IP Addresses - A long expected problem

I’m old enough to remember HOSTS.TXT and the introduction of the DNS system.

Those were the days when you got a class B network by sending a polite letter to California, getting a polite letter back, and then, some months later, when RFC1166 INTERNET NUMBERS arrived with in semi-annual packet of printed RFCs, find out that letter had at typo and you had configured all of the European Parliaments 1200 computers on 136.172/16 instead of 136.173/16.

But things were not simpler, if anything they were far more complex, because TCP/IP was not, as today, the only protocol that mattered.

In addition to TCP/IP, there were IBM’s SNA, Digitals DecNet, ApolloRing, Banyan/VINES, Novell NetWare, X.21, X.25, X.75, and the whole CCITT-OSI-“Intelligent Network” telecom disaster that never got off the ground.

This is why DNS packets have a class field which can be set to Hesiod or CHAOS in addition to the Internet: The idea was that all the different protocols would get a number each, and we would have “The One Directory To Rule Them All”.

Largely because of this, a new and “protocol agnostic” lookup functions were designed: getaddrinfo(3) and getnameinfo(3), but of course for IP they were supposed to be backwards compatible because there were thousands of users out there already.

This is why telnet 80.1440 tries to connect to, why ping 0x7f000001 becomes and 0127.0.0.1 becomes

If you read the manual page for getaddrinfo(3) you will find that it does not tell you that, it merely says it conforms to IEEE Std 1001.

But everybody knew what that was back in 1990, and nobody had firewalls anyway because Cheswick & Bellowins book Firewalls and Internet Security was not published until 1994, so no worries ?

As is often the case with ‘designed for the future’ the getaddrinfo(3) API instantly fossilized, hit by a freeze-ray in the ‘the Unix™ wars’.

This is why, when IPv4 numbers started to look like a finite resource, and the old A-, B- and C- class networks got dissolved into Classless Inter-Domain Routing or “CIDR” netmasks of any random size, getaddrinfo(3) did not grow to be able to translate “192.168.61/23” into something useful.

I believe there were also some lilliputian dispute about the fact that 192.168.61 would return to stay backwards compatible, whereas 192.168.61/23 would return +

Because of this, Varnish uses getaddrinfo(3) everywhere but one single place: Parsing of ACL specifications in VCL. First we have to use our own parser to check if it is a CIDR entry and if not we ask getaddrinfo(3).

The reason for this rant, is that somebody noticed that ping 0127.0.0.1 didn’t go to as they expected.

That has just become CVE-2021-29418 and CVE-2021-28918 and will probably become a dozen more, once the CVE-trophy-hunters go to town.

All IP number strings enter Varnish from trusted points, either as command line arguments (-a, -b, -M etc.), in the VCL source (backend, acl etc.) or as PROXYv1 header strings from the TLS-stripper in front of Varnish.

Of course, VCL allows you to do pretty much anything, including:

if (std.ip(req.http.trustme) ~ important_acl) {

If you do something like that, you may want to a) Consider the wisdom of trusting IP#’s from strangers and b) Think about this “critical netmask problem”.

Otherwise, I do not expect this new “critical netmask problem” to result in any source code changes in Varnish.

If and when the various UNIX-oid operating systems, and the smoking remains of the “serious UNIX industry”, (IEEE ? The Austin Group ? The Open Group ? Whatever they are called these days) get their act together, and renovate the getaddrinfo(3) API, Varnish will automatically pick that up and use it.

Should they, in a flash of enlightenment, also make getaddrinfo(3) useful for parsing these newfangled CIDR adresses we got in 1993, I will be more than happy to ditch vcc_acl_try_netnotation() too.

Until next time,

Poul-Henning, 2021-03-30