Always On VPN Proxy Server Configuration

Always On VPN Proxy Server Configuration

Web proxy servers are not as common today as they once were, but a few organizations still leverage them to provide secure Internet access for their employees. Commonly they are used to inspect and control Internet traffic and to enforce acceptable use policies. Some organizations may wish to extend this protection to Always On VPN clients in the field by enabling force tunneling. Administrators can define a web proxy server for Always On VPN connections globally for web traffic or individual websites or domains.

VPN Proxy

A VPN web proxy server can be defined when the Always On VPN user tunnel connection uses force tunneling. Although you can still configure a VPN web proxy server with split tunneling enabled, it will not work. It is only functional when force tunneling is in use.

Administrators can configure a VPN web proxy server using the Microsoft Endpoint Manager UI or custom XML deployed with Endpoint Manager or PowerShell. Administrators can define a VPN web proxy server explicitly, or a proxy automatic configuration (PAC) file can be specified.

Note: VPN proxy server settings only work when force tunneling is enabled. Force tunneling is an unsupported configuration for the device tunnel, making the global proxy server setting for the device tunnel unsupported.

Proxy Autoconfiguration

Perform the following steps to configure a VPN web proxy server with a PAC file in Endpoint Manager.

  1. Expand the Proxy section in the Configuration settings of the Always On VPN configuration profile.
  2. Enter the URL for the PAC file in the Automatic configuration script field. Be sure to include the port number in the URL when using a non-standard port.
  3. Leave the Address and Port number fields blank.
  4. Choose Enable or Disable from the Bypass proxy for local addresses drop-down list.

To configure a VPN web proxy server with a PAC file using custom XML, include the following code between the <VPNProfile> and </VPNProfile> tags in the Always On VPN XML configuration file.

Explicit Proxy

Perform the following steps to configure an explicit VPN web proxy server in Endpoint Manager.

  1. Enter the IP address, hostname, or fully qualified domain name (recommended) in the Address field.
  2. Enter the port number in the Port number field.
  3. Choose Enable or Disable from the Bypass proxy for local addresses drop-down list.

To configure an explicit VPN web proxy server using custom XML, include the following code between the <VPNProfile> and </VPNProfile> tags in the Always On VPN XML configuration file.

Namespace Proxy

Administrators can also define VPN web proxy servers on a per-namespace or per-hostname basis. Namespace VPN proxy servers can be helpful for scenarios where routing public websites over the Always On VPN connection is required. Most commonly, this is necessary because the public website restricts access to the IP address of the on-premises Internet gateway.

A namespace VPN proxy server is implemented using a Name Resolution Policy Table (NRPT) rule. At the time of this writing, a bug in Microsoft Endpoint Manager prevents administrators from deploying this option using the UI.

As you can see here, administrators can specify a proxy server as part of an NRPT rule in the Endpoint Manager UI. Notice this section of the UI validates the proxy FQDN correctly.

Always On VPN Proxy Server Configuration

However, when you try to save the configuration profile, Endpoint Manager returns the following error.

“Unable to save due to invalid data. Update your data then try again: ProxyServerUri must be a valid URL or be empty.”

Interestingly, when entering a URL such as http://proxy.lab.richardhicks.net:8080/ in the Proxy field, the Endpoint Manager UI accepts it and successfully validates. But according to the VPNv2 Configuration Service Provider (CSP) reference, the value must be entered as an IP address. A hostname or FQDN also works based on my testing. Entering a URL as shown in the example above will not work at all.

With that, the only way to implement a namespace VPN web proxy server is to use custom XML. To do this, include the following code between the <VPNProfile> and </VPNProfile> tags in the Always On VPN XML configuration file.

Include the leading “.” to specify the entire domain, as shown above. Omit the leading “.” to specify an individual host (for example, app.richardhicks.com). Repeat this section for each additional host or domain, as required.

Caveat

Unfortunately, the Microsoft Internet Explorer web browser is the only browser that functions with the namespace VPN web proxy server. All modern web browsers, including Microsoft Edge, ignore the namespace proxy setting entirely, which seriously limits this feature’s usefulness in most organizations today.

Workaround

If routing a public website over the Always On VPN tunnel is required, adding its IP address(es) to the Always On VPN connection’s routing table is needed. However, doing this presents some unique challenges, as public websites frequently have many IP addresses, which are often dynamically changing. Also, it is common for public websites to pull content from many different domains or use Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), making the problem of identifying which IP addresses to add to the Always On VPN connection’s routing table even more challenging. Further, administrators must update the client configuration each a public website’s IP address changes, adding significant management overhead.

Summary

Routing client Internet traffic through an on-premises web proxy server for Always On VPN clients works well when force tunneling is enabled. Administrators can explicitly define a web proxy server or use a proxy automatic configuration (PAC) file. All web browsers work without issue in this scenario. Using a namespace proxy is only effective when browsing with Microsoft Internet Explorer. All modern web browsers, including Microsoft Edge, ignore namespace proxy settings.

Additional Information

Windows 10 Always On VPN and the Name Resolution Policy Table (NRPT)

Windows 10 VPNv2 Configuration Service Provider (CSP) Reference

Windows 10 Always On VPN Client DNS Server Configuration

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6 Comments

  1. Erik J

     /  June 28, 2021

    Thanks for sharing this Richard! I had a one-year MS case leading to that small note in the documentation about the VPN-proxy configuration not working in split-tunnel setup.

    The AOV-premier support team actually made a design request to the Windows-client product group to fix this, but they confirmed that this design cannot be changed. Usually, they make this decision when the change would affect too many components and could cause potential issues down the road. So sadly no change in this behavior is expected…
    But a small hint in the GUI had been nice and saved many hours.

    One dirty workaround for this is to catch the VPN-connection event and set the system/global proxy (not the VPN-proxy setting) by script on the client. And also add logic to the VPN-disconnection event to remove the system/global proxy. This works surprisingly well!

    Cheers!
    Erik

    Reply
  2. Chunnu

     /  September 2, 2021

    Hi Richard, this is very good information for proxy settings while deploying the Always On specifically for PAC file and explicit proxy. Would you please provide some information how can we configure the Force tunnel with automatically detect settings in the VPN profile PowerShell script. By default it is taking None in the VPN proxy settings.

    Reply
    • There is no option to use “automatically detect”. You must either specify a proxy server explicitly or use the auto-configuration option with a PAC file.

      Reply
      • Sam

         /  September 29, 2021

        Hi Richard, is there a reason why you can’t set the proxy for the VPN via powershell in the build script using one of these commands:

        Set-VpnConnectionProxy -ConnectionName “Contoso” -AutoDetect
        Set-VpnConnectionProxy -ConnectionName “Contoso” -ProxyServer “10.0.0.1:80”
        Set-VpnConnectionProxy -ConnectionName “Contoso” -AutoConfigurationScript “proxy.contoso.com/consoso.pad”

      • Good question. I don’t know because I’ve never tested this. I’ll try to do that sometime and see what happens. Let me know if it works for you!

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