Split DNS Resolution

For the beginning of the year, I couldn’t make resolutions. The DNS server that the DHCP server gave me only resolves names from the local domain, i.e. acme.corp. Every connection to the outside world needs to go through a corporate HTTP proxy which then does the name resolution itself.

But that only works as long as the HTTP proxy is happy, i.e. with the destination port. It wouldn’t allow me to CONNECT to any other port than 80 (HTTP) or 443 (HTTPS). The proxy is thus almost useless for me. No IRC, no XMPP, no IMAP(s), no SSH, etc.

Fortunately, I have an SSH server running on port 443 and using the HTTP proxy to CONNECT to that machine works easily, i.e. using corkscrew with the following in ~/.ssh/config:

Host myserver443
  User remote-user-name
  HostName ssh443.example.com
  ProxyCommand corkscrew proxy.acme.corp 8080 %h %p
  Port 443

And with that SSH connection, I could easily tunnel TCP packets using the DynamicForward switch. That would give a SOCKS proxy and I only needed to configure my programs or use tsocks. But as I need a destination IP address in order to assemble TCP packets, I need to have DNS working, first. While a SOCKS proxy could do it, the one provided by OpenSSH cannot (correct me, if I am wrong). Obviously, I need to somehow get onto the Internet in order to resolve names, as I don’t have any local nameserver that would do that for me. So I need to tunnel. Somehow.

Most of the problem is solved by using sshuttle, which is half a VPN, half a tunnelling solution. It recognises your local machine sending packets (using iptables), does its magic to transport these to a remote host under your control (using a small python program to get the packets from iptables), and sends the packets from that remote host (using a small daemon on the server side). It also collects and forwards the answers. Your local machine doesn’t really realise that it is not really connecting itself.

As the name implies it uses SSH as a transport for the packets and it works very well, not only for TCP, but also for UDP packets you send to the nameserver of your choice. So external name resolution is done, as well as sending TCP packets to any host. You may now think that the quest is solved. But as sshuttle intercepts *all* queries to the (local) nameserver, you don’t use that (local nameserver) anymore and internal name resolution thus breaks (because the external nameserver cannot resolve printing.acme.corp). That’s almost what I wanted. Except that I also want to resolve the local domain names…

To clarify my setup, marvel at this awesome diagram of the scenario. You can see my machine being inside the corporate network with the proxy being the only way out. sshuttle intercepts every packet sent to the outside world, including DNS traffic. The local nameserver is not used as it cannot resolve external names. Local names, such as printing.acme.corp, can thus not be resolved.

  | ACME.corp                               |
  |                                         |
  |                                         |
  | +----------------+        +-----------+ |
  | |My machine      |        | DNS Server| |
  | |----------------|        +-----------+ |
  | |                |                      |
  | |sshuttle        |        +-----------+ |
  | |       corkscrew+------->| HTTP Proxy| |
  | +----------------+        +-----+-----+ |
  |                                 |       |
  | Internet                        |       |
  |                                 v       |
  |       +----------+        +----------+  |
  |       |DNS Server|<-------+SSH Server|  |
  |       +----------+        +----------+  |
  |                            +  +  +  +   |
  |                            |  |  |  |   |
  |                            v  v  v  v   |

To solve that problem I need to selectively ask either the internal or the external nameserver and force sshuttle to not block traffic to the internal one. Fortunately, there is a patch for sshuttle to specify the IP address of the (external) nameserver. It lets traffic designated for your local nameserver pass and only intercept packets for your external nameserver. Awesome.

But how to make the system select the nameserver to be used? Just entering two nameservers in /etc/resolv.conf doesn’t work, of course. One solution to that problem is dnsmasq, which, fortunately, NetworkManager is running anyway. A single line added to the configuration in /etc/NetworkManager/dnsmasq.d/corp-tld makes it aware of a nameserver dedicated for a domain:


With that setup, using a public DNS server as main nameserver and make dnsmasq resolve local domain names, but make sshuttle intercept the requests to the public nameserver only, solves my problem and enables me to work again.

~/sshuttle/sshuttle --dns-hosts -vvr myserver443 0/0 \
	--exclude \
	--exclude \
	--exclude \
	--exclude \
	--exclude \
	--exclude \

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