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What is HTTP Tunneling and how do I achieve that?

What is HTTP Tunneling and how do I achieve that?

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Firewalls are intended to prevent unauthorized access to a company's internal network, but firewalls can also disable access for legitimate clients. Firewalls restrict the types of protocol traffic that may travel into an internal network. A firewall will usually restrict the ports that can be connected to by outside requestors. In most cases, network administrators will configure a firewall to only allow HTTP traffic on the default Web server port, 80. Traffic sent across an HTTP connection is considered relatively safe and, thus, HTTP has become the standard entry protocol to an internal network. Technologies such as SOAP have been designed to provide safe access through a firewall by using HTTP as the transport protocol.

HTTP tunneling is designed mainly for firewall aversion. HTTP tunneling performs protocol encapsulation, by enclosing data packets of one protocol (SOAP, JRMP, etc.) within HTTP Packets. The HTTP packets are then sent across the firewall as normal internet traffic. Applications typically exploit HTTP tunneling by, first, trying to establish a connection with a server using a normal socket connection. If the socket connection attempt is rejected by a firewall, the application will automatically retry the connection by encapsulating its data within an HTTP POST request.

This was first published in May 2002

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