[squid-users] High memory usage associated with ssl_bump and broken clients

Steve Hill steve at opendium.com
Fri Sep 8 16:37:26 UTC 2017

I've identified a problem with Squid 3.5.26 using a lot of memory when 
some broken clients are on the network.  Strictly speaking this isn't 
really Squid's fault, but it is a denial of service mechanism so I 
wonder if Squid can help mitigate it.

The situation is this:

Squid is set up as a transparent proxy performing SSL bumping.
A client makes an HTTPS connection, which Squid intercepts.  The client 
sends a TLS client handshake and squid responds with a handshake and the 
bumped certificate.  The client doesn't like the bumped certificate, but 
rather than cleanly aborting the TLS session and then sending a TCP FIN, 
it just tears down the connection with a TCP RST packet.

Ordinarily, Squid's side of the connection would be torn down in 
response to the RST, so there would be no problem.  But unfortunately, 
under high network loads the RST packet sometimes gets dropped and as 
far as Squid is concerned the connection never gets closed.

The busted clients I'm seeing the most problems with retry the 
connection immediately rather than waiting for a retry timer.

1. A connection that hasn't completed the TLS handshake doesn't appear 
to ever time out (in this case, the server handshake and certificate 
exchange has been completed, but the key exchange never starts).

2. If the client sends an RST and the RST is lost, the client won't send 
another RST until Squid sends some data to it on the aborted connection. 
  In this case, Squid is waiting for data from the client, which will 
never come, and will not send any new data to the client.  Squid will 
never know that the client aborted the connection.

3. There is a lot of memory associated with each connection - my tests 
suggest around 1MB.  In normal operation these kinds of dead connections 
can gradually stack up, leading to a slow but significant memory "leak"; 
when a really badly behaved client is on the network it can open tens of 
thousands of connections per minute and the memory consumption brings 
down the server.

4. We can expect similar problems with devices on flakey network 
connections, even when the clients are well behaved.

My thoughts:
Connections should have a reasonably short timeout during the TLS 
handshake - if a client hasn't completed the handshake and made an HTTP 
request over the encrypted connection within a few seconds, something is 
broken and Squid should tear down the connection.  These connections 
certainly shouldn't be able to persist forever with neither side sending 
any data.

I wrote a Python script that makes 1000 concurrent connections as 
quickly as it can and send a TLS client handshake over them.  Once all 
of the connections are open, it then waits for responses from Squid 
(which would contain the server handshake and certificate) and quits, 
tearing down all of the the connections with an RST.

It seems that the RST packets for around 300 of those connections were 
dropped - this sounds surprising, but since all 1000 connections were 
aborted simultaneously, there would be a flood of RST packets and its 
probably reasonable to expect a significant number to be dropped.  The 
end result was that netstat showed Squid still had about 300 established 
connections, which would never go away.

  - Steve Hill
    Technical Director
    Opendium    Online Safety / Web Filtering    http://www.opendium.com

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