What is Squid?
Aside from something Bruce Schneier writes about every Friday, "Squid is a caching proxy for the Web supporting HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, and more. It reduces bandwidth and improves response times by caching and reusing frequently-requested web pages. Squid has extensive access controls and makes a great server accelerator. It runs on Unix and Windows and is licensed under the GNU GPL." -- taken from Squid-Cache.org, as I couldn't explain it any better myself.
On your network, you can set up Squid on a reasonably well-endowed server for the purposes of manipulating certain Internet traffic - specifically HTTP, usually for the purpose of increasing load times on frequently-visited content. There are other things you can do with Squid, such as blocking advertisements or turning all of the images upside down (or is that umop ap!sdn). For now, though, we'll set up a Squid server in our lab on our AMP (Apache/MySQL/PHP) fun box, running Gutsy server.
Getting and Installing Squid
Many operating systems' package installers have Squid available for installation. Squid has a list of binary packages for popular operating systems, but building Squid from source code is trivial at best (with a ./configure && make && sudo make install ) but for the sake of cleanliness, I'll just do a sudo apt-get install squid on Ubuntu.
Making Squid Work
Squid must have a cache directory that it can store the data in. If the package installation did not create this, then you must run (as root), squid -z, which will create the cache directory. You should also make sure that squid will start by default. If you reboot and squid isn't running, adding "squid" to your rc.local file is the easiest way, but there could be a start-up script somewhere that would do a more elegant job.
Proxy settings on your workstation(s)
Squid, by default, runs on port 3128. To enable proxy for your workstation, you will need to know the IP Address of your Squid server, and when asked for what port the proxy runs on, enter 3128. Here are some links for setting up Proxy in various browsers. Just remember to use your Squid IP and Port in place of any example proxy configuration used.
At this point, you likely have a Squid server up and running with the basic default configuration enabled, and for the most part, it's completely useless. Shown below, I've pointed Safari's proxy settings to the Squid server then attempted to access HiR Information Report to no avail.
To fix this, find the ACL lines in squid.conf (on Gutsy, it's /etc/squid/squid.conf) and simply add a line define your local network. Obviously, you would want to replace this with your own IP subnetting information.
acl localnet src 192.168.0.0/255.255.255.0
Then, find the http_access lines and add a line (preferably above all of the other http_access lines) allowing machines on the local network to get out to the rest of the Internet:
http_access allow localnet all
After re-starting squid (killall squid, pkill squid, /etc/init.d/squid restart, etc...) I can access anything through squid, and the pages will now be cached. This will reduce the bandwidth used for day-to-day web browsing and make pages seem to load faster. For a small business running on typical consumer broadband connections, this is a quick and easy way to increase browsing performance. Also, operating system patches will only be downloaded once and then cached. When the time comes to do the updates on all of the workstations, this trick will make life a little easier for you.
If you wish to force all HTTP traffic through Squid (for instance, if you yourself are planning on implementing a Web filter with Squid) and you have a somewhat flexible router or firewall, you can block all outgoing traffic destined for port 80 and 443 except for traffic coming from the Squid server. That, however, is beyond the scope of this article.
Tomorrow, you'll learn how to tweak a few options for Squid so that you can use it to evade web filters in the fourth article in my ongoing web filter evasion series.