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Ransomware Update: Viruses Targeting Business IT Servers

Post Syndicated from Roderick Bauer original https://www.backblaze.com/blog/ransomware-update-viruses-targeting-business-it-servers/

Ransomware warning message on computer

As ransomware attacks have grown in number in recent months, the tactics and attack vectors also have evolved. While the primary method of attack used to be to target individual computer users within organizations with phishing emails and infected attachments, we’re increasingly seeing attacks that target weaknesses in businesses’ IT infrastructure.

How Ransomware Attacks Typically Work

In our previous posts on ransomware, we described the common vehicles used by hackers to infect organizations with ransomware viruses. Most often, downloaders distribute trojan horses through malicious downloads and spam emails. The emails contain a variety of file attachments, which if opened, will download and run one of the many ransomware variants. Once a user’s computer is infected with a malicious downloader, it will retrieve additional malware, which frequently includes crypto-ransomware. After the files have been encrypted, a ransom payment is demanded of the victim in order to decrypt the files.

What’s Changed With the Latest Ransomware Attacks?

In 2016, a customized ransomware strain called SamSam began attacking the servers in primarily health care institutions. SamSam, unlike more conventional ransomware, is not delivered through downloads or phishing emails. Instead, the attackers behind SamSam use tools to identify unpatched servers running Red Hat’s JBoss enterprise products. Once the attackers have successfully gained entry into one of these servers by exploiting vulnerabilities in JBoss, they use other freely available tools and scripts to collect credentials and gather information on networked computers. Then they deploy their ransomware to encrypt files on these systems before demanding a ransom. Gaining entry to an organization through its IT center rather than its endpoints makes this approach scalable and especially unsettling.

SamSam’s methodology is to scour the Internet searching for accessible and vulnerable JBoss application servers, especially ones used by hospitals. It’s not unlike a burglar rattling doorknobs in a neighborhood to find unlocked homes. When SamSam finds an unlocked home (unpatched server), the software infiltrates the system. It is then free to spread across the company’s network by stealing passwords. As it transverses the network and systems, it encrypts files, preventing access until the victims pay the hackers a ransom, typically between $10,000 and $15,000. The low ransom amount has encouraged some victimized organizations to pay the ransom rather than incur the downtime required to wipe and reinitialize their IT systems.

The success of SamSam is due to its effectiveness rather than its sophistication. SamSam can enter and transverse a network without human intervention. Some organizations are learning too late that securing internet-facing services in their data center from attack is just as important as securing endpoints.

The typical steps in a SamSam ransomware attack are:

1
Attackers gain access to vulnerable server
Attackers exploit vulnerable software or weak/stolen credentials.
2
Attack spreads via remote access tools
Attackers harvest credentials, create SOCKS proxies to tunnel traffic, and abuse RDP to install SamSam on more computers in the network.
3
Ransomware payload deployed
Attackers run batch scripts to execute ransomware on compromised machines.
4
Ransomware demand delivered requiring payment to decrypt files
Demand amounts vary from victim to victim. Relatively low ransom amounts appear to be designed to encourage quick payment decisions.

What all the organizations successfully exploited by SamSam have in common is that they were running unpatched servers that made them vulnerable to SamSam. Some organizations had their endpoints and servers backed up, while others did not. Some of those without backups they could use to recover their systems chose to pay the ransom money.

Timeline of SamSam History and Exploits

Since its appearance in 2016, SamSam has been in the news with many successful incursions into healthcare, business, and government institutions.

March 2016
SamSam appears

SamSam campaign targets vulnerable JBoss servers
Attackers hone in on healthcare organizations specifically, as they’re more likely to have unpatched JBoss machines.

April 2016
SamSam finds new targets

SamSam begins targeting schools and government.
After initial success targeting healthcare, attackers branch out to other sectors.

April 2017
New tactics include RDP

Attackers shift to targeting organizations with exposed RDP connections, and maintain focus on healthcare.
An attack on Erie County Medical Center costs the hospital $10 million over three months of recovery.
Erie County Medical Center attacked by SamSam ransomware virus

January 2018
Municipalities attacked

• Attack on Municipality of Farmington, NM.
• Attack on Hancock Health.
Hancock Regional Hospital notice following SamSam attack
• Attack on Adams Memorial Hospital
• Attack on Allscripts (Electronic Health Records), which includes 180,000 physicians, 2,500 hospitals, and 7.2 million patients’ health records.

February 2018
Attack volume increases

• Attack on Davidson County, NC.
• Attack on Colorado Department of Transportation.
SamSam virus notification

March 2018
SamSam shuts down Atlanta

• Second attack on Colorado Department of Transportation.
• City of Atlanta suffers a devastating attack by SamSam.
The attack has far-reaching impacts — crippling the court system, keeping residents from paying their water bills, limiting vital communications like sewer infrastructure requests, and pushing the Atlanta Police Department to file paper reports.
Atlanta Ransomware outage alert
• SamSam campaign nets $325,000 in 4 weeks.
Infections spike as attackers launch new campaigns. Healthcare and government organizations are once again the primary targets.

How to Defend Against SamSam and Other Ransomware Attacks

The best way to respond to a ransomware attack is to avoid having one in the first place. If you are attacked, making sure your valuable data is backed up and unreachable by ransomware infection will ensure that your downtime and data loss will be minimal or none if you ever suffer an attack.

In our previous post, How to Recover From Ransomware, we listed the ten ways to protect your organization from ransomware.

  1. Use anti-virus and anti-malware software or other security policies to block known payloads from launching.
  2. Make frequent, comprehensive backups of all important files and isolate them from local and open networks. Cybersecurity professionals view data backup and recovery (74% in a recent survey) by far as the most effective solution to respond to a successful ransomware attack.
  3. Keep offline backups of data stored in locations inaccessible from any potentially infected computer, such as disconnected external storage drives or the cloud, which prevents them from being accessed by the ransomware.
  4. Install the latest security updates issued by software vendors of your OS and applications. Remember to patch early and patch often to close known vulnerabilities in operating systems, server software, browsers, and web plugins.
  5. Consider deploying security software to protect endpoints, email servers, and network systems from infection.
  6. Exercise cyber hygiene, such as using caution when opening email attachments and links.
  7. Segment your networks to keep critical computers isolated and to prevent the spread of malware in case of attack. Turn off unneeded network shares.
  8. Turn off admin rights for users who don’t require them. Give users the lowest system permissions they need to do their work.
  9. Restrict write permissions on file servers as much as possible.
  10. Educate yourself, your employees, and your family in best practices to keep malware out of your systems. Update everyone on the latest email phishing scams and human engineering aimed at turning victims into abettors.

Please Tell Us About Your Experiences with Ransomware

Have you endured a ransomware attack or have a strategy to avoid becoming a victim? Please tell us of your experiences in the comments.

The post Ransomware Update: Viruses Targeting Business IT Servers appeared first on Backblaze Blog | Cloud Storage & Cloud Backup.

Congratulations to Oracle on MySQL 8.0

Post Syndicated from Michael "Monty" Widenius original http://monty-says.blogspot.com/2018/04/congratulations-to-oracle-on-mysql-80.html

Last week, Oracle announced the general availability of MySQL 8.0. This is good news for database users, as it means Oracle is still developing MySQL.

I decide to celebrate the event by doing a quick test of MySQL 8.0. Here follows a step-by-step description of my first experience with MySQL 8.0.
Note that I did the following without reading the release notes, as is what I have done with every MySQL / MariaDB release up to date; In this case it was not the right thing to do.

I pulled MySQL 8.0 from [email protected]:mysql/mysql-server.git
I was pleasantly surprised that ‘cmake . ; make‘ worked without without any compiler warnings! I even checked the used compiler options and noticed that MySQL was compiled with -Wall + several other warning flags. Good job MySQL team!

I did have a little trouble finding the mysqld binary as Oracle had moved it to ‘runtime_output_directory’; Unexpected, but no big thing.

Now it’s was time to install MySQL 8.0.

I did know that MySQL 8.0 has removed mysql_install_db, so I had to use the mysqld binary directly to install the default databases:
(I have specified datadir=/my/data3 in the /tmp/my.cnf file)

> cd runtime_output_directory
> mkdir /my/data3
> ./mysqld –defaults-file=/tmp/my.cnf –install

2018-04-22T12:38:18.332967Z 1 [ERROR] [MY-011011] [Server] Failed to find valid data directory.
2018-04-22T12:38:18.333109Z 0 [ERROR] [MY-010020] [Server] Data Dictionary initialization failed.
2018-04-22T12:38:18.333135Z 0 [ERROR] [MY-010119] [Server] Aborting

A quick look in mysqld –help –verbose output showed that the right command option is –-initialize. My bad, lets try again,

> ./mysqld –defaults-file=/tmp/my.cnf –initialize

2018-04-22T12:39:31.910509Z 0 [ERROR] [MY-010457] [Server] –initialize specified but the data directory has files in it. Aborting.
2018-04-22T12:39:31.910578Z 0 [ERROR] [MY-010119] [Server] Aborting

Now I used the right options, but still didn’t work.
I took a quick look around:

> ls /my/data3/
binlog.index

So even if the mysqld noticed that the data3 directory was wrong, it still wrote things into it.  This even if I didn’t have –log-binlog enabled in the my.cnf file. Strange, but easy to fix:

> rm /my/data3/binlog.index
> ./mysqld –defaults-file=/tmp/my.cnf –initialize

2018-04-22T12:40:45.633637Z 0 [ERROR] [MY-011071] [Server] unknown variable ‘max-tmp-tables=100’
2018-04-22T12:40:45.633657Z 0 [Warning] [MY-010952] [Server] The privilege system failed to initialize correctly. If you have upgraded your server, make sure you’re executing mysql_upgrade to correct the issue.
2018-04-22T12:40:45.633663Z 0 [ERROR] [MY-010119] [Server] Aborting

The warning about the privilege system confused me a bit, but I ignored it for the time being and removed from my configuration files the variables that MySQL 8.0 doesn’t support anymore. I couldn’t find a list of the removed variables anywhere so this was done with the trial and error method.

> ./mysqld –defaults-file=/tmp/my.cnf

2018-04-22T12:42:56.626583Z 0 [ERROR] [MY-010735] [Server] Can’t open the mysql.plugin table. Please run mysql_upgrade to create it.
2018-04-22T12:42:56.827685Z 0 [Warning] [MY-010015] [Repl] Gtid table is not ready to be used. Table ‘mysql.gtid_executed’ cannot be opened.
2018-04-22T12:42:56.838501Z 0 [Warning] [MY-010068] [Server] CA certificate ca.pem is self signed.
2018-04-22T12:42:56.848375Z 0 [Warning] [MY-010441] [Server] Failed to open optimizer cost constant tables
2018-04-22T12:42:56.848863Z 0 [ERROR] [MY-013129] [Server] A message intended for a client cannot be sent there as no client-session is attached. Therefore, we’re sending the information to the error-log instead: MY-001146 – Table ‘mysql.component’ doesn’t exist
2018-04-22T12:42:56.848916Z 0 [Warning] [MY-013129] [Server] A message intended for a client cannot be sent there as no client-session is attached. Therefore, we’re sending the information to the error-log instead: MY-003543 – The mysql.component table is missing or has an incorrect definition.
….
2018-04-22T12:42:56.854141Z 0 [System] [MY-010931] [Server] /home/my/mysql-8.0/runtime_output_directory/mysqld: ready for connections. Version: ‘8.0.11’ socket: ‘/tmp/mysql.sock’ port: 3306 Source distribution.

I figured out that if there is a single wrong variable in the configuration file, running mysqld –initialize will leave the database in an inconsistent state. NOT GOOD! I am happy I didn’t try this in a production system!

Time to start over from the beginning:

> rm -r /my/data3/*
> ./mysqld –defaults-file=/tmp/my.cnf –initialize

2018-04-22T12:44:45.548960Z 5 [Note] [MY-010454] [Server] A temporary password is generated for [email protected]: px)NaaSp?6um
2018-04-22T12:44:51.221751Z 0 [System] [MY-013170] [Server] /home/my/mysql-8.0/runtime_output_directory/mysqld (mysqld 8.0.11) initializing of server has completed

Success!

I wonder why the temporary password is so complex; It could easily have been something that one could easily remember without decreasing security, it’s temporary after all. No big deal, one can always paste it from the logs. (Side note: MariaDB uses socket authentication on many system and thus doesn’t need temporary installation passwords).

Now lets start the MySQL server for real to do some testing:

> ./mysqld –defaults-file=/tmp/my.cnf

2018-04-22T12:45:43.683484Z 0 [System] [MY-010931] [Server] /home/my/mysql-8.0/runtime_output_directory/mysqld: ready for connections. Version: ‘8.0.11’ socket: ‘/tmp/mysql.sock’ port: 3306 Source distribution.

And the lets start the client:

> ./client/mysql –socket=/tmp/mysql.sock –user=root –password=”px)NaaSp?6um”
ERROR 2059 (HY000): Plugin caching_sha2_password could not be loaded: /usr/local/mysql/lib/plugin/caching_sha2_password.so: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

Apparently MySQL 8.0 doesn’t work with old MySQL / MariaDB clients by default 🙁

I was testing this in a system with MariaDB installed, like all modern Linux system today, and didn’t want to use the MySQL clients or libraries.

I decided to try to fix this by changing the authentication to the native (original) MySQL authentication method.

> mysqld –skip-grant-tables

> ./client/mysql –socket=/tmp/mysql.sock –user=root
ERROR 1045 (28000): Access denied for user ‘root’@’localhost’ (using password: NO)

Apparently –skip-grant-tables is not good enough anymore. Let’s try again with:

> mysqld –skip-grant-tables –default_authentication_plugin=mysql_native_password

> ./client/mysql –socket=/tmp/mysql.sock –user=root mysql
Welcome to the MariaDB monitor. Commands end with ; or \g.
Your MySQL connection id is 7
Server version: 8.0.11 Source distribution

Great, we are getting somewhere, now lets fix “root”  to work with the old authenticaion:

MySQL [mysql]> update mysql.user set plugin=”mysql_native_password”,authentication_string=password(“test”) where user=”root”;
ERROR 1064 (42000): You have an error in your SQL syntax; check the manual that corresponds to your MySQL server version for the right syntax to use near ‘(“test”) where user=”root”‘ at line 1

A quick look in the MySQL 8.0 release notes told me that the PASSWORD() function is removed in 8.0. Why???? I don’t know how one in MySQL 8.0 is supposed to generate passwords compatible with old installations of MySQL. One could of course start an old MySQL or MariaDB version, execute the password() function and copy the result.

I decided to fix this the easy way and use an empty password:

(Update:: I later discovered that the right way would have been to use: FLUSH PRIVILEGES;  ALTER USER’ root’@’localhost’ identified by ‘test’  ; I however dislike this syntax as it has the password in clear text which is easy to grab and the command can’t be used to easily update the mysql.user table. One must also disable the –skip-grant mode to do use this)

MySQL [mysql]> update mysql.user set plugin=”mysql_native_password”,authentication_string=”” where user=”root”;
Query OK, 1 row affected (0.077 sec)
Rows matched: 1 Changed: 1 Warnings: 0
 
I restarted mysqld:
> mysqld –default_authentication_plugin=mysql_native_password

> ./client/mysql –user=root –password=”” mysql
ERROR 1862 (HY000): Your password has expired. To log in you must change it using a client that supports expired passwords.

Ouch, forgot that. Lets try again:

> mysqld –skip-grant-tables –default_authentication_plugin=mysql_native_password

> ./client/mysql –user=root –password=”” mysql
MySQL [mysql]> update mysql.user set password_expired=”N” where user=”root”;

Now restart and test worked:

> ./mysqld –default_authentication_plugin=mysql_native_password

>./client/mysql –user=root –password=”” mysql

Finally I had a working account that I can use to create other users!

When looking at mysqld –help –verbose again. I noticed the option:

–initialize-insecure
Create the default database and exit. Create a super user
with empty password.

I decided to check if this would have made things easier:

> rm -r /my/data3/*
> ./mysqld –defaults-file=/tmp/my.cnf –initialize-insecure

2018-04-22T13:18:06.629548Z 5 [Warning] [MY-010453] [Server] [email protected] is created with an empty password ! Please consider switching off the –initialize-insecure option.

Hm. Don’t understand the warning as–initialize-insecure is not an option that one would use more than one time and thus nothing one would ‘switch off’.

> ./mysqld –defaults-file=/tmp/my.cnf

> ./client/mysql –user=root –password=”” mysql
ERROR 2059 (HY000): Plugin caching_sha2_password could not be loaded: /usr/local/mysql/lib/plugin/caching_sha2_password.so: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

Back to the beginning 🙁

To get things to work with old clients, one has to initialize the database with:
> ./mysqld –defaults-file=/tmp/my.cnf –initialize-insecure –default_authentication_plugin=mysql_native_password

Now I finally had MySQL 8.0 up and running and thought I would take it up for a spin by running the “standard” MySQL/MariaDB sql-bench test suite. This was removed in MySQL 5.7, but as I happened to have MariaDB 10.3 installed, I decided to run it from there.

sql-bench is a single threaded benchmark that measures the “raw” speed for some common operations. It gives you the ‘maximum’ performance for a single query. Its different from other benchmarks that measures the maximum throughput when you have a lot of users, but sql-bench still tells you a lot about what kind of performance to expect from the database.

I tried first to be clever and create the “test” database, that I needed for sql-bench, with
> mkdir /my/data3/test

but when I tried to run the benchmark, MySQL 8.0 complained that the test database didn’t exist.

MySQL 8.0 has gone away from the original concept of MySQL where the user can easily
create directories and copy databases into the database directory. This may have serious
implication for anyone doing backup of databases and/or trying to restore a backup with normal OS commands.

I created the ‘test’ database with mysqladmin and then tried to run sql-bench:

> ./run-all-tests –user=root

The first run failed in test-ATIS:

Can’t execute command ‘create table class_of_service (class_code char(2) NOT NULL,rank tinyint(2) NOT NULL,class_description char(80) NOT NULL,PRIMARY KEY (class_code))’
Error: You have an error in your SQL syntax; check the manual that corresponds to your MySQL server version for the right syntax to use near ‘rank tinyint(2) NOT NULL,class_description char(80) NOT NULL,PRIMARY KEY (class_’ at line 1

This happened because ‘rank‘ is now a reserved word in MySQL 8.0. This is also reserved in ANSI SQL, but I don’t know of any other database that has failed to run test-ATIS before. I have in the past run it against Oracle, PostgreSQL, Mimer, MSSQL etc without any problems.

MariaDB also has ‘rank’ as a keyword in 10.2 and 10.3 but one can still use it as an identifier.

I fixed test-ATIS and then managed to run all tests on MySQL 8.0.

I did run the test both with MySQL 8.0 and MariaDB 10.3 with the InnoDB storage engine and by having identical values for all InnoDB variables, table-definition-cache and table-open-cache. I turned off performance schema for both databases. All test are run with a user without an empty password (to keep things comparable and because it’s was too complex to generate a password in MySQL 8.0)

The result are as follows
Results per test in seconds:

Operation         |MariaDB|MySQL-8|

———————————–
ATIS              | 153.00| 228.00|
alter-table       |  92.00| 792.00|
big-tables        | 990.00|2079.00|
connect           | 186.00| 227.00|
create            | 575.00|4465.00|
insert            |4552.00|8458.00|
select            | 333.00| 412.00|
table-elimination |1900.00|3916.00|
wisconsin         | 272.00| 590.00|
———————————–

This is of course just a first view of the performance of MySQL 8.0 in a single user environment. Some reflections about the results:

  • Alter-table test is slower (as expected) in 8.0 as some of the alter tests benefits of the instant add column in MariaDB 10.3.
  • connect test is also better for MariaDB as we put a lot of efforts to speed this up in MariaDB 10.2
  • table-elimination shows an optimization in MariaDB for the  Anchor table model, which MySQL doesn’t have.
  • CREATE and DROP TABLE is almost 8 times slower in MySQL 8.0 than in MariaDB 10.3. I assume this is the cost of ‘atomic DDL’. This may also cause performance problems for any thread using the data dictionary when another thread is creating/dropping tables.
  • When looking at the individual test results, MySQL 8.0 was slower in almost every test, in many significantly slower.
  • The only test where MySQL was faster was “update_with_key_prefix”. I checked this and noticed that there was a bug in the test and the columns was updated to it’s original value (which should be instant with any storage engine). This is an old bug that MySQL has found and fixed and that we have not been aware of in the test or in MariaDB.
  • While writing this, I noticed that MySQL 8.0 is now using utf8mb4 as the default character set instead of latin1. This may affect some of the benchmarks slightly (not much as most tests works with numbers and Oracle claims that utf8mb4 is only 20% slower than latin1), but needs to be verified.
  • Oracle claims that MySQL 8.0 is much faster on multi user benchmarks. The above test indicates that they may have done this by sacrificing single user performance.
  •  We need to do more and many different benchmarks to better understand exactly what is going on. Stay tuned!

Short summary of my first run with MySQL 8.0:

  • Using the new caching_sha2_password authentication as default for new installation is likely to cause a lot of problems for users. No old application will be able to use MySQL 8.0, installed with default options, without moving to MySQL’s client libraries. While working on this blog I saw MySQL users complain on IRC that not even MySQL Worklog can authenticate with MySQL 8.0. This is the first time in MySQL’s history where such an incompatible change has ever been done!
  • Atomic DDL is a good thing (We plan to have this in MariaDB 10.4), but it should not have such a drastic impact on performance. I am also a bit skeptical of MySQL 8.0 having just one copy of the data dictionary as if this gets corrupted you will lose all your data. (Single point of failure)
  • MySQL 8.0 has several new reserved words and has removed a lot of variables, which makes upgrades hard. Before upgrading to MySQL 8.0 one has to check all one’s databases and applications to ensure that there are no conflicts.
  • As my test above shows, if you have a single deprecated variable in your configuration files, the installation of MySQL will abort and can leave the database in inconsistent state. I did of course my tests by installing into an empty data dictionary, but one can assume that some of the problems may also happen when upgrading an old installation.

Conclusions:
In many ways, MySQL 8.0 has caught up with some earlier versions of MariaDB. For instance, in MariaDB 10.0, we introduced roles (four years ago). In MariaDB 10.1, we introduced encrypted redo/undo logs (three years ago). In MariaDB 10.2, we introduced window functions and CTEs (a year ago). However, some catch-up of MariaDB Server 10.2 features still remains for MySQL (such as check constraints, binlog compression, and log-based rollback).

MySQL 8.0 has a few new interesting features (mostly Atomic DDL and JSON TABLE functions), but at the same time MySQL has strayed away from some of the fundamental corner stone principles of MySQL:

From the start of the first version of MySQL in 1995, all development has been focused around 3 core principles:

  • Ease of use
  • Performance
  • Stability

With MySQL 8.0, Oracle has sacrifices 2 of 3 of these.

In addition (as part of ease of use), while I was working on MySQL, we did our best to ensure that the following should hold:

  • Upgrades should be trivial
  • Things should be kept compatible, if possible (don’t remove features/options/functions that are used)
  • Minimize reserved words, don’t remove server variables
  • One should be able to use normal OS commands to create and drop databases, copy and move tables around within the same system or between different systems. With 8.0 and data dictionary taking backups of specific tables will be hard, even if the server is not running.
  • mysqldump should always be usable backups and to move to new releases
  • Old clients and application should be able to use ‘any’ MySQL server version unchanged. (Some Oracle client libraries, like C++, by default only supports the new X protocol and can thus not be used with older MySQL or any MariaDB version)

We plan to add a data dictionary to MariaDB 10.4 or MariaDB 10.5, but in a way to not sacrifice any of the above principles!

The competition between MySQL and MariaDB is not just about a tactical arms race on features. It’s about design philosophy, or strategic vision, if you will.

This shows in two main ways: our respective view of the Storage Engine structure, and of the top-level direction of the roadmap.

On the Storage Engine side, MySQL is converging on InnoDB, even for clustering and partitioning. In doing so, they are abandoning the advantages of multiple ways of storing data. By contrast, MariaDB sees lots of value in the Storage Engine architecture: MariaDB Server 10.3 will see the general availability of MyRocks (for write-intensive workloads) and Spider (for scalable workloads). On top of that, we have ColumnStore for analytical workloads. One can use the CONNECT engine to join with other databases. The use of different storage engines for different workloads and different hardware is a competitive differentiator, now more than ever.

On the roadmap side, MySQL is carefully steering clear of features that close the gap between MySQL and Oracle. MariaDB has no such constraints. With MariaDB 10.3, we are introducing PL/SQL compatibility (Oracle’s stored procedures) and AS OF (built-in system versioned tables with point-in-time querying). For both of those features, MariaDB is the first Open Source database doing so. I don’t except Oracle to provide any of the above features in MySQL!

Also on the roadmap side, MySQL is not working with the ecosystem in extending the functionality. In 2017, MariaDB accepted more code contributions in one year, than MySQL has done during its entire lifetime, and the rate is increasing!

I am sure that the experience I had with testing MySQL 8.0 would have been significantly better if MySQL would have an open development model where the community could easily participate in developing and testing MySQL continuously. Most of the confusing error messages and strange behavior would have been found and fixed long before the GA release.

Before upgrading to MySQL 8.0 please read https://dev.mysql.com/doc/refman/8.0/en/upgrading-from-previous-series.html to see what problems you can run into! Don’t expect that old installations or applications will work out of the box without testing as a lot of features and options has been removed (query cache, partition of myisam tables etc)! You probably also have to revise your backup methods, especially if you want to ever restore just a few tables. (With 8.0, I don’t know how this can be easily done).

According to the MySQL 8.0 release notes, one can’t use mysqldump to copy a database to MySQL 8.0. One has to first to move to a MySQL 5.7 GA version (with mysqldump, as recommended by Oracle) and then to MySQL 8.0 with in-place update. I assume this means that all old mysqldump backups are useless for MySQL 8.0?

MySQL 8.0 seams to be a one way street to an unknown future. Up to MySQL 5.7 it has been trivial to move to MariaDB and one could always move back to MySQL with mysqldump. All MySQL client libraries has worked with MariaDB and all MariaDB client libraries has worked with MySQL. With MySQL 8.0 this has changed in the wrong direction.

As long as you are using MySQL 5.7 and below you have choices for your future, after MySQL 8.0 you have very little choice. But don’t despair, as MariaDB will always be able to load a mysqldump file and it’s very easy to upgrade your old MySQL installation to MariaDB 🙂

I wish you good luck to try MySQL 8.0 (and also the upcoming MariaDB 10.3)!

snallygaster – Scan For Secret Files On HTTP Servers

Post Syndicated from Darknet original https://www.darknet.org.uk/2018/04/snallygaster-scan-for-secret-files-on-http-servers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=darknetfeed

snallygaster – Scan For Secret Files On HTTP Servers

snallygaster is a Python-based tool that can help you to scan for secret files on HTTP servers, files that are accessible that shouldn’t be public and can pose a security risk.

Typical examples include publicly accessible git repositories, backup files potentially containing passwords or database dumps. In addition it contains a few checks for other security vulnerabilities.

snallygaster HTTP Secret File Scanner Features

This is an overview of the tests provided by snallygaster.

Read the rest of snallygaster – Scan For Secret Files On HTTP Servers now! Only available at Darknet.

Let’s stop talking about password strength

Post Syndicated from Robert Graham original https://blog.erratasec.com/2018/04/lets-stop-talking-about-password.html

Picture from EFF — CC-BY license

Near the top of most security recommendations is to use “strong passwords”. We need to stop doing this.

Yes, weak passwords can be a problem. If a website gets hacked, weak passwords are easier to crack. It’s not that this is wrong advice.

On the other hand, it’s not particularly good advice, either. It’s far down the list of important advice that people need to remember. “Weak passwords” are nowhere near the risk of “password reuse”. When your Facebook or email account gets hacked, it’s because you used the same password across many websites, not because you used a weak password.

Important websites, where the strength of your password matters, already take care of the problem. They use strong, salted hashes on the backend to protect the password. On the frontend, they force passwords to be a certain length and a certain complexity. Maybe the better advice is to not trust any website that doesn’t enforce stronger passwords (minimum of 8 characters consisting of both letters and non-letters).

To some extent, this “strong password” advice has become obsolete. A decade ago, websites had poor protection (MD5 hashes) and no enforcement of complexity, so it was up to the user to choose strong passwords. Now that important websites have changed their behavior, such as using bcrypt, there is less onus on the user.

But the real issue here is that “strong password” advice reflects the evil, authoritarian impulses of the infosec community. Instead of measuring insecurity in terms of costs vs. benefits, risks vs. rewards, we insist that it’s an issue of moral weakness. We pretend that flaws happen because people are greedy, lazy, and ignorant. We pretend that security is its own goal, a benefit we should achieve, rather than a cost we must endure.

We like giving moral advice because it’s easy: just be “stronger”. Discussing “password reuse” is more complicated, forcing us discuss password managers, writing down passwords on paper, that it’s okay to reuse passwords for crappy websites you don’t care about, and so on.

What I’m trying to say is that the moral weakness here is us. Rather then give pertinent advice we give lazy advice. We give the advice that victim shames them for being weak while pretending that we are strong.

So stop telling people to use strong passwords. It’s crass advice on your part and largely unhelpful for your audience, distracting them from the more important things.

The Amazon SES Blog is now the AWS Messaging and Targeting Blog

Post Syndicated from Brent Meyer original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/messaging-and-targeting/the-amazon-ses-blog-is-now-the-aws-messaging-and-targeting-blog/

Regular visitors to this blog may have noticed that its name has changed from the Amazon SES Blog to the AWS Messaging and Targeting Blog. The Amazon SES team has been working closely with the Amazon Pinpoint team in recent months, so we decided to create a single source of information for both products.

If you’re a dedicated Amazon SES user, don’t worry—Amazon SES isn’t going anywhere. However, as the goals of our two teams started to overlap more and more, we realized that we had lots of ideas for blog posts that would be relevant to users of both products.

If you’re not familiar with Amazon Pinpoint yet, allow us to make a brief introduction. Amazon Pinpoint was originally created to help mobile app developers analyze the ways that their customers used their apps, and to send mobile push messages to those users. Over time, the capabilities of Amazon Pinpoint grew to include the ability to send transactional messages (such as order confirmations, welcome messages, and one-time passwords), segment your audience, schedule campaign execution, and send messages using other channels (including SMS and email). In short, Amazon Pinpoint helps you deliver the right message to the right customers at the right time using the right channel.

In the past, this blog focused mainly on providing information about new features and common issues. Our new blog will include that same information, as well as practical tips, industry best practices, and the exciting things our customers have done using Amazon SES and Amazon Pinpoint. We hope you enjoy it!

If you have any questions, or if there’s anything you’d like to see us cover in the blog, please let us know in the comments section.

User Authentication Best Practices Checklist

Post Syndicated from Bozho original https://techblog.bozho.net/user-authentication-best-practices-checklist/

User authentication is the functionality that every web application shared. We should have perfected that a long time ago, having implemented it so many times. And yet there are so many mistakes made all the time.

Part of the reason for that is that the list of things that can go wrong is long. You can store passwords incorrectly, you can have a vulnerably password reset functionality, you can expose your session to a CSRF attack, your session can be hijacked, etc. So I’ll try to compile a list of best practices regarding user authentication. OWASP top 10 is always something you should read, every year. But that might not be enough.

So, let’s start. I’ll try to be concise, but I’ll include as much of the related pitfalls as I can cover – e.g. what could go wrong with the user session after they login:

  • Store passwords with bcrypt/scrypt/PBKDF2. No MD5 or SHA, as they are not good for password storing. Long salt (per user) is mandatory (the aforementioned algorithms have it built in). If you don’t and someone gets hold of your database, they’ll be able to extract the passwords of all your users. And then try these passwords on other websites.
  • Use HTTPS. Period. (Otherwise user credentials can leak through unprotected networks). Force HTTPS if user opens a plain-text version.
  • Mark cookies as secure. Makes cookie theft harder.
  • Use CSRF protection (e.g. CSRF one-time tokens that are verified with each request). Frameworks have such functionality built-in.
  • Disallow framing (X-Frame-Options: DENY). Otherwise your website may be included in another website in a hidden iframe and “abused” through javascript.
  • Have a same-origin policy
  • Logout – let your users logout by deleting all cookies and invalidating the session. This makes usage of shared computers safer (yes, users should ideally use private browsing sessions, but not all of them are that savvy)
  • Session expiry – don’t have forever-lasting sessions. If the user closes your website, their session should expire after a while. “A while” may still be a big number depending on the service provided. For ajax-heavy website you can have regular ajax-polling that keeps the session alive while the page stays open.
  • Remember me – implementing “remember me” (on this machine) functionality is actually hard due to the risks of a stolen persistent cookie. Spring-security uses this approach, which I think should be followed if you wish to implement more persistent logins.
  • Forgotten password flow – the forgotten password flow should rely on sending a one-time (or expiring) link to the user and asking for a new password when it’s opened. 0Auth explain it in this post and Postmark gives some best pracitces. How the link is formed is a separate discussion and there are several approaches. Store a password-reset token in the user profile table and then send it as parameter in the link. Or do not store anything in the database, but send a few params: userId:expiresTimestamp:hmac(userId+expiresTimestamp). That way you have expiring links (rather than one-time links). The HMAC relies on a secret key, so the links can’t be spoofed. It seems there’s no consensus, as the OWASP guide has a bit different approach
  • One-time login links – this is an option used by Slack, which sends one-time login links instead of asking users for passwords. It relies on the fact that your email is well guarded and you have access to it all the time. If your service is not accessed to often, you can have that approach instead of (rather than in addition to) passwords.
  • Limit login attempts – brute-force through a web UI should not be possible; therefore you should block login attempts if they become too many. One approach is to just block them based on IP. The other one is to block them based on account attempted. (Spring example here). Which one is better – I don’t know. Both can actually be combined. Instead of fully blocking the attempts, you may add a captcha after, say, the 5th attempt. But don’t add the captcha for the first attempt – it is bad user experience.
  • Don’t leak information through error messages – you shouldn’t allow attackers to figure out if an email is registered or not. If an email is not found, upon login report just “Incorrect credentials”. On passwords reset, it may be something like “If your email is registered, you should have received a password reset email”. This is often at odds with usability – people don’t often remember the email they used to register, and the ability to check a number of them before getting in might be important. So this rule is not absolute, though it’s desirable, especially for more critical systems.
  • Make sure you use JWT only if it’s really necessary and be careful of the pitfalls.
  • Consider using a 3rd party authentication – OpenID Connect, OAuth by Google/Facebook/Twitter (but be careful with OAuth flaws as well). There’s an associated risk with relying on a 3rd party identity provider, and you still have to manage cookies, logout, etc., but some of the authentication aspects are simplified.
  • For high-risk or sensitive applications use 2-factor authentication. There’s a caveat with Google Authenticator though – if you lose your phone, you lose your accounts (unless there’s a manual process to restore it). That’s why Authy seems like a good solution for storing 2FA keys.

I’m sure I’m missing something. And you see it’s complicated. Sadly we’re still at the point where the most common functionality – authenticating users – is so tricky and cumbersome, that you almost always get at least some of it wrong.

The post User Authentication Best Practices Checklist appeared first on Bozho's tech blog.

Rotate Amazon RDS database credentials automatically with AWS Secrets Manager

Post Syndicated from Apurv Awasthi original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/security/rotate-amazon-rds-database-credentials-automatically-with-aws-secrets-manager/

Recently, we launched AWS Secrets Manager, a service that makes it easier to rotate, manage, and retrieve database credentials, API keys, and other secrets throughout their lifecycle. You can configure Secrets Manager to rotate secrets automatically, which can help you meet your security and compliance needs. Secrets Manager offers built-in integrations for MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Amazon Aurora on Amazon RDS, and can rotate credentials for these databases natively. You can control access to your secrets by using fine-grained AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) policies. To retrieve secrets, employees replace plaintext secrets with a call to Secrets Manager APIs, eliminating the need to hard-code secrets in source code or update configuration files and redeploy code when secrets are rotated.

In this post, I introduce the key features of Secrets Manager. I then show you how to store a database credential for a MySQL database hosted on Amazon RDS and how your applications can access this secret. Finally, I show you how to configure Secrets Manager to rotate this secret automatically.

Key features of Secrets Manager

These features include the ability to:

  • Rotate secrets safely. You can configure Secrets Manager to rotate secrets automatically without disrupting your applications. Secrets Manager offers built-in integrations for rotating credentials for Amazon RDS databases for MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Amazon Aurora. You can extend Secrets Manager to meet your custom rotation requirements by creating an AWS Lambda function to rotate other types of secrets. For example, you can create an AWS Lambda function to rotate OAuth tokens used in a mobile application. Users and applications retrieve the secret from Secrets Manager, eliminating the need to email secrets to developers or update and redeploy applications after AWS Secrets Manager rotates a secret.
  • Secure and manage secrets centrally. You can store, view, and manage all your secrets. By default, Secrets Manager encrypts these secrets with encryption keys that you own and control. Using fine-grained IAM policies, you can control access to secrets. For example, you can require developers to provide a second factor of authentication when they attempt to retrieve a production database credential. You can also tag secrets to help you discover, organize, and control access to secrets used throughout your organization.
  • Monitor and audit easily. Secrets Manager integrates with AWS logging and monitoring services to enable you to meet your security and compliance requirements. For example, you can audit AWS CloudTrail logs to see when Secrets Manager rotated a secret or configure AWS CloudWatch Events to alert you when an administrator deletes a secret.
  • Pay as you go. Pay for the secrets you store in Secrets Manager and for the use of these secrets; there are no long-term contracts or licensing fees.

Get started with Secrets Manager

Now that you’re familiar with the key features, I’ll show you how to store the credential for a MySQL database hosted on Amazon RDS. To demonstrate how to retrieve and use the secret, I use a python application running on Amazon EC2 that requires this database credential to access the MySQL instance. Finally, I show how to configure Secrets Manager to rotate this database credential automatically. Let’s get started.

Phase 1: Store a secret in Secrets Manager

  1. Open the Secrets Manager console and select Store a new secret.
     
    Secrets Manager console interface
     
  2. I select Credentials for RDS database because I’m storing credentials for a MySQL database hosted on Amazon RDS. For this example, I store the credentials for the database superuser. I start by securing the superuser because it’s the most powerful database credential and has full access over the database.
     
    Store a new secret interface with Credentials for RDS database selected
     

    Note: For this example, you need permissions to store secrets in Secrets Manager. To grant these permissions, you can use the AWSSecretsManagerReadWriteAccess managed policy. Read the AWS Secrets Manager Documentation for more information about the minimum IAM permissions required to store a secret.

  3. Next, I review the encryption setting and choose to use the default encryption settings. Secrets Manager will encrypt this secret using the Secrets Manager DefaultEncryptionKeyDefaultEncryptionKey in this account. Alternatively, I can choose to encrypt using a customer master key (CMK) that I have stored in AWS KMS.
     
    Select the encryption key interface
     
  4. Next, I view the list of Amazon RDS instances in my account and select the database this credential accesses. For this example, I select the DB instance mysql-rds-database, and then I select Next.
     
    Select the RDS database interface
     
  5. In this step, I specify values for Secret Name and Description. For this example, I use Applications/MyApp/MySQL-RDS-Database as the name and enter a description of this secret, and then select Next.
     
    Secret Name and description interface
     
  6. For the next step, I keep the default setting Disable automatic rotation because my secret is used by my application running on Amazon EC2. I’ll enable rotation after I’ve updated my application (see Phase 2 below) to use Secrets Manager APIs to retrieve secrets. I then select Next.

    Note: If you’re storing a secret that you’re not using in your application, select Enable automatic rotation. See our AWS Secrets Manager getting started guide on rotation for details.

     
    Configure automatic rotation interface
     

  7. Review the information on the next screen and, if everything looks correct, select Store. We’ve now successfully stored a secret in Secrets Manager.
  8. Next, I select See sample code.
     
    The See sample code button
     
  9. Take note of the code samples provided. I will use this code to update my application to retrieve the secret using Secrets Manager APIs.
     
    Python sample code
     

Phase 2: Update an application to retrieve secret from Secrets Manager

Now that I have stored the secret in Secrets Manager, I update my application to retrieve the database credential from Secrets Manager instead of hard coding this information in a configuration file or source code. For this example, I show how to configure a python application to retrieve this secret from Secrets Manager.

  1. I connect to my Amazon EC2 instance via Secure Shell (SSH).
  2. Previously, I configured my application to retrieve the database user name and password from the configuration file. Below is the source code for my application.
    import MySQLdb
    import config

    def no_secrets_manager_sample()

    # Get the user name, password, and database connection information from a config file.
    database = config.database
    user_name = config.user_name
    password = config.password

    # Use the user name, password, and database connection information to connect to the database
    db = MySQLdb.connect(database.endpoint, user_name, password, database.db_name, database.port)

  3. I use the sample code from Phase 1 above and update my application to retrieve the user name and password from Secrets Manager. This code sets up the client and retrieves and decrypts the secret Applications/MyApp/MySQL-RDS-Database. I’ve added comments to the code to make the code easier to understand.
    # Use the code snippet provided by Secrets Manager.
    import boto3
    from botocore.exceptions import ClientError

    def get_secret():
    #Define the secret you want to retrieve
    secret_name = "Applications/MyApp/MySQL-RDS-Database"
    #Define the Secrets mManager end-point your code should use.
    endpoint_url = "https://secretsmanager.us-east-1.amazonaws.com"
    region_name = "us-east-1"

    #Setup the client
    session = boto3.session.Session()
    client = session.client(
    service_name='secretsmanager',
    region_name=region_name,
    endpoint_url=endpoint_url
    )

    #Use the client to retrieve the secret
    try:
    get_secret_value_response = client.get_secret_value(
    SecretId=secret_name
    )
    #Error handling to make it easier for your code to tolerate faults
    except ClientError as e:
    if e.response['Error']['Code'] == 'ResourceNotFoundException':
    print("The requested secret " + secret_name + " was not found")
    elif e.response['Error']['Code'] == 'InvalidRequestException':
    print("The request was invalid due to:", e)
    elif e.response['Error']['Code'] == 'InvalidParameterException':
    print("The request had invalid params:", e)
    else:
    # Decrypted secret using the associated KMS CMK
    # Depending on whether the secret was a string or binary, one of these fields will be populated
    if 'SecretString' in get_secret_value_response:
    secret = get_secret_value_response['SecretString']
    else:
    binary_secret_data = get_secret_value_response['SecretBinary']

    # Your code goes here.

  4. Applications require permissions to access Secrets Manager. My application runs on Amazon EC2 and uses an IAM role to obtain access to AWS services. I will attach the following policy to my IAM role. This policy uses the GetSecretValue action to grant my application permissions to read secret from Secrets Manager. This policy also uses the resource element to limit my application to read only the Applications/MyApp/MySQL-RDS-Database secret from Secrets Manager. You can visit the AWS Secrets Manager Documentation to understand the minimum IAM permissions required to retrieve a secret.
    {
    "Version": "2012-10-17",
    "Statement": {
    "Sid": "RetrieveDbCredentialFromSecretsManager",
    "Effect": "Allow",
    "Action": "secretsmanager:GetSecretValue",
    "Resource": "arn:aws:secretsmanager:::secret:Applications/MyApp/MySQL-RDS-Database"
    }
    }

Phase 3: Enable Rotation for Your Secret

Rotating secrets periodically is a security best practice because it reduces the risk of misuse of secrets. Secrets Manager makes it easy to follow this security best practice and offers built-in integrations for rotating credentials for MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Amazon Aurora databases hosted on Amazon RDS. When you enable rotation, Secrets Manager creates a Lambda function and attaches an IAM role to this function to execute rotations on a schedule you define.

Note: Configuring rotation is a privileged action that requires several IAM permissions and you should only grant this access to trusted individuals. To grant these permissions, you can use the AWS IAMFullAccess managed policy.

Next, I show you how to configure Secrets Manager to rotate the secret Applications/MyApp/MySQL-RDS-Database automatically.

  1. From the Secrets Manager console, I go to the list of secrets and choose the secret I created in the first step Applications/MyApp/MySQL-RDS-Database.
     
    List of secrets in the Secrets Manager console
     
  2. I scroll to Rotation configuration, and then select Edit rotation.
     
    Rotation configuration interface
     
  3. To enable rotation, I select Enable automatic rotation. I then choose how frequently I want Secrets Manager to rotate this secret. For this example, I set the rotation interval to 60 days.
     
    Edit rotation configuration interface
     
  4. Next, Secrets Manager requires permissions to rotate this secret on your behalf. Because I’m storing the superuser database credential, Secrets Manager can use this credential to perform rotations. Therefore, I select Use the secret that I provided in step 1, and then select Next.
     
    Select which secret to use in the Edit rotation configuration interface
     
  5. The banner on the next screen confirms that I have successfully configured rotation and the first rotation is in progress, which enables you to verify that rotation is functioning as expected. Secrets Manager will rotate this credential automatically every 60 days.
     
    Confirmation banner message
     

Summary

I introduced AWS Secrets Manager, explained the key benefits, and showed you how to help meet your compliance requirements by configuring AWS Secrets Manager to rotate database credentials automatically on your behalf. Secrets Manager helps you protect access to your applications, services, and IT resources without the upfront investment and on-going maintenance costs of operating your own secrets management infrastructure. To get started, visit the Secrets Manager console. To learn more, visit Secrets Manager documentation.

If you have comments about this post, submit them in the Comments section below. If you have questions about anything in this post, start a new thread on the Secrets Manager forum.

Want more AWS Security news? Follow us on Twitter.

AWS Secrets Manager: Store, Distribute, and Rotate Credentials Securely

Post Syndicated from Randall Hunt original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/aws/aws-secrets-manager-store-distribute-and-rotate-credentials-securely/

Today we’re launching AWS Secrets Manager which makes it easy to store and retrieve your secrets via API or the AWS Command Line Interface (CLI) and rotate your credentials with built-in or custom AWS Lambda functions. Managing application secrets like database credentials, passwords, or API Keys is easy when you’re working locally with one machine and one application. As you grow and scale to many distributed microservices, it becomes a daunting task to securely store, distribute, rotate, and consume secrets. Previously, customers needed to provision and maintain additional infrastructure solely for secrets management which could incur costs and introduce unneeded complexity into systems.

AWS Secrets Manager

Imagine that I have an application that takes incoming tweets from Twitter and stores them in an Amazon Aurora database. Previously, I would have had to request a username and password from my database administrator and embed those credentials in environment variables or, in my race to production, even in the application itself. I would also need to have our social media manager create the Twitter API credentials and figure out how to store those. This is a fairly manual process, involving multiple people, that I have to restart every time I want to rotate these credentials. With Secrets Manager my database administrator can provide the credentials in secrets manager once and subsequently rely on a Secrets Manager provided Lambda function to automatically update and rotate those credentials. My social media manager can put the Twitter API keys in Secrets Manager which I can then access with a simple API call and I can even rotate these programmatically with a custom lambda function calling out to the Twitter API. My secrets are encrypted with the KMS key of my choice, and each of these administrators can explicitly grant access to these secrets with with granular IAM policies for individual roles or users.

Let’s take a look at how I would store a secret using the AWS Secrets Manager console. First, I’ll click Store a new secret to get to the new secrets wizard. For my RDS Aurora instance it’s straightforward to simply select the instance and provide the initial username and password to connect to the database.

Next, I’ll fill in a quick description and a name to access my secret by. You can use whatever naming scheme you want here.

Next, we’ll configure rotation to use the Secrets Manager-provided Lambda function to rotate our password every 10 days.

Finally, we’ll review all the details and check out our sample code for storing and retrieving our secret!

Finally I can review the secrets in the console.

Now, if I needed to access these secrets I’d simply call the API.

import json
import boto3
secrets = boto3.client("secretsmanager")
rds = json.dumps(secrets.get_secrets_value("prod/TwitterApp/Database")['SecretString'])
print(rds)

Which would give me the following values:


{'engine': 'mysql',
 'host': 'twitterapp2.abcdefg.us-east-1.rds.amazonaws.com',
 'password': '-)Kw>THISISAFAKEPASSWORD:lg{&sad+Canr',
 'port': 3306,
 'username': 'ranman'}

More than passwords

AWS Secrets Manager works for more than just passwords. I can store OAuth credentials, binary data, and more. Let’s look at storing my Twitter OAuth application keys.

Now, I can define the rotation for these third-party OAuth credentials with a custom AWS Lambda function that can call out to Twitter whenever we need to rotate our credentials.

Custom Rotation

One of the niftiest features of AWS Secrets Manager is custom AWS Lambda functions for credential rotation. This allows you to define completely custom workflows for credentials. Secrets Manager will call your lambda with a payload that includes a Step which specifies which step of the rotation you’re in, a SecretId which specifies which secret the rotation is for, and importantly a ClientRequestToken which is used to ensure idempotency in any changes to the underlying secret.

When you’re rotating secrets you go through a few different steps:

  1. createSecret
  2. setSecret
  3. testSecret
  4. finishSecret

The advantage of these steps is that you can add any kind of approval steps you want for each phase of the rotation. For more details on custom rotation check out the documentation.

Available Now
AWS Secrets Manager is available today in US East (N. Virginia), US East (Ohio), US West (N. California), US West (Oregon), Asia Pacific (Mumbai), Asia Pacific (Seoul), Asia Pacific (Singapore), Asia Pacific (Sydney), Asia Pacific (Tokyo), Canada (Central), EU (Frankfurt), EU (Ireland), EU (London), and South America (São Paulo). Secrets are priced at $0.40 per month per secret and $0.05 per 10,000 API calls. I’m looking forward to seeing more users adopt rotating credentials to secure their applications!

Randall

An important Samba 4 security release

Post Syndicated from corbet original https://lwn.net/Articles/749192/rss

Anybody running Samba 4 servers probably wants to take a look at this
alert
and upgrade their systems. “CVE-2018-1057:
On a Samba 4 AD DC the LDAP server in all versions of Samba from
4.0.0 onwards incorrectly validates permissions to modify passwords
over LDAP allowing authenticated users to change any other users’
passwords, including administrative users.

Intimate Partner Threat

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/03/intimate_partne.html

Princeton’s Karen Levy has a good article computer security and the intimate partner threat:

When you learn that your privacy has been compromised, the common advice is to prevent additional access — delete your insecure account, open a new one, change your password. This advice is such standard protocol for personal security that it’s almost a no-brainer. But in abusive romantic relationships, disconnection can be extremely fraught. For one, it can put the victim at risk of physical harm: If abusers expect digital access and that access is suddenly closed off, it can lead them to become more violent or intrusive in other ways. It may seem cathartic to delete abusive material, like alarming text messages — but if you don’t preserve that kind of evidence, it can make prosecution more difficult. And closing some kinds of accounts, like social networks, to hide from a determined abuser can cut off social support that survivors desperately need. In some cases, maintaining a digital connection to the abuser may even be legally required (for instance, if the abuser and survivor share joint custody of children).

Threats from intimate partners also change the nature of what it means to be authenticated online. In most contexts, access credentials­ — like passwords and security questions — are intended to insulate your accounts against access from an adversary. But those mechanisms are often completely ineffective for security in intimate contexts: The abuser can compel disclosure of your password through threats of violence and has access to your devices because you’re in the same physical space. In many cases, the abuser might even own your phone — or might have access to your communications data because you share a family plan. Things like security questions are unlikely to be effective tools for protecting your security, because the abuser knows or can guess at intimate details about your life — where you were born, what your first job was, the name of your pet.

Best Practices for Running Apache Cassandra on Amazon EC2

Post Syndicated from Prasad Alle original https://aws.amazon.com/blogs/big-data/best-practices-for-running-apache-cassandra-on-amazon-ec2/

Apache Cassandra is a commonly used, high performance NoSQL database. AWS customers that currently maintain Cassandra on-premises may want to take advantage of the scalability, reliability, security, and economic benefits of running Cassandra on Amazon EC2.

Amazon EC2 and Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) provide secure, resizable compute capacity and storage in the AWS Cloud. When combined, you can deploy Cassandra, allowing you to scale capacity according to your requirements. Given the number of possible deployment topologies, it’s not always trivial to select the most appropriate strategy suitable for your use case.

In this post, we outline three Cassandra deployment options, as well as provide guidance about determining the best practices for your use case in the following areas:

  • Cassandra resource overview
  • Deployment considerations
  • Storage options
  • Networking
  • High availability and resiliency
  • Maintenance
  • Security

Before we jump into best practices for running Cassandra on AWS, we should mention that we have many customers who decided to use DynamoDB instead of managing their own Cassandra cluster. DynamoDB is fully managed, serverless, and provides multi-master cross-region replication, encryption at rest, and managed backup and restore. Integration with AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) enables DynamoDB customers to implement fine-grained access control for their data security needs.

Several customers who have been using large Cassandra clusters for many years have moved to DynamoDB to eliminate the complications of administering Cassandra clusters and maintaining high availability and durability themselves. Gumgum.com is one customer who migrated to DynamoDB and observed significant savings. For more information, see Moving to Amazon DynamoDB from Hosted Cassandra: A Leap Towards 60% Cost Saving per Year.

AWS provides options, so you’re covered whether you want to run your own NoSQL Cassandra database, or move to a fully managed, serverless DynamoDB database.

Cassandra resource overview

Here’s a short introduction to standard Cassandra resources and how they are implemented with AWS infrastructure. If you’re already familiar with Cassandra or AWS deployments, this can serve as a refresher.

Resource Cassandra AWS
Cluster

A single Cassandra deployment.

 

This typically consists of multiple physical locations, keyspaces, and physical servers.

A logical deployment construct in AWS that maps to an AWS CloudFormation StackSet, which consists of one or many CloudFormation stacks to deploy Cassandra.
Datacenter A group of nodes configured as a single replication group.

A logical deployment construct in AWS.

 

A datacenter is deployed with a single CloudFormation stack consisting of Amazon EC2 instances, networking, storage, and security resources.

Rack

A collection of servers.

 

A datacenter consists of at least one rack. Cassandra tries to place the replicas on different racks.

A single Availability Zone.
Server/node A physical virtual machine running Cassandra software. An EC2 instance.
Token Conceptually, the data managed by a cluster is represented as a ring. The ring is then divided into ranges equal to the number of nodes. Each node being responsible for one or more ranges of the data. Each node gets assigned with a token, which is essentially a random number from the range. The token value determines the node’s position in the ring and its range of data. Managed within Cassandra.
Virtual node (vnode) Responsible for storing a range of data. Each vnode receives one token in the ring. A cluster (by default) consists of 256 tokens, which are uniformly distributed across all servers in the Cassandra datacenter. Managed within Cassandra.
Replication factor The total number of replicas across the cluster. Managed within Cassandra.

Deployment considerations

One of the many benefits of deploying Cassandra on Amazon EC2 is that you can automate many deployment tasks. In addition, AWS includes services, such as CloudFormation, that allow you to describe and provision all your infrastructure resources in your cloud environment.

We recommend orchestrating each Cassandra ring with one CloudFormation template. If you are deploying in multiple AWS Regions, you can use a CloudFormation StackSet to manage those stacks. All the maintenance actions (scaling, upgrading, and backing up) should be scripted with an AWS SDK. These may live as standalone AWS Lambda functions that can be invoked on demand during maintenance.

You can get started by following the Cassandra Quick Start deployment guide. Keep in mind that this guide does not address the requirements to operate a production deployment and should be used only for learning more about Cassandra.

Deployment patterns

In this section, we discuss various deployment options available for Cassandra in Amazon EC2. A successful deployment starts with thoughtful consideration of these options. Consider the amount of data, network environment, throughput, and availability.

  • Single AWS Region, 3 Availability Zones
  • Active-active, multi-Region
  • Active-standby, multi-Region

Single region, 3 Availability Zones

In this pattern, you deploy the Cassandra cluster in one AWS Region and three Availability Zones. There is only one ring in the cluster. By using EC2 instances in three zones, you ensure that the replicas are distributed uniformly in all zones.

To ensure the even distribution of data across all Availability Zones, we recommend that you distribute the EC2 instances evenly in all three Availability Zones. The number of EC2 instances in the cluster is a multiple of three (the replication factor).

This pattern is suitable in situations where the application is deployed in one Region or where deployments in different Regions should be constrained to the same Region because of data privacy or other legal requirements.

Pros Cons

●     Highly available, can sustain failure of one Availability Zone.

●     Simple deployment

●     Does not protect in a situation when many of the resources in a Region are experiencing intermittent failure.

 

Active-active, multi-Region

In this pattern, you deploy two rings in two different Regions and link them. The VPCs in the two Regions are peered so that data can be replicated between two rings.

We recommend that the two rings in the two Regions be identical in nature, having the same number of nodes, instance types, and storage configuration.

This pattern is most suitable when the applications using the Cassandra cluster are deployed in more than one Region.

Pros Cons

●     No data loss during failover.

●     Highly available, can sustain when many of the resources in a Region are experiencing intermittent failures.

●     Read/write traffic can be localized to the closest Region for the user for lower latency and higher performance.

●     High operational overhead

●     The second Region effectively doubles the cost

 

Active-standby, multi-region

In this pattern, you deploy two rings in two different Regions and link them. The VPCs in the two Regions are peered so that data can be replicated between two rings.

However, the second Region does not receive traffic from the applications. It only functions as a secondary location for disaster recovery reasons. If the primary Region is not available, the second Region receives traffic.

We recommend that the two rings in the two Regions be identical in nature, having the same number of nodes, instance types, and storage configuration.

This pattern is most suitable when the applications using the Cassandra cluster require low recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO).

Pros Cons

●     No data loss during failover.

●     Highly available, can sustain failure or partitioning of one whole Region.

●     High operational overhead.

●     High latency for writes for eventual consistency.

●     The second Region effectively doubles the cost.

Storage options

In on-premises deployments, Cassandra deployments use local disks to store data. There are two storage options for EC2 instances:

Your choice of storage is closely related to the type of workload supported by the Cassandra cluster. Instance store works best for most general purpose Cassandra deployments. However, in certain read-heavy clusters, Amazon EBS is a better choice.

The choice of instance type is generally driven by the type of storage:

  • If ephemeral storage is required for your application, a storage-optimized (I3) instance is the best option.
  • If your workload requires Amazon EBS, it is best to go with compute-optimized (C5) instances.
  • Burstable instance types (T2) don’t offer good performance for Cassandra deployments.

Instance store

Ephemeral storage is local to the EC2 instance. It may provide high input/output operations per second (IOPs) based on the instance type. An SSD-based instance store can support up to 3.3M IOPS in I3 instances. This high performance makes it an ideal choice for transactional or write-intensive applications such as Cassandra.

In general, instance storage is recommended for transactional, large, and medium-size Cassandra clusters. For a large cluster, read/write traffic is distributed across a higher number of nodes, so the loss of one node has less of an impact. However, for smaller clusters, a quick recovery for the failed node is important.

As an example, for a cluster with 100 nodes, the loss of 1 node is 3.33% loss (with a replication factor of 3). Similarly, for a cluster with 10 nodes, the loss of 1 node is 33% less capacity (with a replication factor of 3).

  Ephemeral storage Amazon EBS Comments

IOPS

(translates to higher query performance)

Up to 3.3M on I3

80K/instance

10K/gp2/volume

32K/io1/volume

This results in a higher query performance on each host. However, Cassandra implicitly scales well in terms of horizontal scale. In general, we recommend scaling horizontally first. Then, scale vertically to mitigate specific issues.

 

Note: 3.3M IOPS is observed with 100% random read with a 4-KB block size on Amazon Linux.

AWS instance types I3 Compute optimized, C5 Being able to choose between different instance types is an advantage in terms of CPU, memory, etc., for horizontal and vertical scaling.
Backup/ recovery Custom Basic building blocks are available from AWS.

Amazon EBS offers distinct advantage here. It is small engineering effort to establish a backup/restore strategy.

a) In case of an instance failure, the EBS volumes from the failing instance are attached to a new instance.

b) In case of an EBS volume failure, the data is restored by creating a new EBS volume from last snapshot.

Amazon EBS

EBS volumes offer higher resiliency, and IOPs can be configured based on your storage needs. EBS volumes also offer some distinct advantages in terms of recovery time. EBS volumes can support up to 32K IOPS per volume and up to 80K IOPS per instance in RAID configuration. They have an annualized failure rate (AFR) of 0.1–0.2%, which makes EBS volumes 20 times more reliable than typical commodity disk drives.

The primary advantage of using Amazon EBS in a Cassandra deployment is that it reduces data-transfer traffic significantly when a node fails or must be replaced. The replacement node joins the cluster much faster. However, Amazon EBS could be more expensive, depending on your data storage needs.

Cassandra has built-in fault tolerance by replicating data to partitions across a configurable number of nodes. It can not only withstand node failures but if a node fails, it can also recover by copying data from other replicas into a new node. Depending on your application, this could mean copying tens of gigabytes of data. This adds additional delay to the recovery process, increases network traffic, and could possibly impact the performance of the Cassandra cluster during recovery.

Data stored on Amazon EBS is persisted in case of an instance failure or termination. The node’s data stored on an EBS volume remains intact and the EBS volume can be mounted to a new EC2 instance. Most of the replicated data for the replacement node is already available in the EBS volume and won’t need to be copied over the network from another node. Only the changes made after the original node failed need to be transferred across the network. That makes this process much faster.

EBS volumes are snapshotted periodically. So, if a volume fails, a new volume can be created from the last known good snapshot and be attached to a new instance. This is faster than creating a new volume and coping all the data to it.

Most Cassandra deployments use a replication factor of three. However, Amazon EBS does its own replication under the covers for fault tolerance. In practice, EBS volumes are about 20 times more reliable than typical disk drives. So, it is possible to go with a replication factor of two. This not only saves cost, but also enables deployments in a region that has two Availability Zones.

EBS volumes are recommended in case of read-heavy, small clusters (fewer nodes) that require storage of a large amount of data. Keep in mind that the Amazon EBS provisioned IOPS could get expensive. General purpose EBS volumes work best when sized for required performance.

Networking

If your cluster is expected to receive high read/write traffic, select an instance type that offers 10–Gb/s performance. As an example, i3.8xlarge and c5.9xlarge both offer 10–Gb/s networking performance. A smaller instance type in the same family leads to a relatively lower networking throughput.

Cassandra generates a universal unique identifier (UUID) for each node based on IP address for the instance. This UUID is used for distributing vnodes on the ring.

In the case of an AWS deployment, IP addresses are assigned automatically to the instance when an EC2 instance is created. With the new IP address, the data distribution changes and the whole ring has to be rebalanced. This is not desirable.

To preserve the assigned IP address, use a secondary elastic network interface with a fixed IP address. Before swapping an EC2 instance with a new one, detach the secondary network interface from the old instance and attach it to the new one. This way, the UUID remains same and there is no change in the way that data is distributed in the cluster.

If you are deploying in more than one region, you can connect the two VPCs in two regions using cross-region VPC peering.

High availability and resiliency

Cassandra is designed to be fault-tolerant and highly available during multiple node failures. In the patterns described earlier in this post, you deploy Cassandra to three Availability Zones with a replication factor of three. Even though it limits the AWS Region choices to the Regions with three or more Availability Zones, it offers protection for the cases of one-zone failure and network partitioning within a single Region. The multi-Region deployments described earlier in this post protect when many of the resources in a Region are experiencing intermittent failure.

Resiliency is ensured through infrastructure automation. The deployment patterns all require a quick replacement of the failing nodes. In the case of a regionwide failure, when you deploy with the multi-Region option, traffic can be directed to the other active Region while the infrastructure is recovering in the failing Region. In the case of unforeseen data corruption, the standby cluster can be restored with point-in-time backups stored in Amazon S3.

Maintenance

In this section, we look at ways to ensure that your Cassandra cluster is healthy:

  • Scaling
  • Upgrades
  • Backup and restore

Scaling

Cassandra is horizontally scaled by adding more instances to the ring. We recommend doubling the number of nodes in a cluster to scale up in one scale operation. This leaves the data homogeneously distributed across Availability Zones. Similarly, when scaling down, it’s best to halve the number of instances to keep the data homogeneously distributed.

Cassandra is vertically scaled by increasing the compute power of each node. Larger instance types have proportionally bigger memory. Use deployment automation to swap instances for bigger instances without downtime or data loss.

Upgrades

All three types of upgrades (Cassandra, operating system patching, and instance type changes) follow the same rolling upgrade pattern.

In this process, you start with a new EC2 instance and install software and patches on it. Thereafter, remove one node from the ring. For more information, see Cassandra cluster Rolling upgrade. Then, you detach the secondary network interface from one of the EC2 instances in the ring and attach it to the new EC2 instance. Restart the Cassandra service and wait for it to sync. Repeat this process for all nodes in the cluster.

Backup and restore

Your backup and restore strategy is dependent on the type of storage used in the deployment. Cassandra supports snapshots and incremental backups. When using instance store, a file-based backup tool works best. Customers use rsync or other third-party products to copy data backups from the instance to long-term storage. For more information, see Backing up and restoring data in the DataStax documentation. This process has to be repeated for all instances in the cluster for a complete backup. These backup files are copied back to new instances to restore. We recommend using S3 to durably store backup files for long-term storage.

For Amazon EBS based deployments, you can enable automated snapshots of EBS volumes to back up volumes. New EBS volumes can be easily created from these snapshots for restoration.

Security

We recommend that you think about security in all aspects of deployment. The first step is to ensure that the data is encrypted at rest and in transit. The second step is to restrict access to unauthorized users. For more information about security, see the Cassandra documentation.

Encryption at rest

Encryption at rest can be achieved by using EBS volumes with encryption enabled. Amazon EBS uses AWS KMS for encryption. For more information, see Amazon EBS Encryption.

Instance store–based deployments require using an encrypted file system or an AWS partner solution. If you are using DataStax Enterprise, it supports transparent data encryption.

Encryption in transit

Cassandra uses Transport Layer Security (TLS) for client and internode communications.

Authentication

The security mechanism is pluggable, which means that you can easily swap out one authentication method for another. You can also provide your own method of authenticating to Cassandra, such as a Kerberos ticket, or if you want to store passwords in a different location, such as an LDAP directory.

Authorization

The authorizer that’s plugged in by default is org.apache.cassandra.auth.Allow AllAuthorizer. Cassandra also provides a role-based access control (RBAC) capability, which allows you to create roles and assign permissions to these roles.

Conclusion

In this post, we discussed several patterns for running Cassandra in the AWS Cloud. This post describes how you can manage Cassandra databases running on Amazon EC2. AWS also provides managed offerings for a number of databases. To learn more, see Purpose-built databases for all your application needs.

If you have questions or suggestions, please comment below.


Additional Reading

If you found this post useful, be sure to check out Analyze Your Data on Amazon DynamoDB with Apache Spark and Analysis of Top-N DynamoDB Objects using Amazon Athena and Amazon QuickSight.


About the Authors

Prasad Alle is a Senior Big Data Consultant with AWS Professional Services. He spends his time leading and building scalable, reliable Big data, Machine learning, Artificial Intelligence and IoT solutions for AWS Enterprise and Strategic customers. His interests extend to various technologies such as Advanced Edge Computing, Machine learning at Edge. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family.

 

 

 

Provanshu Dey is a Senior IoT Consultant with AWS Professional Services. He works on highly scalable and reliable IoT, data and machine learning solutions with our customers. In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his family and tinkering with electronics & gadgets.

 

 

 

Flight Sim Company Embeds Malware to Steal Pirates’ Passwords

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/flight-sim-company-embeds-malware-to-steal-pirates-passwords-180219/

Anti-piracy systems and DRM come in all shapes and sizes, none of them particularly popular, but one deployed by flight sim company FlightSimLabs is likely to go down in history as one of the most outrageous.

It all started yesterday on Reddit when Flight Sim user ‘crankyrecursion’ reported a little extra something in his download of FlightSimLabs’ A320X module.

“Using file ‘FSLabs_A320X_P3D_v2.0.1.231.exe’ there seems to be a file called ‘test.exe’ included,” crankyrecursion wrote.

“This .exe file is from http://securityxploded.com and is touted as a ‘Chrome Password Dump’ tool, which seems to work – particularly as the installer would typically run with Administrative rights (UAC prompts) on Windows Vista and above. Can anyone shed light on why this tool is included in a supposedly trusted installer?”

The existence of a Chrome password dumping tool is certainly cause for alarm, especially if the software had been obtained from a less-than-official source, such as a torrent or similar site, given the potential for third-party pollution.

However, with the possibility of a nefarious third-party dumping something nasty in a pirate release still lurking on the horizon, things took an unexpected turn. FlightSimLabs chief Lefteris Kalamaras made a statement basically admitting that his company was behind the malware installation.

“We were made aware there is a Reddit thread started tonight regarding our latest installer and how a tool is included in it, that indiscriminately dumps Chrome passwords. That is not correct information – in fact, the Reddit thread was posted by a person who is not our customer and has somehow obtained our installer without purchasing,” Kalamaras wrote.

“[T]here are no tools used to reveal any sensitive information of any customer who has legitimately purchased our products. We all realize that you put a lot of trust in our products and this would be contrary to what we believe.

“There is a specific method used against specific serial numbers that have been identified as pirate copies and have been making the rounds on ThePirateBay, RuTracker and other such malicious sites,” he added.

In a nutshell, FlightSimLabs installed a password dumper onto ALL users’ machines, whether they were pirates or not, but then only activated the password-stealing module when it determined that specific ‘pirate’ serial numbers had been used which matched those on FlightSimLabs’ servers.

“Test.exe is part of the DRM and is only targeted against specific pirate copies of copyrighted software obtained illegally. That program is only extracted temporarily and is never under any circumstances used in legitimate copies of the product,” Kalamaras added.

That didn’t impress Luke Gorman, who published an analysis slamming the flight sim company for knowingly installing password-stealing malware on users machines, even those who purchased the title legitimately.

Password stealer in action (credit: Luke Gorman)

Making matters even worse, the FlightSimLabs chief went on to say that information being obtained from pirates’ machines in this manner is likely to be used in court or other legal processes.

“This method has already successfully provided information that we’re going to use in our ongoing legal battles against such criminals,” Kalamaras revealed.

While the use of the extracted passwords and usernames elsewhere will remain to be seen, it appears that FlightSimLabs has had a change of heart. With immediate effect, the company is pointing customers to a new installer that doesn’t include code for stealing their most sensitive data.

“I want to reiterate and reaffirm that we as a company and as flight simmers would never do anything to knowingly violate the trust that you have placed in us by not only buying our products but supporting them and FlightSimLabs,” Kalamaras said in an update.

“While the majority of our customers understand that the fight against piracy is a difficult and ongoing battle that sometimes requires drastic measures, we realize that a few of you were uncomfortable with this particular method which might be considered to be a bit heavy handed on our part. It is for this reason we have uploaded an updated installer that does not include the DRM check file in question.”

To be continued………

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

The Raspberry Pi PiServer tool

Post Syndicated from Gordon Hollingworth original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/piserver/

As Simon mentioned in his recent blog post about Raspbian Stretch, we have developed a new piece of software called PiServer. Use this tool to easily set up a network of client Raspberry Pis connected to a single x86-based server via Ethernet. With PiServer, you don’t need SD cards, you can control all clients via the server, and you can add and configure user accounts — it’s ideal for the classroom, your home, or an industrial setting.

PiServer diagram

Client? Server?

Before I go into more detail, let me quickly explain some terms.

  • Server — the server is the computer that provides the file system, boot files, and password authentication to the client(s)
  • Client — a client is a computer that retrieves boot files from the server over the network, and then uses a file system the server has shared. More than one client can connect to a server, but all clients use the same file system.
  • User – a user is a user name/password combination that allows someone to log into a client to access the file system on the server. Any user can log into any client with their credentials, and will always see the same server and share the same file system. Users do not have sudo capability on a client, meaning they cannot make significant changes to the file system and software.

I see no SD cards

Last year we described how the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B can be booted without an SD card over an Ethernet network from another computer (the server). This is called network booting or PXE (pronounced ‘pixie’) booting.

Why would you want to do this?

  • A client computer (the Raspberry Pi) doesn’t need any permanent storage (an SD card) to boot.
  • You can network a large number of clients to one server, and all clients are exactly the same. If you log into one of the clients, you will see the same file system as if you logged into any other client.
  • The server can be run on an x86 system, which means you get to take advantage of the performance, network, and disk speed on the server.

Sounds great, right? Of course, for the less technical, creating such a network is very difficult. For example, there’s setting up all the required DHCP and TFTP servers, and making sure they behave nicely with the rest of the network. If you get this wrong, you can break your entire network.

PiServer to the rescue

To make network booting easy, I thought it would be nice to develop an application which did everything for you. Let me introduce: PiServer!

PiServer has the following functionalities:

  • It automatically detects Raspberry Pis trying to network boot, so you don’t have to work out their Ethernet addresses.
  • It sets up a DHCP server — the thing inside the router that gives all network devices an IP address — either in proxy mode or in full IP mode. No matter the mode, the DHCP server will only reply to the Raspberry Pis you have specified, which is important for network safety.
  • It creates user names and passwords for the server. This is great for a classroom full of Pis: just set up all the users beforehand, and everyone gets to log in with their passwords and keep all their work in a central place. Moreover, users cannot change the software, so educators have control over which programs their learners can use.
  • It uses a slightly altered Raspbian build which allows separation of temporary spaces, doesn’t have the default ‘pi’ user, and has LDAP enabled for log-in.

What can I do with PiServer?

Serve a whole classroom of Pis

In a classroom, PiServer allows all files for lessons or projects to be stored on a central x86-based computer. Each user can have their own account, and any files they create are also stored on the server. Moreover, the networked Pis doesn’t need to be connected to the internet. The teacher has centralised control over all Pis, and all Pis are user-agnostic, meaning there’s no need to match a person with a computer or an SD card.

Build a home server

PiServer could be used in the home to serve file systems for all Raspberry Pis around the house — either a single common Raspbian file system for all Pis or a different operating system for each. Hopefully, our extensive OS suppliers will provide suitable build files in future.

Use it as a controller for networked Pis

In an industrial scenario, it is possible to use PiServer to develop a network of Raspberry Pis (maybe even using Power over Ethernet (PoE)) such that the control software for each Pi is stored remotely on a server. This enables easy remote control and provisioning of the Pis from a central repository.

How to use PiServer

The client machines

So that you can use a Pi as a client, you need to enable network booting on it. Power it up using an SD card with a Raspbian Lite image, and open a terminal window. Type in

echo program_usb_boot_mode=1 | sudo tee -a /boot/config.txt

and press Return. This adds the line program_usb_boot_mode=1 to the end of the config.txt file in /boot. Now power the Pi down and remove the SD card. The next time you connect the Pi to a power source, you will be able to network boot it.

The server machine

As a server, you will need an x86 computer on which you can install x86 Debian Stretch. Refer to Simon’s blog post for additional information on this. It is possible to use a Raspberry Pi to serve to the client Pis, but the file system will be slower, especially at boot time.

Make sure your server has a good amount of disk space available for the file system — in general, we recommend at least 16Gb SD cards for Raspberry Pis. The whole client file system is stored locally on the server, so the disk space requirement is fairly significant.

Next, start PiServer by clicking on the start icon and then clicking Preferences > PiServer. This will open a graphical user interface — the wizard — that will walk you through setting up your network. Skip the introduction screen, and you should see a screen looking like this:

PiServer GUI screenshot

If you’ve enabled network booting on the client Pis and they are connected to a power source, their MAC addresses will automatically appear in the table shown above. When you have added all your Pis, click Next.

PiServer GUI screenshot

On the Add users screen, you can set up users on your server. These are pairs of user names and passwords that will be valid for logging into the client Raspberry Pis. Don’t worry, you can add more users at any point. Click Next again when you’re done.

PiServer GUI screenshot

The Add software screen allows you to select the operating system you want to run on the attached Pis. (You’ll have the option to assign an operating system to each client individually in the setting after the wizard has finished its job.) There are some automatically populated operating systems, such as Raspbian and Raspbian Lite. Hopefully, we’ll add more in due course. You can also provide your own operating system from a local file, or install it from a URL. For further information about how these operating system images are created, have a look at the scripts in /var/lib/piserver/scripts.

Once you’re done, click Next again. The wizard will then install the necessary components and the operating systems you’ve chosen. This will take a little time, so grab a coffee (or decaffeinated drink of your choice).

When the installation process is finished, PiServer is up and running — all you need to do is reboot the Pis to get them to run from the server.

Shooting troubles

If you have trouble getting clients connected to your network, there are a fewthings you can do to debug:

  1. If some clients are connecting but others are not, check whether you’ve enabled the network booting mode on the Pis that give you issues. To do that, plug an Ethernet cable into the Pi (with the SD card removed) — the LEDs on the Pi and connector should turn on. If that doesn’t happen, you’ll need to follow the instructions above to boot the Pi and edit its /boot/config.txt file.
  2. If you can’t connect to any clients, check whether your network is suitable: format an SD card, and copy bootcode.bin from /boot on a standard Raspbian image onto it. Plug the card into a client Pi, and check whether it appears as a new MAC address in the PiServer GUI. If it does, then the problem is a known issue, and you can head to our forums to ask for advice about it (the network booting code has a couple of problems which we’re already aware of). For a temporary fix, you can clone the SD card on which bootcode.bin is stored for all your clients.

If neither of these things fix your problem, our forums are the place to find help — there’s a host of people there who’ve got PiServer working. If you’re sure you have identified a problem that hasn’t been addressed on the forums, or if you have a request for a functionality, then please add it to the GitHub issues.

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