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UI Testing at Scale with AWS Lambda

Post Syndicated from Stas Neyman original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/devops/ui-testing-at-scale-with-aws-lambda/

This is a guest blog post by Wes Couch and Kurt Waechter from the Blackboard Internal Product Development team about their experience using AWS Lambda.

One year ago, one of our UI test suites took hours to run. Last month, it took 16 minutes. Today, it takes 39 seconds. Here’s how we did it.

The backstory:

Blackboard is a global leader in delivering robust and innovative education software and services to clients in higher education, government, K12, and corporate training. We have a large product development team working across the globe in at least 10 different time zones, with an internal tools team providing support for quality and workflows. We have been using Selenium Webdriver to perform automated cross-browser UI testing since 2007. Because we are now practicing continuous delivery, the automated UI testing challenge has grown due to the faster release schedule. On top of that, every commit made to each branch triggers an execution of our automated UI test suite. If you have ever implemented an automated UI testing infrastructure, you know that it can be very challenging to scale and maintain. Although there are services that are useful for testing different browser/OS combinations, they don’t meet our scale needs.

It used to take three hours to synchronously run our functional UI suite, which revealed the obvious need for parallel execution. Previously, we used Mesos to orchestrate a Selenium Grid Docker container for each test run. This way, we were able to run eight concurrent threads for test execution, which took an average of 16 minutes. Although this setup is fine for a single workflow, the cracks started to show when we reached the scale required for Blackboard’s mature product lines. Going beyond eight concurrent sessions on a single container introduced performance problems that impact the reliability of tests (for example, issues in Webdriver or the browser popping up frequently). We tried Mesos and considered Kubernetes for Selenium Grid orchestration, but the answer to scaling a Selenium Grid was to think smaller, not larger. This led to our breakthrough with AWS Lambda.

The solution:

We started using AWS Lambda for UI testing because it doesn’t require costly infrastructure or countless man hours to maintain. The steps we outline in this blog post took one work day, from inception to implementation. By simply packaging the UI test suite into a Lambda function, we can execute these tests in parallel on a massive scale. We use a custom JUnit test runner that invokes the Lambda function with a request to run each test from the suite. The runner then aggregates the results returned from each Lambda test execution.

Selenium is the industry standard for testing UI at scale. Although there are other options to achieve the same thing in Lambda, we chose this mature suite of tools. Selenium is backed by Google, Firefox, and others to help the industry drive their browsers with code. This makes Lambda and Selenium a compelling stack for achieving UI testing at scale.

Making Chrome Run in Lambda

Currently, Chrome for Linux will not run in Lambda due to an absent mount point. By rebuilding Chrome with a slight modification, as Marco Lüthy originally demonstrated, you can run it inside Lambda anyway! It took about two hours to build the current master branch of Chromium to build on a c4.4xlarge. Unfortunately, the current version of ChromeDriver, 2.33, does not support any version of Chrome above 62, so we’ll be using Marco’s modified version of version 60 for the near future.

Required System Libraries

The Lambda runtime environment comes with a subset of common shared libraries. This means we need to include some extra libraries to get Chrome and ChromeDriver to work. Anything that exists in the java resources folder during compile time is included in the base directory of the compiled jar file. When this jar file is deployed to Lambda, it is placed in the /var/task/ directory. This allows us to simply place the libraries in the java resources folder under a folder named lib/ so they are right where they need to be when the Lambda function is invoked.

To get these libraries, create an EC2 instance and choose the Amazon Linux AMI.

Next, use ssh to connect to the server. After you connect to the new instance, search for the libraries to find their locations.

sudo find / -name libgconf-2.so.4
sudo find / -name libORBit-2.so.0

Now that you have the locations of the libraries, copy these files from the EC2 instance and place them in the java resources folder under lib/.

Packaging the Tests

To deploy the test suite to Lambda, we used a simple Gradle tool called ShadowJar, which is similar to the Maven Shade Plugin. It packages the libraries and dependencies inside the jar that is built. Usually test dependencies and sources aren’t included in a jar, but for this instance we want to include them. To include the test dependencies, add this section to the build.gradle file.

shadowJar {
   from sourceSets.test.output
   configurations = [project.configurations.testRuntime]
}

Deploying the Test Suite

Now that our tests are packaged with the dependencies in a jar, we need to get them into a running Lambda function. We use  simple SAM  templates to upload the packaged jar into S3, and then deploy it to Lambda with our settings.

{
   "AWSTemplateFormatVersion": "2010-09-09",
   "Transform": "AWS::Serverless-2016-10-31",
   "Resources": {
       "LambdaTestHandler": {
           "Type": "AWS::Serverless::Function",
           "Properties": {
               "CodeUri": "./build/libs/your-test-jar-all.jar",
               "Runtime": "java8",
               "Handler": "com.example.LambdaTestHandler::handleRequest",
               "Role": "<YourLambdaRoleArn>",
               "Timeout": 300,
               "MemorySize": 1536
           }
       }
   }
}

We use the maximum timeout available to ensure our tests have plenty of time to run. We also use the maximum memory size because this ensures our Lambda function can support Chrome and other resources required to run a UI test.

Specifying the handler is important because this class executes the desired test. The test handler should be able to receive a test class and method. With this information it will then execute the test and respond with the results.

public LambdaTestResult handleRequest(TestRequest testRequest, Context context) {
   LoggerContainer.LOGGER = new Logger(context.getLogger());
  
   BlockJUnit4ClassRunner runner = getRunnerForSingleTest(testRequest);
  
   Result result = new JUnitCore().run(runner);

   return new LambdaTestResult(result);
}

Creating a Lambda-Compatible ChromeDriver

We provide developers with an easily accessible ChromeDriver for local test writing and debugging. When we are running tests on AWS, we have configured ChromeDriver to run them in Lambda.

To configure ChromeDriver, we first need to tell ChromeDriver where to find the Chrome binary. Because we know that ChromeDriver is going to be unzipped into the root task directory, we should point the ChromeDriver configuration at that location.

The settings for getting ChromeDriver running are mostly related to Chrome, which must have its working directories pointed at the tmp/ folder.

Start with the default DesiredCapabilities for ChromeDriver, and then add the following settings to enable your ChromeDriver to start in Lambda.

public ChromeDriver createLambdaChromeDriver() {
   ChromeOptions options = new ChromeOptions();

   // Set the location of the chrome binary from the resources folder
   options.setBinary("/var/task/chrome");

   // Include these settings to allow Chrome to run in Lambda
   options.addArguments("--disable-gpu");
   options.addArguments("--headless");
   options.addArguments("--window-size=1366,768");
   options.addArguments("--single-process");
   options.addArguments("--no-sandbox");
   options.addArguments("--user-data-dir=/tmp/user-data");
   options.addArguments("--data-path=/tmp/data-path");
   options.addArguments("--homedir=/tmp");
   options.addArguments("--disk-cache-dir=/tmp/cache-dir");
  
   DesiredCapabilities desiredCapabilities = DesiredCapabilities.chrome();
   desiredCapabilities.setCapability(ChromeOptions.CAPABILITY, options);
  
   return new ChromeDriver(desiredCapabilities);
}

Executing Tests in Parallel

You can approach parallel test execution in Lambda in many different ways. Your approach depends on the structure and design of your test suite. For our solution, we implemented a custom test runner that uses reflection and JUnit libraries to create a list of test cases we want run. When we have the list, we create a TestRequest object to pass into the Lambda function that we have deployed. In this TestRequest, we place the class name, test method, and the test run identifier. When the Lambda function receives this TestRequest, our LambdaTestHandler generates and runs the JUnit test. After the test is complete, the test result is sent to the test runner. The test runner compiles a result after all of the tests are complete. By executing the same Lambda function multiple times with different test requests, we can effectively run the entire test suite in parallel.

To get screenshots and other test data, we pipe those files during test execution to an S3 bucket under the test run identifier prefix. When the tests are complete, we link the files to each test execution in the report generated from the test run. This lets us easily investigate test executions.

Pro Tip: Dynamically Loading Binaries

AWS Lambda has a limit of 250 MB of uncompressed space for packaged Lambda functions. Because we have libraries and other dependencies to our test suite, we hit this limit when we tried to upload a function that contained Chrome and ChromeDriver (~140 MB). This test suite was not originally intended to be used with Lambda. Otherwise, we would have scrutinized some of the included libraries. To get around this limit, we used the Lambda functions temporary directory, which allows up to 500 MB of space at runtime. Downloading these binaries at runtime moves some of that space requirement into the temporary directory. This allows more room for libraries and dependencies. You can do this by grabbing Chrome and ChromeDriver from an S3 bucket and marking them as executable using built-in Java libraries. If you take this route, be sure to point to the new location for these executables in order to create a ChromeDriver.

private static void downloadS3ObjectToExecutableFile(String key) throws IOException {
   File file = new File("/tmp/" + key);

   GetObjectRequest request = new GetObjectRequest("s3-bucket-name", key);

   FileUtils.copyInputStreamToFile(s3client.getObject(request).getObjectContent(), file);
   file.setExecutable(true);
}

Lambda-Selenium Project Source

We have compiled an open source example that you can grab from the Blackboard Github repository. Grab the code and try it out!

https://blackboard.github.io/lambda-selenium/

Conclusion

One year ago, one of our UI test suites took hours to run. Last month, it took 16 minutes. Today, it takes 39 seconds. Thanks to AWS Lambda, we can reduce our build times and perform automated UI testing at scale!

Supreme Court Will Decide if ISP Can Charge Money to Expose Pirates

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/supreme-court-to-decide-if-isp-can-charge-money-to-expose-pirates-171124/

Movie studio Voltage Pictures is no stranger to suing BitTorrent users.

The company has filed numerous lawsuits against alleged pirates in the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia, and is estimated to have made a lot of money doing so.

Voltage and other copyright holders who initiate these cases generally rely on IP addresses as evidence. This information is collected from BitTorrent swarms and linked to an ISP using an IP-database.

With this information in hand, they then ask the courts to direct Internet providers to hand over the personal details of the associated account holders, in order to go after the alleged pirates.

In Canada, this so-called copyright trolling practice hasn’t been without controversy.

Last year Voltage Pictures launched a “reverse class action” to demand damages from an unspecified number of Internet users whom they accuse of sharing films, including The Cobbler, Pay the Ghost, Good Kill, Fathers and Daughters, and American Heist.

The application of a reverse class action in a copyright case was unprecedented in itself. In a single swoop, many of Internet subscribers were at risk of having their personal details exposed. However, Internet provider Rogers was not willing to hand over this information freely.

Instead, Rogers demanded compensation for every IP-address lookup, as is permitted by copyright law. The provider asked for $100 per hour of work, plus taxes, to link the addresses to subscriber accounts.

The Federal Court agreed that the charges were permitted under the Copyright Act. However, when Voltage Pictures appealed the decision, this was reversed. The Appeals Court noted that there’s currently no fixed maximum charge defined by law. As long as this is the case, ISPs can charge no fees at all, the argument was.

In addition, the court stressed that it’s important for copyright holders to be able to protect their rights in the digital era.

“The internet must not become a collection of safe houses from which pirates, with impunity, can pilfer the products of others’ dedication, creativity and industry,” the appeal court Justice David Stratas wrote.

Not happy with the decision, Rogers decided to take the matter to the Supreme Court, which just decided that it will hear the case.

The Supreme Court hasn’t given an explanation for its decision to take the case. For the accused BitTorrent pirates in Canada, it’s certainly one to watch though.

The case will in large part determine how profitable the copyright trolling scheme is in Canada. When ISPs can charge a substantial fee for the IP-address lookups the efforts might not bring in enough money through settlements, making them less likely to continue.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

Copyright Holders Want ISPs to Police Pirate Sites and Issue Warnings

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/copyright-holders-want-isps-to-police-pirate-sites-and-issue-warnings-171124/

Online piracy is a worldwide phenomenon and increasingly it ends up on the desks of lawmakers everywhere.

Frustrated by the ever-evolving piracy landscape, copyright holders are calling on local authorities to help out.

This is also the case in South Africa at the moment, where the Government is finalizing a new Cybercrimes and Cybersecurity Bill.

Responding to a call for comments, anti-piracy group SAFACT, film producers, and local broadcaster M-Net seized the opportunity to weigh in with some suggestions. Writing to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, they ask for measures to make it easier to block pirate sites and warn copyright infringers.

“A balanced approach to address the massive copyright infringement on the Internet is necessary,” they say.

On the site-blocking front, the copyright holder representatives suggest an EU-style amendment that would allow for injunctions against ISPs to bar access to pirate sites.

“It is suggested that South Africa should consider adopting technology-neutral ‘no fault’ enforcement legislation that would enable intermediaries to take action against online infringements, in line with Article 8.3 of the EU Copyright Directive (2001/29/EC), which addresses copyright infringement through site blocking,” it reads.

Request and response (via Business Tech)

In addition, ISPs should also be obliged to take further measures to deter piracy. New legislation should require providers to “police” unauthorized file-sharing and streaming sites, and warn subscribers who are caught pirating.

“Obligations should be imposed on ISPs to co-operate with rights-holders and Government to police illegal filesharing or streaming websites and to issue warnings to end-users identified as engaging in illegal file-sharing and to block infringing content,” the rightsholders say.

The demands were made public by the Department recently, which also included an official response from the Government. While the suggestions are not dismissed based on their content, they don’t fit the purpose of the legislation.

“The Bill does not deal with copyright infringements. These aspects must be dealt with in terms of copyright-related legislation,” the Department writes.

SAFACT, the filmmakers, and M-Net are not without options though. The Government points out that the new Copyright Amendment Bill, which was introduced recently, would be a better fit for these asks. So it’s likely that they will try again.

This doesn’t mean that any of the proposed language will be adopted, of course. However, now that the demands are on the table, South Africans are likely to hear more blocking and warning chatter in the near future.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

Swiss Copyright Law Proposals: Good News for Pirates, Bad For Pirate Sites

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/swiss-copyright-law-proposals-good-news-for-pirates-bad-for-pirate-sites-171124/

While Switzerland sits geographically in the heart of Europe, the country is not part of the European Union, meaning that its copyright laws are often out of touch with those of the countries encircling it.

For years this has meant heavy criticism from the United States, whose trade representative has put Switzerland on the Watch List, citing weaknesses in the country’s ability to curb online copyright infringement.

“The decision to place Switzerland on the Watch List this year is premised on U.S. concerns regarding specific difficulties in Switzerland’s system of online copyright protection and enforcement,” the USTR wrote in 2016.

Things didn’t improve in 2017. Referencing the so-called Logistep Decision, which found that collecting infringers’ IP addresses is unlawful, the USTR said that Switzerland had effectively deprived copyright holders of the means to enforce their rights online.

All of this criticism hasn’t fallen on deaf ears. For the past several years, Switzerland has been deeply involved in consultations that aim to shape future copyright law. Negotiations have been prolonged, however, with the Federal Council aiming to improve the situation for creators without impairing the position of consumers.

A new draft compromise tabled Wednesday is somewhat of a mixed bag, one that is unlikely to please the United States overall but could prove reasonably acceptable to the public.

First of all, people will still be able to ‘pirate’ as much copyrighted material as they like, as long as that content is consumed privately and does not include videogames or software, which are excluded. Any supposed losses accrued by the entertainment industries will be compensated via a compulsory tax of 13 Swiss francs ($13), levied on media playback devices including phones and tablets.

This freedom only applies to downloading and streaming, meaning that any uploading (distribution) is explicitly ruled out. So, while grabbing some streaming content via a ‘pirate’ Kodi addon is just fine, using BitTorrent to achieve the same is ruled out.

Indeed, rightsholders will be able to capture IP addresses of suspected infringers in order to file a criminal complaint with authorities. That being said, there will no system of warning notices targeting file-sharers.

But while the authorization of unlicensed downloads will only frustrate an already irritated United States, the other half of the deal is likely to be welcomed.

Under the recommendations, Internet services will not only be required to remove infringing content from their platforms, they’ll also be compelled to prevent that same content from reappearing. Failure to comply will result in prosecution. It’s a standard that copyright holders everywhere are keen for governments to adopt.

Additionally, the spotlight will fall on datacenters and webhosts that have a reputation for being popular with pirate sites. It’s envisioned that such providers will be prevented from offering services to known pirate sites, with the government clearly stating that services with piracy at the heart of their business models will be ripe for action.

But where there’s a plus for copyright holders, the Swiss have another minus. Previously it was proposed that in serious cases authorities should be able to order the ISP blocking of “obviously illegal content or sources.” That proposal has now been dropped, meaning no site-blocking will be allowed.

Other changes in the draft envision an extension of the copyright term from 50 to 70 years and improved protection for photographic works. The proposals also feature increased freedoms for researchers and libraries, who will be able to use copyrighted works without obtaining permission from rightsholders.

Overall the proposals are a pretty mixed bag but as Minister of Justice Simonetta Sommaruga said Wednesday, if no one is prepared to compromise, no one will get anything.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

A Thanksgiving Carol: How Those Smart Engineers at Twitter Screwed Me

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/11/a-thanksgiving-carol-how-those-smart.html

Thanksgiving Holiday is a time for family and cheer. Well, a time for family. It’s the holiday where we ask our doctor relatives to look at that weird skin growth, and for our geek relatives to fix our computers. This tale is of such computer support, and how the “smart” engineers at Twitter have ruined this for life.

My mom is smart, but not a good computer user. I get my enthusiasm for science and math from my mother, and she has no problem understanding the science of computers. She keeps up when I explain Bitcoin. But she has difficulty using computers. She has this emotional, irrational belief that computers are out to get her.

This makes helping her difficult. Every problem is described in terms of what the computer did to her, not what she did to her computer. It’s the computer that needs to be fixed, instead of the user. When I showed her the “haveibeenpwned.com” website (part of my tips for securing computers), it showed her Tumblr password had been hacked. She swore she never created a Tumblr account — that somebody or something must have done it for her. Except, I was there five years ago and watched her create it.

Another example is how GMail is deleting her emails for no reason, corrupting them, and changing the spelling of her words. She emails the way an impatient teenager texts — all of us in the family know the misspellings are not GMail’s fault. But I can’t help her with this because she keeps her GMail inbox clean, deleting all her messages, leaving no evidence behind. She has only a vague description of the problem that I can’t make sense of.

This last March, I tried something to resolve this. I configured her GMail to send a copy of all incoming messages to a new, duplicate account on my own email server. With evidence in hand, I would then be able solve what’s going on with her GMail. I’d be able to show her which steps she took, which buttons she clicked on, and what caused the weirdness she’s seeing.

Today, while the family was in a state of turkey-induced torpor, my mom brought up a problem with Twitter. She doesn’t use Twitter, she doesn’t have an account, but they keep sending tweets to her phone, about topics like Denzel Washington. And she said something about “peaches” I didn’t understand.

This is how the problem descriptions always start, chaotic, with mutually exclusive possibilities. If you don’t use Twitter, you don’t have the Twitter app installed, so how are you getting Tweets? Over much gnashing of teeth, it comes out that she’s getting emails from Twitter, not tweets, about Denzel Washington — to someone named “Peaches Graham”. Naturally, she can only describe these emails, because she’s already deleted them.

“Ah ha!”, I think. I’ve got the evidence! I’ll just log onto my duplicate email server, and grab the copies to prove to her it was something she did.

I find she is indeed receiving such emails, called “Moments”, about topics trending on Twitter. They are signed with “DKIM”, proving they are legitimate rather than from a hacker or spammer. The only way that can happen is if my mother signed up for Twitter, despite her protestations that she didn’t.

I look further back and find that there were also confirmation messages involved. Back in August, she got a typical Twitter account signup message. I am now seeing a little bit more of the story unfold with this “Peaches Graham” name on the account. It wasn’t my mother who initially signed up for Twitter, but Peaches, who misspelled the email address. It’s one of the reasons why the confirmation process exists, to make sure you spelled your email address correctly.

It’s now obvious my mom accidentally clicked on the [Confirm] button. I don’t have any proof she did, but it’s the only reasonable explanation. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have gotten the “Moments” messages. My mom disputed this, emphatically insisting she never clicked on the emails.

It’s at this point that I made a great mistake, saying:

“This sort of thing just doesn’t happen. Twitter has very smart engineers. What’s the chance they made the mistake here, or…”.

I recognized condescension of words as they came out of my mouth, but dug myself deeper with:

“…or that the user made the error?”

This was wrong to say even if I were right. I have no excuse. I mean, maybe I could argue that it’s really her fault, for not raising me right, but no, this is only on me.

Regardless of what caused the Twitter emails, the problem needs to be fixed. The solution is to take control of the Twitter account by using the password reset feature. I went to the Twitter login page, clicked on “Lost Password”, got the password reset message, and reset the password. I then reconfigured the account to never send anything to my mom again.

But when I logged in I got an error saying the account had not yet been confirmed. I paused. The family dog eyed me in wise silence. My mom hadn’t clicked on the [Confirm] button — the proof was right there. Moreover, it hadn’t been confirmed for a long time, since the account was created in 2011.

I interrogated my mother some more. It appears that this has been going on for years. She’s just been deleting the emails without opening them, both the “Confirmations” and the “Moments”. She made it clear she does it this way because her son (that would be me) instructs her to never open emails she knows are bad. That’s how she could be so certain she never clicked on the [Confirm] button — she never even opens the emails to see the contents.

My mom is a prolific email user. In the last eight months, I’ve received over 10,000 emails in the duplicate mailbox on my server. That’s a lot. She’s technically retired, but she volunteers for several charities, goes to community college classes, and is joining an anti-Trump protest group. She has a daily routine for triaging and processing all the emails that flow through her inbox.

So here’s the thing, and there’s no getting around it: my mom was right, on all particulars. She had done nothing, the computer had done it to her. It’s Twitter who is at fault, having continued to resend that confirmation email every couple months for six years. When Twitter added their controversial “Moments” feature a couple years back, somehow they turned on Notifications for accounts that technically didn’t fully exist yet.

Being right this time means she might be right the next time the computer does something to her without her touching anything. My attempts at making computers seem rational has failed. That they are driven by untrustworthy spirits is now a reasonable alternative.

Those “smart” engineers at Twitter screwed me. Continuing to send confirmation emails for six years is stupid. Sending Notifications to unconfirmed accounts is stupid. Yes, I know at the bottom of the message it gives a “Not my account” selection that she could have clicked on, but it’s small and easily missed. In any case, my mom never saw that option, because she’s been deleting the messages without opening them — for six years.

Twitter can fix their problem, but it’s not going to help mine. Forever more, I’ll be unable to convince my mom that the majority of her problems are because of user error, and not because the computer people are out to get her.

Eevee mugshot set for Doom

Post Syndicated from Eevee original https://eev.ee/release/2017/11/23/eevee-mugshot-set-for-doom/

Screenshot of Industrial Zone from Doom II, with an Eevee face replacing the usual Doom marine in the status bar

A full replacement of Doomguy’s vast array of 42 expressions.

You can get it yourself if you want to play Doom as me, for some reason? It does nothing but replace a few sprites, so it works with any Doom flavor (including vanilla) on 1, 2, or Final. Just run Doom with -file eeveemug.wad. With GZDoom, you can load it automatically.


I don’t entirely know why I did this. I drew the first one on a whim, then realized there was nothing really stopping me from making a full set, so I spent a day doing that.

The funny thing is that I usually play Doom with ZDoom’s “alternate” HUD. It’s a full-screen overlay rather than a huge bar, and — crucially — it does not show the mugshot. It can’t even be configured to show the mugshot. As far as I’m aware, it can’t even be modded to show the mugshot. So I have to play with the OG status bar if I want to actually use the thing I made.

Preview of the Eevee mugshot sprites arranged in a grid, where the Eevee becomes more beaten up in each subsequent column

I’m pretty happy with the results overall! I think I did a decent job emulating the Doom “surreal grit” style. I did the shading with Aseprite‘s shading mode — instead of laying down a solid color, it shifts pixels along a ramp of colors you select every time you draw over them. Doom’s palette has a lot of browns, so I made a ramp out of all of them and kept going over furry areas, nudging pixels into being lighter or darker, until I liked the texture. It was a lot like making a texture in a sketch with a lot of scratchy pencil strokes.

I also gleaned some interesting things about smoothness and how the eye interprets contours? I tried to explain this on Twitter and had a hell of a time putting it into words, but the short version is that it’s amazing to see the difference a single misplaced pixel can make, especially as you slide that pixel between dark and light.


Doom's palette of 256 colors, many of which are very long gradients of reds and browns

Speaking of which, Doom’s palette is incredibly weird to work with. Thank goodness Eevees are brown! The game does have to draw arbitrary levels of darkness all with the same palette, which partly explains the number of dark colors and gradients — but I believe a number of the colors are exact duplicates, so close they might as well be duplicates, or completely unused in stock Doom assets. I guess they had no reason to optimize for people trying to add arbitrary art to the game 25 years later, though. (And nowadays, GZDoom includes a truecolor software renderer, so the palette is becoming less and less important.)

I originally wanted the god mode sprite to be a Sylveon, but Sylveon is made of pink and azure and blurple, and I don’t think I could’ve pulled it off with this set of colors. I even struggled with the color of the mane a bit — I usually color it with pretty pale colors, but Doom only has a couple of those, and they’re very saturated. I ended up using a lot more dark yellows than I would normally, and thankfully it worked out pretty well.

The most significant change I made between the original sprite and the final set was the eye color:

A comparison between an original Doom mugshot sprite, the first sprite I drew, and how it ended up

(This is STFST20, a frame from the default three-frame “glacing around” animation that plays when the player has between 40 and 59 health. Doom Wiki has a whole article on the mugshot if you’re interested.)

The blue eyes in my original just do not work at all. The Doom palette doesn’t have a lot of subtle colors, and its blues in particular are incredibly bad. In the end, I made the eyes basically black, though with a couple pixels of very dark blue in them.

After I decided to make the full set, I started by making a neutral and completely healthy front pose, then derived the others from that (with a very complicated system of layers). You can see some of the side effects of that here: the face doesn’t actually turn when glancing around, because hoo boy that would’ve been a lot of work, and so the cheek fluff is visible on both sides.

I also notice that there are two columns of identical pixels in each eye! I fixed that in the glance to the right, but must’ve forgotten about it here. Oh, well; I didn’t even notice until I zoomed in just now.

A general comparison between the Doom mugshots and my Eevee ones, showing each pose in its healthy state plus the neutral pose in every state of deterioration

The original sprites might not be quite aligned correctly in the above image. The available space in the status bar is 35×31, of which a couple pixels go to an inset border, leaving 33×30. I drew all of my sprites at that size, but the originals are all cropped and have varying offsets (part of the Doom sprite format). I extremely can’t be assed to check all of those offsets for over a dozen sprites, so I just told ImageMagick to center them. (I only notice right now that some of the original sprites are even a full 31 pixels tall and draw over the top border that I was so careful to stay out of!)

Anyway, this is a representative sample of the Doom mugshot poses.

The top row shows all eight frames at full health. The first three are the “idle” state, drawn when nothing else is going on; the sprite usually faces forwards, but glances around every so often at random. The forward-facing sprite is the one I finalized first.

I tried to take a lot of cues from the original sprite, seeing as I wanted to match the style. I’d never tried drawing a sprite with a large palette and a small resolution before, and the first thing that struck me was Doomguy’s lips — the upper lip, lips themselves, and shadow under the lower lip are all created with only one row of pixels each. I thought that was amazing. Now I even kinda wish I’d exaggerated that effect a bit more, but I was wary of going too dark when there’s a shadow only a couple pixels away. I suppose Doomguy has the advantage of having, ah, a chin.

I did much the same for the eyebrows, which was especially necessary because Doomguy has more of a forehead than my Eevee does. I probably could’ve exaggerated those a bit more, as well! Still, I love how they came out — especially in the simple looking-around frames, where even a two-pixel eyebrow raise is almost comically smug.

The fourth frame is a wild-ass grin (even named STFEVL0), which shows for a short time after picking up a new weapon. Come to think of it, that’s a pretty rare occurrence when playing straight through one of the Doom games; you keep your weapons between levels.

The fifth through seventh are also a set. If the player takes damage, the status bar will briefly show one of these frames to indicate where the damage is coming from. You may notice that where Doomguy bravely faces the source of the pain, I drew myself wincing and recoiling away from it.

The middle frame of that set also appears while the player is firing continuously (regardless of damage), so I couldn’t really make it match the left and right ones. I like the result anyway. It was also great fun figuring out the expressions with the mouth — that’s another place where individual pixels make a huge difference.

Finally, the eighth column is the legendary “ouch” face, which appears when the player takes more than 20 damage at once. It may look completely alien to you, because vanilla Doom has a bug that only shows this face when the player gains 20 or more health while taking damage. This is vanishingly rare (though possible!), so the frame virtually never appears in vanilla Doom. Lots of source ports have fixed this bug, making the ouch face it a bit better known, but I usually play without the mugshot visible so it still looks super weird to me. I think my own spin on it is a bit less, ah, body horror?

The second row shows deterioration. It is pretty weird drawing yourself getting beaten up.

A lot of Doomguy’s deterioration is in the form of blood dripping from under his hair, which I didn’t think would translate terribly well to a character without hair. Instead, I went a little cartoony with it, adding bandages here and there. I had a little bit of a hard time with the bloodshot eyes at this resolution, which I realize as I type it is a very poor excuse when I had eyes three times bigger than Doomguy’s. I do love the drooping ears, with the possible exception of the fifth state, which I’m not sure is how that would actually look…? Oh well. I also like the bow becoming gradually unravelled, eventually falling off entirely when you die.

Oh, yes, the sixth frame there (before the gap) is actually for a dead player. Doomguy’s bleeding becomes markedly more extreme here, but again that didn’t really work for me, so I went a little sillier with it. A little. It’s still pretty weird drawing yourself dead.

That leaves only god mode, which is incredible. I love that glow. I love the faux whisker shapes it makes. I love how it fades into the background. I love that 100% pure “oh this is pretty good” smile. It all makes me want to just play Doom in god mode forever.

Now that I’ve looked closely at these sprites again, I spy a good half dozen little inconsistencies and nitpicks, which I’m going to refrain from spelling out. I did do this in only a day, and I think it came out pretty dang well considering.

Maybe I’ll try something else like this in the future. Not quite sure what, though; there aren’t many small and self-contained sets of sprites like this in Doom. Monsters are several times bigger and have a zillion different angles. Maybe some pickups, which only have one frame?


Hmm. Parting thought: I’m not quite sure where I should host this sort of one-off thing. It arguably belongs on Itch, but seems really out of place alongside entire released games. It also arguably belongs on the idgames archive, but I’m hesitant to put it there because it’s such an obscure thing of little interest to a general audience. At the moment it’s just a file I’ve uploaded to wherever on my own space, but I now have three little Doom experiments with no real permanent home.

Google & Apple Order Telegram to Nuke Channel Over Taylor Swift Piracy

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/google-apple-order-telegram-to-nuke-channel-over-taylor-swift-piracy-171123/

Financed by Russian Facebook (vKontakte) founder Pavel Durov, Telegram is a multi-platform messaging system that has grown from 100,000 daily users in 2013 to an impressive 100 million users in February 2016.

“Telegram is a messaging app with a focus on speed and security, it’s super-fast, simple and free. You can use Telegram on all your devices at the same time — your messages sync seamlessly across any number of your phones, tablets or computers,” the company’s marketing reads.

One of the attractive things about Telegram is that it allows users to communicate with each other using end-to-end encryption. In some cases, these systems are used for content piracy, of music and other smaller files in particular. This is compounded by the presence of user-programmed bots, which are able to search the web for illegal content and present it in a Telegram channel to which other users can subscribe.

While much of this sharing files under the radar when conducted privately, it periodically attracts attention from copyright holders when it takes place in public channels. That appears to have happened recently when popular channel “Any Suitable Pop” was completely disabled by Telegram, an apparent first following a copyright complaint.

According to channel creator Anton Vagin, the action by Telegram was probably due to the unauthorized recent sharing of the Taylor Swift album ‘Reputation’. However, it was the route of complaint that proves of most interest.

Rather than receiving a takedown notice directly from Big Machine Records, the label behind Swift’s releases, Telegram was forced into action after receiving threats from Apple and Google, the companies that distribute the Telegram app for iOS and Android respectively.

According to a message Vagin received from Telegram support, Apple and Google had received complaints about Swift’s album from Universal Music, the distributor of Big Machine Records. The suggestion was that if Telegram didn’t delete the infringing channel, distribution of the Telegram app via iTunes and Google Play would be at risk. Vagin received no warning notices from any of the companies involved.

Message from Telegram support

According to Russian news outlet VC.ru, which first reported the news, the channel was blocked in Telegram’s desktop applications, as well as in versions for Android, macOS and iOS. However, the channel still existed on the web and via Windows phone applications but all messages within had been deleted.

The fact that Google played a major role in the disappearing of the channel was subsequently confirmed by Telegram founder Pavel Durov, who commented that it was Google who “ultimately demanded the blocking of this channel.”

That Telegram finally caved into the demands of Google and/or Apple doesn’t really come as a surprise. In Telegram’s frequently asked questions section, the company specifically mentions the need to comply with copyright takedown demands in order to maintain distribution via the companies’ app marketplaces.

“Our mission is to provide a secure means of communication that works everywhere on the planet. To do this in the places where it is most needed (and to continue distributing Telegram through the App Store and Google Play), we have to process legitimate requests to take down illegal public content (sticker sets, bots, and channels) within the app,” the company notes.

Putting pressure on Telegram via Google and Apple over piracy isn’t a new development. In the past, representatives of the music industry threatened to complain to the companies over a channel operated by torrent site RuTracker, which was set up to share magnet links.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

Don Jr.: I’ll bite

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/11/don-jr-ill-bite.html

So Don Jr. tweets the following, which is an excellent troll. So I thought I’d bite. The reason is I just got through debunk Democrat claims about NetNeutrality, so it seems like a good time to balance things out and debunk Trump nonsense.

The issue here is not which side is right. The issue here is whether you stand for truth, or whether you’ll seize any factoid that appears to support your side, regardless of the truthfulness of it. The ACLU obviously chose falsehoods, as I documented. In the following tweet, Don Jr. does the same.

It’s a preview of the hyperpartisan debates are you are likely to have across the dinner table tomorrow, which each side trying to outdo the other in the false-hoods they’ll claim.

What we see in this number is a steady trend of these statistics since the Great Recession, with no evidence in the graphs showing how Trump has influenced these numbers, one way or the other.

Stock markets at all time highs

This is true, but it’s obviously not due to Trump. The stock markers have been steadily rising since the Great Recession. Trump has done nothing substantive to change the market trajectory. Also, he hasn’t inspired the market to change it’s direction.
To be fair to Don Jr., we’ve all been crediting (or blaming) presidents for changes in the stock market despite the fact they have almost no influence over it. Presidents don’t run the economy, it’s an inappropriate conceit. The most influence they’ve had is in harming it.

Lowest jobless claims since 73

Again, let’s graph this:

As we can see, jobless claims have been on a smooth downward trajectory since the Great Recession. It’s difficult to see here how President Trump has influenced these numbers.

6 Trillion added to the economy

What he’s referring to is that assets have risen in value, like the stock market, homes, gold, and even Bitcoin.
But this is a well known fallacy known as Mercantilism, believing the “economy” is measured by the value of its assets. This was debunked by Adam Smith in his book “The Wealth of Nations“, where he showed instead the the “economy” is measured by how much it produces (GDP – Gross Domestic Product) and not assets.
GDP has grown at 3.0%, which is pretty good compared to the long term trend, and is better than Europe or Japan (though not as good as China). But Trump doesn’t deserve any credit for this — today’s rise in GDP is the result of stuff that happened years ago.
Assets have risen by $6 trillion, but that’s not a good thing. After all, when you sell your home for more money, the buyer has to pay more. So one person is better off and one is worse off, so the net effect is zero.
Actually, such asset price increase is a worrisome indicator — we are entering into bubble territory. It’s the result of a loose monetary policy, low interest rates and “quantitative easing” that was designed under the Obama administration to stimulate the economy. That’s why all assets are rising in value. Normally, a rise in one asset means a fall in another, like selling gold to pay for houses. But because of loose monetary policy, all assets are increasing in price. The amazing rise in Bitcoin over the last year is as much a result of this bubble growing in all assets as it is to an exuberant belief in Bitcoin.
When this bubble collapses, which may happen during Trump’s term, it’ll really be the Obama administration who is to blame. I mean, if Trump is willing to take credit for the asset price bubble now, I’m willing to give it to him, as long as he accepts the blame when it crashes.

1.5 million fewer people on food stamps

As you’d expect, I’m going to debunk this with a graph: the numbers have been falling since the great recession. Indeed, in the previous period under Obama, 1.9 fewer people got off food stamps, so Trump’s performance is slight ahead rather than behind Obama. Of course, neither president is really responsible.

Consumer confidence through the roof

Again we are going to graph this number:

Again we find nothing in the graph that suggests President Trump is responsible for any change — it’s been improving steadily since the Great Recession.

One thing to note is that, technically, it’s not “through the roof” — it still quite a bit below the roof set during the dot-com era.

Lowest Unemployment rate in 17 years

Again, let’s simply graph it over time and look for Trump’s contribution. as we can see, there doesn’t appear to be anything special Trump has done — unemployment has steadily been improving since the Great Recession.
But here’s the thing, the “unemployment rate” only measures those looking for work, not those who have given up. The number that concerns people more is the “labor force participation rate”. The Great Recession kicked a lot of workers out of the economy.
Mostly this is because Baby Boomer are now retiring an leaving the workforce, and some have chosen to retire early rather than look for another job. But there are still some other problems in our economy that cause this. President Trump has nothing particular in order to solve these problems.

Conclusion

As we see, Don Jr’s tweet is a troll. When we look at the graphs of these indicators going back to the Great Recession, we don’t see how President Trump has influenced anything. The improvements this year are in line with the improvements last year, which are in turn inline with the improvements in the previous year.
To be fair, all parties credit their President with improvements during their term. President Obama’s supporters did the same thing. But at least right now, with these numbers, we can see that there’s no merit to anything in Don Jr’s tweet.
The hyperpartisan rancor in this country is because neither side cares about the facts. We should care. We should care that these numbers suck, even if we are Republicans. Conversely, we should care that those NetNeutrality claims by Democrats suck, even if we are Democrats.

The AWS Cloud Goes Underground at re:Invent

Post Syndicated from Jeff Barr original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/the-aws-cloud-goes-underground-at-reinvent/

As you wander through the AWS re:Invent campus, take a minute to think about your expectations for all of the elements that need to come together…

Starting with the location, my colleagues have chosen the best venues, designed the sessions, picked the speakers, laid out the menu, selected the color schemes, programmed or printed all of the signs, and much more, all with the goal of creating an optimal learning environment for you and tens of thousands of other AWS customers.

However, as is often the case, the part that you can see is just a part of the picture. Behind the scenes, people, processes, plans, and systems come together to put all of this infrastructure in to place and to make it run so smoothly that you don’t usually notice it.

Today I would like to tell you about a mission-critical aspect of the re:Invent infrastructure that is actually underground. In addition to providing great Wi-Fi for your phones, tablets, cameras, laptops, and other devices, we need to make sure that a myriad of events, from the live-streamed keynotes, to the live-streamed keynotes and the WorkSpaces-powered hands-on labs are well-connected to each other and to the Internet. With events running at hotels up and down the Las Vegas Strip, reliable, low-latency connectivity is essential!

Thank You CenturyLink / Level3
Over the years we have been working with the great folks at Level3 to make this happen. They recently became part of CenturyLink and are now the Official Network Sponsor of re:Invent, responsible for the network fiber, circuits, and services that tie the re:Invent campus together.

To make this happen, they set up two miles of dark fiber beneath the Strip, routed to multiple Availability Zones in two separate AWS Regions. The Sands Expo Center is equipped with redundant 10 gigabit connections and the other venues (Aria, MGM, Mirage, and Wynn) are each provisioned for 2 to 10 gigabits, meaning that over half of the Strip is enabled for Direct Connect. According to the IT manager at one of the facilities, this may be the largest temporary hybrid network ever configured in Las Vegas.

On the Wi-Fi side, showNets is plugged in to the same network; your devices are talking directly to Direct Connect access points (how cool is that?).

Here’s a simplified illustration of how it all fits together:

The CenturyLink team will be onsite at re:Invent and will be tweeting live network stats throughout the week.

I hope you have enjoyed this quick look behind the scenes and beneath the street!

Jeff;

NetNeutrality vs. limiting FaceTime

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/11/netneutrality-vs-limiting-facetime.html

People keep retweeting this ACLU graphic in regards to NetNeutrality. In this post, I debunk the fourth item. In previous posts [1] [2] I debunk other items.

But here’s the thing: the FCC allowed these restrictions, despite the FCC’s “Open Internet” order forbidding such things. In other words, despite the graphic’s claims it “happened without net neutrality rules”, the opposite is true, it happened with net neutrality rules.

The FCC explains why they allowed it in their own case study on the matter. The short version is this: AT&T’s network couldn’t handle the traffic, so it was appropriate to restrict it until some time in the future (the LTE rollout) until it could. The issue wasn’t that AT&T was restricting FaceTime in favor of its own video-calling service (it didn’t have one), but it was instead an issue of “bandwidth management”.
When Apple released FaceTime, they themselves restricted it’s use to WiFi, preventing its use on cell phone networks. That’s because Apple recognized mobile networks couldn’t handle it.
When Apple flipped the switch and allowed it’s use on mobile networks, because mobile networks had gotten faster, they clearly said “carrier restrictions may apply”. In other words, it said “carriers may restrict FaceTime with our blessing if they can’t handle the load”.
When Tim Wu wrote his paper defining “NetNeutrality” in 2003, he anticipated just this scenario. He wrote:

“The goal of bandwidth management is, at a general level, aligned with network neutrality.”

He doesn’t give “bandwidth management” a completely free pass. He mentions the issue frequently in his paper with a less favorable description, such as here:

Similarly, while managing bandwidth is a laudable goal, its achievement through restricting certain application types is an unfortunate solution. The result is obviously a selective disadvantage for certain application markets. The less restrictive means is, as above, the technological management of bandwidth. Application-restrictions should, at best, be a stopgap solution to the problem of competing bandwidth demands. 

And that’s what AT&T’s FaceTime limiting was: an unfortunate stopgap solution until LTE was more fully deployed, which is fully allowed under Tim Wu’s principle of NetNeutrality.

So the ACLU’s claim above is fully debunked: such things did happen even with NetNeutrality rules in place, and should happen.

NetNeutrality vs. Verizon censoring Naral

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/11/netneutrality-vs-verizon-censoring-naral.html

People keep retweeting this ACLU graphic in support of net neutrality. It’s wrong. In this post, I debunk the second item. I debunk other items in other posts [1] [4].

Firstly, it’s not a NetNeutrality issue (which applies only to the Internet), but an issue with text-messages. In other words, it’s something that will continue to happen even with NetNeutrality rules. People relate this to NetNeutrality as an analogy, not because it actually is such an issue.

Secondly, it’s an edge/content issue, not a transit issue. The details in this case is that Verizon provides a program for sending bulk messages to its customers from the edge of the network. Verizon isn’t censoring text messages in transit, but from the edge. You can send a text message to your friend on the Verizon network, and it won’t be censored. Thus the analogy is incorrect — the correct analogy would be with content providers like Twitter and Facebook, not ISPs like Comcast.

Like all cell phone vendors, Verizon polices this content, canceling accounts that abuse the system, like spammers. We all agree such censorship is a good thing, and that such censorship of content providers is not remotely a NetNeutrality issue. Content providers do this not because they disapprove of the content of spam such much as the distaste their customers have for spam.
Content providers that are political, rather than neutral to politics is indeed worrisome. It’s not a NetNeutrality issue per se, but it is a general “neutrality” issue. We free-speech activists want all content providers (Twitter, Facebook, Verizon mass-texting programs) to be free of political censorship — though we don’t want government to mandate such neutrality.
But even here, Verizon may be off the hook. They appear not be to be censoring one political view over another, but the controversial/unsavory way Naral expresses its views. Presumably, Verizon would be okay with less controversial political content.

In other words, as Verizon expresses it’s principles, it wants to block content that drivers away customers, but is otherwise neutral to the content. While this may unfairly target controversial political content, it’s at least basically neutral.

So in conclusion, while activists portray this as a NetNeutrality issue, it isn’t. It’s not even close.

NetNeutrality vs. AT&T censoring Pearl Jam

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original http://blog.erratasec.com/2017/11/netneutrality-vs-at-censoring-pearl-jam.html

People keep retweeting this ACLU graphic in response to the FCC’s net neutrality decision. In this post, I debunk the first item on the list. In other posts [2] [4] I debunk other items.

First of all, this obviously isn’t a Net Neutrality case. The case isn’t about AT&T acting as an ISP transiting network traffic. Instead, this was about AT&T being a content provider, through their “Blue Room” subsidiary, whose content traveled across other ISPs. Such things will continue to happen regardless of the most stringent enforcement of NetNeutrality rules, since the FCC doesn’t regulate content providers.
Second of all, it wasn’t AT&T who censored the traffic. It wasn’t their Blue Room subsidiary who censored the traffic. It was a third party company they hired to bleep things like swear words and nipple slips. You are blaming AT&T for a decision by a third party that went against AT&T’s wishes. It was an accident, not AT&T policy.
Thirdly, and this is the funny bit, Tim Wu, the guy who defined the term “net neutrality”, recently wrote an op-ed claiming that while ISPs shouldn’t censor traffic, that content providers should. In other words, he argues that companies AT&T’s Blue Room should censor political content.
What activists like ACLU say about NetNeutrality have as little relationship to the truth as Trump’s tweets. Both pick “facts” that agree with them only so long as you don’t look into them.

Easier Certificate Validation Using DNS with AWS Certificate Manager

Post Syndicated from Todd Cignetti original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/easier-certificate-validation-using-dns-with-aws-certificate-manager/

Secure Sockets Layer/Transport Layer Security (SSL/TLS) certificates are used to secure network communications and establish the identity of websites over the internet. Before issuing a certificate for your website, Amazon must validate that you control the domain name for your site. You can now use AWS Certificate Manager (ACM) Domain Name System (DNS) validation to establish that you control a domain name when requesting SSL/TLS certificates with ACM. Previously ACM supported only email validation, which required the domain owner to receive an email for each certificate request and validate the information in the request before approving it.

With DNS validation, you write a CNAME record to your DNS configuration to establish control of your domain name. After you have configured the CNAME record, ACM can automatically renew DNS-validated certificates before they expire, as long as the DNS record has not changed. To make it even easier to validate your domain, ACM can update your DNS configuration for you if you manage your DNS records with Amazon Route 53. In this blog post, I demonstrate how to request a certificate for a website by using DNS validation. To perform the equivalent steps using the AWS CLI or AWS APIs and SDKs, see AWS Certificate Manager in the AWS CLI Reference and the ACM API Reference.

Requesting an SSL/TLS certificate by using DNS validation

In this section, I walk you through the four steps required to obtain an SSL/TLS certificate through ACM to identify your site over the internet. SSL/TLS provides encryption for sensitive data in transit and authentication by using certificates to establish the identity of your site and secure connections between browsers and applications and your site. DNS validation and SSL/TLS certificates provisioned through ACM are free.

Step 1: Request a certificate

To get started, sign in to the AWS Management Console and navigate to the ACM console. Choose Get started to request a certificate.

Screenshot of getting started in the ACM console

If you previously managed certificates in ACM, you will instead see a table with your certificates and a button to request a new certificate. Choose Request a certificate to request a new certificate.

Screenshot of choosing "Request a certificate"

Type the name of your domain in the Domain name box and choose Next. In this example, I type www.example.com. You must use a domain name that you control. Requesting certificates for domains that you don’t control violates the AWS Service Terms.

Screenshot of entering a domain name

Step 2: Select a validation method

With DNS validation, you write a CNAME record to your DNS configuration to establish control of your domain name. Choose DNS validation, and then choose Review.

Screenshot of selecting validation method

Step 3: Review your request

Review your request and choose Confirm and request to request the certificate.

Screenshot of reviewing request and confirming it

Step 4: Submit your request

After a brief delay while ACM populates your domain validation information, choose the down arrow (highlighted in the following screenshot) to display all the validation information for your domain.

Screenshot of validation information

ACM displays the CNAME record you must add to your DNS configuration to validate that you control the domain name in your certificate request. If you use a DNS provider other than Route 53 or if you use a different AWS account to manage DNS records in Route 53, copy the DNS CNAME information from the validation information, or export it to a file (choose Export DNS configuration to a file) and write it to your DNS configuration. For information about how to add or modify DNS records, check with your DNS provider. For more information about using DNS with Route 53 DNS, see the Route 53 documentation.

If you manage DNS records for your domain with Route 53 in the same AWS account, choose Create record in Route 53 to have ACM update your DNS configuration for you.

After updating your DNS configuration, choose Continue to return to the ACM table view.

ACM then displays a table that includes all your certificates. The certificate you requested is displayed so that you can see the status of your request. After you write the DNS record or have ACM write the record for you, it typically takes DNS 30 minutes to propagate the record, and it might take several hours for Amazon to validate it and issue the certificate. During this time, ACM shows the Validation status as Pending validation. After ACM validates the domain name, ACM updates the Validation status to Success. After the certificate is issued, the certificate status is updated to Issued. If ACM cannot validate your DNS record and issue the certificate after 72 hours, the request times out, and ACM displays a Timed out validation status. To recover, you must make a new request. Refer to the Troubleshooting Section of the ACM User Guide for instructions about troubleshooting validation or issuance failures.

Screenshot of a certificate issued and validation successful

You now have an ACM certificate that you can use to secure your application or website. For information about how to deploy certificates with other AWS services, see the documentation for Amazon CloudFront, Amazon API Gateway, Application Load Balancers, and Classic Load Balancers. Note that your certificate must be in the US East (N. Virginia) Region to use the certificate with CloudFront.

ACM automatically renews certificates that are deployed and in use with other AWS services as long as the CNAME record remains in your DNS configuration. To learn more about ACM DNS validation, see the ACM FAQs and the ACM documentation.

If you have comments about this post, submit them in the “Comments” section below. If you have questions about this blog post, start a new thread on the ACM forum or contact AWS Support.

– Todd

Serverless Automated Cost Controls, Part1

Post Syndicated from Shankar Ramachandran original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/compute/serverless-automated-cost-controls-part1/

This post courtesy of Shankar Ramachandran, Pubali Sen, and George Mao

In line with AWS’s continual efforts to reduce costs for customers, this series focuses on how customers can build serverless automated cost controls. This post provides an architecture blueprint and a sample implementation to prevent budget overruns.

This solution uses the following AWS products:

  • AWS Budgets – An AWS Cost Management tool that helps customers define and track budgets for AWS costs, and forecast for up to three months.
  • Amazon SNS – An AWS service that makes it easy to set up, operate, and send notifications from the cloud.
  • AWS Lambda – An AWS service that lets you run code without provisioning or managing servers.

You can fine-tune a budget for various parameters, for example filtering by service or tag. The Budgets tool lets you post notifications on an SNS topic. A Lambda function that subscribes to the SNS topic can act on the notification. Any programmatically implementable action can be taken.

The diagram below describes the architecture blueprint.

In this post, we describe how to use this blueprint with AWS Step Functions and IAM to effectively revoke the ability of a user to start new Amazon EC2 instances, after a budget amount is exceeded.

Freedom with guardrails

AWS lets you quickly spin up resources as you need them, deploying hundreds or even thousands of servers in minutes. This means you can quickly develop and roll out new applications. Teams can experiment and innovate more quickly and frequently. If an experiment fails, you can always de-provision those servers without risk.

This improved agility also brings in the need for effective cost controls. Your Finance and Accounting department must budget, monitor, and control the AWS spend. For example, this could be a budget per project. Further, Finance and Accounting must take appropriate actions if the budget for the project has been exceeded, for example. Call it “freedom with guardrails” – where Finance wants to give developers freedom, but with financial constraints.

Architecture

This section describes how to use the blueprint introduced earlier to implement a “freedom with guardrails” solution.

  1. The budget for “Project Beta” is set up in Budgets. In this example, we focus on EC2 usage and identify the instances that belong to this project by filtering on the tag Project with the value Beta. For more information, see Creating a Budget.
  2. The budget configuration also includes settings to send a notification on an SNS topic when the usage exceeds 100% of the budgeted amount. For more information, see Creating an Amazon SNS Topic for Budget Notifications.
  3. The master Lambda function receives the SNS notification.
  4. It triggers execution of a Step Functions state machine with the parameters for completing the configured action.
  5. The action Lambda function is triggered as a task in the state machine. The function interacts with IAM to effectively remove the user’s permissions to create an EC2 instance.

This decoupled modular design allows for extensibility.  New actions (serially or in parallel) can be added by simply adding new steps.

Implementing the solution

All the instructions and code needed to implement the architecture have been posted on the Serverless Automated Cost Controls GitHub repo. We recommend that you try this first in a Dev/Test environment.

This implementation description can be broken down into two parts:

  1. Create a solution stack for serverless automated cost controls.
  2. Verify the solution by testing the EC2 fleet.

To tie this back to the “freedom with guardrails” scenario, the Finance department performs a one-time implementation of the solution stack. To simulate resources for Project Beta, the developers spin up the test EC2 fleet.

Prerequisites

There are two prerequisites:

  • Make sure that you have the necessary IAM permissions. For more information, see the section titled “Required IAM permissions” in the README.
  • Define and activate a cost allocation tag with the key Project. For more information, see Using Cost Allocation Tags. It can take up to 12 hours for the tags to propagate to Budgets.

Create resources

The solution stack includes creating the following resources:

  • Three Lambda functions
  • One Step Functions state machine
  • One SNS topic
  • One IAM group
  • One IAM user
  • IAM policies as needed
  • One budget

Two of the Lambda functions were described in the previous section, to a) receive the SNS notification and b) trigger the Step Functions state machine. Another Lambda function is used to create the budget, as a custom AWS CloudFormation resource. The SNS topic connects Budgets with Lambda function A. Lambda function B is configured as a task in Step Functions. A budget for $2 is created which is filtered by Service: EC2 and Tag: Project, Beta. A test IAM group and user is created to enable you to validate this Cost Control Solution.

To create the serverless automated cost control solution stack, choose the button below. It takes few minutes to spin up the stack. You can monitor the progress in the CloudFormation console.

When you see the CREATE_COMPLETE status for the stack you had created, choose Outputs. Copy the following four values that you need later:

  • TemplateURL
  • UserName
  • SignInURL
  • Password

Verify the stack

The next step is to verify the serverless automated cost controls solution stack that you just created. To do this, spin up an EC2 fleet of t2.micro instances, representative of the resources needed for Project Beta, and tag them with Project, Beta.

  1. Browse to the SignInURL, and log in using the UserName and Password values copied on from the stack output.
  2. In the CloudFormation console, choose Create Stack.
  3. For Choose a template, select Choose an Amazon S3 template URL and paste the TemplateURL value from the preceding section. Choose Next.
  4. Give this stack a name, such as “testEc2FleetForProjectBeta”. Choose Next.
  5. On the Specify Details page, enter parameters such as the UserName and Password copied in the previous section. Choose Next.
  6. Ignore any errors related to listing IAM roles. The test user has a minimal set of permissions that is just sufficient to spin up this test stack (in line with security best practices).
  7. On the Options page, choose Next.
  8. On the Review page, choose Create. It takes a few minutes to spin up the stack, and you can monitor the progress in the CloudFormation console. 
  9. When you see the status “CREATE_COMPLETE”, open the EC2 console to verify that four t2.micro instances have been spun up, with the tag of Project, Beta.

The hourly cost for these instances depends on the region in which they are running. On the average (irrespective of the region), you can expect the aggregate cost for this EC2 fleet to exceed the set $2 budget in 48 hours.

Verify the solution

The first step is to identify the test IAM group that was created in the previous section. The group should have “projectBeta” in the name, prepended with the CloudFormation stack name and appended with an alphanumeric string. Verify that the managed policy associated is: “EC2FullAccess”, which indicates that the users in this group have unrestricted access to EC2.

There are two stages of verification for this serverless automated cost controls solution: simulating a notification and waiting for a breach.

Simulated notification

Because it takes at least a few hours for the aggregate cost of the EC2 fleet to breach the set budget, you can verify the solution by simulating the notification from Budgets.

  1. Log in to the SNS console (using your regular AWS credentials).
  2. Publish a message on the SNS topic that has “budgetNotificationTopic” in the name. The complete name is appended by the CloudFormation stack identifier.  
  3. Copy the following text as the body of the notification: “This is a mock notification”.
  4. Choose Publish.
  5. Open the IAM console to verify that the policy for the test group has been switched to “EC2ReadOnly”. This prevents users in this group from creating new instances.
  6. Verify that the test user created in the previous section cannot spin up new EC2 instances.  You can log in as the test user and try creating a new EC2 instance (via the same CloudFormation stack or the EC2 console). You should get an error message indicating that you do not have the necessary permissions.
  7. If you are proceeding to stage 2 of the verification, then you must switch the permissions back to “EC2FullAccess” for the test group, which can be done in the IAM console.

Automatic notification

Within 48 hours, the aggregate cost of the EC2 fleet spun up in the earlier section breaches the budget rule and triggers an automatic notification. This results in the permissions getting switched out, just as in the simulated notification.

Clean up

Use the following steps to delete your resources and stop incurring costs.

  1. Open the CloudFormation console.
  2. Delete the EC2 fleet by deleting the appropriate stack (for example, delete the stack named “testEc2FleetForProjectBeta”).                                               
  3. Next, delete the “costControlStack” stack.                                                                                                                                                    

Conclusion

Using Lambda in tandem with Budgets, you can build Serverless automated cost controls on AWS. Find all the resources (instructions, code) for implementing the solution discussed in this post on the Serverless Automated Cost Controls GitHub repo.

Stay tuned to this series for more tips about building serverless automated cost controls. In the next post, we discuss using smart lighting to influence developer behavior and describe a solution to encourage cost-aware development practices.

If you have questions or suggestions, please comment below.

 

Sci-Hub Loses Domain Names, But Remains Resilient

Post Syndicated from Ernesto original https://torrentfreak.com/sci-hub-loses-domain-names-but-remains-resilient-171122/

While Sci-Hub is praised by thousands of researchers and academics around the world, copyright holders are doing everything in their power to wipe the site from the web.

Following a $15 million defeat against Elsevier in June, the American Chemical Society won a default judgment of $4.8 million in copyright damages earlier this month.

The publisher was further granted a broad injunction, requiring various third-party services to stop providing access to the site. This includes domain registries, which have the power to suspend domains worldwide if needed.

Yesterday, several of Sci-Hub’s domain names became unreachable. While the site had some issues in recent weeks, several people noticed that the present problems are more permanent.

Sci-hub.io, sci-hub.cc, and sci-hub.ac now have the infamous “serverhold” status which suggests that the responsible registries intervened. The status, which has been used previously when domain names are flagged for copyright issues, strips domains of their DNS entries.

Serverhold

This effectively means that the domain names in question have been rendered useless. However, history has also shown that Sci-Hub’s operator Alexandra Elbakyan doesn’t easily back down. Quite the contrary.

In a message posted on the site’s VK page and Twitter, the operator points out that users can update their DNS servers to the IP-addresses 80.82.77.83 and 80.82.77.84, to access it freely again. This rigorous measure will direct all domain name lookups through Sci-Hub’s servers.

Sci-Hub’s tweet

In addition, the Sci-Hub.bz domain and the .onion address on the Tor network still appear to work just fine for most people.

It’s clear that Ukraine-born Elbakyan has no intention of throwing in the towel. By providing free access to published research, she sees it as simply helping millions of less privileged academics to do their work properly.

Authorized or not, among researchers there is still plenty of demand and support for Sci-Hub’s service. The site hosts dozens of millions of academic papers and receives millions of visitors per month.

Many visits come from countries where access to academic journals is limited, such as Iran, Russia and China. But even in countries where access is more common, a lot of researchers visit the site.

While the domain problems may temporarily make the site harder to find for some, it’s not likely to be the end for Sch-Hub.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN discounts, offers and coupons

The 10 Most Viewed Security-Related AWS Knowledge Center Articles and Videos for November 2017

Post Syndicated from Maggie Burke original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/the-10-most-viewed-security-related-aws-knowledge-center-articles-and-videos-for-november-2017/

AWS Knowledge Center image

The AWS Knowledge Center helps answer the questions most frequently asked by AWS Support customers. The following 10 Knowledge Center security articles and videos have been the most viewed this month. It’s likely you’ve wondered about a few of these topics yourself, so here’s a chance to learn the answers!

  1. How do I create an AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) policy to restrict access for an IAM user, group, or role to a particular Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC)?
    Learn how to apply a custom IAM policy to restrict IAM user, group, or role permissions for creating and managing Amazon EC2 instances in a specified VPC.
  2. How do I use an MFA token to authenticate access to my AWS resources through the AWS CLI?
    One IAM best practice is to protect your account and its resources by using a multi-factor authentication (MFA) device. If you plan use the AWS Command Line Interface (CLI) while using an MFA device, you must create a temporary session token.
  3. Can I restrict an IAM user’s EC2 access to specific resources?
    This article demonstrates how to link multiple AWS accounts through AWS Organizations and isolate IAM user groups in their own accounts.
  4. I didn’t receive a validation email for the SSL certificate I requested through AWS Certificate Manager (ACM)—where is it?
    Can’t find your ACM validation emails? Be sure to check the email address to which you requested that ACM send validation emails.
  5. How do I create an IAM policy that has a source IP restriction but still allows users to switch roles in the AWS Management Console?
    Learn how to write an IAM policy that not only includes a source IP restriction but also lets your users switch roles in the console.
  6. How do I allow users from another account to access resources in my account through IAM?
    If you have the 12-digit account number and permissions to create and edit IAM roles and users for both accounts, you can permit specific IAM users to access resources in your account.
  7. What are the differences between a service control policy (SCP) and an IAM policy?
    Learn how to distinguish an SCP from an IAM policy.
  8. How do I share my customer master keys (CMKs) across multiple AWS accounts?
    To grant another account access to your CMKs, create an IAM policy on the secondary account that grants access to use your CMKs.
  9. How do I set up AWS Trusted Advisor notifications?
    Learn how to receive free weekly email notifications from Trusted Advisor.
  10. How do I use AWS Key Management Service (AWS KMS) encryption context to protect the integrity of encrypted data?
    Encryption context name-value pairs used with AWS KMS encryption and decryption operations provide a method for checking ciphertext authenticity. Learn how to use encryption context to help protect your encrypted data.

The AWS Security Blog will publish an updated version of this list regularly going forward. You also can subscribe to the AWS Knowledge Center Videos playlist on YouTube.

– Maggie

How to Patch, Inspect, and Protect Microsoft Windows Workloads on AWS—Part 2

Post Syndicated from Koen van Blijderveen original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/how-to-patch-inspect-and-protect-microsoft-windows-workloads-on-aws-part-2/

Yesterday in Part 1 of this blog post, I showed you how to:

  1. Launch an Amazon EC2 instance with an AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) role, an Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) volume, and tags that Amazon EC2 Systems Manager (Systems Manager) and Amazon Inspector use.
  2. Configure Systems Manager to install the Amazon Inspector agent and patch your EC2 instances.

Today in Steps 3 and 4, I show you how to:

  1. Take Amazon EBS snapshots using Amazon EBS Snapshot Scheduler to automate snapshots based on instance tags.
  2. Use Amazon Inspector to check if your EC2 instances running Microsoft Windows contain any common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs).

To catch up on Steps 1 and 2, see yesterday’s blog post.

Step 3: Take EBS snapshots using EBS Snapshot Scheduler

In this section, I show you how to use EBS Snapshot Scheduler to take snapshots of your instances at specific intervals. To do this, I will show you how to:

  • Determine the schedule for EBS Snapshot Scheduler by providing you with best practices.
  • Deploy EBS Snapshot Scheduler by using AWS CloudFormation.
  • Tag your EC2 instances so that EBS Snapshot Scheduler backs up your instances when you want them backed up.

In addition to making sure your EC2 instances have all the available operating system patches applied on a regular schedule, you should take snapshots of the EBS storage volumes attached to your EC2 instances. Taking regular snapshots allows you to restore your data to a previous state quickly and cost effectively. With Amazon EBS snapshots, you pay only for the actual data you store, and snapshots save only the data that has changed since the previous snapshot, which minimizes your cost. You will use EBS Snapshot Scheduler to make regular snapshots of your EC2 instance. EBS Snapshot Scheduler takes advantage of other AWS services including CloudFormation, Amazon DynamoDB, and AWS Lambda to make backing up your EBS volumes simple.

Determine the schedule

As a best practice, you should back up your data frequently during the hours when your data changes the most. This reduces the amount of data you lose if you have to restore from a snapshot. For the purposes of this blog post, the data for my instances changes the most between the business hours of 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Pacific Time. During these hours, I will make snapshots hourly to minimize data loss.

In addition to backing up frequently, another best practice is to establish a strategy for retention. This will vary based on how you need to use the snapshots. If you have compliance requirements to be able to restore for auditing, your needs may be different than if you are able to detect data corruption within three hours and simply need to restore to something that limits data loss to five hours. EBS Snapshot Scheduler enables you to specify the retention period for your snapshots. For this post, I only need to keep snapshots for recent business days. To account for weekends, I will set my retention period to three days, which is down from the default of 15 days when deploying EBS Snapshot Scheduler.

Deploy EBS Snapshot Scheduler

In Step 1 of Part 1 of this post, I showed how to configure an EC2 for Windows Server 2012 R2 instance with an EBS volume. You will use EBS Snapshot Scheduler to take eight snapshots each weekday of your EC2 instance’s EBS volumes:

  1. Navigate to the EBS Snapshot Scheduler deployment page and choose Launch Solution. This takes you to the CloudFormation console in your account. The Specify an Amazon S3 template URL option is already selected and prefilled. Choose Next on the Select Template page.
  2. On the Specify Details page, retain all default parameters except for AutoSnapshotDeletion. Set AutoSnapshotDeletion to Yes to ensure that old snapshots are periodically deleted. The default retention period is 15 days (you will specify a shorter value on your instance in the next subsection).
  3. Choose Next twice to move to the Review step, and start deployment by choosing the I acknowledge that AWS CloudFormation might create IAM resources check box and then choosing Create.

Tag your EC2 instances

EBS Snapshot Scheduler takes a few minutes to deploy. While waiting for its deployment, you can start to tag your instance to define its schedule. EBS Snapshot Scheduler reads tag values and looks for four possible custom parameters in the following order:

  • <snapshot time> – Time in 24-hour format with no colon.
  • <retention days> – The number of days (a positive integer) to retain the snapshot before deletion, if set to automatically delete snapshots.
  • <time zone> – The time zone of the times specified in <snapshot time>.
  • <active day(s)>all, weekdays, or mon, tue, wed, thu, fri, sat, and/or sun.

Because you want hourly backups on weekdays between 9:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M. Pacific Time, you need to configure eight tags—one for each hour of the day. You will add the eight tags shown in the following table to your EC2 instance.

Tag Value
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:0900 0900;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1000 1000;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1100 1100;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1200 1200;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1300 1300;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1400 1400;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1500 1500;3;utc;weekdays
scheduler:ebs-snapshot:1600 1600;3;utc;weekdays

Next, you will add these tags to your instance. If you want to tag multiple instances at once, you can use Tag Editor instead. To add the tags in the preceding table to your EC2 instance:

  1. Navigate to your EC2 instance in the EC2 console and choose Tags in the navigation pane.
  2. Choose Add/Edit Tags and then choose Create Tag to add all the tags specified in the preceding table.
  3. Confirm you have added the tags by choosing Save. After adding these tags, navigate to your EC2 instance in the EC2 console. Your EC2 instance should look similar to the following screenshot.
    Screenshot of how your EC2 instance should look in the console
  4. After waiting a couple of hours, you can see snapshots beginning to populate on the Snapshots page of the EC2 console.Screenshot of snapshots beginning to populate on the Snapshots page of the EC2 console
  5. To check if EBS Snapshot Scheduler is active, you can check the CloudWatch rule that runs the Lambda function. If the clock icon shown in the following screenshot is green, the scheduler is active. If the clock icon is gray, the rule is disabled and does not run. You can enable or disable the rule by selecting it, choosing Actions, and choosing Enable or Disable. This also allows you to temporarily disable EBS Snapshot Scheduler.Screenshot of checking to see if EBS Snapshot Scheduler is active
  1. You can also monitor when EBS Snapshot Scheduler has run by choosing the name of the CloudWatch rule as shown in the previous screenshot and choosing Show metrics for the rule.Screenshot of monitoring when EBS Snapshot Scheduler has run by choosing the name of the CloudWatch rule

If you want to restore and attach an EBS volume, see Restoring an Amazon EBS Volume from a Snapshot and Attaching an Amazon EBS Volume to an Instance.

Step 4: Use Amazon Inspector

In this section, I show you how to you use Amazon Inspector to scan your EC2 instance for common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs) and set up Amazon SNS notifications. To do this I will show you how to:

  • Install the Amazon Inspector agent by using EC2 Run Command.
  • Set up notifications using Amazon SNS to notify you of any findings.
  • Define an Amazon Inspector target and template to define what assessment to perform on your EC2 instance.
  • Schedule Amazon Inspector assessment runs to assess your EC2 instance on a regular interval.

Amazon Inspector can help you scan your EC2 instance using prebuilt rules packages, which are built and maintained by AWS. These prebuilt rules packages tell Amazon Inspector what to scan for on the EC2 instances you select. Amazon Inspector provides the following prebuilt packages for Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2:

  • Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures
  • Center for Internet Security Benchmarks
  • Runtime Behavior Analysis

In this post, I’m focused on how to make sure you keep your EC2 instances patched, backed up, and inspected for common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs). As a result, I will focus on how to use the CVE rules package and use your instance tags to identify the instances on which to run the CVE rules. If your EC2 instance is fully patched using Systems Manager, as described earlier, you should not have any findings with the CVE rules package. Regardless, as a best practice I recommend that you use Amazon Inspector as an additional layer for identifying any unexpected failures. This involves using Amazon CloudWatch to set up weekly Amazon Inspector scans, and configuring Amazon Inspector to notify you of any findings through SNS topics. By acting on the notifications you receive, you can respond quickly to any CVEs on any of your EC2 instances to help ensure that malware using known CVEs does not affect your EC2 instances. In a previous blog post, Eric Fitzgerald showed how to remediate Amazon Inspector security findings automatically.

Install the Amazon Inspector agent

To install the Amazon Inspector agent, you will use EC2 Run Command, which allows you to run any command on any of your EC2 instances that have the Systems Manager agent with an attached IAM role that allows access to Systems Manager.

  1. Choose Run Command under Systems Manager Services in the navigation pane of the EC2 console. Then choose Run a command.
    Screenshot of choosing "Run a command"
  2. To install the Amazon Inspector agent, you will use an AWS managed and provided command document that downloads and installs the agent for you on the selected EC2 instance. Choose AmazonInspector-ManageAWSAgent. To choose the target EC2 instance where this command will be run, use the tag you previously assigned to your EC2 instance, Patch Group, with a value of Windows Servers. For this example, set the concurrent installations to 1 and tell Systems Manager to stop after 5 errors.
    Screenshot of installing the Amazon Inspector agent
  3. Retain the default values for all other settings on the Run a command page and choose Run. Back on the Run Command page, you can see if the command that installed the Amazon Inspector agent executed successfully on all selected EC2 instances.
    Screenshot showing that the command that installed the Amazon Inspector agent executed successfully on all selected EC2 instances

Set up notifications using Amazon SNS

Now that you have installed the Amazon Inspector agent, you will set up an SNS topic that will notify you of any findings after an Amazon Inspector run.

To set up an SNS topic:

  1. In the AWS Management Console, choose Simple Notification Service under Messaging in the Services menu.
  2. Choose Create topic, name your topic (only alphanumeric characters, hyphens, and underscores are allowed) and give it a display name to ensure you know what this topic does (I’ve named mine Inspector). Choose Create topic.
    "Create new topic" page
  3. To allow Amazon Inspector to publish messages to your new topic, choose Other topic actions and choose Edit topic policy.
  4. For Allow these users to publish messages to this topic and Allow these users to subscribe to this topic, choose Only these AWS users. Type the following ARN for the US East (N. Virginia) Region in which you are deploying the solution in this post: arn:aws:iam::316112463485:root. This is the ARN of Amazon Inspector itself. For the ARNs of Amazon Inspector in other AWS Regions, see Setting Up an SNS Topic for Amazon Inspector Notifications (Console). Amazon Resource Names (ARNs) uniquely identify AWS resources across all of AWS.
    Screenshot of editing the topic policy
  5. To receive notifications from Amazon Inspector, subscribe to your new topic by choosing Create subscription and adding your email address. After confirming your subscription by clicking the link in the email, the topic should display your email address as a subscriber. Later, you will configure the Amazon Inspector template to publish to this topic.
    Screenshot of subscribing to the new topic

Define an Amazon Inspector target and template

Now that you have set up the notification topic by which Amazon Inspector can notify you of findings, you can create an Amazon Inspector target and template. A target defines which EC2 instances are in scope for Amazon Inspector. A template defines which packages to run, for how long, and on which target.

To create an Amazon Inspector target:

  1. Navigate to the Amazon Inspector console and choose Get started. At the time of writing this blog post, Amazon Inspector is available in the US East (N. Virginia), US West (N. California), US West (Oregon), EU (Ireland), Asia Pacific (Mumbai), Asia Pacific (Seoul), Asia Pacific (Sydney), and Asia Pacific (Tokyo) Regions.
  2. For Amazon Inspector to be able to collect the necessary data from your EC2 instance, you must create an IAM service role for Amazon Inspector. Amazon Inspector can create this role for you if you choose Choose or create role and confirm the role creation by choosing Allow.
    Screenshot of creating an IAM service role for Amazon Inspector
  3. Amazon Inspector also asks you to tag your EC2 instance and install the Amazon Inspector agent. You already performed these steps in Part 1 of this post, so you can proceed by choosing Next. To define the Amazon Inspector target, choose the previously used Patch Group tag with a Value of Windows Servers. This is the same tag that you used to define the targets for patching. Then choose Next.
    Screenshot of defining the Amazon Inspector target
  4. Now, define your Amazon Inspector template, and choose a name and the package you want to run. For this post, use the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures package and choose the default duration of 1 hour. As you can see, the package has a version number, so always select the latest version of the rules package if multiple versions are available.
    Screenshot of defining an assessment template
  5. Configure Amazon Inspector to publish to your SNS topic when findings are reported. You can also choose to receive a notification of a started run, a finished run, or changes in the state of a run. For this blog post, you want to receive notifications if there are any findings. To start, choose Assessment Templates from the Amazon Inspector console and choose your newly created Amazon Inspector assessment template. Choose the icon below SNS topics (see the following screenshot).
    Screenshot of choosing an assessment template
  6. A pop-up appears in which you can choose the previously created topic and the events about which you want SNS to notify you (choose Finding reported).
    Screenshot of choosing the previously created topic and the events about which you want SNS to notify you

Schedule Amazon Inspector assessment runs

The last step in using Amazon Inspector to assess for CVEs is to schedule the Amazon Inspector template to run using Amazon CloudWatch Events. This will make sure that Amazon Inspector assesses your EC2 instance on a regular basis. To do this, you need the Amazon Inspector template ARN, which you can find under Assessment templates in the Amazon Inspector console. CloudWatch Events can run your Amazon Inspector assessment at an interval you define using a Cron-based schedule. Cron is a well-known scheduling agent that is widely used on UNIX-like operating systems and uses the following syntax for CloudWatch Events.

Image of Cron schedule

All scheduled events use a UTC time zone, and the minimum precision for schedules is one minute. For more information about scheduling CloudWatch Events, see Schedule Expressions for Rules.

To create the CloudWatch Events rule:

  1. Navigate to the CloudWatch console, choose Events, and choose Create rule.
    Screenshot of starting to create a rule in the CloudWatch Events console
  2. On the next page, specify if you want to invoke your rule based on an event pattern or a schedule. For this blog post, you will select a schedule based on a Cron expression.
  3. You can schedule the Amazon Inspector assessment any time you want using the Cron expression, or you can use the Cron expression I used in the following screenshot, which will run the Amazon Inspector assessment every Sunday at 10:00 P.M. GMT.
    Screenshot of scheduling an Amazon Inspector assessment with a Cron expression
  4. Choose Add target and choose Inspector assessment template from the drop-down menu. Paste the ARN of the Amazon Inspector template you previously created in the Amazon Inspector console in the Assessment template box and choose Create a new role for this specific resource. This new role is necessary so that CloudWatch Events has the necessary permissions to start the Amazon Inspector assessment. CloudWatch Events will automatically create the new role and grant the minimum set of permissions needed to run the Amazon Inspector assessment. To proceed, choose Configure details.
    Screenshot of adding a target
  5. Next, give your rule a name and a description. I suggest using a name that describes what the rule does, as shown in the following screenshot.
  6. Finish the wizard by choosing Create rule. The rule should appear in the Events – Rules section of the CloudWatch console.
    Screenshot of completing the creation of the rule
  7. To confirm your CloudWatch Events rule works, wait for the next time your CloudWatch Events rule is scheduled to run. For testing purposes, you can choose your CloudWatch Events rule and choose Edit to change the schedule to run it sooner than scheduled.
    Screenshot of confirming the CloudWatch Events rule works
  8. Now navigate to the Amazon Inspector console to confirm the launch of your first assessment run. The Start time column shows you the time each assessment started and the Status column the status of your assessment. In the following screenshot, you can see Amazon Inspector is busy Collecting data from the selected assessment targets.
    Screenshot of confirming the launch of the first assessment run

You have concluded the last step of this blog post by setting up a regular scan of your EC2 instance with Amazon Inspector and a notification that will let you know if your EC2 instance is vulnerable to any known CVEs. In a previous Security Blog post, Eric Fitzgerald explained How to Remediate Amazon Inspector Security Findings Automatically. Although that blog post is for Linux-based EC2 instances, the post shows that you can learn about Amazon Inspector findings in other ways than email alerts.

Conclusion

In this two-part blog post, I showed how to make sure you keep your EC2 instances up to date with patching, how to back up your instances with snapshots, and how to monitor your instances for CVEs. Collectively these measures help to protect your instances against common attack vectors that attempt to exploit known vulnerabilities. In Part 1, I showed how to configure your EC2 instances to make it easy to use Systems Manager, EBS Snapshot Scheduler, and Amazon Inspector. I also showed how to use Systems Manager to schedule automatic patches to keep your instances current in a timely fashion. In Part 2, I showed you how to take regular snapshots of your data by using EBS Snapshot Scheduler and how to use Amazon Inspector to check if your EC2 instances running Microsoft Windows contain any common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs).

If you have comments about today’s or yesterday’s post, submit them in the “Comments” section below. If you have questions about or issues implementing any part of this solution, start a new thread on the Amazon EC2 forum or the Amazon Inspector forum, or contact AWS Support.

– Koen

What do you want your button to do?

Post Syndicated from Carrie Anne Philbin original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/button/

Here at Raspberry Pi, we know that getting physical with computing is often a catalyst for creativity. Building a simple circuit can open up a world of making possibilities! This ethos of tinkering and invention is also being used in the classroom to inspire a whole new generation of makers too, and here is why.

The all-important question

Physical computing provides a great opportunity for creative expression: the button press! By explaining how a button works, how to build one with a breadboard attached to computer, and how to program the button to work when it’s pressed, you can give learners young and old all the conceptual skills they need to build a thing that does something. But what do they want their button to do? Have you ever asked your students or children at home? I promise it will be one of the most mindblowing experiences you’ll have if you do.

A button. A harmless, little arcade button.

Looks harmless now, but put it into the hands of a child and see what happens!

Amy will want her button to take a photo, Charlie will want his button to play a sound, Tumi will want her button to explode TNT in Minecraft, Jack will want their button to fire confetti out of a cannon, and James Robinson will want his to trigger silly noises (doesn’t he always?)! Idea generation is the inherent gift that every child has in abundance. As educators and parents, we’re always looking to deeply engage our young people in the subject matter we’re teaching, and they are never more engaged than when they have an idea and want to implement it. Way back in 2012, I wanted my button to print geeky sayings:

Geek Gurl Diaries Raspberry Pi Thermal Printer Project Sneak Peek!

A sneak peek at the finished Geek Gurl Diaries ‘Box of Geek’. I’ve been busy making this for a few weeks with some help from friends. Tutorial to make your own box coming soon, so keep checking the Geek Gurl Diaries Twitter, facebook page and channel.

What are the challenges for this approach in education?

Allowing this kind of free-form creativity and tinkering in the classroom obviously has its challenges for teachers, especially those confined to rigid lesson structures, timings, and small classrooms. The most common worry I hear from teachers is “what if they ask a question I can’t answer?” Encouraging this sort of creative thinking makes that almost an inevitability. How can you facilitate roughly 30 different projects simultaneously? The answer is by using those other computational and transferable thinking skills:

  • Problem-solving
  • Iteration
  • Collaboration
  • Evaluation

Clearly specifying a problem, surveying the tools available to solve it (including online references and external advice), and then applying them to solve the problem is a hugely important skill, and this is a great opportunity to teach it.

A girl plays a button reaction game at a Raspberry Pi event

Press ALL the buttons!

Hands-off guidance

When we train teachers at Picademy, we group attendees around themes that have come out of the idea generation session. Together they collaborate on an achievable shared goal. One will often sketch something on a whiteboard, decomposing the problem into smaller parts; then the group will divide up the tasks. Each will look online or in books for tutorials to help them with their step. I’ve seen this behaviour in student groups too, and it’s very easy to facilitate. You don’t need to be the resident expert on every project that students want to work on.

The key is knowing where to guide students to find the answers they need. Curating online videos, blogs, tutorials, and articles in advance gives you the freedom and confidence to concentrate on what matters: the learning. We have a number of physical computing projects that use buttons, linked to our curriculum for learners to combine inputs and outputs to solve a problem. The WhooPi cushion and GPIO music box are two of my favourites.

A Raspberry Pi and button attached to a computer display

Outside of formal education, events such as Raspberry Jams, CoderDojos, CAS Hubs, and hackathons are ideal venues for seeking and receiving support and advice.

Cross-curricular participation

The rise of the global maker movement, I think, is in response to abstract concepts and disciplines. Children are taught lots of concepts in isolation that aren’t always relevant to their lives or immediate environment. Digital making provides a unique and exciting way of bridging different subject areas, allowing for cross-curricular participation. I’m not suggesting that educators should throw away all their schemes of work and leave the full direction of the computing curriculum to students. However, there’s huge value in exposing learners to the possibilities for creativity in computing. Creative freedom and expression guide learning, better preparing young people for the workplace of tomorrow.

So…what do you want your button to do?

Hello World

Learn more about today’s subject, and read further articles regarding computer science in education, in Hello World magazine issue 1.

Read Hello World issue 1 for more…

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