cert": "1234567890ABCDEfghijKLMNOpqrstUVWXYz1234567890/+=abcdefghIJKLMnopqrSTU", "iat-mode": "0"}

Now on the client machine, you can run shapeshifter-dispatcher and ask it to use that config file, changing the address to the address of your server:

./shapeshifter-dispatcher -transparent -client -state state -target  -transports obfs4 -proxylistenaddr -optionsFile ./obfs4.json -logLevel DEBUG -enableLogging

To check this is working, let’s use Netcat again. On the server, run the command:

nc -l 3344

This will listen on port 3344, which is setup as the -orport value in your shapeshifter command.

On the client machine, you connect Netcat to your local proxy listening addres (-proxylistenaddr):

nc 4455

Anything you type into Netcat will be seen on your server, and vice versa.

Congratulations! You’ve go shapeshifter up and running. What’s next? Perhaps you want to take it to the next level and try our guide to OpenVPN.