Category Archives: security

What is a slow POST Attack and how to turn HAProxy into your first line of Defense?

One of the biggest security challenges that companies face in today’s modern climate is the POST attack. Unlike a more traditional “Denial-of-Service” attack, POST attacks target a servers logical resources – making them particularly powerful when executed.

What is a slow POST Attack?

In a POST attack, an attacker begins by sending a legitimate HTTP POST header to a Web server, exactly as they would under normal circumstances. The header specifies the exact size of the message body that will then follow. However, that message body is then sent at an alarmingly low rate – sometimes as slow as 1 byte per approximately two minutes. Because the entire message is technically correct and complete, the targeted server attempts to obey all specified rules – which as you would expect, can take quite awhile. The issue is that if an attacker were to establish hundreds or even thousands of these POST attacks simultaneously, it will quickly use up all server resources and make legitimate connections impossible.

How HAProxy can protect against slow POST attack?

Because POST attacks can be incredibly powerful, it’s always important to have a tool in place to identify these types of issues when they’re still in their nascent stages to prevent them from becoming much larger, more serious issues down the road. Because HAProxy was designed as an application delivery controller to manage Web application high availability and performance, it is already in an ideal position to stop these types of POST attacks in their tracks.

HAProxy Configuration Example

Because of HAProxy‘s structure and configuration flexibility, many professionals and consumers alike often use it as a security tool. Case in point: by using the following configuration example, you can easily help protect your servers against POST attacks to prevent attackers from clogging resources and ultimately harming the well-being of not only your equipment but your entire organization at the same time.

frontend ft_myapp
 option http-buffer-request
 timeout http-request 10s

As you can see, with just a few simple modifications, HAProxy can quickly and effortlessly remove POST attacks from the list of things you have to worry about on a daily basis with regards to your mission-critical business applications and API.
The option http-buffer-request instructs HAProxy to wait for the whole DATA before forwarding it to a server and the timeout http-request 10s option tells how much time HAProxy let to a client to send the whole POST.

Thanks to its functionality as a security tool, a reverse proxy and more in addition to its intended functionality as a load balancer, it’s easy to see why HAProxy is used by some of the largest sites on the Internet including Reddit, Tumblr, GitHub and more on a daily basis.

This function is available in the following versions of HAProxy:

Related links


Serving ECC and RSA certificates on same IP with HAproxy

ECC and RSA certificates and HTTPS

To keep this practical, we will not go into theory of ECC or RSA certificates. Let’s just mention that ECC certificates can provide as much security as RSA with much lower key size, meaning much lower computation requirements on the server side. Sadly, many clients do not support ciphers based on ECC, so to maintain compatibility as well as provide good performance we need to be able to detect which type of certificate is supported by the client to be able to serve it correctly.

The above is usually achieved with analyzing the cipher suites sent by the client in the ClientHello message at the start of the SSL handshake, but we’ve opted for a much simpler approach that works very well with all modern browsers (clients).


First you will need to obtain both RSA and ECC certificates for your web site. Depending on the registrar you are using, check their documentation. After you have been issued with the certificates, make sure you download the appropriate intermediate certificates and create the bundle files for HAproxy to read.

To be able to use the sample fetch required, you will need at least HAproxy 1.6-dev3 (not yet released as of writing) or you can clone latest HAproxy from the git repository. Feature was introduced in commit 5fc7d7e.


We will use chaining in order to achieve desired functionality. You can use abstract sockets on Linux to get even more performance, but note the drawbacks that can be found in HAproxy documentation.

 frontend ssl-relay
 mode tcp
 use_backend ssl-ecc if { req.ssl_ec_ext 1 }
 default_backend ssl-rsa

 backend ssl-ecc
 mode tcp
 server ecc unix@/var/run/haproxy_ssl_ecc.sock send-proxy-v2

 backend ssl-rsa
 mode tcp
 server rsa unix@/var/run/haproxy_ssl_rsa.sock send-proxy-v2

 listen all-ssl
 bind unix@/var/run/haproxy_ssl_ecc.sock accept-proxy ssl crt /usr/local/haproxy/ user nobody
 bind unix@/var/run/haproxy_ssl_rsa.sock accept-proxy ssl crt /usr/local/haproxy/ user nobody
 mode http
 server backend_1 check

The whole configuration revolves around the newly implemented sample fetch: req.ssl_ec_ext. What this fetch does is that it detects the presence of Supported Elliptic Curves Extension inside the ClientHello message. This extension is defined in RFC4492 and according to it, it SHOULD be sent with every ClientHello message by the client supporting ECC. We have observed that all modern clients send it correctly.

If the extension is detected, the client is sent through a unix socket to the frontend that will serve an ECC certificate. If not, a regular RSA certificate will be served.


We will provide full HAproxy benchmarks in the near future, but for the sake of comparison, let us view the difference present on an E5-2680v3 CPU and OpenSSL 1.0.2.

256bit ECDSA:
sign verify sign/s verify/s
0.0000s 0.0001s 24453.3 9866.9

2048bit RSA:
sign verify sign/s verify/s
0.000682s 0.000028s 1466.4 35225.1

As you can see, looking at the sign/s we are getting over 15 times the performance with ECDSA256 compared to RSA2048.

Packetshield: quand votre load-balancer vous protège contre les DDOS!

Les attaques par DDOS

Il y a quelques temps, nous avions publié sur ce blog, un article expliquant comment utiliser un load-balancer pour se protéger contre les attaques de type DDOS applicatif:

Malheureusement, les attaques sont aujourd’hui sur plusieurs vecteurs, notamment réseau et applicatif.
Leur but est toujours le même: trouver un point faible dans l’architecture et le saturer:

  1. un firewall, nombre de sessions ou paquets par secondes
  2. un load-balancer, nombre sessions établies
  3. un serveur applicatif, nombre de requêtes par secondes
  4. etc…

Dans l’article précédent, nous avions vu comment protéger les serveurs d’applications en utilisant le load-balancer, ce qui correspond à la partie applicative de l’architecture.

Pour protéger la tête de l’architecture, le firewall, il faut en général investir beaucoup d’argent dans des équipements coûteux.
Par ailleurs, dans certains cas, lorsque l’ALOHA était connecté en direct sur Internet, il ne savait se protéger que modérément contre les attaques “réseau”.

C’est pourquoi, HAProxy Technologies a développé sa propre solution de protection contre les DDOS de niveau réseau. Cet outil s’appelle Packetshield.

Les attaques de niveau réseau sont assez simples à mettre en oeuvre pour l’attaquant, mais peuvent être dévastatrices pour la cible: lorsqu’un équipement est saturé, il bloque tout le trafic.
Un équipement peut se saturer de différentes manières:

  • un trop grand nombre de paquets par secondes
  • un trop grand nombre se sessions ouvertes (TCP et/ou UDP)
  • un trop gros volume de trafic entrant

(liste non exhaustive)

NOTE: pour ce dernier cas, il faut passer par un service externe de “nettoyage” du flux, qui renverra ensuite un trafic légitime vers votre architecture.

Packetshield: Protection contre les DDOS réseau

L’ALOHA, équipé de packetshield, se place en point d’entrée de l’infrastructure.
Packetshield va agir comme un Firewall stateful en analysant les flux réseaux le traversant. Seuls le trafic considéré comme légitime sera autorisé à passer.
Différents mécanismes rentrent en jeu lors de la protection:

  • analyse des paquets: les paquets non valides sont automatiquement bloqués
  • filtrage de flux: l’administrateur peut définir ce qui est autorisé ou pas
  • analyse des flux autorisés: Packetshield fait le trie pour savoir ce qui est légitime ou pas

Contrairement aux solutions existantes qui fonctionnent dans un mode stateless et qui génèrent beaucoup de faux positifs, Packetshield garantie qu’aucune session valide ne sera bloquée.

Disponibilité de Packetshield

Packetshield est disponible dans l’ALOHA en version appliance physique depuis le firmware 7.0.
La protection de l’interface gigabit (Max 1 million de paquets par secondes) est inclu gratuitement dans l’ALOHA.
Nos clients existants n’ont qu’à mettre à jour le firmware de leur appliance pour en bénéficier. Tout nouveau client achetant l’une de nos appliances bénéficiera lui aussi de cette protection, sans surcoût.

Packetshield est aussi disponible en version 10G (14 millions de paquets traités par secondes) sur nos toutes appliances dernier modèle ALB5100, peut importe la licence choisie, du 8K au 64K.

Mode de déploiement

De part son fonctionnement stateful, Packetshield est utilisé de manière optimal dans les déploiement suivant:

Packetshield peut fonctionner en mode stateless, sans ses fonctionnalités avancé. Dans ce mode, Packetshield est compatible avec les type de déploiement suivants:

Pour plus d’information

La documentation sur la configuration de Packetshield est disponible à cette adresse:

Pour plus d’information, un petit mail à contact (at) haproxy (point) com.


HAProxy and sslv3 poodle vulnerability

SSLv3 poodle vulnerability

Yesterday, Google security researchers have disclosed a new vulnerability on SSL protocol.
Fortunately, this vulnerability is only on an old version of the SSL protocol: SSLv3 (15 years old protocol).
An attacker can force a browser to downgrade the protocol version used to cipher traffic to SSLv3 in order to exploit the POODLE vulnerability and access to data in clear.

Some reading about SSLv3 Poodle vulnerability:

Today’s article is going to explain how to use HAProxy to simply prevent using SSLv3 or to prevent those users to reach your applications and print them a message.

Disable SSLv3 in HAProxy

In SSL offloading mode

In this mode, HAProxy is the SSL endpoint of the connection.
It’s a simple keyword on the frontend bind directive:

  bind ssl crt /pat/to/cert.pem no-sslv3

In SSL forward mode

In this mode, HAProxy forwards the SSL traffic to the server without deciphering it.
We must setup an ACL to match the SSL protocol version, then we can refuse the connection. This must be added in a **frontend** section:

  tcp-request inspect-delay 2s
  acl sslv3 req.ssl_ver 3
  tcp-request content reject if sslv3

Communicate a message to users

Denying sslv3 is a good way, but a better one would to educate as well users who are using this protocol.
The configuration below shows how to redirect a user to a specific page when they want to use your application over an SSLv3 connection. Of course, HAProxy must allow itself SSLv3:

frontend ft_www
  bind ssl crt /pat/to/cert.pem
  acl sslv3 ssl_fc_protocol SSLv3
# first rule after all your 'http-request deny' and
# before all the redirect, rewrite, etc....
  http-request allow if sslv3
# first content switching rule
  use_backend bk_sslv3 if sslv3

backend bk_sslv3
  mode http
  errorfile 503 /etc/haproxy/pages/sslv3.http

And the content of the file /etc/haproxy/pages/sslv3.http:

HTTP/1.0 200 OK
Cache-Control: no-cache
Connection: close
Content-Type: text/html

<title>SSLv3 spotted</title>
<body><h1>SSLv3 spotted</h1></body>
SSLv3 forbidden for your safety:<BR><BR>
If you want to browse this website, you should upgrade your browser.


Mitigating the shellshock vulnerability with HAProxy

Bash Shellshock vulnerability (CVE-2014-6271 and CVE-2014-7169)

Last week, a vulnerability in bash has been discovered. It is possible, under some circumstances, to inject code into a bash shell script.
It could be very dangerous if bash is used to process request sent remotely.
For now, you’re safe if no bash scripts are called by services with remote accesses.

Some reading about bash shellshock vulnerability:

Today’s article is going to explain how to use HAProxy to protect your application from bash shellshock vulnerability if you’re in the case where you have to be protected.


The diagram is pretty simple. Our purpose will to detect any purposely built requests and to prevent them to reach the server:

|                                                 |
| +----------+     +---------+     +------------+ |
| |          |     |         |     |            | |
| | Attacker | +-> | HAProxy | +-> | Vulnerable | |
| |          |     |         |     | server     | |
| +----------+     +---------+     |            | |
|                                  +------------+ |
|                                                 |


Place the configuration sniplet into your HAProxy frontend configuration:

  reqdeny  ^[^:]+:s*(s*)s+{
  reqdeny  ^[^:]+:s+.*?(<<[^<;]+){5,}

Of course, your frontend must be in http mode and HAProxy must have been compiled with USE_PCRE option.

HAProxy will return a 403 if a request matches the shellshock attack.

Note: greeting to Thomas for providing the tip on HAProxy’s mailing list


How to protect application cookies while offloading SSL

SSL offloading

SSL offloading or acceleration is often seen as a huge benefit for applications. People usually forget that it may have impacts on the application itself. Some times ago, I wrote a blog article which lists these impacts and propose some solutions, using HAProxy.

One thing I forgot to mention at that time was Cookies.
You don’t want your clients to send their cookies (understand their identity) in clear through the Internet.
This is today’s article purpose.

Actually, there is a cookie attribute called Secure which can be emit by a server. When this attribute is set, the client SHOULD not send the cookie over a clear HTTP connection.

SSL offloading Diagram

Simple SSL offloading diagram:

|--------|              |---------|           |--------|
| client |  ==HTTPS==>  | HAProxy | --HTTP--> | Server |
|--------|              |---------|           |--------|

The client uses HTTPs to get connected on HAProxy, HAProxy gets connected to the application server through HTTP.

Even if HAProxy can forward client connection mode information to the application server, the application server may not protect its cookie…
Fortunately, we can use HAProxy for this purpose.

Howto make HAProxy to protect application cookie when SSL offloading is enabled

That’s the question.

The response is as simple as the configuration below:

acl https          ssl_fc
acl secured_cookie res.hdr(Set-Cookie),lower -m sub secure
rspirep ^(set-cookie:.*) \1;\ Secure if https !secured_cookie

The configuration above sets up the Secure attribute if it has not been setup by the application server while the client was browsing the application over a ciphered connection.

Related Links


Apache cdorked backdoor detection

Apache Cdorked.A backdoor

This is a pretty recent attack, using Cpanel to change the Apache httpd binary by a compromised one which embeds a backdoor.

A few articles with more details are available here:

It seems there are a few ways to detect if your server was compromised:
  1. requests with “GET_BACK;” encoded in the query string may arrive
  2. an unexpected Cookie (SECID in that case) may be sent to the server
  3. the server may answer some unexpected Location headers


The HAProxy configuration below provides a few hints on how you can detect if you’ve been infected by the backdoor and how you can try to protect users using your services

I consider the website hostname is “www.domain.tld” and static content is delivered by “static.domain.tld”.

The configuration below can be added in the Frontend section:

# We want to capture and log the cookies sent by the client
 capture request header Cookie Len 128
# We want to capture and log the Location header sent by the server
 capture response header Location Len 128

# block any request with GET_BACK; string encoded
 http-request deny if { url_sub 4745545f4241434b3b } 
# block any request with a weird cookie
 http-request deny if { cook_cnt(SECID) ge 1 }

# block a response with a Location header for a unknown domain
 rspdeny ^Location: http://(www|static).domain.tld.*

Note that with such backdoor, you may have to monitor your logs (detection phase) first to know if you’ve been affected. Then you can update your configuration to block the attack (protection phase) and of course, you should remove the bad apache binary.