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Is it secure to allow unencrypted connections to a proxy server but encrypt all connections to the backend servers?

Essentially, reversing this pattern: https://assets.digitalocean.com/articles/nginx_ssl_termination_load_balancing/nginx_ssl.png

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It depends on what you mean by 'secure'.

It would mean that the traffic to the proxy is not encrypted and thus the confidentiality of said traffic is not garantueed, nor is any integrity. Someone could be sitting as a man in the middle (MitM) and change requests.

Usually it is a good idea to make connections to proxies encrypted if you care about the confidentiality and integrity of the data being fed to your backend servers. If, for whatever reason, that is not important for your business case, then you could consider no encryption.

The connection to the backend servers also goes over a network (between the proxy and the backend server), but usually the idea behind not encrypting that traffic is that you control said network and the threat of a MitM is much less.

  • Thanks for the explanation. Out of curiosity: is the general practice to encrypt the client entry point connection then? Or should all connections up to the penultimate server before the backends be encrypted? – AmazingBergkamp Feb 8 '17 at 18:04
  • The general practice is to encrypt the client to proxy connection, then depending on the network the proxy gives you access to keep it encrypted. If it gives you access to a part of the network for which you need to analyze the traffic, one might say do not encrypt, because we need to do deep packet inspection. Bottomline: Encrypt unless there is a compelling reason not to. – saekort Feb 10 '17 at 17:58

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