c0d3 :: j0rg3

A collection of tips, tricks and snips. A proud Blosxom weblog. All code. No cruft.

Sun, 19 Feb 2017

Privacy: perspective and primer.

Hello friends.

While the overall telos of this blog is to, generally speaking, convey code snippets and inspire the personal projects of others, today we’re going to do something a smidgeon different.

This will be a layman’s look at varied dimensions of information security from a comfortable distance. Over the years, I’ve secured servers, operating systems, medical data, networks, communications and I’ve unsecured many of these same things. The topics are too sprawling to be covered in a quick summary — but let’s find a point of entry.

Those of us who are passionate about information security are well aware of how daunting is the situation. For newcomers, it sometimes seems rather impossible. Pick any subject and there are probably well-informed and convincing experts in diametric equidistance from any “happy medium”.

Let’s imagine that (like most of us) you don’t have anything spectacular to protect. However, you dislike the idea of our ever-dissolving privacy. Therefore you want to encrypt communications. Maybe you begin to use Signal. However, there are criticisms that there is a “backdoor” (there is not). Further, there are accusations that open source projects are coded by those who can’t get real jobs. Conversely, open source projects are widely open for peer review. If it worries one enough they are free to review code themselves.

PGP can encrypt content but concerns surround algorithmic selections. Some are worried about metadata crumbs. Of course, there’s nothing preventing the frequent switching of keys and email addresses. You could use BitMessage, any number of chat solutions or drop at paste bins.

Let’s leave those concerns aside for when you’ve figured out what you’re intending to protect. These arguments surround any subject in information security and we’re not going to investigate them on a case by case basis. Least, not in this post.

At the coarsest granularity, the question is analogous to the practicality of locking your doors or sealing your post envelopes. Should I take measures toward privacy?

My opinion is rather predictable: of course you should!

There’s a very pragmatic explanation. If there ever comes a day when you should like to communicate privately, that’s a terrible time to start learning.

Take the easy road and start using some of the myriad tools and services available.

Should you decide to take InfoSec seriously, you’ll need to define a threat model.
That is: What am I protecting? From whom am I protecting? (e.g. what are probable attack vectors?)

That’s where you need to make choices about trusting products, protocols, methods, algorithms, companies, servers, et cet. Those are all exciting subjects to explore but all too often brushing up against them can be exasperating and cause premature burn-out.

That in mind, let’s employ the philosophy that any effort toward security is better than none and take a look at a few points where one might get wetted-toes.

If you have questions or want specific advice, there are several ways below to initiate a secure conversation with me.


Secure your browser:

  • Privacy Badger: Block tracking
  • HTTPS Everywhere: Increase your encryptioning
  • uBlock: Advertisements are for others

    Secure communications:

  • Mailvelope: PGP email encryption for your major webmail provider (e.g., Gmail) | contact | pubkey
  • Tutanota: Encrypted webmail | Kontakt
  • Protonmail: Well-established provider of PGP encrypted webmail, featuring 2FA | kontakta
  • BitMessage: P2P encrypted communications protocol | contact: BM-2D9tDkYEJSTnEkGDKf7xYA5rUj2ihETxVR | Bitmessage channel list
  •   [ Bitmessage in a Docker container ]

  • BitMessage.ch: BitMessage email gateway | contact
  • BitMsg.me: Online BitMessage service
  • Keybase.io: Keybase maps your identity to your public keys, and vice versa
  • Signal: PGP encrypted TXT messages
  • Wire: Encrypted chat, video and calls
  • RIOT: Open-source, IRC-based, Matrix; run your own server
  • Wickr: Encrypted ephemeral chat
  •   [ n.b. Wickr’s .deb package seeks a unicode library (libicu52) which is not available to a recent Kali (or anything) install; .deb file is based on Ubuntu’s 2014 LTS release. Wickr in a Docker container ]


    Explore alternate nets (e.g., Deep Web, Dark Net):

  • MaidSafe: Promising new alt-web project
  • Qubes: a reasonably secure operating system
  • FreeNet: Alt-net based primarily on already knowing with whom you intend to collaborate
  • Bitmask: VPN solution to anonymize your traffic
  • TAILS: A live operating system based on the Tor network
  • TorBrowser: Stand-alone browser for Tor (less secure than TAILS)
  • Whonix: the most secure (and complex) way to access the Tor network
  • i2p: an other approach to creating a secure and private alternate web
  • Morph.is: fun alt-net, aimed at producing The World Brain. Although, it’s future looks a lot less promising since the lead dev was killed.
  • ZeroNet: one more encrypted anonymous net
  • Have fun and compute safely!

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    Permalink: 20170219.privacy.prespective.primer

    Mon, 02 Jan 2017

    Securing a new server

    Happy new year! New year means new servers, right?

    That provides its own set of interesting circumstances!

    The server we’re investigating in this scenario was chosen for being a dedicated box in a country that has quite tight privacy laws. And it was a great deal offered on LEB.

    So herein is the fascinating bit. The rig took a few days for the provider to set up and, upon completion, the password for SSHing into the root account was emailed out. (o_0)

    In very security-minded considerations, that means that there was a window of opportunity for bad guys to work on guessing the password before its owner even tuned in. That window remains open until the server is better secured. Luckily, there was a nice interface for reinstalling the OS permitting its purchaser to select a password.

    My preferred approach was to script the basic lock-down so that we can reinstall the base OS and immediately start closing gaps.

    In order:

  • Set up SSH keys (scripted)
  • Disable password usage for root (scripted)
  • Install and configure IPset (scripted. details in next post)
  • Install and configure fail2ban
  • Install and configure PortSentry

  • In this post, we’re focused on the first two steps.

    The tasks to be handled are:

  • Generate keys
  • Configure local SSH to use key
  • Transmit key to target server
  • Disable usage of password for ‘root’ account

  • We’ll use ssh-keygen to generate a key — and stick with RSA for ease. If you’d prefer ECC then you’re probably reading the wrong blog but feel encouraged to contact me privately.

    The code:

    #configure variables
    remote_pass="thisisaratheraquitecomplicatedpasswordbatterystaple" # https://xkcd.com/936/
    local_date=`date -I`

    #generate key without passphrase
    ssh-keygen -b 4096 -P "" -C $local_user@local_host-$local_date -f $local_filename

    #add reference to generated key to local configuration
    printf '%s\n' "Host $remote_host" "IdentityFile $local_filename" >> ~/.ssh/config

    #copy key to remote host
    sshpass -p $remote_pass ssh-copy-id $remote_user@$remote_host

    #disable password for root on remote
    ssh $remote_user@$remote_host "cp /etc/ssh/sshd_config /etc/ssh/sshd_config.bak && sed -i '0,/RE/s/PermitRootLogin yes/PermitRootLogin no/' /etc/ssh/sshd_config"

    We just run this script soon as the OS is reinstalled and we’re substantially safer. As a Deb8 install, quickly pulling down fail2ban and PortSentry makes things quite a lot tighter.

    In another post, we’ll visit the 2017 version of making a DIY script to batten the hatches using a variety of publicly provided blocklists.

    Download here:

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    Permalink: 20170102.securing.a.new.server

    Thu, 30 May 2013

    Making ixquick your default search engine

    In this writer’s opinion, it is vitally important that we take reasonable measures now to help insure anonymity, lest we create a situation where privacy no longer exists, and the simple want of, becomes suspicious.

    Here’s how to configure your browser to automatically use a search engine that respects your privacy.


    1. Click Settings.
    2. Click “Set pages” in the “On startup” section.
    3. Enter https://ixquick.com/eng/ in the “Add a new page” text field.
    4. Click OK.
    5. Click “Manage search engines…”
    6. At the bottom of the “Search Engines” dialog, click in the “Add a new search engine” field.
    7. Enter
    8. Click “Make Default”.
    9. Click “Done”.


    1. Click the Tools Menu.
    2. Click Options.
    3. Click the General tab.
    4. In “When Firefox Starts” dropdown, select “Show my home page”.
    5. Enter https://ixquick.com/eng/ in the “Home Page” text field.
    6. Click one of the English options here.
    7. Check box for “Start using it right away.”
    8. Click “Add”.


    1. Click “Manage Search Engines
    2. Click “Add”
    3. Enter
      Name: ixquick
      Keyword: x
      Address: https://ixquick.com/do/search?lui=english&language=english&cat=web&query=%s
    4. Check “Use as default search engine”
    5. Click “OK”

    Internet Explorer:

        _     ___  _ __        ___   _ _____ ___ 
       | |   / _ \| |\ \      / / | | |_   _|__ \
       | |  | | | | | \ \ /\ / /| | | | | |   / /
       | |__| |_| | |__\ V  V / | |_| | | |  |_| 
       |_____\___/|_____\_/\_/   \___/  |_|  (_) 
      (This is not a good strategy for privacy.)



    You are now one step closer to not having every motion on the Internet recorded.

    This is a relatively small measure, though. You can improve your resistance to prying eyes (e.g., browser fingerprinting) by using the Torbrowser Bundle, or even better, Tails, and routing your web usage through Tor, i2p, or FreeNet.

    If you would like more on subjects like anonymyzing, privacy and security then drop me a line via email or Bitmessage me: BM-2D9tDkYEJSTnEkGDKf7xYA5rUj2ihETxVR

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    Permalink: 20130530.hey.you.get.offa.my.data

    Thu, 23 May 2013

    GNU Screen: Roll your own system monitor

    Working on remote servers, some tools are practically ubiquitous — while others are harder to come by. Even if you’ve the authority to install your preferred tools on every server you visit, it’s not always something you want to do. If you’ve hopped on to a friend’s server just to troubleshoot a problem, there is little reason to install tools that your friend is not in the habit of using. Some servers, for security reasons, are very tightly locked down to include only a core set of tools, to complicate the job of any prying intruders. Or perhaps it is a machine that you normally use through a graphical interface but on this occasion you need to work from the CLI.

    These are very compelling reasons to get comfortable, at the very least, with tools like Vim, mail, grep and sed. Eventually, you’re likely to encounter a situation where only the classic tools are available. If you aren’t competent with those tools, you’ll end up facing the obstacle of how to get files from the server to your local environment where you can work and, subsequently, how to get the files back when you’re done. In a secured environment, this may not be possible without violating protocols.

    Let’s take a look at how we can build a makeshift system monitor using some common tools. This particular configuration is for a server running PHP, MySQL and has the tools Htop and mytop installed. These can easily be replaced with top and a small script to SHOW FULL PROCESSLIST, if needed. The point here is illustrative, to provide a template to be modified according to each specific environment.

    (Note: I generally prefer tmux to Gnu Screen but screen is the tool more likely to be already installed, so we’ll use it for this example.)

    We’re going to make a set of windows, by a configuration file, to help us keep tabs on what is happening in this system. In so doing, we’ll be using the well-known tools less and watch. More specifically, less +F which tells less to “scroll forward”. Other words, less will continue to read the file making sure any new lines are added to the display. You can exit this mode with CTRL+c, search the file (/), quit(q) or get back into scroll-forward mode with another uppercase F.

    Using watch, we’ll include the “-d” flag which tells watch we want to highlight any changes (differences).

    We will create a configuration file for screen by typing:

    > vim monitor.screenrc

    In the file, paste the following:

    # Screen setup for system monitoring
    # screen -c monitor.screenrc
    hardstatus alwayslastline
    hardstatus string '%{= kG}[ %{G}%H %{g}][%= %{=kw}%?%-Lw%?%{r}(%{W}%n*%f%t%?(%u)%?%{r})%{w}%?%+Lw%?%?%= %{g}][%{B}%Y-%m-%d %{W}%c %{g}]'

    screen -t htop 0 htop
    screen -t mem 1 watch -d "free -t -m"
    screen -t mpstat 2 watch -d "mpstat -A"
    screen -t iostat 3 watch -d "iostat"
    screen -t w 4 watch -d "w"
    screen -t messages 5 less +F /var/log/messages
    screen -t warn 6 less +F /var/log/warn
    screen -t database 7 less +F /srv/www/log/db_error
    screen -t mytop 8 mytop
    screen -t php 9 less +F /srv/www/log/php_error

    (Note: -t sets the title, then the window number, followed by the command running in that window)

    Save the file (:wq) or, if you’d prefer, you can grab a copy by right-clicking and saving this file.

    Then we will execute screen using this configuration, as noted in the comment:

    > screen -c monitor.screenrc

    Then you can switch between windows using CTRL+a, n (next) or CTRL+a, p (previous).

    I use this technique on my own computers, running in a TTY different from the one used by X. If the graphical interface should get flaky, I can simply switch to that TTY (e.g., CTRL+ALT+F5) to see what things are going on — and take corrective actions, if needed.

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    Permalink: 20130523.gnu.screen.system.monitor

    Mon, 20 May 2013

    Debugging PHP with Xdebug

    I have finished (more-or-less) making a demo for the Xdebug togglin’ add-on/extension that I’ve developed.

    One hundred percent of the feedback about this project has been from Chrome users. Therefore, the Chrome extension has advanced with the new features (v2.0), allowing selective en/dis-ableing portions of Xdebug’s output. That is you can set Xdebug to firehose mode (spitting out everything) and then squelch anything not immediately needed at the browser layer. The other information remains present, hidden in the background, available if you decide that you need to have a look.

    The Firefox version is still at v1.2 but will be brought up to speed as time permits.

    If you want that firehose mode for Xdebug, here’s a sample of some settings for your configuration ‘.ini’ file.

    The demo is here.

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    Permalink: 20130520.debugging.php.with.xdebug