Web Filtering on Squid Proxy

This HOWTO describes how to protect your home / small enterprise network
users from objectionable internet contents with help of HTTP proxy. Our goal
is to setup a free Linux based server running Squid and deploy web
filtering application on it saving bandwidth, speeding up web access and
blocking obsessive and potentially illegal and malicious web files.

In this tutorial I will assume that network environment consists of a
SOHO level router that distributes wireless Wi-Fi, several desktop and laptop
computers, iPads and some mobile smart phones as shown on the following
network diagram.

Step 1. Setup CentOS 6.2 Linux on Proxy Server

Our proxy server will be built using free version of CentOS Linux 6.2.
It is also possible to use RedHat Linux 6.2 with paid subscription of you
need guaranteed level of support for your servers.

In order to install CentOS Linux, go to
and download the CentOS-6.2-i386-minimal.iso image file. Burn it on a spare
CD, insert into your server’s CD drive and power it on.

Follow the installation steps accepting the defaults or customizing
the required parts of the install according to your needs. Configure machine
hostname as “proxy” and root password as “P@ssw0rd” (without quotation
marks). Wait until the installation is complete and then reboot the system.

The installed version of CentOS usually does not have network connectivity
enabled by default. In order to enable network access we need to perform the

  1. Assign a static IP address of with network mask to our proxy server by modifying startup script
    /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0. Open it and add these lines:

  2. Set default gateway settings in /etc/sysconfig/network configuration
    file by adding this line:

  3. Adjust DNS resolve settings in /etc/resolv.conf by adding IP address
    of the DNS server that runs on router:


Restart your network subsystem by typing /etc/init.d/network restart in the
root terminal or by just restarting the server. After restart, confirm that
the network functions correctly by typing in the terminal (there should not
be any errors in the outputs on these commands):

$ping -c 3
$nslookup google.com

Before we do any further installation it is recommended to update the freshly
installed system with the latest security patches that may have come out
after ISO has been released. So type yum update
in the root terminal and reboot the server after update completes.

Setup Squid on Proxy Server

We will use Squid as caching and filtering proxy that runs on our Proxy
Server. In order to install the version of Squid that comes with the
6.2 CentOS distribution type yum install squid
in the root terminal. Squid and all related packages and dependencies are
downloaded from the Internet and installed automatically.

Make Squid proxy service start on system boot automatically by typing
chkconfig squid on. Reboot your server or
just start Squid for the first time manually with service squid start.

The only thing to do is to let the external users from our home network
access Squid. Open configuration file /etc/squid/squid.conf and add the
following line visible_hostname proxy. Also
check that http_access allow localnet and
acl localnet src are present in
the configuration file.

Restart Squid by typing service squid restart.
Verify that Squid runs correctly by pointing your user browser to
the IP address of the Proxy Server ( and surfing to some
of your favorite websites.

NOTE: you may need to adjust firewall settings in CentOS in order to
let proxy users connect to port 3128 on the Proxy Server. Use
system-config-firewall-tui or iptables commands to do that. A good idea
would be to allow access also to port 80 as we will use this port for
managing QuintoLabs Content Security through Web UI as described later.

Setup QuintoLabs Content Security

Next step is to install Content Security for Squid from QuintoLabs (I will
refer to it as qlproxy further in text). For those who do not know,
QuintoLabs Content Security is an ICAP daemon/URL rewriter that integrates
with existing Squid proxy server and provides rich content filtering
functionality to sanitize web traffic passing into internal home /
enterprise network. It may be used to block illegal or potentially malicious
file downloads, remove annoying advertisements, prevent access to various
categories of the web sites and block resources with explicit content
(i.e. prohibit explicit and adult content).

NOTE: there are other tools except qlproxy that have almost the same
functionality. Some of the well-known are SquidGuard (SG) and DansGuardian
(DG). While these tools are ok from the theoretical perspective you need to
install them both to get the same functionality as qlproxy. SG runs as URL
Rewriter and DG is even as a separate proxy itself. It also does not
support SMP processing relying on resource ineffective process-per-connection
server model leading to exploded requirements on e.g. URL block database.
It is also a problem to tie SG and DG together as they have different
configuration directives and largely independent of each other forcing the
admin to look into two different places when he needs to adjust only one
filtering policy.

We will use version 2.0 of qlproxy that was released this month. The
most prominent feature of that release is a policy based web filtering when
users of the proxy are organized into several groups with different
levels of strictness.

By default qlproxy comes with three polices preinstalled. Strict policy
contains web filter settings put on maximum level and is supposed to
protect minors and K12 students from inappropriate contents on the
Internet. Relaxed policy blocks only excessive advertisements and was
supposed to be used by network administrators, teachers and all those who
do not need filtered access to web but would like to evade most ads.
The last group is default and contains less restrictive web filtering
settings suitable for normal web browsing without explicitly adult
contents shown.

The good thing about this is that you are free to design the policies
yourself it you find the predefined policies not suitable for your
network environment.

Anyway, in order to install Content Security 2.0 we have to get the
CentOS / RedHat RPM package manually from QuintoLabs web site at
http://www.quintolabs.com/qlicap_download.php and upload the package to
the Proxy Server using scp. Another way is to type the following commands
in the root terminal of the Proxy Server directly (as one line):

#curl http://quintolabs.com/qlproxy/binaries/2.0.1/qlproxy-2.0.0-1cbef.i386.rpm>qlproxy-2.0.0-1cbef.i386.rpm

After download completes (approx. 21Mb) run the following command to
install the downloaded package and all its dependencies (note the package
comes in i386 flavor but yum takes care of correct installation
on x86_64 architectures):

#yum localinstall qlproxy-2.0.0-1cbef.i386.rpm

The yum installation manager will run for a while and the program will be
installed into /opt/quintolabs/qlproxy (binaries), /var/opt/quintolabs/qlproxy
(various logs and content filtering databases) and
/etc/opt/quintolabs/qlproxy (configuration).

NOTE: this howto assumes you have SELinux disabled on your machine.
For specific notes considering SELinux based installation of qlproxy
see their web site and sample SELinux policy installed in
/opt/quintolabs/qlproxy/usr/share/selinux. In order to disable
SELinux set SELINUX=disabled in /etc/selinux/config and reboot.

Integrate Squid and Content Security

QuintoLabs Content Security may be integrated with Squid in two
different ways – as ICAP server and as URL rewriter. It is recommended to use
ICAP integration as it gives access to all HTTP traffic passing through
Squid and allows qlproxy to perform full request and response filtering
(ICAP is supported in Squid version 3 and up).

The README file in /etc/opt/quintolabs/qlproxy folder contains detailed
instructions on how to perform integration with Squid on different platforms
(Debian, Ubuntu, RedHat and even Windows). To integrate it with Squid running
on CentOS we need to add the following lines to /etc/squid/squid.conf
configuration file:

icap_enable on
icap_preview_enable on
icap_preview_size 4096
icap_persistent_connections on
icap_send_client_ip on
icap_send_client_username on
icap_service qlproxy1 reqmod_precache bypass=0 icap://
icap_service qlproxy2 respmod_precache bypass=0 icap://
adaptation_access qlproxy1 allow all
adaptation_access qlproxy2 allow all

Restart Squid by typing service squid restart and try surfing your
favorite web sites and to see how many ads are blocked. Another useful
test is to go to the eicar.com web site and try to download a sample
artificial eicar.com virus to see that *.com files are blocked by the
download filter.

Default installation of Content Security is quite usable out of the
box but in order to adjust it for our network requirements
described earlier we will have to perform some configuration
changes as described below (all paths are relative to /etc/opt/quintolabs/qlproxy/policies):

  1. Put all normal users into Strict filtering policy by adding their
    IP addresses (or user names if your Squid performs authentication) to
    the strict/members.conf file.
  2. Put all power users into Relaxed filtering policy by adding
    their IP addresses or user names to the relaxed/members.conf file.
  3. Enable extended AdBlock subscriptions for blocking English, German and
    Russian ads in blocks_ads.conf configuration file for both policies.
    Also block common web tracking engines by uncommenting EasyPrivacy
    subscription in the same files.
  4. Increase the level of adult blocking heuristics to “high” in the
    strict/block_adult_sites.conf file. Although it may result in excessive
    false blocking there is always the possibility to add incorrectly blocked
    site to exception list.
  5. The UrlBlock module that uses community developed database of categorized
    domains incorrectly puts blogspot.com into an adult category… so we will
    add it to the exception list of a relaxed policy in relaxed/exceptions.conf
    to be able to read the blogs.
  6. Knowing that worms, trojans and other malware related software
    often connect to the world by numeric IP addresses instead of normal
    hostnames, we will put a magic regexp url = http://\d+\.\d+\.\d+\.\d+/.* into
    strict/block_sites_by_name.conf file to block access to web sites by IP.

Now issue a restart command to make qlproxyd daemon reload the configuration /etc/init.d/qlproxy restart.

Setup Web UI of Content Security with Apache

QuintoLabs Content Security contains a minimal Web UI that lets you see the
current program configuration, view reports of usage activity and program
logs from a remote host using your favorite browser. Web UI is written using
Django Python Framework and integrates with Apache using mod_wsgi deployed
in virtualized Python environment (to minimize package dependences).

To install Apache type the following in the root terminal yum install httpd.
Make Apache service autostart on system boot by typing chkconfig httpd on.
Reboot your machine or just start Apache for the first time manually by typing
service httpd start. Then install additional
Apache and Python modules by typing in the root terminal:

#yum install mod_wsgi python-setuptools
#easy_install virtualenv
#cd /var/opt/quintolabs/qlproxy/www
#virtualenv --no-site-packages qlproxy_django
#./qlproxy_django/bin/easy_install django==1.3.1

Integrate Web UI with Apache by adding the following lines to configuration file /etc/httpd/httpd.conf:

<VirtualHost *:80>
    ServerName proxy.lan
    ServerAdmin webmaster@proxy.lan

    LogLevel info
    ErrorLog /var/log/httpd/proxy.lan-error.log
    CustomLog /var/log/httpd/proxy.lan-access.log combined

    # aliases to static files (must come before the mod_wsgi settings)
    Alias /static/ /var/opt/quintolabs/qlproxy/www/qlproxy/static/
    Alias /redirect/ /var/opt/quintolabs/qlproxy/www/qlproxy/redirect/

    # mod_wsgi settings
    WSGIDaemonProcess proxy.lan display-name=%{GROUP}
    WSGIProcessGroup proxy.lan        
    WSGIScriptAlias / /var/opt/quintolabs/qlproxy/www/qlproxy/qlproxy.wsgi
    <Directory /var/opt/quintolabs/qlproxy/www/qlproxy>
        Order deny,allow
        Allow from all

Add the following line to the /etc/httpd/conf.d/wsgi.conf to let
the mod_wsgi run in daemon mode WSGISocketPrefix /var/run/wsgi.

NOTE: if you get “Access denied” error page trying to access
http://localhost then check if SELinux permissions might be preventing
access to /var/opt/quintolabs/qlproxy/www/qlproxy/ directory for httpd process.

After restart of Apache navigate to to see
program configuration, logs and generated reports.


The only thing left is to point network users to Proxy Server. There are
several possibilities to do that automatically (think WPAD) but for testing
purposes manual proxy configuration should be more than enough. So point
the browser to proxy at port 3128, surf to some favorite web
sites and see the difference – IP addresses in URLs are blocked, explicitly
adult content sites are forbidden. RAM and CPU usage on the server is minimal,
surfing experience is acceptable. System is automatically updated once a day
for the latest URL block list and AdBlock subscriptions and requires minimal
additional maintenance.

For more information see the following resources:

About sichent

This entry was posted in ICAP, Linux, proxy, qlproxy, squid. Bookmark the permalink.

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