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

    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, 13 May 2013

    Zsh and hash

    Documentation for this one seems a bit hard to come by but it is one of the things I love about Zsh.

    I’ve seen many .bashrc files that have things like:
    alias www='cd /var/www'
    alias music='cd /home/j0rg3/music'

    And that’s a perfectly sensible way to make life a little easier, especially if the paths are very long.

    In Zsh, however, we can use the hash command and the shortcut we get from it works fully as the path. Other words, using the version above, if we want to edit ‘index.html’ in the ‘www’ directory, we would have to issue the shortcut to get there and then edit the file, in two steps:
    > www
    > vim index.html

    The improved version in .zshrc would look like:
    hash www=/var/www
    hash -d www=/var/www

    Then, at any time, you can use tilde (~) and your shortcut in place of path.
    > vim ~www/index.html

    Even better, it integrates with Zsh’s robust completions so you can, for example, type cd ~www/ and then use the tab key to cycle through subdirectories and files.

    On this system, I’m using something like this:
    (.zshrc)
    hash posts=/home/j0rg3/weblog/posts
    hash -d posts=/home/j0rg3/weblog/posts

    Then we can make a function to create a new post, to paste into .zshrc. Since we want to be able to edit and save, without partial posts becoming visible, while we are working, we’ll use an extra .tmp extension at the end:
    post() { vim ~posts/`date +%Y-%m`/`date +%Y%m%d`.$1.txt.tmp }

    [ In-line date command unfamiliar? See earlier explanation ]

    But, surely there is going to be a point when we need to save a post and finish it later. For now, let’s assume that only a single post will be in limbo at any time. We definitely don’t want to have to remember the exact name of the post — and we don’t want to have hunt it down every time.

    We can make those things easier like this:
    alias resume="vim `find ~posts/ -name '*.txt.tmp'`"

    Now, we can just enter resume and the system will go find the post we were working on and open it up for us to finish. The file will need the extension renamed from .txt.tmp to only .txt to publish the post but, for the sake of brevity, we’ll think about that (and having multiple posts in editing) on another day.


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    Permalink: 20130513.zsh.and.hash

    Tue, 07 May 2013

    Welcome, traveler.

    Thanks for visiting my little spot on the web. This is a Blosxom ‘blog which, for those who don’t know, is a CGI written in Perl using the file-system (rather than a database).

    To the CLI-addicted, this is an awesome little product. Accepting, of course, that you’re going to get under the hood if you’re going to make it the product you want. After some modules and hacking, I’m pleased with the result.

    My posts are just text files, meaning I start a new one like: vim ~posts/`date +%Y%m%d`.brief.subject.txt

    Note: the back-ticks (`) tell the system that you want to execute the command between ticks, and dynamically insert its output into the command. In this case, the command date with these parameters:
    1. (+) we’re going to specify a format
    2. (%Y) four-digit year
    3. (%m) two-digit month
    4. (%d) two-digit day
    That means the command above will use Vim to edit a text file named ‘20130507.brief.subject.txt’ in the directory I have assigned to the hash of ‘posts’. (using hash this way is a function of Zsh that I’ll cover in another post)

    In my CLI-oriented ‘blog, I can sprinkle in my own HTML or use common notation like wrapping a word in underscores to have it underlined, forward-slashes for italics and asterisks for bold.

    Toss in a line that identifies tags and, since Perl is the beast of Regex, we pick up the tags and make them links, meta-tags, etc.

    Things here are likely to change a lot at first, while I twiddle with CSS and hack away at making a Blosxom that perfectly fits my tastes — so don’t be too alarmed if you visit and things look a tad wonky. It just means that I’m tinkering.

    Once the saw-horses have been tucked away, I’m going to take the various notes I’ve made during my years in IT and write them out, in a very simple breakdown, aimed at sharing these with people who know little about how to negotiate the command line. The assumption here is that you have an interest in *nix/BSD. If you’ve that and the CLI is not a major part of your computing experience, it probably will be at some point. If you’re working on systems remotely, graphical interfaces often just impede you.

    Once you’ve started working on remote machines, the rest is inevitable. You can either remember how to do everything two ways, through a graphical interface and CLI — or just start using the CLI for everything.

    So let’s take a little journey through the kinds of things that make me love the CLI.


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    Permalink: 20130507.greetings