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Allowing FTP over HTTP with Microsoft Forefront Threat Management Gateway

Posted by Mike Howells on February 18, 2013

I’ve been working with Microsoft’s Forefront Threat Management Gateway (TMG) since it was released back in November 2009 and it continues to surprise me…

What I thought would be an easy protocol addition to an existing access rule turned out not to be the case.

I was notified of an issue whereby users were suddenly unable to access a FTP site that they had been using for years. Their method of accessing the FTP site was to enter the URL of the FTP site within the address line of Internet Explorer (IE) using this format: ftp://username:password@example.com

I found it interesting that this was working just fine with ISA Server 2004/2006 but suddenly did not work with TMG 2010. Considering that we just switched from ISA 2004/2006 to TMG 2010 it didn’t surprise me that something broke because I figured TMG is handling it differently, which it is.

When you access an FTP site within Internet Explorer, TMG treats it as “FTP Over HTTP” instead of just plain ‘ol vanilla FTP. Since this new protocol was not defined in any existing access rules I had to go into the Enterprise-level policy and add the “FTP Over HTTP” protocol to the access rule.

I selected my “FTP Access” rule at the Enterprise-level policy, went to the Protocols tab, selected Add and looked for the “FTP Over HTTP” protocol as I saw earlier. As hard as I looked, I could not locate this protocol!

2-18-2013 3-03-56 PM

I decided to open a case with Microsoft, who confirmed with me that this is a bug with TMG. Unfortunately, since TMG has been EOL’d (End-Of-Life’d) they have no plans to fix this.

The work-around to fix this problem is to add the access rule at the array-level. Unfortunately, this means a lot of manual work especially if you have numerous arrays to manage.

2-18-2013 4-15-21 PM

You can simply add the “FTP Over HTTP” access rule to your existing web access policy at the array-level. Or, more likely, you’ll want to create a separate access rule especially if you do not want everyone to have access to this protocol.

Shown here is the “FTP over HTTP Access” rule successfully added to the array-level policy:

2-18-2013 3-28-30 PM

When you log access to this rule you’ll notice another cool feature. You can see the developers of TMG anticipated that the password information for FTP sites are sent in clear-text and that this information may be easily viewed via the live logging session. So they remove the password during a live logging session as shown below:

2-18-2013 3-57-26 PM

There is one additional workaround available to you. If you do not want to create a special access rule in TMG to allow this behavior, you can make a change in Internet Explorer. Simply open Internet Explorer, select Tools, Internet Options, Advanced and scroll down to the Browsing section. In the Browsing section you will see a setting called “Enable FTP folder view (outside of Internet Explorer).” Checking this box will allow you to access FTP sites within Windows Explorer and it will not invoke the “FTP Over HTTP” protocol.

2-18-2013 4-03-34 PM

If you’d like to learn more about publishing FTP in ISA Server or TMG that a look at the following article. It is the most thorough discussion on FTP in ISA and TMG that I have seen:


If you are interested in adding/allowing malware inspection for FTP access rules in TMG checkout the following article (normally this is not possible):



3 Responses to “Allowing FTP over HTTP with Microsoft Forefront Threat Management Gateway”

  1. Hi Mike, I´ve done all steps you did here, but I´m still having this problem. Is there any other option we can go ahead…

    • Not real sure where to go from here. The instructions are pretty straight forward. So, I would examine the TMG live logging to see where the failure is occurring. Perhaps it is a client issue.

  2. Thank you Mike, worked like a charm!

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