Planning for Failures | TechSNAP 19

Planning for Failures | TechSNAP 19

The RSA leak exposes the dirty under-belly of the commercial security industry, it’s a story that sounds like it’s straight out of Hollywood.

Then – We’ve packed this episode full of Audience questions, and our answers. Find out how to plan for failure, start building a website….

All that and more, on this week’s TechSNAP!

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Show Notes:


EXCLUSIVE: Leaked “RSA dump” appears authentic

  • A massive Pastebin dump of domain names and IP addresses supposedly linked to a cyber espionage ring appears to be the real deal.
  • The dump claims the operation targets include private US defence firms.
  • The analysis, which was leaked by an attack on HBGary Federal by Anonymous in February this year, identifies each IP address as a callback address for custom malware used in espionage operations, presumably operating out of China.
  • The IP addresses serve a configuration file that re-directs infected hosts to an interactive command and control IP based in Hong Kong.
  • HBGary codenamed the operation “Soysauce”.
  • the HBGary document suggests that each sub-domain of each registered domain name corresponds to a successfully compromised target.
  • Pastebin Dump


Q: (DreamsVoid) I have a server setup, and I am wondering what it would take to setup a backup server, that would automatically take over if the first server were to go down. What are some of the ways I could accomplish this?

A: This is a rather lengthy answer, so I will actually break it apart, and give one possible answer each week, for the next few weeks. The first possible solution, is to use something like BSD’s CARP (Common Address Redundancy Pool). With it you assign each server an IP address like normal, then on each, you create a virtual CARP interface, where you assign a shared IP between the servers in your CARP group. The servers will advertise their control of the shared IP address, whichever server does so first, will become the master for that IP. The way you configure multiple hosts to fail over in a specific order, is by setting and ‘advertisement skew’, of 100ms multiplied by the servers position in the pool. So the 3rd server will wait 200ms before advertising, and will only gain control over the IP address if the 1st and 2nd server are no longer advertising. This system basically moves the IP address of the service you are trying to keep up, to whatever machine in the pool is actually up. This CARP system requires that the servers have identical services and static copies of the content. Obviously, you don’t want to failover your webserver to your mail server, if your mail server is not running an HTTP server. CARP works best for ‘stateless’ protocols, one of the most common uses of CARP is for redundant routers. If you are using FreeBSD or a derivative such as pfSense, you can use CARP on the IP your DHCP server gives our as the default gateway, so that if one of your routers is down, the other automatically takes over. pfSense even includes a protocol to sync the NAT tables between the two routers so that open connections are not dropped. This type of setup can be important if the business running behind the router cannot afford downtime for such trivial things as OS upgrades on the routers, with CARP, you can take down one router at a time, upgrade it, and put it back in service, without effecting the end users and servers behind the routers. Another option in carp is called ‘preempt’, this causes CARP to take it’s interface offline is ANY interface on the machine goes offline, not just the one the CARP IP is on. This can be important if your routers are connected to different ISPs, if one of the links goes down, the router will take it self offline, causing traffic to be routed via the backup Internet connection.

Q: (Mattias) I have been using the NoScript addon for Firefox and have become aware of just how many sites use Google Analytics. Is it a good way for website admins track visitors, or just a way for google to track everyone?

A: Google Analytics is based on a product called Urchin that Google acquired. Google Analytics is basically just a cloud hosted version of this product. You can still buy a copy of Urchin, but they don’t mention host much it costs. Google Analytics just provides much richer detail than you get from just regular log file analyzers. One of the keys to the success of Google Analytics for e-Commerce is the integration with Adwords and other CPC/CPA sites. Google Analytics allows the store to pass good information about the purchases that are made, and Google correlates these with the keywords the user searched for, and how much was paid for the advertisement. This allow stores to optimize their bids to get the best return for their advertising.

While there are some privacy concerns about what google does with the collected data, they cannot infer all that much from it. Your personal data is never passed from the site you are visiting to Google, and only a small number of sites pass data about what you purchased back to Google, and they do this for the sales/conversion reporting, rather than for Google’s benefit. Usually, the data based back could just be an internal product id, and not provide google with any useful data about your purchase.

Find out who tracks you: Ghostery

Q: (Leon) Hi guys,

Thanks for answering my question last time.
I’ve set up a testbox here on my desk with FreeBSD to tinker with spamassassin/amavis. It’s been a long time since I did anything with FreeBSD but Allan/TechSNAP made me curious for it again.

My question: what’s the best way to keep your FreeBSD (ports) up to date? Just checking it manually/reading the security mailing lists or is there some kind of tool that Alan uses for automatically updating his servers?

Thanks again and thanks for the great show(s). The recent comment of Chris convinced me to support Jupiter with a monthly subscription.


A: The built in tool for keeping your ports tree up to date is called portsnap. This tool will use the BSDiff algorithm to only download the changes to the ports tree since your last update, and supports a simple cron method, where it randomly sleeps before starting, so that everyone cron’ing portsnap won’t hit the server at the same time. Once your ports tree is updated, there are a number of tools that you can use to go about upgrading your various packages. The tool I use is called ‘portupgrade’, but there are also others such as ‘portmanager’ and ‘portmaster’. There are also services such as VuXML (Vulnerability and eXposure Markup Language) that provide information about vulnerable ports, and can be used to check against your installed packages, and packages you are about to install.

Q: (Dan) I was going to send this email to Chris, but since you guys are doing a Q&A session on Techsnap, I figured I might as well send it here. Do you have any recommendations on sources for building websites? I’ve got a career move pending on a creation of a website, and a deadline of next week. I haven’t done basic HTML for about 6 years, and this site will need a forum and a way to pay for a service. I’m not worried about the hosting, I will be hosting it on my home server until the site is approved and ready to hit the ‘tubes. Any suggestions or information you have would be greatly appreciated!

PS. Been watching for two years, he’s Honclbrif in the IRC Chat room!

A: There are a number of great Open Source CMS (Content Management System) platforms out there. Some of the most popular are WordPress, Drupal and Joomla, all of which have huge support communities, and 1000s upon 1000s of free design templates. They also feature rich plugin architectures that allow you to add functionality such as video embedding or e-commerce. WordPress is designed for a more ‘blog’ like website, and might not fit well depending on the type of site you are building. Drupal is very extensible, but their framework can be a bit frustrating at times. You might want to look at which platform has the plugins that best fit your needs, and then go from there.

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