Category Archives: Hacks

On the fly content replacement using F5 Load balancers

In the modern web application world, a large proportion of sites are using SSL Offloading, be this for the added security of the web servers not having the SSL private key on them (and hence if compromised the certificate is not necessarily compromised as well) or for the performance boost associated of using hardware accelerators. This however is a double-edged sword. Its more complex for developers to test their applications against this behavior, as they need to either setup two webservers (or vhosts with proxying) on the same host to emulate this, or they need to have an actual off loading device. Both of these are not always readily available options, or easy for the development team to do.

With this in mind, I have seen many times applications that “work in development” but don’t work in production. One common issue I’ve seen is developers checking the protocol that the user has connected to the server as. When off loading, this will be HTTP, rather than HTTPS. It’s also a common practice to run SSL sites on a different port, lets say port 8080, however if the developer is using the absolute URL of the server including the port number when creating URLs this can cause issues.

The result is a url like https://www.withagrainofsalt.co.uk becomes http://web123.internal:8080/. The end user is unable to get access to this (usually) and the user experience is less than idea. The correct way to fix this would be in the application its self, however this can sometimes take weeks / months, and there may not be budget allocated to fix this defect.

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