Signalr Websockets And Barracuda Waf

I have been tearing my hair out at work for the last day trying to resolve an issue with a web application that uses SignalR over WebSockets where traffic is directed through a Barracuda Web Application Firewall (WAF). Every attempt to connect to the SignalR/connect endpoint using websockets would fail with a 400 Bad Request. Here is how I eventually resolved the issue.

tl; dr;

It appears that the Azure Load Balancer that we have infront of our Barracuda WAF is stripping out the Connection Header. The resulting solution is to not use the Azure Load Balancer, but instead use the Application Gateway service which supports WebSockets.

Another option that you can do is to configure a rewrite header rule to send this header onto your IIS Servers.


Traffic is directed first to an Azure Load Balancer, then onto a Barracuda Web Application Firewall and finally sent on to a Load Balanced set of Windows Server 2012R2 Virtual Machines. We are using IIS 8.5 which hosts a .Net Web Application with SignalR configured.

The entire application appears to run perfectly fine until I inspect the browsers network requests and I can see that I am getting a failed request to /signalr/connect transport=webSockets. As this connection failed, SignalR then reverted back to using Long Polling which is why my application appeared to continue to work.

I should point out that this application is already running perfectly fine on another set of VM’s which don’t have an Azure Load Balancer or a Barracuda WAF, so this leads me to think something is not configured correctly on the WAF or the Azure Load Balancer.


WAF and WebSockets

I spent many hours trying to debug the cause of the error, the first of which was a quick search of barracuda waf websockets which lead me to this barracuda article about how to enable websockets on the WAF.

Great! This must be what I am missing, so I go ahead and check my WAF service and sure enough Enable WebSocket is disabled! This must be why! I set this to Yes, save the changes and try again. Does this fix my issue? No!

IIS Configuration

Next I move onto the IIS Server, have I configured this correctly?

I open up the Server Manager and Roles and Features to check whether the WebSockets feature has been enabled on the IIS Role. Yup!

IIS Logging

I try to get some detailed errors from the IIS Server so I look at the IIS Logs and I can see GET requests being made to the /signalr/connect endpoint, indeed returning a Status code of 400. Not very helpful, but does tell me that at least the traffic is making its way from the WAF to the IIS Server.

Enable SignalR Debugging/Tracing

I decide to try and enable debugging/tracing to see if I can get any information from the Server as to why it is returning a 400 status code.

I get some very useful information and find that during the SignalR initialization, a scan of assemblies occurs and it turns out we are missing a dependency in our application. I go ahead and fix up that dependency issue, the error disappears from the SignalR debugging logs, but I still get a 400 error with WebSockets connecting to /signalr/connect.

Back to IIS Logs

After some more searching online I find some examples of how to get WebSockets working with nginx. Now we don’t use nginx ourselves, but thought maybe this would give some insight into what I need to do with our WAF to get this to work.

To get this to work with nginx you need to configure your nginx server as below.

server {
    listen 80;
    server_name myhost;

    location / {
        proxy_set_header   X-Forwarded-For $remote_addr;
        proxy_set_header   Host $http_host;
        proxy_set_header   Upgrade $http_upgrade;
        proxy_set_header   Connection "upgrade";
        proxy_pass         "";
        proxy_http_version 1.1;

With this information, I inspected my browsers request using the Network tab in Chrome and could see that I was sending up the following Headers.

Connection: Upgrade
Host: myhost
Upgrade: websocket

I decided to configure my IIS Server to output the Headers Host, Upgrade, Connection in the Logs to see if the Headers I was sending were making their way to the IIS Server.

After making a few failing requests I checked the logs and took a look at the headers that the IIS Server was receiving…

Host: myhost
Upgrade: websocket
Connection: -

It looks like I am not receiving the Connection Header through to my IIS Servers, which I know my client is sending.

The next thing to try is to check the Headers that are going through the WAF.

WAF Access Logs

In the Barracuda WAF we can modify the settings to dump out some Header Values into the Custom Header 1, Custom Header 2, Custom Header 3 in the Access Logs.

To do this we need to:

  1. Go to Advanced -> Export Logs
  2. Add Connection to Custom Header 1
  3. Hit Save
  4. Make a new failing request
  5. Check the Access Logs at Basic -> Access Logs
  6. Find the failed request and Click Details

Now I can see that my Connection header coming into the WAF is not correct either. -

This now points to the Azure Load Balancer that is stripping out the Connection header before it even gets to the WAF.

Soltuion 1: Use an Azure Application Gateway.

An Azure Application Gateway intercepts traffic at the Application level (Layer 7) whereas the Load Balancer intercepts traffic at the Transport Level (Layer 4).

From what I have been reading so far you should be able to successfully use an Application Gateway to load balance traffic, but we are currently having issues with this and so I will update in due course.

Solution 2: Add a Connection Header at the WAF

So after some searching online I found out how to go ahead and Add a rewrite Header rule for the Connection header to ensure the WAF sent that on properly.

  1. Open up the Barracuda WAF Management Site.
  2. Go to Website -> Website Translations
  3. Under HTTP Request Rewrite, Add a new Rewrite Rule…

    1. Specify a Rule Name.
    2. Set a Sequence Number.
    3. Select Rewrite Header as the Action.
    4. Enter Connection as the Header Name.
    5. Use * as the Old Value, which will replace any value.
    6. Enter upgrade as the Rewrite value, so that this is sent instead.
    7. Use Header Upgrade eq websocket as the Rewrite condition. This will now only apply the rule when the Upgrade header contains the value websocket
    8. Click Add.

I try and load the application again and boom, connection successful to /signalr/connect with webSockets transport!

Final notes

For websockets to work successfully, a handshake is initiated using the HTTP protocol and sends an Upgrade Header with value websocket. This tells the handling server that the connection should be upgraded, when a Connection header is sent, to this value websocket. When you send the Connection header with a value of Upgrade, this tells the server to Upgrade the Connection as per the Upgrade header.

Without passing through the Connection Header, the Servers would not upgrade the connection to websocket and so the Server responds with a 400 status code as it doesn’t understand the request. As soon as I send the Connection Header, I get a 101 Switching Protocol status code back as expected.

Hopefully this helps someone else out who is in a similar situation, tearing their hair out with WebSockets and Barracuda Web Application Firewalls… :)