Where does $remote_addr come from?

Paul Nickerson pnickerson at cashstar.com
Mon Feb 6 14:24:37 UTC 2017

> I am curious: apart from a training prospective at code digging, what was
the goal?
> In other words, where did you expect the IP address to come from, if not
from a system network socket?

We have NGINX AWS EC2 Instances behind AWS EC2 ELBs, as well as Fastly's
CDN and maybe some custom load balancers, but sometimes an IP address that
we log is not readily identifiable. I was also seeing some configurations
in our setup that suggested we may have been using $remote_addr
incorrectly, in log auditing for example.

So before I verified that and chased the odd IP's, I wanted to make sure
that I understood exactly what $remote_addr refers to. I thought that maybe
it was actually derived from the HTTP header, or maybe a module could be
modifying it without being explicitly configured to do so, or maybe it's
possible for a bad actor to spoof it. Now I know that it's independent of
the HTTP header, one native module and probably some third party modules
can modify it, and a bad actor would need to spoof the TCP IPv4 internet
header's source address.

I admit, I probably could have been reasonably confident in our
configuration without needing to determine this. But I was surprised to
find there was no documentation or past forum posts saying whether this
variable came from the TCP/IP or the HTTP headers. After that, my sense of
technical discovery took over and kept me interested in the problem.

 ~ Paul Nickerson



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