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Understanding Access Control Lists (ACLs)

What is an Access Control List (ACL)?

Access Control Lists (ACLs) allow you to control traffic arriving at your Load Balancer's frontend, and set conditions to allow traffic to pass to the backend, deny traffic from passing to the backend, or redirect traffic. Conditions can be set based on the traffic's source IP address and/or HTTP path and header, or you can choose to carry out unconditional actions. ACLs allow you to build extra security into your Load Balancer, as well as letting you redirect traffic, for example from HTTP to HTTPS.

You can learn how to set up ACLs in our how to documentation. This page gives more detailed information, and advice about achieving specific configurations with your ACLs.

How do ACLs work?

ACLs are created and managed on the frontend of a Load Balancer. You can create a list of ACLs on each frontend.

Each ACL in the list has a number to show its priority. All traffic arriving at this frontend will be filtered through the list of ACLs. The ACL with priority number 1, goes first, followed by number 2 etc, until the end of the list.

Each ACL has an action: Allow, Deny or Redirect, which it applies conditionally or unconditionally. A conditional ACL only applies its action to traffic it encounters which matches the configured condition. An unconditional ACL applies its action to all traffic it encounters. For more information on conditions, see the next section of this document.

Once an ACL applies its action - either because it is unconditional or because the traffic matched the condition - that action is carried out immediately. That is to say, the traffic is allowed to pass to the backend, or definitively denied access to the backend, or redirected. That traffic is not filtered by any ACLs further down the list of priority. It is therefore important to construct a list of ACLs carefully, placing conditional ACLs before unconditional ones in the list of priority and constructing conditions with attention.

Note that constructing an ACL with a conditional Allow action does not mean that same ACL will therefore carry out a Deny action on traffic which does not meet its conditions. The unmatched traffic will simply pass to the next ACL in the list.

If traffic reaches the end of the list of ACLs without any actions being applied to it, it is allowed to pass to the backend. If you want to avoid this, create an unconditional Deny ACL and place it at the end of your list of conditional Allow ACLs.

What conditions can be set for ACLs?

For ACLs which have Enable condition activated, you must specify a condition type and a filter.

Condition types are:

  • IF MATCH: The ACL applies its action to all traffic that matches the given filters.

  • IF NO MATCH: The ACL applies its action to all traffic that does not match the given filters.

Filter types are:

  • IP filter: This filter type is available for all frontends. You can filter for one or many source IPv4 or IPv6 addresses, or IP blocks.
  • HTTP filter: This filter type is only available for frontends attached to HTTP backends. You can filter for one or many values at either the beginning or end of the traffic’s HTTP request path, or for a regex pattern across the entire HTTP request path. Alternatively, you can set an HTTP header to filter, and the values to filter for within that header.

For any given conditional ACL you can:

  • Set just an IP filter (which filters for one or many IP addresses/blocks)
  • Set just an HTTP header filter (which filters on one header only, but for one or multiple values within that header)
  • Set an IP filter and an HTTP filter. Note that the traffic must match both filters (in the case of IF MATCH), or neither filter (in the case of IF NOT MATCH) in order for the action to be carried out. The same condition type governs both filters.

Using ACLs to filter traffic’s access to the backend

Below, we show how to achieve a number of different filtering objectives with ACLs

Only allow traffic from certain IPs

In this case, we only want traffic from source IPs 51.158.99.227 and 151.115.78.39 to be allowed to pass to the backend.

Option 1

Construct two ACLs:

  • ACL Priority 1: Allow - Enable condition - IF MATCH - IP filter: 51.158.99.227, 151.115.78.39. This ACL will allow traffic from the two specified IPs to pass directly to the backend. All traffic not from these IPs will pass to the next ACL.
  • ACL Priority 2: Deny - Disable condition. This ACL will deny access to all remaining traffic.

Option 2

Construct one ACL:

  • ACL Priority 1: Deny - Enable condition - IF NOT MATCH - IP filter: 51.158.99.227, 151.115.78.39. This ACL will reject any traffic not from the two specified IPs. Traffic from the specified IPs will, by default, pass to the backend since there are no further ACLs in the list.

Only allow traffic from a certain IP and with a certain HTTP header value

In this case, we only want traffic from source IP 51.158.99.227 to pass to the backend, but the traffic must also have www.mysite.com in the Host header.

Construct two ACLs:

  • ACL Priority 1: Allow - Enable condition - IF MATCH - IP filter: 51.158.99.227 AND HTTP filter - Header - Header name: Host Filters: www.mysite.com. This ACL combines an IP filter and an HTTP header to only allow traffic that is from the specified IP and also has the specified header value. All other traffic passes to the next ACL in the list.
  • ACL Priority 2: Deny - Disable condition. This ACL will deny access to all remaining traffic.

Reject traffic from certain IPs, or with certain HTTP header values.

In this case, we want to reject traffic from source IPs 51.158.99.227 and 151.115.78.39 (regardless of its header values), and also reject traffic from other source IPs but with either of these IP addresses in the X-Forwarded-For HTTP header. All other traffic should be allowed access.

Option 1

Construct two ACLs:

  • ACL Priority 1: Deny - Enable condition - IF MATCH - IP filter: 51.158.99.227, 151.115.78.39. This ACL will reject traffic from the two specified IPs. All traffic not from these IPs will pass to the next ACL.
  • ACL Priority 2: Deny - Enable condition - IF MATCH - HTTP filter - Header - Header name: X-Forwarded-For Filters: 51.158.99.227, 151.115.78.39. This ACL will reject traffic that has the specified IP values in the specified header. All traffic without these values in that header, which has not already been rejected by the previous ACL, will by default pass to the backend since there are no further ACLs in the list.
Note

In this example, you could switch the priority order of the ACLs without any effect.

Option 2

Construct two ACLs:

  • ACL Priority 1: Allow - Enable condition - IF NOT MATCH - IP filter: 51.158.99.227, 151.115.78.39 AND HTTP filter - Header - Header name: X-Forwarded-For Filters: 51.158.99.227, 151.115.78.39. Traffic which does not come from either of the two source IPs specified, and which also does not have one of those IPs in the specified header, will be allowed to pass to the backend. Other traffic will pass to the next ACL in the list.
  • ACL Priority 2: Deny - Disable condition. This ACL will deny access to all remaining traffic.

Reject traffic from certain IPs, or with certain HTTP header values, unless it has a specific HTTP request path

In this case, we want to achieve the same as with our previous example, however, if that same traffic is requesting an HTTP request path that begins with /catalog we want to allow access nonetheless.

Construct three ACLs:

  • ACL Priority 1: Allow - Enable condition - IF MATCH - HTTP filter Path begins with: /catalog. This ACL will allow any traffic with /catalog at the beginning of its URI path to pass directly to the backend. All traffic without /catalog at the beginning of its URI path will pass to the next ACL.
  • ACL Priority 2: Deny - Enable condition - IF MATCH - IP filter: 51.158.99.227, 151.115.78.39. This ACL will reject traffic from the two specified IPs. All traffic not from these IPs will pass to the next ACL.
  • ACL Priority 3: Deny - Enable condition - IF MATCH - HTTP filter - Header - Header name: X-Forwarded-For Filters: 51.158.99.227, 151.115.78.39. This ACL will reject traffic that has the specified IP values in the specified header. All traffic without these values in that header, which has not already been allowed by the first ACL or rejected by the second ACL, will by default pass to the backend since there are no further ACLs in the list.

Using ACLs to redirect traffic

Use an ACL with the redirect action to redirect traffic. You can choose to redirect traffic using the original URI but with a different schema (HTTP or HTTPs), or define a new URI to redirect to. You can also choose whether to make the ACL conditional or unconditional, just as with our previous examples.

Redirecting from HTTP to HTTPS

In this case, we want to redirect all incoming HTTP requests to HTTPS.

Our Load Balancer already has an HTTP backend, with two frontends connected to this backend:

  • Frontend 1 has an SSL/TLS certificate, so is configured to receive HTTPS requests
  • Frontend 2 has no SSL/TLS certificate, so receives clear text HTTP traffic. We will create our ACL on this frontend, to redirect HTTP traffic to HTTPS.

Construct one ACL on the HTTP frontend as follows:

  • ACL Priority 1:

    • Select the redirect action
    • Select a redirection code (usually 301 for this case)
    • Select to keep the original URI
    • Select HTTPS for the scheme, and enter the port for the redirected request (default is 443)
    • Toggle off Enable condition to make an unconditional ACL that carries out its redirect on all traffic received at this frontend.
    Note

    If you do not want to carry out any other traffic filtering actions on this frontend, you will only need this single ACL and can set it at priority 1. Otherwise, if you wish to carry out additional filtering actions, ensure that you set an appropriate priority level for this ACL. As it is unconditional, it should be placed after any conditional ACLs in the order of priority, otherwise the previous conditional ACLs will not be carried out.

Redirecting to a different URI

In this case, we want to redirect any traffic where the HTTP request path ends with /blog to a URI with a custom host www.myblog.com, but retain the same path and query parameters as from the original request.

Construct one ACL:

  • ACL Priority 1: Redirect - 301- Redirection URI - Define custom - https://www.myblog.com/{{path}}?{{query}} - Enable condition - IF MATCH - HTTP filter Path ends with: /blog. This ACL will redirect all traffic with /blog at the end of its HTTP header to the specified URI. All other traffic will by default pass to the backend since there are no further ACLs in the list.
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