Troubleshooting: Hotmail.com

Synopsis

This website contains several rather broken systems. As of March 2011 these problems have been known for most of a decade and left unfixed by the Webmasters.

Symptoms

  • Site complains about: Intrusion Logged. Access denied.

Explanation

HTTP is designed as a relay model, with a built-in concept of proxies and defined behaviour. It operates with stateless requests. These details are important when considering the Hotmail website.

The Hotmail is one of many websites with a security system is designed assuming a model of end-to-end client-to-server connectivity.

  • It requires all requests to come from the same client IP address.
  • It requires all requests to go to the same server IP address.

This latter detail betrays a historic browser behaviour of finding an IP that works for the website and re-using it for many connections. Squid historically did load balancing across all DNS provided IPs.

Hotmail is not unique in having this problem. There are many smaller websites which also exhibit these bad security decisions. Hotmail is merely the most popular and thus well-known (and longest lasting) problem.

Workaround

There are several changes needed to work with Hotmail. Each with their own problems.

To force all client requests to go to a consistent IP address you must disable destination load balancing in all network Systems when connecting to Hotmail. Turned off the Squid balance_on_multiple_ip directive. Other load balancing software may or may not have similar controls.

To force all client requests to go to Hotmail with consistent IPs. You can do one of a few things:

  • Proxy clusters can use the usernamehash or sourcehash cache_peer algorithms to limit the HTTP request flow without hindering load balancing too much.

  • Recent Squid releases with TPROXYv4 support are able to spoof the client IP on their contacts. This spoofing gets around the website security system by allowing it access to the client IP. Effectively making it believe the proxy is not there. This can be complex to debug if things go wrong and requires modern systems from the kernel up.
  • Older Squid releases can use tcp_outgoing_address directive Forcing all outgoing requests to Hotmail to use a fixed Squid outbound IP. This risks the old well-known problem that Hotmail Single-Sign-On is linked to the IP address as well and all clients visiting through the proxy may get to see each others email boxes.

  • Alternatively you can use NAT to set the outbound connection IP from a range of IPs so each client has a temporary but distinct IP for their entire Hotmail session.


CategoryKnowledgeBase SquidFaq/TroubleShooting

KnowledgeBase/Hotmail (last edited 2011-05-18 00:39:36 by AmosJeffries)