How To Use Squid Proxy Cache Server To Control Internet Access

Squid is a proxy caching server. If you are Linux sysadmin, you can use squid to control internet access at your work environment.

This beginners guide will give a jump-start on how to setup squid on Linux to restrict internet access in an network.

Install Squid

You should install the following three squid related packages on your system.

  • squid
  • squid-common
  • squid-langpack

On Debian and Ubuntu, use aptitude to install squid as shown below. On CentOS, use yum to install the squid package.

$ sudo aptitude install squid

Check Configuration and Startup scripts

Apart from installing the squid related packages, it also creates the /etc/squid/squid.conf and /etc/init.d/squid startup script.

By default Squid runs on 3128 port. You can verify this from the squid.conf file. You can also set the visible_hostname parameter in your squid.conf, which will be used in error_log. If you don’t define, squid gets the hostname value using gethostname() function.

# vim /etc/squid/squid.conf
visible_hostname ubuntuserver
httpd_port 3128

Note: The http port number (3128) specified in the squid.conf should be entered in the proxy setting section in the client browser. If squid is built with SSL, you can use https_port option inside squid.conf to define https squid.

Start Squid and View Logs

Start the Squid proxy caching server as shown below.

# service squid start
squid start/running, process 11743

Squid maintains three log files (access.log, cache.log and store.log) under /var/log/squid directory.

From the /var/log/squid/access.log, you can view who accessed which website at what time. Following is the format of the squid access.log record.

time elapsed remotehost code/status bytes method URL rfc931     peerstatus/peerhost

To disable logging in squid, update the squid.conf with the following information.

# to disable access.log
cache_access_log /dev/null

# to disable store.log
cache_store_log none

# to disable cache.log
cache_log /dev/null

Squid Usage 1: Restrict Access to Specific Websites

This is how you can restrict folks from browsing certain website when they are connected to your network using your proxy server.

Create a file called restricted_sites and list all sites that you would want to restrict the access.

# vim /etc/squid/restricted_sites

Modify the squid.conf to add the following.

# vim /etc/squid/squid.conf
acl RestrictedSites  dstdomain "/etc/squid/restricted_sites"
http_access deny RestrictedSites

Note: You can also configure squid as a transparent proxy server, which we’ll discuss in a separate article. Also, refer to our earlier article on how to block ip-address using fail2ban and iptables.

Squid Usage 2: Allow Access to Websites Only During Specific Time

Some organization might want to allow employees to surf or download from the internet only during specific timeperiods.

The squid.conf configuration shown below will allow internet access for employees only between 9:00AM and 18:00 during weekdays.

# vim /etc/squid/squid.conf
acl official_hours time M T W H F 09:00-18:00
http_access deny all
http_access allow official_hours

Squid Usage 3 : Restrict Access to Particular Network

Instead of restricting specific sites, you can also provide access only to certain network and block everything else. The example below, allows access only to the 192.168.1.* internal network.

# vim /etc/squid/squid.conf
acl branch_offices src
http_access deny all
http_access allow branch_offices

For a Linux based intrusion detection system, refer to our tripwire article.

Squid Usage 4 : Use Regular Expression to Match URLs

You can also use regular expression to allow or deny websites.

First create a blocked_sites files with a list of keywords.

# cat /etc/squid/blocked_sites

Modify the squid.conf to block any sites that has any of these keywords in their url.

# vim /etc/squid/squid.conf
acl blocked_sites url_regex -i "/etc/squid/blocked_sites"
http_access deny blocked_sites
http_access allow all

In the above example, -i option is used for ignoring case for matching. So, while accessing the websites, squid will try to match the url with any of the pattern mentioned in the above blocked_sites file and denies the access when it matches.

SARG – Squid Analysis Report Generator

Download and install SARG to generate squid usage reports.

Use the sarg-reports command to generate reports as shown below.

# to generate the report for today
sarg-report today

# on daily basis
sarg-report daily

# on weekly basis
sarg-report weekly

# on monthly basis
sarg-report monthly

Note: Add the sarg-report to the crontab.

The reports generated by sarg are stored under /var/www/squid-reports. These are html reports can you can view from a browser.

$ ls /var/www/squid-reports
Daily  index.hyml

$ ls /var/www/squid-reports/Daily
2010Aug28-2010Aug28  images  index.html

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