Tag Archives: desktop

New Power Bundle for Amazon WorkSpaces – More vCPUs, Memory, and Storage

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/new-power-bundle-for-amazon-workspaces-more-vcpus-memory-and-storage/

Are you tired of hearing me talk about Amazon WorkSpaces yet? I hope not, because we have a lot of customer-driven additions on the roadmap! Our customers in the developer and analyst community have been asking for a workstation-class machine that will allow them to take advantage of the low cost and flexibility of WorkSpaces. Developers want to run Visual Studio, IntelliJ, Eclipse, and other IDEs. Analysts want to run complex simulations and statistical analysis using MatLab, GNU Octave, R, and Stata.

New Power Bundle
Today we are extending the current set of WorkSpaces bundles with a new Power bundle. With four vCPUs, 16 GiB of memory, and 275 GB of storage (175 GB on the system volume and another 100 GB on the user volume), this bundle is designed to make developers, analysts, (and me) smile. You can launch them in all of the usual ways: Console, CLI (create-workspaces), or API (CreateWorkSpaces):

One really interesting benefit to using a cloud-based virtual desktop for simulations and statistical analysis is the ease of access to data that’s already stored in the cloud. Analysts can mine and analyze petabytes of data stored in S3 that is effectively local (with respect to access time) to the WorkSpace. This low-latency access will boost productivity and also simplifies the use of other AWS data analysis tools such as Amazon Redshift, Amazon Redshift Spectrum, Amazon QuickSight, and Amazon Athena.

Like the existing bundles, the new Power bundle can be used in either billing configuration, AlwaysOn or AutoStop (read Amazon WorkSpaces Update – Hourly Usage and Expanded Root Volume to learn more). The bundle is available in all AWS Regions where WorkSpaces is available and you can launch one today! Visit the WorkSpaces Pricing page for pricing in your region.

Jeff;

Yahoo Mail’s New Tech Stack, Built for Performance and Reliability

Post Syndicated from mikesefanov original https://yahooeng.tumblr.com/post/162320493306

By Suhas Sadanandan, Director of Engineering 

When it comes to performance and reliability, there is perhaps no application where this matters more than with email. Today, we announced a new Yahoo Mail experience for desktop based on a completely rewritten tech stack that embodies these fundamental considerations and more.

We built the new Yahoo Mail experience using a best-in-class front-end tech stack with open source technologies including React, Redux, Node.js, react-intl (open-sourced by Yahoo), and others. A high-level architectural diagram of our stack is below.

image

New Yahoo Mail Tech Stack

In building our new tech stack, we made use of the most modern tools available in the industry to come up with the best experience for our users by optimizing the following fundamentals:

Performance

A key feature of the new Yahoo Mail architecture is blazing-fast initial loading (aka, launch).

We introduced new network routing which sends users to their nearest geo-located email servers (proximity-based routing). This has resulted in a significant reduction in time to first byte and should be immediately noticeable to our international users in particular.

We now do server-side rendering to allow our users to see their mail sooner. This change will be immediately noticeable to our low-bandwidth users. Our application is isomorphic, meaning that the same code runs on the server (using Node.js) and the client. Prior versions of Yahoo Mail had programming logic duplicated on the server and the client because we used PHP on the server and JavaScript on the client.   

Using efficient bundling strategies (JavaScript code is separated into application, vendor, and lazy loaded bundles) and pushing only the changed bundles during production pushes, we keep the cache hit ratio high. By using react-atomic-css, our homegrown solution for writing modular and scoped CSS in React, we get much better CSS reuse.  

In prior versions of Yahoo Mail, the need to run various experiments in parallel resulted in additional branching and bloating of our JavaScript and CSS code. While rewriting all of our code, we solved this issue using Mendel, our homegrown solution for bucket testing isomorphic web apps, which we have open sourced.  

Rather than using custom libraries, we use native HTML5 APIs and ES6 heavily and use PolyesterJS, our homegrown polyfill solution, to fill the gaps. These factors have further helped us to keep payload size minimal.

With all the above optimizations, we have been able to reduce our JavaScript and CSS footprint by approximately 50% compared to the previous desktop version of Yahoo Mail, helping us achieve a blazing-fast launch.

In addition to initial launch improvements, key features like search and message read (when a user opens an email to read it) have also benefited from the above optimizations and are considerably faster in the latest version of Yahoo Mail.

We also significantly reduced the memory consumed by Yahoo Mail on the browser. This is especially noticeable during a long running session.

Reliability

With this new version of Yahoo Mail, we have a 99.99% success rate on core flows: launch, message read, compose, search, and actions that affect messages. Accomplishing this over several billion user actions a day is a significant feat. Client-side errors (JavaScript exceptions) are reduced significantly when compared to prior Yahoo Mail versions.

Product agility and launch velocity

We focused on independently deployable components. As part of the re-architecture of Yahoo Mail, we invested in a robust continuous integration and delivery flow. Our new pipeline allows for daily (or more) pushes to all Mail users, and we push only the bundles that are modified, which keeps the cache hit ratio high.

Developer effectiveness and satisfaction

In developing our tech stack for the new Yahoo Mail experience, we heavily leveraged open source technologies, which allowed us to ensure a shorter learning curve for new engineers. We were able to implement a consistent and intuitive onboarding program for 30+ developers and are now using our program for all new hires. During the development process, we emphasise predictable flows and easy debugging.

Accessibility

The accessibility of this new version of Yahoo Mail is state of the art and delivers outstanding usability (efficiency) in addition to accessibility. It features six enhanced visual themes that can provide accommodation for people with low vision and has been optimized for use with Assistive Technology including alternate input devices, magnifiers, and popular screen readers such as NVDA and VoiceOver. These features have been rigorously evaluated and incorporate feedback from users with disabilities. It sets a new standard for the accessibility of web-based mail and is our most-accessible Mail experience yet.

Open source 

We have open sourced some key components of our new Mail stack, like Mendel, our solution for bucket testing isomorphic web applications. We invite the community to use and build upon our code. Going forward, we plan on also open sourcing additional components like react-atomic-css, our solution for writing modular and scoped CSS in React, and lazy-component, our solution for on-demand loading of resources.

Many of our company’s best technical minds came together to write a brand new tech stack and enable a delightful new Yahoo Mail experience for our users.

We encourage our users and engineering peers in the industry to test the limits of our application, and to provide feedback by clicking on the Give Feedback call out in the lower left corner of the new version of Yahoo Mail.

Backblaze B2, Cloud Storage on a Budget: One Year Later

Post Syndicated from Andy Klein original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/backblaze-b2-cloud-storage-on-a-budget-one-year-later/

B2 Cloud Storage Review

A year ago, Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage came out of beta and became available for everyone to use. We were pretty excited, even though it seemed like everyone and their brother had a cloud storage offering. Now that we are a year down the road let’s see how B2 has fared in the real world of tight budgets, maxed-out engineering schedules, insanely funded competition, and more. Spoiler alert: We’re still pretty excited…

Cloud Storage on a Budget

There are dozens of companies offering cloud storage and the landscape is cluttered with incomprehensible pricing models, cleverly disguised transfer and download charges, and differing levels of service that seem to be driven more by marketing departments than customer needs.

Backblaze B2 keeps things simple: A single performant level of service, a single affordable price for storage ($0.005/GB/month), a single affordable price for downloads ($0.02/GB), and a single list of transaction charges – all on a single pricing page.

Who’s Using B2?

By making cloud storage affordable, companies and organizations now have a way to store their data in the cloud and still be able to access and restore it as quickly as needed. You don’t have to choose between price and performance. Here are a few examples:

  • Media & Entertainment: KLRU-TV, Austin PBS, is using B2 to preserve their video catalog of the world renown musical anthology series, Austin City Limits.
  • LTO Migration: The Girl Scouts San Diego, were able to move their daily incremental backups from LTO tape to the cloud, saving money and time, while helping automate their entire backup process.
  • Cloud Migration: Vintage Aerial found it cost effective to discard their internal data server and store their unique hi-resolution images in B2 Cloud Storage.
  • Backup: Ahuja and Clark, a boutique accounting firm, was able to save over 80% on the cost to backup all their corporate and client data.

How is B2 Being Used?

B2 Cloud Storage can be accessed in four ways: using the Web GUI, using the CLI, using the API library, and using a product or service integrated with B2. While many customers are using the Web GUI, CLI and API to store and retrieve data, the most prolific use of B2 occurs via our integration partners. Each integration partner has certified they have met our best practices for integrating to B2 and we’ve tested each of the integrations submitted to us. Here are a few of the highlights.

  • NAS Devices – Synology and QNAP have integrations which allow their NAS devices to sync their data to/from B2.
  • Backup and Sync – CloudBerry, GoodSync, and Retrospect are just a few of the services that can backup and/or sync data to/from B2.
  • Hybrid Cloud – 45 Drives and OpenIO are solutions that allow you to setup and operate a hybrid data storage cloud environment.
  • Desktop Apps – CyberDuck, MountainDuck, Dropshare, and more allow users an easy way to store and use data in B2 right from your desktop.
  • Digital Asset Management – Cantemo, Cubix, CatDV, and axle Video, let you catalog your digital assets and then store them in B2 for fast retrieval when they are needed.

If you have an application or service that stores data in the cloud and it isn’t integrated with Backblaze B2, then your customers are probably paying too much for cloud storage.

What’s New in B2?

B2 Fireball – our rapid data ingest service. We send you a storage device, and you load it up with up to 40 TB of data and send it back, then we load the data into your B2 account. The cost is $550 per trip plus shipping. Save your network bandwidth with the B2 Fireball.

Lowered the download price – When we introduced B2, we set the price to download a gigabyte of data to be $0.05/GB – the same as most competitors. A year in, we reevaluated the price based on usage and decided to lower the price to $0.02/GB.

B2 User Groups – Backblaze Groups functionality is now available in B2. An administrator can invite users to a B2 centric Group to centralize the storage location for that group of users. For example, multiple members of a department working on a project will be able to archive their work-in-process activities into a single B2 bucket.

Time Machine backup – You may know that you can use your Synology NAS as the destination for your Time Machine backup. With B2 you can also sync your Synology NAS to B2 for a true 3-2-1 backup solution. If your system crashes or is lost, you can restore your Time Machine image directly from B2 to your new machine.

Life Cycle Rules – Create rules that allow you to manage the length of time deleted files will remain in your B2 bucket before they are deleted. A great option for managing the cleanup of outdated file versions to save on storage costs.

Large Files – In the B2 Web GUI you can upload files as large as 500 MB using either the upload or drag-and-drop functionality. The B2 CLI and API support the ability to upload/download files as large as 10 TB.

5 MB file part size – When working with large files, the minimum file part size can now be set as low as 5 MB versus the previous low setting of 100 MB. Now the range of a file part when working with large files can be from 5 MB to 5GB. This increases the throughput of your data uploads and downloads.

SHA-1 at the end – This feature allows you to compute the SHA-1 checksum and append it to the end of the request body versus doing the computation before the file is sent. This is especially useful for those applications which stream data to/from B2.

Cache-Control – When data is downloaded from B2 into a browser, the length of time the file remains in the browser cache can be set at the bucket level using the b2_create_bucket and b2_update_bucket API calls. Setting this policy is optional.

Customized delimiters – Used in the API, this allows you to specify a delimiter to use for a given purpose. A common use is to set a delimiter in the file name string. Then use that delimiter to detect a folder name within the string.

Looking Ahead

Over the past year we added nearly 30,000 new B2 customers to the fold and are welcoming more and more each day as B2 continues to grow. We have plans to expand our storage footprint by adding more data centers as we look forward to moving towards a multi-region environment.

For those of you who are B2 customers – thank you for helping build B2. If you have an interesting way you are using B2, tell us in the comments below.

The post Backblaze B2, Cloud Storage on a Budget: One Year Later appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Scratch 2.0: all-new features for your Raspberry Pi

Post Syndicated from Rik Cross original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/scratch-2-raspberry-pi/

We’re very excited to announce that Scratch 2.0 is now available as an offline app for the Raspberry Pi! This new version of Scratch allows you to control the Pi’s GPIO (General Purpose Input and Output) pins, and offers a host of other exciting new features.

Offline accessibility

The most recent update to Raspbian includes the app, which makes Scratch 2.0 available offline on the Raspberry Pi. This is great news for clubs and classrooms, where children can now use Raspberry Pis instead of connected laptops or desktops to explore block-based programming and physical computing.

Controlling GPIO with Scratch 2.0

As with Scratch 1.4, Scratch 2.0 on the Raspberry Pi allows you to create code to control and respond to components connected to the Pi’s GPIO pins. This means that your Scratch projects can light LEDs, sound buzzers and use input from buttons and a range of sensors to control the behaviour of sprites. Interacting with GPIO pins in Scratch 2.0 is easier than ever before, as text-based broadcast instructions have been replaced with custom blocks for setting pin output and getting current pin state.

Scratch 2.0 GPIO blocks

To add GPIO functionality, first click ‘More Blocks’ and then ‘Add an Extension’. You should then select the ‘Pi GPIO’ extension option and click OK.

Scratch 2.0 GPIO extension

In the ‘More Blocks’ section you should now see the additional blocks for controlling and responding to your Pi GPIO pins. To give an example, the entire code for repeatedly flashing an LED connected to GPIO pin 2.0 is now:

Flashing an LED with Scratch 2.0

To react to a button connected to GPIO pin 2.0, simply set the pin as input, and use the ‘gpio (x) is high?’ block to check the button’s state. In the example below, the Scratch cat will say “Pressed” only when the button is being held down.

Responding to a button press on Scractch 2.0

Cloning sprites

Scratch 2.0 also offers some additional features and improvements over Scratch 1.4. One of the main new features of Scratch 2.0 is the ability to create clones of sprites. Clones are instances of a particular sprite that inherit all of the scripts of the main sprite.

The scripts below show how cloned sprites are used — in this case to allow the Scratch cat to throw a clone of an apple sprite whenever the space key is pressed. Each apple sprite clone then follows its ‘when i start as clone’ script.

Cloning sprites with Scratch 2.0

The cloning functionality avoids the need to create multiple copies of a sprite, for example multiple enemies in a game or multiple snowflakes in an animation.

Custom blocks

Scratch 2.0 also allows the creation of custom blocks, allowing code to be encapsulated and used (possibly multiple times) in a project. The code below shows a simple custom block called ‘jump’, which is used to make a sprite jump whenever it is clicked.

Custom 'jump' block on Scratch 2.0

These custom blocks can also optionally include parameters, allowing further generalisation and reuse of code blocks. Here’s another example of a custom block that draws a shape. This time, however, the custom block includes parameters for specifying the number of sides of the shape, as well as the length of each side.

Custom shape-drawing block with Scratch 2.0

The custom block can now be used with different numbers provided, allowing lots of different shapes to be drawn.

Drawing shapes with Scratch 2.0

Peripheral interaction

Another feature of Scratch 2.0 is the addition of code blocks to allow easy interaction with a webcam or a microphone. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities, and for some examples of projects that make use of this new functionality see Clap-O-Meter which uses the microphone to control a noise level meter, and a Keepie Uppies game that uses video motion to control a football. You can use the Raspberry Pi or USB cameras to detect motion in your Scratch 2.0 projects.

Other new features include a vector image editor and a sound editor, as well as lots of new sprites, costumes and backdrops.

Update your Raspberry Pi for Scratch 2.0

Scratch 2.0 is available in the latest Raspbian release, under the ‘Programming’ menu. We’ve put together a guide for getting started with Scratch 2.0 on the Raspberry Pi online (note that GPIO functionality is only available via the desktop version). You can also try out Scratch 2.0 on the Pi by having a go at a project from the Code Club projects site.

As always, we love to see the projects you create using the Raspberry Pi. Once you’ve upgraded to Scratch 2.0, tell us about your projects via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, or by leaving us a comment below.

The post Scratch 2.0: all-new features for your Raspberry Pi appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

A Raspbian desktop update with some new programming tools

Post Syndicated from Simon Long original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/a-raspbian-desktop-update-with-some-new-programming-tools/

Today we’ve released another update to the Raspbian desktop. In addition to the usual small tweaks and bug fixes, the big new changes are the inclusion of an offline version of Scratch 2.0, and of Thonny (a user-friendly IDE for Python which is excellent for beginners). We’ll look at all the changes in this post, but let’s start with the biggest…

Scratch 2.0 for Raspbian

Scratch is one of the most popular pieces of software on Raspberry Pi. This is largely due to the way it makes programming accessible – while it is simple to learn, it covers many of the concepts that are used in more advanced languages. Scratch really does provide a great introduction to programming for all ages.

Raspbian ships with the original version of Scratch, which is now at version 1.4. A few years ago, though, the Scratch team at the MIT Media Lab introduced the new and improved Scratch version 2.0, and ever since we’ve had numerous requests to offer it on the Pi.

There was, however, a problem with this. The original version of Scratch was written in a language called Squeak, which could run on the Pi in a Squeak interpreter. Scratch 2.0, however, was written in Flash, and was designed to run from a remote site in a web browser. While this made Scratch 2.0 a cross-platform application, which you could run without installing any Scratch software, it also meant that you had to be able to run Flash on your computer, and that you needed to be connected to the internet to program in Scratch.

We worked with Adobe to include the Pepper Flash plugin in Raspbian, which enables Flash sites to run in the Chromium browser. This addressed the first of these problems, so the Scratch 2.0 website has been available on Pi for a while. However, it still needed an internet connection to run, which wasn’t ideal in many circumstances. We’ve been working with the Scratch team to get an offline version of Scratch 2.0 running on Pi.

Screenshot of Scratch on Raspbian

The Scratch team had created a website to enable developers to create hardware and software extensions for Scratch 2.0; this provided a version of the Flash code for the Scratch editor which could be modified to run locally rather than over the internet. We combined this with a program called Electron, which effectively wraps up a local web page into a standalone application. We ended up with the Scratch 2.0 application that you can find in the Programming section of the main menu.

Physical computing with Scratch 2.0

We didn’t stop there though. We know that people want to use Scratch for physical computing, and it has always been a bit awkward to access GPIO pins from Scratch. In our Scratch 2.0 application, therefore, there is a custom extension which allows the user to control the Pi’s GPIO pins without difficulty. Simply click on ‘More Blocks’, choose ‘Add an Extension’, and select ‘Pi GPIO’. This loads two new blocks, one to read and one to write the state of a GPIO pin.

Screenshot of new Raspbian iteration of Scratch 2, featuring GPIO pin control blocks.

The Scratch team kindly allowed us to include all the sprites, backdrops, and sounds from the online version of Scratch 2.0. You can also use the Raspberry Pi Camera Module to create new sprites and backgrounds.

This first release works well, although it can be slow for some operations; this is largely unavoidable for Flash code running under Electron. Bear in mind that you will need to have the Pepper Flash plugin installed (which it is by default on standard Raspbian images). As Pepper Flash is only compatible with the processor in the Pi 2.0 and Pi 3, it is unfortunately not possible to run Scratch 2.0 on the Pi Zero or the original models of the Pi.

We hope that this makes Scratch 2.0 a more practical proposition for many users than it has been to date. Do let us know if you hit any problems, though!

Thonny: a more user-friendly IDE for Python

One of the paths from Scratch to ‘real’ programming is through Python. We know that the transition can be awkward, and this isn’t helped by the tools available for learning Python. It’s fair to say that IDLE, the Python IDE, isn’t the most popular piece of software ever written…

Earlier this year, we reviewed every Python IDE that we could find that would run on a Raspberry Pi, in an attempt to see if there was something better out there than IDLE. We wanted to find something that was easier for beginners to use but still useful for experienced Python programmers. We found one program, Thonny, which stood head and shoulders above all the rest. It’s a really user-friendly IDE, which still offers useful professional features like single-stepping of code and inspection of variables.

Screenshot of Thonny IDE in Raspbian

Thonny was created at the University of Tartu in Estonia; we’ve been working with Aivar Annamaa, the lead developer, on getting it into Raspbian. The original version of Thonny works well on the Pi, but because the GUI is written using Python’s default GUI toolkit, Tkinter, the appearance clashes with the rest of the Raspbian desktop, most of which is written using the GTK toolkit. We made some changes to bring things like fonts and graphics into line with the appearance of our other apps, and Aivar very kindly took that work and converted it into a theme package that could be applied to Thonny.

Due to the limitations of working within Tkinter, the result isn’t exactly like a native GTK application, but it’s pretty close. It’s probably good enough for anyone who isn’t a picky UI obsessive like me, anyway! Have a look at the Thonny webpage to see some more details of all the cool features it offers. We hope that having a more usable environment will help to ease the transition from graphical languages like Scratch into ‘proper’ languages like Python.

New icons

Other than these two new packages, this release is mostly bug fixes and small version bumps. One thing you might notice, though, is that we’ve made some tweaks to our custom icon set. We wondered if the icons might look better with slightly thinner outlines. We tried it, and they did: we hope you prefer them too.

Downloading the new image

You can either download a new image from the Downloads page, or you can use apt to update:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

To install Scratch 2.0:

sudo apt-get install scratch2

To install Thonny:

sudo apt-get install python3-thonny

One more thing…

Before Christmas, we released an experimental version of the desktop running on Debian for x86-based computers. We were slightly taken aback by how popular it turned out to be! This made us realise that this was something we were going to need to support going forward. We’ve decided we’re going to try to make all new desktop releases for both Pi and x86 from now on.

The version of this we released last year was a live image that could run from a USB stick. Many people asked if we could make it permanently installable, so this version includes an installer. This uses the standard Debian install process, so it ought to work on most machines. I should stress, though, that we haven’t been able to test on every type of hardware, so there may be issues on some computers. Please be sure to back up your hard drive before installing it. Unlike the live image, this will erase and reformat your hard drive, and you will lose anything that is already on it!

You can still boot the image as a live image if you don’t want to install it, and it will create a persistence partition on the USB stick so you can save data. Just select ‘Run with persistence’ from the boot menu. To install, choose either ‘Install’ or ‘Graphical install’ from the same menu. The Debian installer will then walk you through the install process.

You can download the latest x86 image (which includes both Scratch 2.0 and Thonny) from here or here for a torrent file.

One final thing

This version of the desktop is based on Debian Jessie. Some of you will be aware that a new stable version of Debian (called Stretch) was released last week. Rest assured – we have been working on porting everything across to Stretch for some time now, and we will have a Stretch release ready some time over the summer.

The post A Raspbian desktop update with some new programming tools appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Sync vs. Backup vs. Storage

Post Syndicated from Yev original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/sync-vs-backup-vs-storage/

Cloud Sync vs. Cloud Backup vs. Cloud Storage

Google Drive recently announced their new Backup and Sync feature for Google Drive, which allows users to select folders on their computer that they want to back up to their Google Drive account (note: these files count against your Google Drive storage limit). Whenever new backup services are announced, we get a lot of questions so I thought we should take a minute to review the differences in cloud based services.

What is the Cloud? Sync Vs Backup Vs Storage

There is still a lot of confusion in the space about what exactly the “cloud” is and how different services interact with it. When folks use a syncing and sharing service like Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, OneDrive or any of the others, they often assume those are acting as a cloud backup solution as well. Adding to the confusion, cloud storage services are often the backend for backup and sync services as well as standalone services. To help sort this out, we’ll define some of the terms below as they apply to a traditional computer set-up with a bunch of apps and data.

Cloud Sync (ex. Dropbox, iCloud Drive, OneDrive, Box, Google Drive) – these services sync folders on your computer to folders on other machines or to the cloud – allowing users to work from a folder or directory across devices. Typically these services have tiered pricing, meaning you pay for the amount of data you store with the service. If there is data loss, sometimes these services even have a rollback feature, of course only files that are in the synced folders are available to be recovered.

Cloud Backup (ex. Backblaze Cloud Backup, Mozy, Carbonite) – these services work in the background automatically. The user does not need to take any action like setting up specific folders. Backup services typically back up any new or changed data on your computer to another location. Before the cloud took off, that location was primarily a CD or an external hard drive – but as cloud storage became more readily available it became the most popular storage medium. Typically these services have fixed pricing, and if there is a system crash or data loss, all backed up data is available for restore. In addition, these services have rollback features in case there is data loss / accidental file deletion.

Cloud Storage (ex. Backblaze B2, Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure) – these services are where many online backup and syncing and sharing services store data. Cloud storage providers typically serve as the endpoint for data storage. These services typically provide APIs, CLIs, and access points for individuals and developers to tie in their cloud storage offerings directly. These services are priced “per GB” meaning you pay for the amount of storage that you use. Since these services are designed for high-availability and durability, data can live solely on these services – though we still recommend having multiple copies of your data, just in case.

What Should You Use?

Backblaze strongly believes in a 3-2-1 Backup Strategy. A 3-2-1 strategy means having at least 3 total copies of your data, 2 of which are local but on different mediums (e.g. an external hard drive in addition to your computer’s local drive), and at least 1 copy offsite. The best setup is data on your computer, a copy on a hard drive that lives somewhere not inside your computer, and another copy with a cloud backup provider. Backblaze Cloud Backup is a great compliment to other services, like Time Machine, Dropbox, and even the free-tiers of cloud storage services.

What is The Difference Between Cloud Sync and Backup?

Let’s take a look at some sync setups that we see fairly frequently.

Example 1) Users have one folder on their computer that is designated for Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or one of the other syncing/sharing services. Users save or place data into those directories when they want them to appear on other devices. Often these users are using the free-tier of those syncing and sharing services and only have a few GB of data uploaded in them.

Example 2) Users are paying for extended storage for Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc… and use those folders as the “Documents” folder – essentially working out of those directories. Files in that folder are available across devices, however, files outside of that folder (e.g. living on the computer’s desktop or anywhere else) are not synced or stored by the service.

What both examples are missing however is the backup of photos, movies, videos, and the rest of the data on their computer. That’s where cloud backup providers excel, by automatically backing up user data with little or no set-up, and no need for the dragging-and-dropping of files. Backblaze actually scans your hard drive to find all the data, regardless of where it might be hiding. The results are, all the user’s data is kept in the Backblaze cloud and the portion of the data that is synced is also kept in that provider’s cloud – giving the user another layer of redundancy. Best of all, Backblaze will actually back up your Dropbox, iCloud Drive, Google Drive, and OneDrive folders.

Data Recovery

The most important feature to think about is how easy it is to get your data back from all of these services. With sync and share services, retrieving a lot of data, especially if you are in a high-data tier, can be cumbersome and take awhile. Generally, the sync and share services only allow customers to download files over the Internet. If you are trying to download more than a couple gigabytes of data, the process can take time and can be fraught with errors.

With cloud storage services, you can usually only retrieve data over the Internet as well, and you pay for both the storage and the egress of the data, so retrieving a large amount of data can be both expensive and time consuming.

Cloud backup services will enable you to download files over the internet too and can also suffer from long download times. At Backblaze we never want our customers to feel like we’re holding their data hostage, which is why we have a lot of restore options, including our Restore Return Refund policy, which allows people to restore their data via a USB Hard Drive, and then return that drive to us for a refund. Cloud sync providers do not provide this capability.

One popular data recovery use case we’ve seen when a person has a lot of data to restore is to download just the files that are needed immediately, and then order a USB Hard Drive restore for the remaining files that are not as time sensitive. The user gets all their files back in a few days, and their network is spared the download charges.

The bottom line is that all of these services have merit for different use-cases. Have questions about which is best for you? Sound off in the comments below!

The post Sync vs. Backup vs. Storage appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Schaller: Fedora Workstation 26 and beyond

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/725992/rss

Christian Schaller has posted an
extensive look forward
at the changes coming to the Fedora desktop.
Another major project we been working on for a long time in Fleet
Commander. Fleet Commander is a tool to allow you to manage Fedora and RHEL
desktops centrally. This is a tool targeted at for instance Universities or
companies with tens, hundreds or thousands of workstation installation. It
gives you a graphical browser based UI (accessible through Cockpit) to
create configuration profiles and deploy across your organization.

All Systems Go! 2017 CfP Open

Post Syndicated from Lennart Poettering original http://0pointer.net/blog/all-systems-go-2017-cfp-open.html

The All Systems Go! 2017 Call for Participation is Now Open!

We’d like to invite presentation proposals for All Systems Go! 2017!

All Systems Go! is an Open Source community conference focused on the projects and technologies at the foundation of modern Linux systems — specifically low-level user-space technologies. Its goal is to provide a friendly and collaborative gathering place for individuals and communities working to push these technologies forward.

All Systems Go! 2017 takes place in Berlin, Germany on October 21st+22nd.

All Systems Go! is a 2-day event with 2-3 talks happening in parallel. Full presentation slots are 30-45 minutes in length and lightning talk slots are 5-10 minutes.

We are now accepting submissions for presentation proposals. In particular, we are looking for sessions including, but not limited to, the following topics:

  • Low-level container executors and infrastructure
  • IoT and embedded OS infrastructure
  • OS, container, IoT image delivery and updating
  • Building Linux devices and applications
  • Low-level desktop technologies
  • Networking
  • System and service management
  • Tracing and performance measuring
  • IPC and RPC systems
  • Security and Sandboxing

While our focus is definitely more on the user-space side of things, talks about kernel projects are welcome too, as long as they have a clear and direct relevance for user-space.

Please submit your proposals by September 3rd. Notification of acceptance will be sent out 1-2 weeks later.

To submit your proposal now please visit our CFP submission web site.

For further information about All Systems Go! visit our conference web site.

systemd.conf will not take place this year in lieu of All Systems Go!. All Systems Go! welcomes all projects that contribute to Linux user space, which, of course, includes systemd. Thus, anything you think was appropriate for submission to systemd.conf is also fitting for All Systems Go!

New – Managed Device Authentication for Amazon WorkSpaces

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/new-managed-device-authentication-for-amazon-workspaces/

Amazon WorkSpaces allows you to access a virtual desktop in the cloud from the web and from a wide variety of desktop and mobile devices. This flexibility makes WorkSpaces ideal for environments where users have the ability to use their existing devices (often known as BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device). In these environments, organizations sometimes need the ability to manage the devices which can access WorkSpaces. For example, they may have to regulate access based on the client device operating system, version, or patch level in order to help meet compliance or security policy requirements.

Managed Device Authentication
Today we are launching device authentication for WorkSpaces. You can now use digital certificates to manage client access from Apple OSX and Microsoft Windows. You can also choose to allow or block access from iOS, Android, Chrome OS, web, and zero client devices. You can implement policies to control which device types you want to allow and which ones you want to block, with control all the way down to the patch level. Access policies are set for each WorkSpaces directory. After you have set the policies, requests to connect to WorkSpaces from a client device are assessed and either blocked or allowed. In order to make use of this feature, you will need to distribute certificates to your client devices using Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager or a mobile device management (MDM) tool.

Here’s how you set your access control options from the WorkSpaces Console:

Here’s what happens if a client is not authorized to connect:

 

Available Today
This feature is now available in all Regions where WorkSpaces is available.

Jeff;

 

AIMS Desktop 2017.1 released

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/725712/rss

The AIMS desktop is a
Debian-derived distribution aimed at mathematical and scientific use. This
project’s first public release, based on Debian 9, is now available.
It is a GNOME-based distribution with a bunch of add-on software.
It is maintained by AIMS (The African Institute for Mathematical
Sciences), a pan-African network of centres of excellence enabling Africa’s
talented students to become innovators driving the continent’s scientific,
educational and economic self-sufficiency.

Digital painter rundown

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/blog/2017/06/17/digital-painter-rundown/

Another patron post! IndustrialRobot asks:

You should totally write about drawing/image manipulation programs! (Inspired by https://eev.ee/blog/2015/05/31/text-editor-rundown/)

This is a little trickier than a text editor comparison — while most text editors are cross-platform, quite a few digital art programs are not. So I’m effectively unable to even try a decent chunk of the offerings. I’m also still a relatively new artist, and image editors are much harder to briefly compare than text editors…

Right, now that your expectations have been suitably lowered:

Krita

I do all of my digital art in Krita. It’s pretty alright.

Okay so Krita grew out of Calligra, which used to be KOffice, which was an office suite designed for KDE (a Linux desktop environment). I bring this up because KDE has a certain… reputation. With KDE, there are at least three completely different ways to do anything, each of those ways has ludicrous amounts of customization and settings, and somehow it still can’t do what you want.

Krita inherits this aesthetic by attempting to do literally everything. It has 17 different brush engines, more than 70 layer blending modes, seven color picker dockers, and an ungodly number of colorspaces. It’s clearly intended primarily for drawing, but it also supports animation and vector layers and a pretty decent spread of raster editing tools. I just right now discovered that it has Photoshop-like “layer styles” (e.g. drop shadow), after a year and a half of using it.

In fairness, Krita manages all of this stuff well enough, and (apparently!) it manages to stay out of your way if you’re not using it. In less fairness, they managed to break erasing with a Wacom tablet pen for three months?

I don’t want to rag on it too hard; it’s an impressive piece of work, and I enjoy using it! The emotion it evokes isn’t so much frustration as… mystified bewilderment.

I once filed a ticket suggesting the addition of a brush size palette — a panel showing a grid of fixed brush sizes that makes it easy to switch between known sizes with a tablet pen (and increases the chances that you’ll be able to get a brush back to the right size again). It’s a prominent feature of Paint Tool SAI and Clip Studio Paint, and while I’ve never used either of those myself, I’ve seen a good few artists swear by it.

The developer response was that I could emulate the behavior by creating brush presets. But that’s flat-out wrong: getting the same effect would require creating a ton of brush presets for every brush I have, plus giving them all distinct icons so the size is obvious at a glance. Even then, it would be much more tedious to use and fill my presets with junk.

And that sort of response is what’s so mysterious to me. I’ve never even been able to use this feature myself, but a year of amateur painting with Krita has convinced me that it would be pretty useful. But a developer didn’t see the use and suggested an incredibly tedious alternative that only half-solves the problem and creates new ones. Meanwhile, of the 28 existing dockable panels, a quarter of them are different ways to choose colors.

What is Krita trying to be, then? What does Krita think it is? Who precisely is the target audience? I have no idea.


Anyway, I enjoy drawing in Krita well enough. It ships with a respectable set of brushes, and there are plenty more floating around. It has canvas rotation, canvas mirroring, perspective guide tools, and other art goodies. It doesn’t colordrop on right click by default, which is arguably a grave sin (it shows a customizable radial menu instead), but that’s easy to rebind. It understands having a background color beneath a bottom transparent layer, which is very nice. You can also toggle any brush between painting and erasing with the press of a button, and that turns out to be very useful.

It doesn’t support infinite canvases, though it does offer a one-click button to extend the canvas in a given direction. I’ve never used it (and didn’t even know what it did until just now), but would totally use an infinite canvas.

I haven’t used the animation support too much, but it’s pretty nice to have. Granted, the only other animation software I’ve used is Aseprite, so I don’t have many points of reference here. It’s a relatively new addition, too, so I assume it’ll improve over time.

The one annoyance I remember with animation was really an interaction with a larger annoyance, which is: working with selections kind of sucks. You can’t drag a selection around with the selection tool; you have to switch to the move tool. That would be fine if you could at least drag the selection ring around with the selection tool, but you can’t do that either; dragging just creates a new selection.

If you want to copy a selection, you have to explicitly copy it to the clipboard and paste it, which creates a new layer. Ctrl-drag with the move tool doesn’t work. So then you have to merge that layer down, which I think is where the problem with animation comes in: a new layer is non-animated by default, meaning it effectively appears in any frame, so simply merging it down with merge it onto every single frame of the layer below. And you won’t even notice until you switch frames or play back the animation. Not ideal.

This is another thing that makes me wonder about Krita’s sense of identity. It has a lot of fancy general-purpose raster editing features that even GIMP is still struggling to implement, like high color depth support and non-destructive filters, yet something as basic as working with selections is clumsy. (In fairness, GIMP is a bit clumsy here too, but it has a consistent notion of “floating selection” that’s easy enough to work with.)

I don’t know how well Krita would work as a general-purpose raster editor; I’ve never tried to use it that way. I can’t think of anything obvious that’s missing. The only real gotcha is that some things you might expect to be tools, like smudge or clone, are just types of brush in Krita.

GIMP

Ah, GIMP — open source’s answer to Photoshop.

It’s very obviously intended for raster editing, and I’m pretty familiar with it after half a lifetime of only using Linux. I even wrote a little Scheme script for it ages ago to automate some simple edits to a couple hundred files, back before I was aware of ImageMagick. I don’t know what to say about it, specifically; it’s fairly powerful and does a wide variety of things.

In fact I’d say it’s almost frustratingly intended for raster editing. I used GIMP in my first attempts at digital painting, before I’d heard of Krita. It was okay, but so much of it felt clunky and awkward. Painting is split between a pencil tool, a paintbrush tool, and an airbrush tool; I don’t really know why. The default brushes are largely uninteresting. Instead of brush presets, there are tool presets that can be saved for any tool; it’s a neat idea, but doesn’t feel like a real substitute for brush presets.

Much of the same functionality as Krita is there, but it’s all somehow more clunky. I’m sure it’s possible to fiddle with the interface to get something friendlier for painting, but I never really figured out how.

And then there’s the surprising stuff that’s missing. There’s no canvas rotation, for example. There’s only one type of brush, and it just stamps the same pattern along a path. I don’t think it’s possible to smear or blend or pick up color while painting. The only way to change the brush size is via the very sensitive slider on the tool options panel, which I remember being a little annoying with a tablet pen. Also, you have to specifically enable tablet support? It’s not difficult or anything, but I have no idea why the default is to ignore tablet pressure and treat it like a regular mouse cursor.

As I mentioned above, there’s also no support for high color depth or non-destructive editing, which is honestly a little embarrassing. Those are the major things Serious Professionals™ have been asking for for ages, and GIMP has been trying to provide them, but it’s taking a very long time. The first signs of GEGL, a new library intended to provide these features, appeared in GIMP 2.6… in 2008. The last major release was in 2012. GIMP has been working on this new plumbing for almost as long as Krita’s entire development history. (To be fair, Krita has also raised almost €90,000 from three Kickstarters to fund its development; I don’t know that GIMP is funded at all.)

I don’t know what’s up with GIMP nowadays. It’s still under active development, but the exact status and roadmap are a little unclear. I still use it for some general-purpose editing, but I don’t see any reason to use it to draw.

I do know that canvas rotation will be in the next release, and there was some experimentation with embedding MyPaint’s brush engine (though when I tried it it was basically unusable), so maybe GIMP is interested in wooing artists? I guess we’ll see.

MyPaint

Ah, MyPaint. I gave it a try once. Once.

It’s a shame, really. It sounds pretty great: specifically built for drawing, has very powerful brushes, supports an infinite canvas, supports canvas rotation, has a simple UI that gets out of your way. Perfect.

Or so it seems. But in MyPaint’s eagerness to shed unnecessary raster editing tools, it forgot a few of the more useful ones. Like selections.

MyPaint has no notion of a selection, nor of copy/paste. If you want to move a head to align better to a body, for example, the sanctioned approach is to duplicate the layer, erase the head from the old layer, erase everything but the head from the new layer, then move the new layer.

I can’t find anything that resembles HSL adjustment, either. I guess the workaround for that is to create H/S/L layers and floodfill them with different colors until you get what you want.

I can’t work seriously without these basic editing tools. I could see myself doodling in MyPaint, but Krita works just as well for doodling as for serious painting, so I’ve never gone back to it.

Drawpile

Drawpile is the modern equivalent to OpenCanvas, I suppose? It lets multiple people draw on the same canvas simultaneously. (I would not recommend it as a general-purpose raster editor.)

It’s a little clunky in places — I sometimes have bugs where keyboard focus gets stuck in the chat, or my tablet cursor becomes invisible — but the collaborative part works surprisingly well. It’s not a brush powerhouse or anything, and I don’t think it allows textured brushes, but it supports tablet pressure and canvas rotation and locked alpha and selections and whatnot.

I’ve used it a couple times, and it’s worked well enough that… well, other people made pretty decent drawings with it? I’m not sure I’ve managed yet. And I wouldn’t use it single-player. Still, it’s fun.

Aseprite

Aseprite is for pixel art so it doesn’t really belong here at all. But it’s very good at that and I like it a lot.

That’s all

I can’t name any other serious contender that exists for Linux.

I’m dimly aware of a thing called “Photo Shop” that’s more intended for photos but functions as a passable painter. More artists seem to swear by Paint Tool SAI and Clip Studio Paint. Also there’s Paint.NET, but I have no idea how well it’s actually suited for painting.

And that’s it! That’s all I’ve got. Krita for drawing, GIMP for editing, Drawpile for collaborative doodling.

Tails 3.0 is out

Post Syndicated from ris original https://lwn.net/Articles/725303/rss

Tails 3.0 has been released.
Tails, the amnesic incognito live system, is a Debian-based live system
aimed at preserving privacy and anonymity. Version 3.0 is based on Debian
9 (stretch). “It brings a completely new startup and shutdown experience, a lot of polishing to the desktop, security improvements in depth, and major upgrades to a lot of the included software.

Global Entertainment Giants Form Massive Anti-Piracy Coalition

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/global-entertainment-giants-form-massive-anti-piracy-coalition-170613/

It’s not unusual for companies within the same area of business to collaborate in order to combat piracy. The studios and labels that form the MPAA and RIAA, for example, have doing just that for decades.

Today, however, an unprecedented number of global content creators and distribution platforms have announced the formation of a brand new coalition to collaboratively fight Internet piracy on a global scale.

The Alliance for Creativity and Entertainment (ACE) is a coalition of 30 companies that reads like a who’s who of the global entertainment market. In alphabetical order the members are:

Amazon, AMC Networks, BBC Worldwide, Bell Canada and Bell Media, Canal+ Group, CBS Corporation, Constantin Film, Foxtel, Grupo Globo, HBO, Hulu, Lionsgate, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Millennium Media, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount Pictures, SF Studios, Sky, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Star India, Studio Babelsberg, STX Entertainment, Telemundo, Televisa, Twentieth Century Fox, Univision Communications Inc., Village Roadshow, The Walt Disney Company, and Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

In a joint announcement today, ACE notes that there are now more than 480 services available for consumers to watch films and TV programs online. However, despite that abundance of content, piracy continues to pose a threat to creators and the economy.

“Films and television shows can often be found on pirate sites within days – and in many cases hours – of release,” ACE said in a statement.

“Last year, there were an estimated 5.4 billion downloads of pirated wide release films and primetime television and VOD shows using peer-to-peer protocols worldwide. There were also an estimated 21.4 billion total visits to streaming piracy sites worldwide across both desktops and mobile devices in 2016.”

Rather than the somewhat fragmented anti-piracy approach currently employed by ACE members separately, the coalition will present a united front of all major content creators and distributors, with a mission to cooperate and expand in order to minimize the threat.

At the center of the alliance appears to be the MPAA. ACE reports that the anti-piracy resources of the Hollywood group will be used “in concert” with the existing anti-piracy departments of the member companies.

Unprecedented scale aside, ACE’s modus operandi will be a familiar one.

The coalition says it will work closely with law enforcement to shut down pirate sites and services, file civil litigation, and forge new relationships with other content protection groups. It will also strive to reach voluntary anti-piracy agreements with other interested parties across the Internet.

MPAA chief Chris Dodd, whose group will play a major role in ACE, welcomed the birth of the alliance.

“ACE, with its broad coalition of creators from around the world, is designed, specifically, to leverage the best possible resources to reduce piracy,” Dodd said.

“For decades, the MPAA has been the gold standard for antipiracy enforcement. We are proud to provide the MPAA’s worldwide antipiracy resources and the deep expertise of our antipiracy unit to support ACE and all its initiatives.”

The traditionally non-aggressive BBC described ACE as “hugely important” in the fight against “theft and illegal distribution”, with Netflix noting that even its creative strategies for dealing with piracy are in need of assistance.

“While we’re focused on providing a great consumer experience that ultimately discourages piracy, there are still bad players around the world trying to profit off the hard work of others,” said Netflix General Counsel, David Hyman.

“By joining ACE, we will work together, share knowledge, and leverage the group’s combined anti-piracy resources to address the global online piracy problem.”

It’s likely that the creation of ACE will go down as a landmark moment in the fight against piracy. Never before has such a broad coalition promised to pool resources on such a grand and global scale. That being said, with great diversity comes the potential for greatly diverging opinions, so only time will tell if this coalition can really hold together.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.

How to Deploy Local Administrator Password Solution with AWS Microsoft AD

Post Syndicated from Dragos Madarasan original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/how-to-deploy-local-administrator-password-solution-with-aws-microsoft-ad/

Local Administrator Password Solution (LAPS) from Microsoft simplifies password management by allowing organizations to use Active Directory (AD) to store unique passwords for computers. Typically, an organization might reuse the same local administrator password across the computers in an AD domain. However, this approach represents a security risk because it can be exploited during lateral escalation attacks. LAPS solves this problem by creating unique, randomized passwords for the Administrator account on each computer and storing it encrypted in AD.

Deploying LAPS with AWS Microsoft AD requires the following steps:

  1. Install the LAPS binaries on instances joined to your AWS Microsoft AD domain. The binaries add additional client-side extension (CSE) functionality to the Group Policy client.
  2. Extend the AWS Microsoft AD schema. LAPS requires new AD attributes to store an encrypted password and its expiration time.
  3. Configure AD permissions and delegate the ability to retrieve the local administrator password for IT staff in your organization.
  4. Configure Group Policy on instances joined to your AWS Microsoft AD domain to enable LAPS. This configures the Group Policy client to process LAPS settings and uses the binaries installed in Step 1.

The following diagram illustrates the setup that I will be using throughout this post and the associated tasks to set up LAPS. Note that the AWS Directory Service directory is deployed across multiple Availability Zones, and monitoring automatically detects and replaces domain controllers that fail.

Diagram illustrating this blog post's solution

In this blog post, I explain the prerequisites to set up Local Administrator Password Solution, demonstrate the steps involved to update the AD schema on your AWS Microsoft AD domain, show how to delegate permissions to IT staff and configure LAPS via Group Policy, and demonstrate how to retrieve the password using the graphical user interface or with Windows PowerShell.

This post assumes you are familiar with Lightweight Directory Access Protocol Data Interchange Format (LDIF) files and AWS Microsoft AD. If you need more of an introduction to Directory Service and AWS Microsoft AD, see How to Move More Custom Applications to the AWS Cloud with AWS Directory Service, which introduces working with schema changes in AWS Microsoft AD.

Prerequisites

In order to implement LAPS, you must use AWS Directory Service for Microsoft Active Directory (Enterprise Edition), also known as AWS Microsoft AD. Any instance on which you want to configure LAPS must be joined to your AWS Microsoft AD domain. You also need a Management instance on which you install the LAPS management tools.

In this post, I use an AWS Microsoft AD domain called example.com that I have launched in the EU (London) region. To see which the regions in which Directory Service is available, see AWS Regions and Endpoints.

Screenshot showing the AWS Microsoft AD domain example.com used in this blog post

In addition, you must have at least two instances launched in the same region as the AWS Microsoft AD domain. To join the instances to your AWS Microsoft AD domain, you have two options:

  1. Use the Amazon EC2 Systems Manager (SSM) domain join feature. To learn more about how to set up domain join for EC2 instances, see joining a Windows Instance to an AWS Directory Service Domain.
  2. Manually configure the DNS server addresses in the Internet Protocol version 4 (TCP/IPv4) settings of the network card to use the AWS Microsoft AD DNS addresses (172.31.9.64 and 172.31.16.191, for this blog post) and perform a manual domain join.

For the purpose of this post, my two instances are:

  1. A Management instance on which I will install the management tools that I have tagged as Management.
  2. A Web Server instance on which I will be deploying the LAPS binary.

Screenshot showing the two EC2 instances used in this post

Implementing the solution

 

1. Install the LAPS binaries on instances joined to your AWS Microsoft AD domain by using EC2 Run Command

LAPS binaries come in the form of an MSI installer and can be downloaded from the Microsoft Download Center. You can install the LAPS binaries manually, with an automation service such as EC2 Run Command, or with your existing software deployment solution.

For this post, I will deploy the LAPS binaries on my Web Server instance (i-0b7563d0f89d3453a) by using EC2 Run Command:

  1. While signed in to the AWS Management Console, choose EC2. In the Systems Manager Services section of the navigation pane, choose Run Command.
  2. Choose Run a command, and from the Command document list, choose AWS-InstallApplication.
  3. From Target instances, choose the instance on which you want to deploy the LAPS binaries. In my case, I will be selecting the instance tagged as Web Server. If you do not see any instances listed, make sure you have met the prerequisites for Amazon EC2 Systems Manager (SSM) by reviewing the Systems Manager Prerequisites.
  4. For Action, choose Install, and then stipulate the following values:
    • Parameters: /quiet
    • Source: https://download.microsoft.com/download/C/7/A/C7AAD914-A8A6-4904-88A1-29E657445D03/LAPS.x64.msi
    • Source Hash: f63ebbc45e2d080630bd62a195cd225de734131a56bb7b453c84336e37abd766
    • Comment: LAPS deployment

Leave the other options with the default values and choose Run. The AWS Management Console will return a Command ID, which will initially have a status of In Progress. It should take less than 5 minutes to download and install the binaries, after which the Command ID will update its status to Success.

Status showing the binaries have been installed successfully

If the Command ID runs for more than 5 minutes or returns an error, it might indicate a problem with the installer. To troubleshoot, review the steps in Troubleshooting Systems Manager Run Command.

To verify the binaries have been installed successfully, open Control Panel and review the recently installed applications in Programs and Features.

Screenshot of Control Panel that confirms LAPS has been installed successfully

You should see an entry for Local Administrator Password Solution with a version of 6.2.0.0 or newer.

2. Extend the AWS Microsoft AD schema

In the previous section, I used EC2 Run Command to install the LAPS binaries on an EC2 instance. Now, I am ready to extend the schema in an AWS Microsoft AD domain. Extending the schema is a requirement because LAPS relies on new AD attributes to store the encrypted password and its expiration time.

In an on-premises AD environment, you would update the schema by running the Update-AdmPwdADSchema Windows PowerShell cmdlet with schema administrator credentials. Because AWS Microsoft AD is a managed service, I do not have permissions to update the schema directly. Instead, I will update the AD schema from the Directory Service console by importing an LDIF file. If you are unfamiliar with schema updates or LDIF files, see How to Move More Custom Applications to the AWS Cloud with AWS Directory Service.

To make things easier for you, I am providing you with a sample LDIF file that contains the required AD schema changes. Using Notepad or a similar text editor, open the SchemaChanges-0517.ldif file and update the values of dc=example,dc=com with your own AWS Microsoft AD domain and suffix.

After I update the LDIF file with my AWS Microsoft AD details, I import it by using the AWS Management Console:

  1. On the Directory Service console, select from the list of directories in the Microsoft AD directory by choosing its identifier (it will look something like d-534373570ea).
  2. On the Directory details page, choose the Schema extensions tab and choose Upload and update schema.
    Screenshot showing the "Upload and update schema" option
  3. When prompted for the LDIF file that contains the changes, choose the sample LDIF file.
  4. In the background, the LDIF file is validated for errors and a backup of the directory is created for recovery purposes. Updating the schema might take a few minutes and the status will change to Updating Schema. When the process has completed, the status of Completed will be displayed, as shown in the following screenshot.

Screenshot showing the schema updates in progress
When the process has completed, the status of Completed will be displayed, as shown in the following screenshot.

Screenshot showing the process has completed

If the LDIF file contains errors or the schema extension fails, the Directory Service console will generate an error code and additional debug information. To help troubleshoot error messages, see Schema Extension Errors.

The sample LDIF file triggers AWS Microsoft AD to perform the following actions:

  1. Create the ms-Mcs-AdmPwd attribute, which stores the encrypted password.
  2. Create the ms-Mcs-AdmPwdExpirationTime attribute, which stores the time of the password’s expiration.
  3. Add both attributes to the Computer class.

3. Configure AD permissions

In the previous section, I updated the AWS Microsoft AD schema with the required attributes for LAPS. I am now ready to configure the permissions for administrators to retrieve the password and for computer accounts to update their password attribute.

As part of configuring AD permissions, I grant computers the ability to update their own password attribute and specify which security groups have permissions to retrieve the password from AD. As part of this process, I run Windows PowerShell cmdlets that are not installed by default on Windows Server.

Note: To learn more about Windows PowerShell and the concept of a cmdlet (pronounced “command-let”), go to Getting Started with Windows PowerShell.

Before getting started, I need to set up the required tools for LAPS on my Management instance, which must be joined to the AWS Microsoft AD domain. I will be using the same LAPS installer that I downloaded from the Microsoft LAPS website. In my Management instance, I have manually run the installer by clicking the LAPS.x64.msi file. On the Custom Setup page of the installer, under Management Tools, for each option I have selected Install on local hard drive.

Screenshot showing the required management tools

In the preceding screenshot, the features are:

  • The fat client UI – A simple user interface for retrieving the password (I will use it at the end of this post).
  • The Windows PowerShell module – Needed to run the commands in the next sections.
  • The GPO Editor templates – Used to configure Group Policy objects.

The next step is to grant computers in the Computers OU the permission to update their own attributes. While connected to my Management instance, I go to the Start menu and type PowerShell. In the list of results, right-click Windows PowerShell and choose Run as administrator and then Yes when prompted by User Account Control.

In the Windows PowerShell prompt, I type the following command.

Import-module AdmPwd.PS

Set-AdmPwdComputerSelfPermission –OrgUnit “OU=Computers,OU=MyMicrosoftAD,DC=example,DC=com

To grant the administrator group called Admins the permission to retrieve the computer password, I run the following command in the Windows PowerShell prompt I previously started.

Import-module AdmPwd.PS

Set-AdmPwdReadPasswordPermission –OrgUnit “OU=Computers, OU=MyMicrosoftAD,DC=example,DC=com” –AllowedPrincipals “Admins”

4. Configure Group Policy to enable LAPS

In the previous section, I deployed the LAPS management tools on my management instance, granted the computer accounts the permission to self-update their local administrator password attribute, and granted my Admins group permissions to retrieve the password.

Note: The following section addresses the Group Policy Management Console and Group Policy objects. If you are unfamiliar with or wish to learn more about these concepts, go to Get Started Using the GPMC and Group Policy for Beginners.

I am now ready to enable LAPS via Group Policy:

  1. On my Management instance (i-03b2c5d5b1113c7ac), I have installed the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) by running the following command in Windows PowerShell.
Install-WindowsFeature –Name GPMC
  1. Next, I have opened the GPMC and created a new Group Policy object (GPO) called LAPS GPO.
  2. In the Local Group Policy Editor, I navigate to Computer Configuration > Policies > Administrative Templates > LAPS. I have configured the settings using the values in the following table.

Setting

State

Options

Password Settings

Enabled

Complexity: large letters, small letters, numbers, specials

Do not allow password expiration time longer than required by policy

Enabled

N/A

Enable local admin password management

Enabled

N/A

  1. Next, I need to link the GPO to an organizational unit (OU) in which my machine accounts sit. In your environment, I recommend testing the new settings on a test OU and then deploying the GPO to production OUs.

Note: If you choose to create a new test organizational unit, you must create it in the OU that AWS Microsoft AD delegates to you to manage. For example, if your AWS Microsoft AD directory name were example.com, the test OU path would be example.com/example/Computers/Test.

  1. To test that LAPS works, I need to make sure the computer has received the new policy by forcing a Group Policy update. While connected to the Web Server instance (i-0b7563d0f89d3453a) using Remote Desktop, I open an elevated administrative command prompt and run the following command: gpupdate /force. I can check if the policy is applied by running the command: gpresult /r | findstr LAPS GPO, where LAPS GPO is the name of the GPO created in the second step.
  2. Back on my Management instance, I can then launch the LAPS interface from the Start menu and use it to retrieve the password (as shown in the following screenshot). Alternatively, I can run the Get-ADComputer Windows PowerShell cmdlet to retrieve the password.
Get-ADComputer [YourComputerName] -Properties ms-Mcs-AdmPwd | select name, ms-Mcs-AdmPwd

Screenshot of the LAPS UI, which you can use to retrieve the password

Summary

In this blog post, I demonstrated how you can deploy LAPS with an AWS Microsoft AD directory. I then showed how to install the LAPS binaries by using EC2 Run Command. Using the sample LDIF file I provided, I showed you how to extend the schema, which is a requirement because LAPS relies on new AD attributes to store the encrypted password and its expiration time. Finally, I showed how to complete the LAPS setup by configuring the necessary AD permissions and creating the GPO that starts the LAPS password change.

If you have comments about this post, submit them in the “Comments” section below. If you have questions about or issues implementing this solution, please start a new thread on the Directory Service forum.

– Dragos

Try Amazon WorkSpaces at No Charge for Up To 2 Months

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/try-amazon-workspaces-at-no-charge-for-up-to-2-months/

I am a big believer in hands-on experience. Except under very rare circumstances, the posts in my blog are written only after I have used the service in question. If you happened to read I Love My Amazon WorkSpace, you know that Amazon WorkSpaces is one of my most important productivity tools.

I would like to tell you about an opportunity for you to try WorkSpaces on your own at no charge. The new Amazon WorkSpaces Free Tier allows you to launch two Standard bundle WorkSpaces and use them for a total of 40 hours per month, for up to two calendar months. You can choose either the Windows 7 or the Windows 10 Desktop Experience, both powered by Windows Server. Both options include Internet Explorer 11, Mozilla Firefox, 7-Zip, and Amazon WorkDocs with 50 GB of storage.

In order to take advantage of the free tier you must run the WorkSpaces in AutoStop mode, which is selected for you by default. Unused hours expire at the end of the first calendar month and the free tier offer expires at the end of the second calendar month. After that you will be billed at the hourly rate listed on the Amazon WorkSpaces Pricing page.

To get started, follow the steps in the Quick Setup and choose a bundle that is eligible for the free tier:

This offer is available in all AWS Regions where WorkSpaces is available.

Jeff;

Data Backup: Minimizing The Impact of Ransomware

Post Syndicated from Jim Goldstein original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/data-backup-minimizing-impact-ransomware/

The old adage “Backing up your data is important to plan for, as hard drives inevitably fail.” is as true as ever, but equally true now is the need to backup your data to thwart the increasing frequency of ransomware attacks.

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is malicious software that blocks access to your data, by encrypting files, until a ransom is paid. Once the ransom is paid, if you’re lucky, a decryption key is provided to the victim(s) to decrypt and access files.

How Does Ransomware Work?

Ransomware comes in two not-so-fun flavors: Encryptors and lockers. Encryptors incorporate advanced encryption algorithms to block system files until a ransom is paid. Lockers do as the name implies, locking victims out of their operating system. This makes it impossible to access applications, files and even the desktop until a ransom is paid. Encryptors, also known as crypto-ransomware, are the most widespread type of ransomware.

One of the more frustrating aspects of ransomware is that even if you’re careful to avoid it by not clicking on suspicious attachments, someone else’s infected computer might spread the malware to your computer over a shared network. WannaCry, a cryptoworm, spread in this fashion during the May 2017 ransomware attack.

How Backblaze Can Help Against Ransomware

“The best way to combat against ransomware is to backup your data.”

If you’re a current subscriber of Backblaze, there’s good news: Since Backblaze is continuously running online backup of your data, you can circumvent the need to pay a ransom by accessing and restore your files from your Backblaze backup.

If you’re new to Backblaze there is no time like the present to backup. Over the past 10 years, through our annual backup survey, we’ve consistently found that most people fail to regularly backup their data. 25% never backup and nearly 67% have not backed up in the last year. With so few people backing up, it is no wonder that ransomware is so effective.

Protecting Data Against Ransomware with Backblaze
Protecting yourself against ransomware, and malware in general, with Backblaze is quite easy. We previously highlighted one instance of how Backblaze provided a solution to one of our customers to circumvent a ransomware attack and, ultimately, restoring their data. In short, these are the steps you should take to safeguard yourself with Backblaze:

  1. Install Backblaze, if you haven’t already, on your computer.
  2. Make sure your Backblaze client is running and backing up your drive(s).
  3. At first notice of ransomware infecting your computer disable the Backblaze client temporarily.
  4. Login to Backblaze.com, “turn back time” for up to 30 days before the attack happened, access individual or all your files online, and/or request a full data restore via our Restore By Mail service.

Now that you’re armed with this knowledge, don’t let ransomware get the best of you.

The post Data Backup: Minimizing The Impact of Ransomware appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Plasma 5.10.0 released

Post Syndicated from ris original https://lwn.net/Articles/724170/rss

KDE has released
Plasma 5.10. There are a number of new features in this release, including
media controls on lock screen, pause music on suspend, Software Centre
Plasma Search (KRunner) suggests to install non-installed apps, file
copying notifications have a context menu on previews, ‘desktop edit mode’,
when opening toolbox reveals applet handles, performance optimizations in
Pager and Task Manager, ‘Often used’ docs and apps in app launchers in
addition to ‘Recently used’, and much more.

New – Cost Allocation for EBS Snapshots

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/new-cost-allocation-for-ebs-snapshots/

Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) allows you to create persistent block storage volumes for your Amazon EC2 instances. The volumes offer consistent, low-latency performance and a choice of volume types. You can take snapshot backups of your EBS volumes, keep them for as long as you would like, and then restore them to a fresh volume.

AWS Billing and Cost Management provide you with tools and reports that you can use to track your spending. You can use Cost Allocation Tags to assign costs to your customers, applications, teams, departments, or billing codes at the level of individual resources.

Cost Allocation for Snapshots
Today we are adding cost allocation for EBS snapshots. While I expect AWS customers of all shapes and sizes to make good use of this feature, I know that enterprises will find it particularly interesting. They’ll be able to assign costs to the proper project, department, or entity. Similarly, Managed Service Providers, some of whom manage AWS footprints that encompass thousands of EBS volumes and many more EBS snapshots, will be able to map snapshot costs back to customer accounts and applications.

Tagging Snapshots and Generating Reports
Let’s walk through the process of tagging snapshots and allocating costs.

The first step is to implement a tagging regimen for your existing snapshots. You can create a script that calls the create-tags command or write code that calls the TagResources function. You can also use the Console’s Tag Editor to find the snapshots of interest across any number of AWS Regions:

I have a handful of snapshots and simply tagged some them by hand. My tag key is usage and the values are backup, dev, and metrics. Here are my snapshots:

Next, I need to tell AWS that the new tag key is being used for cost allocation. I open up the Billing Dashboard and click on Cost Allocation Tags:

Then I locate my tag in the list of user-defined tags, select it, and clicked on Activate:

AWS will deliver the first updated report within 24 hours, and will update Cost Explorer at least once per day after that (read Understanding Your Usage with Billing Reports to learn more).

I have two options. I can use Cost Explorer to explore the data visually, or I can create a usage report, download it into Excel and analyze it on my desktop. I’ll show you both!

Using Cost Explorer
I open up Cost Explorer, select the time range of interest, and filter by Usage Type Group, selecting EC2: EBS – Snapshots. Then I set the Group by option to Tag and choose my tag (usage) from the drop-down:

Then I click on Apply and inspect the report:

I can see my costs and my usage (measured in gigabyte-months) at a glance. I can also click on New report, enter a name, and save the report for reuse:

Creating a Cost & Usage Report
I click on Reports and Create Report, to create a report. I named it DailySnapshotUsage and set the Time unit to be Daily:

Then I point it at my jbarr-billing bucket, select ZIP compression, and click on Next:

I confirm my settings on the next page and click on Review and Complete to finalize my report. I check back the next day and my report is ready:

Analyzing the Cost & Usage Report Using Excel
I can also download the cost and and usage report and analyze it using Excel.

I switch to the S3 Console, open up the jbarr-billing bucket, and descend in to the folder structure to find my report:

Then I download and unzip the file, and open it in Excel:

I want to see only the tagged usage, so I scroll over to column DJ (resourceTags/user:usage) and use Excel’s Filter operation to choose the tags of interest:

Then I hide most of the columns and end up with line item costs:

I’m highly confident that your Excel skills are better than mine, and that you can do a far better job of analyzing the data!

Understanding Snapshot Costs
As you create your reports and analyze your EBS snapshot costs and usage, keep in mind that snapshots are created incrementally and that the first snapshot will generally appear to be the most expensive one. If you delete a snapshot that contains blocks that are being used by a later snapshot, the space referenced by the blocks will now be attributed to the later snapshot. Therefore, with respect to a particular EBS volume, deleting the snapshot with the highest cost may simply move some of the costs to a more recent snapshot. Read Deleting an Amazon EBS Snapshot to learn more.

Available Now
This new feature is available now in all commercial AWS regions and you can start using it today.

Jeff;

 

 

GNU Guix & GuixSD 0.13.0 released

Post Syndicated from ris original https://lwn.net/Articles/723480/rss

GNU Guix and GuixSD 0.13.0 have been released. GNU Guix is a transactional
package manager for the GNU system and the Guix System Distribution,
GuixSD, is an advanced distribution of the GNU system. A couple of
highlights in this version: Guix can now be used on aarch64 systems, and
GuixSD now supports Btrfs and adds the LXDE desktop as an option. See the
announcement for more information.

How to Control TLS Ciphers in Your AWS Elastic Beanstalk Application by Using AWS CloudFormation

Post Syndicated from Paco Hope original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/how-to-control-tls-ciphers-in-your-aws-elastic-beanstalk-application-by-using-aws-cloudformation/

Securing data in transit is critical to the integrity of transactions on the Internet. Whether you log in to an account with your user name and password or give your credit card details to a retailer, you want your data protected as it travels across the Internet from place to place. One of the protocols in widespread use to protect data in transit is Transport Layer Security (TLS). Every time you access a URL that begins with “https” instead of just “http”, you are using a TLS-secured connection to a website.

To demonstrate that your application has a strong TLS configuration, you can use services like the one provided by SSL Labs. There are also open source, command-line-oriented TLS testing programs such as testssl.sh (which I do not cover in this post) and sslscan (which I cover later in this post). The goal of testing your TLS configuration is to provide evidence that weak cryptographic ciphers are disabled in your TLS configuration and only strong ciphers are enabled. In this blog post, I show you how to control the TLS security options for your secure load balancer in AWS CloudFormation, pass the TLS certificate and host name for your secure AWS Elastic Beanstalk application to the CloudFormation script as parameters, and then confirm that only strong TLS ciphers are enabled on the launched application by testing it with SSLLabs.

Background

In some situations, it’s not enough to simply turn on TLS with its default settings and call it done. Over the years, a number of vulnerabilities have been discovered in the TLS protocol itself with codenames such as CRIME, POODLE, and Logjam. Though some vulnerabilities were in specific implementations, such as OpenSSL, others were vulnerabilities in the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or TLS protocol itself.

The only way to avoid some TLS vulnerabilities is to ensure your web server uses only the latest version of TLS. Some organizations want to limit their TLS configuration to the highest possible security levels to satisfy company policies, regulatory requirements, or other information security requirements. In practice, such limitations usually mean using TLS version 1.2 (at the time of this writing, TLS 1.3 is in the works) and using only strong cryptographic ciphers. Note that forcing a high-security TLS connection in this manner limits which types of devices can connect to your web server. I address this point at the end of this post.

The default TLS configuration in most web servers is compatible with the broadest set of clients (such as web browsers, mobile devices, and point-of-sale systems). As a result, older ciphers and protocol versions are usually enabled. This is true for the Elastic Load Balancing load balancer that is created in your Elastic Beanstalk application as well as for web server software such as Apache and nginx.  For example, TLS versions 1.0 and 1.1 are enabled in addition to 1.2. The RC4 cipher is permitted, even though that cipher is too weak for the most demanding security requirements. If your application needs to prioritize the security of connections over compatibility with legacy devices, you must adjust the TLS encryption settings on your application. The solution in this post helps you make those adjustments.

Prerequisites for the solution

Before you implement this solution, you must have a few prerequisites in place:

  1. You must have a hosted zone in Amazon Route 53 where the name of the secure application will be created. I use example.com as my domain name in this post and assume that I host example.com publicly in Route 53. To learn more about creating and hosting a zone publicly in Route 53, see Working with Public Hosted Zones.
  2. You must choose a name to be associated with the secure app. In this case, I use secure.example.com as the DNS name to be associated with the secure app. This means that I’m trying to create an Elastic Beanstalk application whose URL will be https://secure.example.com/.
  3. You must have a TLS certificate hosted in AWS Certificate Manager (ACM). This certificate must be issued with the name you decided in Step 2. If you are new to ACM, see Getting Started. If you are already familiar with ACM, request a certificate and get its Amazon Resource Name (ARN).Look up the ARN for the certificate that you created by opening the ACM console. The ARN looks something like: arn:aws:acm:eu-west-1:111122223333:certificate/12345678-abcd-1234-abcd-1234abcd1234.

Implementing the solution

You can use two approaches to control the TLS ciphers used by your load balancer: one is to use a predefined protocol policy from AWS, and the other is to write your own protocol policy that lists exactly which ciphers should be enabled. There are many ciphers and options that can be set, so the appropriate AWS predefined policy is often the simplest policy to use. If you have to comply with an information security policy that requires enabling or disabling specific ciphers, you will probably find it easiest to write a custom policy listing only the ciphers that are acceptable to your requirements.

AWS released two predefined TLS policies on March 10, 2017: ELBSecurityPolicy-TLS-1-1-2017-01 and ELBSecurityPolicy-TLS-1-2-2017-01. These policies restrict TLS negotiations to TLS 1.1 and 1.2, respectively. You can find a good comparison of the ciphers that these policies enable and disable in the HTTPS listener documentation for Elastic Load Balancing. If your requirements are simply “support TLS 1.1 and later” or “support TLS 1.2 and later,” those AWS predefined cipher policies are the best place to start. If you need to control your cipher choice with a custom policy, I show you in this post which lines of the CloudFormation template to change.

Download the predefined policy CloudFormation template

Many AWS customers rely on CloudFormation to launch their AWS resources, including their Elastic Beanstalk applications. To change the ciphers and protocol versions supported on your load balancer, you must put those options in a CloudFormation template. You can store your site’s TLS certificate in ACM and create the corresponding DNS alias record in the correct zone in Route 53.

To start, download the CloudFormation template that I have provided for this blog post, or deploy the template directly in your environment. This template creates a CloudFormation stack in your default VPC that contains two resources: an Elastic Beanstalk application that deploys a standard sample PHP application, and a Route 53 record in a hosted zone. This CloudFormation template selects the AWS predefined policy called ELBSecurityPolicy-TLS-1-2-2017-01 and deploys it.

Launching the sample application from the CloudFormation console

In the CloudFormation console, choose Create Stack. You can either upload the template through your browser, or load the template into an Amazon S3 bucket and type the S3 URL in the Specify an Amazon S3 template URL box.

After you click Next, you will see that there are three parameters defined: CertificateARN, ELBHostName, and HostedDomainName. Set the CertificateARN parameter to the ARN of the certificate you want to use for your application. Set the ELBHostName parameter to the hostname part of the URL. For example, if your URL were https://secure.example.com/, the HostedDomainName parameter would be example.com and the ELBHostName parameter would be secure.

For the sample application, choose Next and then choose Create, and the CloudFormation stack will be created. For your own applications, you might need to set other options such as a database, VPC options, or Amazon SNS notifications. For more details, see AWS Elastic Beanstalk Environment Configuration. To deploy an application other than our sample PHP application, create your own application source bundle.

Launching the sample application from the command line

In addition to launching the sample application from the console, you can specify the parameters from the command line. Because the template uses parameters, you can launch multiple copies of the application, specifying different parameters for each copy. To launch the application from a Linux command line with the AWS CLI, insert the correct values for your application, as shown in the following command.

aws cloudformation create-stack --stack-name "SecureSampleApplication" \
--template-url https://<URL of your CloudFormation template in S3> \
--parameters ParameterKey=CertificateARN,ParameterValue=<Your ARN> \
ParameterKey=ELBHostName,ParameterValue=<Your Host Name> \
ParameterKey=HostedDomainName,ParameterValue=<Your Domain Name>

When that command exits, it prints the StackID of the stack it created. Save that StackID for later so that you can fetch the stack’s outputs from the command line.

Using a custom cipher specification

If you want to specify your own cipher choices, you can use the same CloudFormation template and change two lines. Let’s assume your information security policies require you to disable any ciphers that use Cipher Block Chaining (CBC) mode encryption. These ciphers are enabled in the ELBSecurityPolicy-TLS-1-2-2017-01 managed policy, so to satisfy that security requirement, you have to modify the CloudFormation template to use your own protocol policy.

In the template, locate the three lines that define the TLSHighPolicy.

- Namespace:  aws:elb:policies:TLSHighPolicy
OptionName: SSLReferencePolicy
Value:      ELBSecurityPolicy-TLS-1-2-2017-01

Change the OptionName and Value for the TLSHighPolicy. Instead of referring to the AWS predefined policy by name, explicitly list all the ciphers you want to use. Change those three lines so they look like the following.

- Namespace: aws:elb:policies:TLSHighPolicy
OptionName: SSLProtocols
Value:  Protocol-TLSv1.2,Server-Defined-Cipher-Order,ECDHE-ECDSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384,ECDHE-ECDSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256,ECDHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384,ECDHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256

This protocol policy stipulates that the load balancer should:

  • Negotiate connections using only TLS 1.2.
  • Ignore any attempts by the client (for example, the web browser or mobile device) to negotiate a weaker cipher.
  • Accept four specific, strong combinations of cipher and key exchange—and nothing else.

The protocol policy enables only TLS 1.2, strong ciphers that do not use CBC mode encryption, and strong key exchange.

Connect to the secure application

When your CloudFormation stack is in the CREATE_COMPLETED state, you will find three outputs:

  1. The public DNS name of the load balancer
  2. The secure URL that was created
  3. TestOnSSLLabs output that contains a direct link for testing your configuration

You can either enter the secure URL in a web browser (for example, https://secure.example.com/), or click the link in the Outputs to open your sample application and see the demo page. Note that you must use HTTPS—this template has disabled HTTP on port 80 and only listens with HTTPS on port 443.

If you launched your application through the command line, you can view the CloudFormation outputs using the command line as well. You need to know the StackId of the stack you launched and insert it in the following stack-name parameter.

aws cloudformation describe-stacks --stack-name "<ARN of Your Stack>" \
--query 'Stacks[0].Outputs'

Test your application over the Internet with SSLLabs

The easiest way to confirm that the load balancer is using the secure ciphers that we chose is to enter the URL of the load balancer in the form on SSL Labs’ SSL Server Test page. If you do not want the name of your load balancer to be shared publicly on SSLLabs.com, select the Do not show the results on the boards check box. After a minute or two of testing, SSLLabs gives you a detailed report of every cipher it tried and how your load balancer responded. This test simulates many devices that might connect to your website, including mobile phones, desktop web browsers, and software libraries such as Java and OpenSSL. The report tells you whether these clients would be able to connect to your application successfully.

Assuming all went well, you should receive an A grade for the sample application. The biggest contributors to the A grade are:

  • Supporting only TLS 1.2, and not TLS 1.1, TLS 1.0, or SSL 3.0
  • Supporting only strong ciphers such as AES, and not weaker ciphers such as RC4
  • Having an X.509 public key certificate issued correctly by ACM

How to test your application privately with sslscan

You might not be able to reach your Elastic Beanstalk application from the Internet because it might be in a private subnet that is only accessible internally. If you want to test the security of your load balancer’s configuration privately, you can use one of the open source command-line tools such as sslscan. You can install and run the sslscan command on any Amazon EC2 Linux instance or even from your own laptop. Be sure that the Elastic Beanstalk application you want to test will accept an HTTPS connection from your Amazon Linux EC2 instance or from your laptop.

The easiest way to get sslscan on an Amazon Linux EC2 instance is to:

  1. Enable the Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux (EPEL) repository.
  2. Run sudo yum install sslscan.
  3. After the command runs successfully, run sslscan secure.example.com to scan your application for supported ciphers.

The results are similar to Qualys’ results at SSLLabs.com, but the sslscan tool does not summarize and evaluate the results to assign a grade. It just reports whether your application accepted a connection using the cipher that it tried. You must decide for yourself whether that set of accepted connections represents the right level of security for your application. If you have been asked to build a secure load balancer that meets specific security requirements, the output from sslscan helps to show how the security of your application is configured.

The following sample output shows a small subset of the total output of the sslscan tool.

Accepted TLS12 256 bits AES256-GCM-SHA384
Accepted TLS12 256 bits AES256-SHA256
Accepted TLS12 256 bits AES256-SHA
Rejected TLS12 256 bits CAMELLIA256-SHA
Failed TLS12 256 bits PSK-AES256-CBC-SHA
Rejected TLS12 128 bits ECDHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256
Rejected TLS12 128 bits ECDHE-ECDSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256
Rejected TLS12 128 bits ECDHE-RSA-AES128-SHA256

An Accepted connection is one that was successful: the load balancer and the client were both able to use the indicated cipher. Failed and Rejected connections are connections whose load balancer would not accept the level of security that the client was requesting. As a result, the load balancer closed the connection instead of communicating insecurely. The difference between Failed and Rejected is based one whether the TLS connection was closed cleanly.

Comparing the two policies

The main difference between our custom policy and the AWS predefined policy is whether or not CBC ciphers are accepted. The test results with both policies are identical except for the results shown in the following table. The only change in the policy, and therefore the only change in the results, is that the cipher suites using CBC ciphers have been disabled.

Cipher Suite Name Encryption Algorithm Key Size (bits) ELBSecurityPolicy-TLS-1-2-2017-01 Custom Policy
ECDHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384 AESGCM 256 Enabled Enabled
ECDHE-RSA-AES256-SHA384 AES 256 Enabled Disabled
AES256-GCM-SHA384 AESGCM 256 Enabled Disabled
AES256-SHA256 AES 256 Enabled Disabled
ECDHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256 AESGCM 128 Enabled Enabled
ECDHE-RSA-AES128-SHA256 AES 128 Enabled Disabled
AES128-GCM-SHA256 AESGCM 128 Enabled Disabled
AES128-SHA256 AES 128 Enabled Disabled

Strong ciphers and compatibility

The custom policy described in the previous section prevents legacy devices and older versions of software and web browsers from connecting. The output at SSLLabs provides a list of devices and applications (such as Internet Explorer 10 on Windows 7) that cannot connect to an application that uses the TLS policy. By design, the load balancer will refuse to connect to a device that is unable to negotiate a connection at the required levels of security. Users who use legacy software and devices will see different errors, depending on which device or software they use (for example, Internet Explorer on Windows, Chrome on Android, or a legacy mobile application). The error messages will be some variation of “connection failed” because the Elastic Load Balancer closes the connection without responding to the user’s request. This behavior can be problematic for websites that must be accessible to older desktop operating systems or older mobile devices.

If you need to support legacy devices, adjust the TLSHighPolicy in the CloudFormation template. For example, if you need to support web browsers on Windows 7 systems (and you cannot enable TLS 1.2 support on those systems), you can change the policy to enable TLS 1.1. To do this, change the value of SSLReferencePolicy to ELBSecurityPolicy-TLS-1-1-2017-01.

Enabling legacy protocol versions such as TLS version 1.1 will allow older devices to connect, but then the application may not be compliant with the information security policies or business requirements that require strong ciphers.

Conclusion

Using Elastic Beanstalk, Route 53, and ACM can help you launch secure applications that are designed to not only protect data but also meet regulatory compliance requirements and your information security policies. The TLS policy, either custom or predefined, allows you to control exactly which cryptographic ciphers are enabled on your Elastic Load Balancer. The TLS test results provide you with clear evidence you can use to demonstrate compliance with security policies or requirements. The parameters in this post’s CloudFormation template also make it adaptable and reusable for multiple applications. You can use the same template to launch different applications on different secure URLs by simply changing the parameters that you pass to the template.

If you have comments about this post, submit them in the “Comments” section below. If you have questions about or issues implementing this solution, start a new thread on the CloudFormation forum.

– Paco