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Published: Jul 30, 2021 License: MIT Imports: 12 Imported by: 0



HandyProxy is an extremely simple TCP traffic forwarder, working as a transparent proxy. It intercepts traffic meant for remote machines and then forwards it to the final destination via an upstream HTTP proxy by making HTTP CONNECT requests. Its main goal is to provide hosts behind HTTP proxies access to such services without reconfiguration, easing bulk migrations from environments with direct Internet access to environments behind a proxy.

It is a Linux-only application, as it depends on Linux-specific system calls to handle incoming traffic. It is also meant to be used together with netfilter rules to capture HTTP(S) traffic.

It currently only supports IPv4.

How does it work?

HandyProxy listens for TCP traffic on a configurable port. Every time a new connection arrives, it tries to determine if such connection was direct, or if it is actually traffic for another machine that was redirected to HandyProxy via a DNAT/REDIRECT rule. This is possible thanks to a Linux system call which returns the original destination for DNATed traffic.

Direct connections are discarded. For other connections, it sends an HTTP CONNECT request to the configured upstream proxy, asking it to open a tunnel to the orginal destination. From this point on, traffic is simply copied between the incoming connection and the proxy, in both directions.

Why do I need it?

Suppose you have a system (let's call this system A) behind a traditional modem/router doing masquerading and connecting directly to the internet. This system can connect to any remote HTTP(S) sites.

Now the system is moved behind an (unauthenticated) HTTP proxy. In order to get internet connectivity, clients must now modify HTTP requests to cope with the proxy. For plain HTTP, this means that the origin server name must be added to the request; for HTTPS traffic, a CONNECT request must be made to open a tunnel to the origin server and allow TLS packets to flow unmodified.

Any tools issuing HTTP(S) requests on A, such as your browser, your package manager, Docker and containerized apps, must be configured to use a proxy. With many machines and many different places where this must be configured, it gets out of hand pretty quickly, even when using automation tools like Ansible.

Another approach is possible: if all traffic produced by A must flow through a second system doing the routing (let's call it R), R could be configured to act as a transparent proxy. Rather than simply forwarding HTTP(S) traffic to the next hop, it can intercept it and pass it to HandyProxy. HandyProxy will then open a connection to the HTTP proxy, ask it to open a tunnel to the real destination, and forward the traffic.

This way, system A does not need any proxy configuration and can still issue normal HTTP(S) requests, whose TCP fragments are targeting port 80/443 of the origin server. It is HandyProxy that will take care of doing the CONNECT requests to the proxy.

If it is not possible to install HandyProxy on R, A itself could host it and have its own OUTPUT traffic REDIRECTed by netfilter rather than FORWARDed traffic. Of course, installing HandyProxy on a router machine means that it can handle traffic produced by all nodes on the subnets this router serves.


Currently, HTTP and HTTPS connection are treated uniformly: HandyProxy always opens a tunnel using a CONNECT request, even for nonencrypted traffic. This works as long as the proxy accepts CONNECT requests to both port 80 and 443.

As a consequence of this design, HandyProxy does not need to inspect the traffic it forwards in any way. It can therefore handle non-HTTP traffic using ports different than 80/443, as long as the proxy is willing to satisfy a CONNECT to that port.


It is unlikely than a network employing a proxy will have it unauthenticated: credentials will be needed when sending HTTP CONNECT requests. HandyProxy does not support authenticated requests, and it need not. cNTLM is a well-know tool that offers an unauthenticated HTTP proxy interface, automatically adding credentials before forwarding them to the real proxy. It can be used as HandyProxy's upstream proxy to add credentials and it will, in turn, contact the real proxy.

One word of caution: if a single instance of HandyProxy can serve multiple hosts, then all traffic will be routed to the same cNTLM instance and will, therefore, use the same credentials. Unless all machines are under the responsibility of a single entity to which the credentials belong, this may cause unwanted activities being recorded by the proxy as performed by the entity whose credentials are stored in cNTLM. However, a host can run multiple instances of HandyProxy, each one configured with a different cNTLM upstream and port, and then each host's traffic can be redirected to a different port using multiple netfilter rules.

Putting it all together

The diagram below shows how traffic flows from a client performing an HTTPS request to the origin server. For simplicity, local ports are chosen sequentially starting at 20000, while in a real case they would be random. Publicly routable addresses are taken from the TEST-NET-1 range of reserved IPv4 addresses,

To emphasize modularity, all elements (HandyProxy, cNTLM and HTTP proxy) run on their own systems, but it would be perfectly viable to colocate some of them on the same machine.

Packet Flow

Running HandyProxy

Simply run HandyProxy on a machine routing traffic from other hosts, giving it the local port to listen on and the upstream proxy (IP address or domain name).

$ handyproxy  -local-port 8043 -upstream-proxy proxy.local

Note that HandyProxy listens on all interfaces:

$ ss -tln
State   Recv-Q  Send-Q  Local Address:Port  Peer Address:Port  Process               
LISTEN  0       4096*                           

After that, add netfilter rules to pass all TCP traffic to port 80 or 443 coming from the subnets to serve to the daemon (the example shows just one port for brevity):

$ sudo iptables -t nat -A PREROUTING -i eth0 -m addrtype ! --dst-type LOCAL \
  -p tcp -m tcp --dport 443 -j REDIRECT --to-ports 8043

That's it! All HTTP(S) traffic coming in from eth0 should now be forwarded. Excluding local addresses ensures that if HandyProxy is colocated with any application listening on port 443, INPUT traffic will not undergo redirection. The rule may be tweaked to exclude local HTTPS servers that should not be proxied, or cNTLM could be configured to connect to them directly via its NoProxy directive.

If it is desired to redirect traffic produced by an host to its own local HandyProxy instance (as an alternative to local proxy configuration in cases where it is not possible to run HandyProxy on a router), the rule is different since such traffic does not traverse PREROUTING. The rule should be added to the OUTPUT chain.

$ sudo iptables -t nat -A OUTPUT -m addrtype ! --dst-type LOCAL \
  -p tcp -m tcp --dport 443 -j REDIRECT --to-ports 8043

As usual, tweak it for your local needs.


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