pskl.us http://www.pskl.us/wp Preset Kill Limit Thu, 04 Feb 2016 15:02:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Installing Nmap 7 RPMs on Centos/RHEL http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=863 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=863#respond Sat, 05 Dec 2015 14:02:57 +0000 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=863 According to the nmap.org site, installation of Nmap 7.00 on a RPM-based system is this easy:

# rpm -vhU https://nmap.org/dist/nmap-7.00-1.x86_64.rpm

However, on a CentOS/RHEL system, nmap fails to run, throwing the following error:

nmap: error while loading shared libraries: libsvn_client-1.so.0: cannot open shared object file: No such file or directory

Turns out that the Nmap RPM dynamically links to files provided by the Subversion package.  To get Nmap working, simply install it:

# yum -y install subversion

Nmap will now work properly.

# nmap -v

Starting Nmap 7.00 ( https://nmap.org ) at 2015-12-05 09:02 EST
Read data files from: /usr/bin/../share/nmap
WARNING: No targets were specified, so 0 hosts scanned.
Nmap done: 0 IP addresses (0 hosts up) scanned in 0.09 seconds
Raw packets sent: 0 (0B) | Rcvd: 0 (0B)

 

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Apple’s UDID Hypocrisy http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=805 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=805#respond Tue, 18 Sep 2012 01:01:19 +0000 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=805 On the third of September, a hacker claiming affiliation with AntiSec made a post on pastebin.com describing an intricate attack against an FBI agent’s laptop.  The hacker claims to have dumped a database containing over twelve million unique device identifiers (UDIDs) of Apple iOS devices, along with personal information which could tie a user’s real-world identity to his or her device’s electronic serial number.  The hackers made just over one million of these UDIDs public, and analysis elsewhere has suggested that the data is that of actual Apple devices.  I wrote extensively about the use and abuse of the UDID in a paper which was released just under two years ago.

During the finger pointing phase which followed the leak, the FBI and Apple both denied that they were the sources of the data.  It was later discovered that the leak came from an application developer called Blue Toad, who uses UDID data extensively in their development work.

Thrust into the spotlight, Apple took this opportunity to remind the user community that they have been actively working to address UDID privacy concerns on the iOS platform.  Not only has Apple deprecated the use of the UDID since the release of iOS5 early in 2011, they have  recently started to reject App store submissions for applications which query the iOS UDID.

As it turns out, Apple is taking a “Do as I say, not as I do” approach with UDID security.  Apple continues to collect device’s UDIDs every time an advertisement banner is displayed in any application which uses Apple’s very own iAd banner advertisement system.

It’s quite easy to find an application which uses the iAd network.  For this demonstration (data collected 9.17.12) we’ll take a look at Qrafter, a QR code scanning application.

Notice the iAd watermark in the lower right corner of the banner ad.

The iAd banners are retrieved using SSL, which makes traffic analysis somewhat more difficult.  By using an appropriate MITM tool, such as Ettercap, Charles or MITM Proxy, it is possible to examine the plain-text contents of the otherwise encrypted conversation.

The iAd banner retrieved by the Qrafter application comes from a server named iadsdk.apple.com.  When the application requests the banner ad graphics, it also transmits the iOS device’s UDID to the remote host at apple.com.

Zooming in on the highlighted section reveals the UDID of the iPhone used in this demonstration.

Using the UDID Tool app, we can confirm that this is the UDID of our iOS device:

Apple’s move to keep UDID-aware applications out of the App store was billed as a system put in place to enhance the privacy of its loyal user base .  Considering the behavior of iAd, however, this policy change smells much more like an attempt by Apple to squeeze the competing advertisement networks out of its exclusive online marketplace.

Seeing as how they burned the unique device ID into the phone’s firmware in the first place, Apple clearly already knows the UDIDs of every devices it manufactures.  By logging this data during a banner ad fetch, however, Apple is building a database of which applications you use and where and when you use them.    By restricting the use of UDIDs by third parties, they’re giving the iAd system a clear “trackability” boost over their rivals.

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Integrate your SafeConnect NAC with a Palo Alto Firewall http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=757 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=757#comments Fri, 29 Jun 2012 13:43:55 +0000 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=757 The following script allows you to export Username:IP Address pairings from your SafeConnect NAC appliance into your Palo Alto firewall.  This allows for super-fast identification of misbehaving clients and infected machines on your network.

Requirements:

  • A Palo Alto firewall and a SafeConnect NAC box (obviously)
  • MySQL database, configured to receive logging from your SafeConnect Appliance (SafeConnect support can help with the log export configuration on your appliance)
  • A Linux box to run this script.   I suggest using the same box as your MySQL DB, but that’s up to you.
  • Two windows servers.  If you’re an AD shop, just install these on any member server.

Setup:

1) Install the Palo Alto UserID Agent (download from the Palo Alto support site) on two member servers in your domain.  The account you provide to the agent needs permission to read the event logs on the Domain Controllers.  It must also have local administrator access to the box where it is installed.

2) Configure the Palo Alto UserID agent to accept incoming XML connections (Setup -> Edit -> Agent Service)

3) Configure the Access Control List of the PA User-ID Agent program to permit connections from your Linux box and your Palo Alto Firewalls. (Setup -> Access Control List -> Add).  Be sure to permit ports 5006/TCP and 5007/TCP through any applicable firewalls as well.

4) Configure your Palo Alto firewalls to communicate with the UserID Agents.  (From the WebUI, Device -> User Identification -> User-ID Agents).  The port number is 5007.

5) Install MySQL on your Linux box, and configure the SafeConnect appliance for MySQL export to your server.  (The MySQL setup is beyond the scope of this document).  SafeConnect support can assist you with the appliance-side configuration.  Create a MySQL user with permission to read the “clienthist” table from the Linux box where you’ll be running the script.

6) Install the PAN::API Perl Module on your Linux box.  On RHEL, you can drop it into /usr/lib/perl5/site_perl.  The module is available for download from https://live.paloaltonetworks.com/docs/DOC-1662

7) Copy the pa-uid-safeconnect.pl script to your Linux box:

#!/usr/bin/perl
#
# pa-uid-aruba.pl
# Revsion 0.2
#
# Collects username:IP pairings from your Impulse Point SafeConnect NAC box and and loads the data
# into the Palo Alto Firewall’s UserID agents.  The Palo Alto UserID agent runs on a Windows server;  you’ll
# need two UserID agent boxes to use this script as-written.
#
# Requires the PAN:API and DBI PERL modules.   You’ll also need to setup MySQL log export from your appliance
# to a MySQL database which is maintained on a separate server.  Ask your SafeConnect support rep for
# assistance in setting up the “BackupDB” export.
#
# This script was written for, and tested under, Red Hat Linux.
#
# NOTE:  The PAN::API module does not have proper error handling, and will die if an attempt is made to
# connect to a Palo Alto UserID agent box that is not responding.
#
# eric@pskl.us 06.27.12
#
#
# Configuration Section #################################

# Your Palo Alto User-ID Agent boxes:

$server1=”pa-uid-agent-1.pskl.us”;
$server2=”pa-uid-agent-2.pskl.us”;

# Your BackupDB MySQL host and user; the specified user needs read access to the “clienthist” table.

$mysql_server=”mysqlbox-14.pskl.us”;
$mysql_username=”MySQL_username”;
$mysql_password=”MySQL_password”;

# How often do you require users to re-authenticate to SafeConnect, in days?
$safeconnect_reauth_time=7;

# Maximum number of submissions to the PA UID Agent per session (100 seems to work well).
$XMLSize=100;

# Enable debugging (yes/no).  Generates a lot of output, use with caution.

$debug=”yes”;

#### End of Configuration Section ####

use DBI();
use PAN::API;

# Create PAN::API Objects

$pa_uid_agent_1=PAN::API::UID->new($server1);
$pa_uid_agent_2=PAN::API::UID->new($server2);

# Connection to your SafeConnect BackupDB instance

my $dbobject = DBI->connect(“DBI:mysql:database=backupDB;host=$mysql_server”,
$mysql_username, $mysql_password, {‘RaiseError’ => 1});

# MySQL query string.  Pulls the last $safeconnect_reauth_time days of data.

$query=<<EOF;
SELECT transDate,currentIpAddress,principal from clienthist where
DATE_SUB(CURDATE(), INTERVAL $safeconnect_reauth_time DAY) <= transDate order by transDate asc;
EOF

my $queryobject = $dbobject->prepare($query);

$queryobject->execute();

while (@row = $queryobject->fetchrow_array()) {

# Only process those entries with a username present..

if ( $row[2] ) {
($username, $groups)=split(“,”, $row[2]);
$ipdb{$row[1]}=$username;
if ( $debug eq “yes” ) {
print “Found pairing:  $row[0] $row[1] –> $username \n”;
};
};
};

# Close the connection to the BackupDB

$queryobject->finish();

$dbobject->disconnect();

# Process collected data

foreach $ip ( keys %ipdb ) {

if ( $ipdb{$ip} eq “null” ) {

# ignore “null” entries – indicates user has policy key installed but has
# not logged in through the web interface

} else {

if ( $debug eq “yes” ) {
print “Processing $ip –> $ipdb{$ip}\n”;
};

# Create the XML entries for this IP:Username pair
$pa_uid_agent_1->add(‘login’,$ipdb{$ip},$ip);
$pa_uid_agent_2->add(‘login’,$ipdb{$ip},$ip);
$count++;

if ( $count eq $XMLSize ) {
# Submit data to the agent in batches of $XMLSize
$count=0;

if ( $debug eq “yes” ) {
print “>> Submitting batch to $server1\n”;
};

$pa_uid_agent_1->submit();

if ( $debug eq “yes” ) {
print “>> Submitting batch to $server2\n”;
};

$pa_uid_agent_2->submit();

};
};
};

# Submit any remaining entries

if ( $debug eq “yes” ) {
print “>> Submitting final batch to $server1\n”;
};

$pa_uid_agent_1->submit();

if ( $debug eq “yes” ) {
print “>> Submitting final batch to $server2\n”;
};

$pa_uid_agent_2->submit();

# Done

8) Run the script.  If everything is configured properly, you’ll see username:IP pairings being retrieved from your database and transmitted to the Palo Alto UserID agent boxes:

Found pairing:  2012-06-29 09:18:24 18.42.124.194 –> jdoe01
Found pairing:  2012-06-29 09:18:26 18.42.124.194 –> jdoe01
Found pairing:  2012-06-29 09:19:18 18.42.97.119 –> jdoe02
Found pairing:  2012-06-29 09:19:19 18.42.97.119 –> jdoe02
Found pairing:  2012-06-29 09:19:24 18.42.97.119 –> jdoe07
Found pairing:  2012-06-29 09:20:09 18.42.124.239 –> jdoe02
Found pairing:  2012-06-29 09:20:10 18.42.124.239 –> jdoe07
Found pairing:  2012-06-29 09:20:19 18.42.201.219 –> jdoe31
>> Submitting batch to pa-uid-agent-1.pskl.us
>> Submitting batch to pa-uid-agent-2.pskl.us

9) Check the Palo Alto UserID agent’s GUI.  Under the “Monitoring” tab, you’ll see the new entries appear.

10) Configure your Linux box to run the pa-uid-safeconnect.pl script periodically.  Once every four hours seems about right for an environment where users must re-authenticate once every seven days.  Adjust accordingly.

11) WIN!  Your Palo Alto firewall will now tag any applicable log entries with the corresponding username.

I hope this has been helpful.  Please leave any questions or comments in the forum below.

 

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Integrate your Aruba Wireless User Data with your Palo Alto Firewall http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=752 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=752#comments Wed, 27 Jun 2012 15:16:13 +0000 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=752 The following script allows you to export Username:IP Address pairings from your Aruba Wireless Controller into your Palo Alto firewall.  This allows for super-fast identification of misbehaving clients and infected machines on your network.

Requirements:

  • A Palo Alto firewall and an Aruba Wireless controller (obviously)
  • A Linux box to run this script.
  • Two windows servers.  If you’re an AD shop, just install these on any member server.

Setup:

1) Install the Palo Alto UserID Agent (download from the Palo Alto support site) on two member servers in your domain. The account you provide to the agent needs permission to read the event logs on the Domain Controllers. It must also have local administrator access to the box where it is installed.

2) Configure the Palo Alto UserID agent to accept incoming XML connections (Setup -> Edit -> Agent Service)

3) Configure the Access Control List of the PA User-ID Agent program to permit connections from your Linux box and your Palo Alto Firewalls. (Setup -> Access Control List -> Add). Be sure to permit ports 5006/TCP and 5007/TCP through any applicable firewalls as well.

4) Configure your Palo Alto firewalls to communicate with the UserID Agents. (From the WebUI, Device -> User Identification -> User-ID Agents). The port number is 5007.


5) Install the PAN::API Perl Module on your Linux box. On RHEL, you can drop it into /usr/lib/perl5/site_perl. The module is available for download from https://live.paloaltonetworks.com/docs/DOC-1662

6)  Copy the pa-uid-aruba.pl script to your Linux box:

#!/usr/bin/perl
#
# pa-uid-aruba.pl
# Rev 0.1
#
# Rev 0.2 – 7/2/12 – Removed double-backslash from posted usernames
#
# Collects username:IP pairings from your Aruba wireless controller(s) and loads the data
# into the Palo Alto Firewall’s UserID agents.
#
# Requires the PAN:API PERL module and the snmpwalk binaries.
#
# NOTE:  The PAN::API module does not have proper error handling, and will die if an attempt is made to
# connect to a Palo Alto UserID agent box that is not responding.
#
# This script uses plain-text SNMP to extract data from your Aruba controller.  Be sure to
# use a secure, dedicated link between your management box and your controllers for this application.
#
# eric@pskl.us 06.27.12
#
#
# Configuration Section #################################

# Aruba boxes
@ArubaControllers=(“aruba-master”, “aruba-local”);

# Credentials
$ArubaCommunity=”indiapaleale”;

# Palo Alto Agents.

$PA_UID_Agent_1=”auth-1.bucknell.edu”;
$PA_UID_Agent_2=”auth-2.bucknell.edu”;

# Maximum number of submissions per session (100 seems to work well).
$XMLSize=100;

# Uncomment this line if you want debugging output.
$debug=yes;

# End of Configuration Section ###########################

use PAN::API;

foreach $switch ( @ArubaControllers ) {

@ArubaUsers=`/usr/bin/snmpwalk -v 2c -c $ArubaCommunity $switch 1.3.6.1.4.1.14823.2.2.1.4.1.2.1.3`;

foreach $line ( @ArubaUsers ) {

if ( $line=~/\.(\d{1,3}\.\d{1,3}\.\d{1,3}\.\d{1,3}) = STRING: “(.+)”/ ) {
$users{$1}=$2;
if ( $debug ) { print “From Aruba controller $switch:  $1 >> $2\n” };
$ArubaCount++;
};
};

};

if ( $debug ) { print “Found $ArubaCount IP:Username pairings.\n” };

$auth1=PAN::API::UID->new($PA_UID_Agent_1);
$auth2=PAN::API::UID->new($PA_UID_Agent_2);

foreach $ip ( keys %users ) {

$users{$ip}=~s/\\\\/\\/g;
$auth1->add(‘login’,”$users{$ip}”,”$ip”);
$auth2->add(‘login’,”$users{$ip}”,”$ip”);

$count++;

if ( $count eq $XMLSize ) {
$count=0;

if ( $debug ) {
print “Submitting $XMLSize entries to the PA-UID Agent boxes\n”; };

$auth1->submit();
$auth2->submit();
};

};

if ( $debug ) {
print “Submitting the balance of the entries to the PA-UID Agent boxes\n”; };

$auth1->submit();
$auth2->submit();

# Fin

8) Run the script.  If everything is configured properly, you’ll see username:IP pairings being retrieved from your database and transmitted to the Palo Alto UserID agent boxes:

From Aruba controller aruba1:  10.6.123.212 >> archer
From Aruba controller aruba1:  10.6.101.12 >> lana

From Aruba controller aruba1:  10.6.122.47 >> carol
From Aruba controller aruba1:  10.6.122.47 >> cheryl
From Aruba controller aruba1:  10.6.122.61 >> cyril
From Aruba controller aruba1:  10.6.116.131 >> seamus
Found 548 IP:Username pairings.
Submitting 100 entries to the PA-UID Agent boxes
Submitting 100 entries to the PA-UID Agent boxes
Submitting 100 entries to the PA-UID Agent boxes
Submitting 100 entries to the PA-UID Agent boxes
Submitting 100 entries to the PA-UID Agent boxes
Submitting the balance of the entries to the PA-UID Agent boxes

9) Check the Palo Alto UserID agent’s GUI.  Under the “Monitoring” tab, you’ll see the new entries appear.

10) Configure your Linux box to run the pa-uid-aruba.pl script periodically.  Once every 30-60 minutes works well.

11) WIN!  Your Palo Alto firewall will now tag any applicable log entries with the corresponding username.

I hope this has been helpful.  Please leave any questions or comments in the forum below.

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We got a takedown notice from LifeShield for our positive review http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=722 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=722#comments Thu, 10 May 2012 18:19:57 +0000 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=722 Yes, you read the headline correctly.

Our 95% glowing review of the LifeShield products and services earned me a DMCA takedown notice from a “Digital Content Protection” company on behalf of LifeShield. You’re saying “OK, that sure sounds dumb, but what are the grounds for a takedown notice in the first place?” I had the same question.
The content of the notice was:

It has come to our attention that your website or website hosted by your company contains links to LifeShield, Inc website (www.lifeshield.com) which results in financial losses by the company we represent, because of search engine penalties.

I request you to remove from following website (pskl.us)
all links to www.lifeshield.com website as soon as possible.
In order to find the links please do the following:
1) If this is an online website directory, use directory’s search system to find “LifeShield” links.
2) If there are hidden links in the source code of website, open website’s main page and view its source code. Search for “lifeshield.com” in the source code and you will see hidden links.

I have a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by LifeShield, Inc, its agents, or the law. Therefore, this letter is an official notification to effect removal of the detected infringement listed in this letter.

I further declare under penalty of perjury that I am authorized to act on behalf of copyright holder and that the information in this letter is accurate.

Please, inform me within 48 hours of the results of your actions. Otherwise we will be forced to contact your ISP.
LifeShield, Inc will be perusing legal action if the webmaster does not remove the referenced link within 48 hours.
LifeShield, Inc will be forced to include the hosting company in the suite for trademark infringement.

Makes perfect sense, right? Trademark infringement. Because of links. As part of a review.

As you would assume, I was furious. I forwarded the email to a sales manager at LifeShield and then called them and left a message. I got a call back later that night from the sales manager. She apologized and said I didn’t have to remove the links. I said I was pretty annoyed at being threatened with a BS takedown notice and a simple apology wasn’t going to cut it. I wanted to know that this isn’t how they do business.

I got an email from her later that night:

I didn’t want to call you because it is so late, but I wanted to go ahead and contact you about this. I did hear back from my manager via email and she said that they are contacting the gentleman who sent the email, and they will have this taken care of immediately. There will be no further action that you have to take and you will not receive any more emails like this. I apologize about this and if you have any questions please feel free to contact me.

I got another email from upper management:

I am the svp interactive for lifeshield.com.  Please ignore the dmca email you received.  We hired them to protect our trademark and your site was accidentally included in our list of sites.  I just sent them a note to take you off their list.  Please keep our links on your site.  We apologize for the inconvenience.

I was no longer really worried about the “inconvenience” so much as I was worried that I was supporting and endorsing a company with unethical business practices. I replied with this:

While I appreciate the apology, I have a bigger question: are you OK with how this guy is going about “protecting your trademark?”
Telling people you are going to sue them (and their ISP) if they don’t remove LINKS to your website is unethical at best and quite possibly fraudulent use of the DMCA. Did you read the email he sent me? Here are a few of my favorite parts:

It has come to our attention that your website or website hosted by your company contains links to LifeShield, Inc website (www.lifeshield.com) which results in financial losses by the company we represent, because of search engine penalties.

I’m sure this isn’t news to you, but this is 100% BS. You can’t claim losses via poor SEO and leverage a law suit against somebody else to fix it.

I have a good faith belief that use of the material in the manner complained of is not authorized by LifeShield, Inc, its agents, or the law. Therefore, this letter is an official notification to effect removal of the detected infringement listed in this letter.

Once again, I’m sure you know that permission is not needed to provide links to a publicly-available website. This guy identified himself as the head of “anti-piracy.” He is basically equating a link to intellectual property. This is fallacious on so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin.

Please, inform me within 48 hours of the results of your actions. Otherwise we will be forced to contact your ISP.
LifeShield, Inc will be perusing legal action if the webmaster does not remove the referenced link within 48 hours.
LifeShield, Inc will be forced to include the hosting company in the suite for trademark infringement.

Finally, the threat. Remove the links or we’ll sue you and your hosting company. For trademark infringement. You’ve got to be kidding me.

This is not how you protect a trademark, Evan, this is how you ruin it. Am I to understand that the people intended to be on your “list” (bad reviews?) are also getting letters like this? Have you heard of the Streisand Effect?
Now, if there are people out there legitimately infringing on your trademark, by all means, pursue them and shut them down… but do it with legitimate DMCA takedowns, not this thug-style intimidation BS. We all know how these work: people will do as you ask because it isn’t worth the trouble (or possible legal fees) to put up a fight, even though they know you have ZERO legal ground to stand on.

Please tell me you are straightening this out with the IP protection company (or cutting off your business relationship with them). I’m willing to accept the explanation that you hired this company thinking they were above-board and you didn’t know they’d be up to these shenanigans, but now you DO know. This isn’t how you want to handle your business on the Internet. I can tell you I don’t want to be involved with or endorse a business that does so.

Sums up my feelings well, I think. They were not impressed with my righteous indignation, however, and replied thusly:

I appreciate your feedback.  However, we had a site cloak lifeshield and generate over 700K back links to our site without our knowledge.  Google stepped in and slapped us with a search ranking penalty to which our business has suffered major losses.  Understood that the links on your site to LifeShield.com may be legitimate (and we rectified this) but we needed to be aggressive to rectify the situation and protect our business.  We are a legitimate home security brand with hundreds of employees and had to layoff great employees due to this and our business is still down significantly. Again, I apologize for the inconvenience; however, as a business owner yourself, you can imagine our loss.

So I said:

So you’re saying that somebody went out and bought 700K back links for you, knowing that it would get you penalized by Google? So does that mean you had (Company name) send out 700K DMCA notices? Talk about throwing good money after bad. Report the linkspam to the spam team at Google, then spend that money on an SEO expert rather than on trying to bully people with intimidation.

I understand that it sucks when people mess with your business, but it doesn’t excuse slimy tactics by you. If your house catches on fire, you don’t put it out with manure. How many other innocent people got your pit bull’s strong-arm, unethical (borderline fraudulent) DMCA takedown notice? Do you care? Or are you just scorching earth?

I want to be on your side, but you are making it difficult by standing behind a practice that represents all that is wrong with the internet. I really, really believe you should rethink this methodology.

No response. 2 days later, I got ANOTHER takedown notice, identical to the first one. I informed LifeShield:

I received another takedown notice this morning from the brilliant minds of (Name of company), identical to the last.

If you’d like to call him off, I’d like to be CC:’ed on the emails for my records, and I’d like to receive an email from him stating that he will not be taking legal action against me or my hosting service.

I got no response from LifeShield, but I got this from the genius at the IP protection company:

I have received a complaint from our customer LifeShield.com about you not satisfying our business practice.

While I have some objections I must accept that you are right and would like to apologize for any inconveniences caused.

As a  justification of our good intentions I’d like you to realize that we’ve been put on a very tight deadline and had to remove over 5 thousands links within 10-14 days and we had no ability to check the quality and the nature of those links. Our client hired an SEO expert requiring to remove links in the list before they go ahead and submit a reconsideration request with Google.

As a result we’ve got it done in that way. Again I do apologize and would like you to reconsider your opinion about us and our client.

Please let me know if you have any questions, I’d be happy to explain.

P.S. We are like the police dealing mostly with online criminals and sometimes we forget that there are a lot of good people around, honestly doing their online business.

Yes, everybody, have some sympathy for these heroes, these “internet police.” Brilliant. I like that he admitted that I’m right, though. My response:

My problem with your business practice is very simple:

A party creating large quantities of backlinks to a site in order to generate SEO (or, in this case, destroy SEO) is unethical.

It is not illegal.

Threatening legal action against this party (and making the spurious claim of “trademark infringement”) for doing so is even more unethical (since you are supposed to be the good guys) and short-sighted, in my opinion.

Any “SEO Expert” who recommends this course of action is just as misguided and, in my opinion, not very good at their job.

His response to this was very telling, I think:

I got your idea. All this “link removal” thing is quite new to us. It is our second order of this kind, but we have already processed more them 30k links. And what we find is that people not react when we kindly ask them to remove the links. We tried to contact huge amount of website and ask them to get rid of those links, but didn’t get any response at all. And on the opposite email which you got from us first time worked really good. 🙂 I felt like this is not the right thing to do, but you know we had to finish our business. However, I apologize once again for any inconvenience we caused. And in case you will ever need any Intellectual Property protection service just shoot me an email. I’ll give you a discount for our services.

So they knew it was “not the right thing to do,” but it worked, so who cares! Those are some high-quality business practices.

While all this was going on, I had one other little issue with LifeShield. They weren’t paying me for referrals I had earned. When I originally wrote my reviews of the LifeShield products and services (March, 2010), they had a referral system in place. If I got 5 referrals, I’d get free security system monitoring for life. They provided a link to give to possible customers. I used it all over my reviews. I personally knew 3 parties that had purchased systems via my referral link, but I figured there were more that I didn’t know about (based on the amount of traffic my post was getting and the comments/questions I received). I called them up one day and asked what the status was of my referrals to see if I had earned my free monitoring yet.

They said I had zero referrals. Zero. I asked to speak to a manager immediately, and the manager basically told me that the referral system wasn’t working. Thanks so much for telling us, folks. I told them I was pretty upset about that and I felt confident that I had provided them with 5 customers and I’d like my free monitoring. She spoke with management and got back to me quickly to tell me that they agreed. They gave me the free monitoring for life. Great, right? At that point, the referral system became useless to me so I removed the links and just left the review stand. I updated it from time to time and answered any questions people posted as comments or emailed to me. I was grateful for a product I really like and for the free monitoring.

Fast forward to late 2011: they launched a new referral system that offered $150 per referral for new customers! Great deal, especially since the referred party also would get a free network camera. After verifying that I could take part (since I had used the previous referral program), I signed up immediately and added the new referral links and info to my reviews. I also updated the review to reflect some of the changes they had made to their service (such as requiring a contract). They would email me when people used my referral link so that I could send a personalized link to the new customer to help make sure the referral was recorded properly. I didn’t understand why this was necessary, but I did it anyway. Every time.

I noticed that the referral tracking system was (once again) showing that I had not earned any referrals. I had email and phone conversations with sales reps and sales managers over and over, checking to make sure that I was, in fact, getting credit for my referrals. They assured me that I was. “The system only updates once a month,” they told me. A month later, still nothing. “I’ll make sure they get put in immediately,” they’d tell me. Still nothing. Around this time is when the first DMCA takedown notice shows up. Nice timing, eh?

At this point, I had $1350 worth of referrals that I could document (and that LifeShield had confirmed…who knows if there were more, perhaps?). I was told at one point:

I just heard back and was told that all the credits should be processed by the end of the day today. If there is any change in that I will let you know.

And that was the very last email I ever received from LifeShield. As you would probably assume, I never received my referral payout. Combine this with the shady DMCA takedowns and you have a very unhappy blogger. The sad part is that I still love the products and service. That’s the only reason I left the reviews up. I emailed LifeShield to let them know I was removing all my referral links (and why) and that I’d be eventually writing a blog post (like this one) explaining the whole ordeal. I’d like to let customers read my review and also read this description of their business practices and then make up their own minds as to whether or not they’d like to do business with LifeShield. If you think I’m being a whiny turd about all this and the product sounds great: go ahead and buy it. If you think the product sounds great but you don’t like the way they work: move on to the competition. Regardless, let me know what you think in the comments below.

Oh, one last thing. The “SVP Interactive” of LifeShield inexplicably cc’ed me on a recent email to the IP protection company with a new list of sites to harrass over “trademark infringement.” That doggone “reply to all” button will get you every time, eh? Seriously, learn how to internet.

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Dual Booting Windows 7 w/Bitlocker and BackTrack Linux 5. (You SAID WHAT?) http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=700 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=700#comments Thu, 05 Apr 2012 14:47:53 +0000 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=700 Recently, due to laptop thefts at work and the risk of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) loss, I had to make the difficult choice to start a project to force encrypt our user laptops.  So, due to “what do we already own?” , I chose Microsoft Bitlocker for the Windows 7 computers, and FileVault for the Macintosh OSX 10.7 computers.

That seems fine, however, one “snag”…   I use a dual boot Backtrack 5 and Windows 7 machines DAILY at work.  So, being the guy who lives by the rule “Don’t give an order that you’re not willing to follow yourself” kind of guy, I had to figure out how to encrypt my windows side and still boot Backtrack 5.

I got it to work.  I was painful.

take a second to re-read that.  yes, it works, and yes, it caused me pain to make it work.

So, here are the steps I used to make this work:

Step 1: Wipe the drive.  (you should have backed it up if you needed to save something…  I shouldn’t have to tell you that.)

Step 2: Create a partition for the Win7 to be housed.  Make it the first partition.  Leave unallocated space for BackTrack.  (I left 30 gigs for backtrack…  you probably want more, I have a lot of scripts that always put captured data on something external that I mount and encrypt with Truecrypt…)

Step 3: Install Windows7 (or dump your standard image) to that partition.  Mine created a 100MB boot thing before the windows 7 partition, let it do whatever it wants to do, except use that unallocated space you already saved for Backtrack.

Step 4: Boot Windows 7 and test.   Make sure Windows 7 works first! (Well, functions as well as one could expect for Windows)

Step 5: In Windows, run this command from a command prompt: “%windir%\System32\BdeHdCfg.exe” -target default  (this command preps the drive for Bitlocker.)

Step 6: Encrypt the drive via Bitlocker with your pin.  (record the recovery key.  this is the single more important long string of numbers you’ll ever deal with in Windows. Preserve it, protect it.  This key is your life, young padawan…)

Step 7: When it’s done, Boot Windows 7 and test.   Make sure Windows 7 still works!  (Well, functions as well as one could expect for Windows)

Step 8: Pause Bitlocker.   I turned it off.  (this seems to make no sense, but I had a problem testing this that if I tried to encrypt the drive after installing Linux, forget it, it died.)

Step 9: Boot Backtrack 5 DVD/USB key.

Step 10: Install backtrack 5 to that new unallocated partition.   I configured /dev/sda3 as my /boot partition and /dev/sda5 as my root and /dev/sda6 as my swap.  /dev/sda1 was the windows 7 boot partition and /dev/sda2 was my windows 7 system partition)

Step 11: make sure when you install grub, you install it to /dev/sda3.   DO NOT PUT IT IN THE MBR or /dev/sda or /dev/sda1.  If you do, you just screwed yourself.

Step 12: This will only boot to Windows 7 still.   Grab BCDEDIT for windows, and add a boot option to boot linux on /dev/sda3.

Step 13:  Boot Windows 7 and test.   Make sure Windows 7 still works! (Well, functions as well as one could expect for Windows)

Step 14: Boot Backtrack 5 from the windows boot menu.  it should shell to grub, boot it.  Make sure Backtrack 5 works.

Step 15: Boot Windows 7 and turn Bitlocker back on.   (record the recovery key.  this is the single more important long string of numbers you’ll ever deal with in Windows. Preserve it, protect it.  This key is your life, young padawan…)

Step 16: It should present you the windows 7 boot menu, where option 1 is Windows 7 and option 2 is Backtrack Linux then it should now prompt you for your Bitlocker pin.

I can’t stress two things: #1) this took me weeks of wiping the drive to figure this out.  Don’t be shocked if you have to tweek the steps for your specific situation.  #2) that recovery key is the most important thing in this process…

a few notes: (things that make you go Hmmmm…)
1) It asks you to pick which OS first, then prompts you to enter your Bitlocker pin…   You can’t boot linux unless you unlock bitlocker first.  Not sure why, but I’ll call it an “added feature!”  Remember, the linux side is NOT ENCRYPTED!   That means don’t be an *idiot* what you store there, assume it’s accessible if someone takes your laptop.
2) After you update-grub, plan on having your recovery password around for Bitlocker…  it always keeps asking me for it after I update grub, even though it’s installed to the /boot partition. (/dev/sda3 in my case)  Don’t leave your recovery key in your laptop bag, because that defeats the purpose of encrypting it, duh. I can’t stress that enough. The whole “point” is to protect the windows side in case anyone takes your laptop from getting any useful info off it….  Don’t forget the goal while you’re having so much fun messing with this nightmare.

–Bill (General Major Webelo Captain Zapp Brannigan)

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IT Crowd themed boot animation for Android phones http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=685 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=685#comments Mon, 09 Jan 2012 15:18:51 +0000 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=685 anim05 anim25

If you have a rooted Android phone, maybe you’ve messed around with replacing your boot animation (there are ways to do it without root, but you’re rooted anyway, right?).

I was bored a few months ago and I made a boot animation for my Droid Incredible that is based on the opening credits of the fantastic show The IT Crowd (look it up on Netflix if you haven’t seen it. You can thank me later). Now I’ve updated the animation for the 720p screen on my new Galaxy Nexus.

I made a crappy video demonstrating the boot animation here: http://bit.ly/ITCBoot

If you’d like to download them, they are here:

Galaxy Nexus (1280×720 version)

Droid Incredible (800×480 version)

Basic readme instructions are included in the zip file.

Install at your own risk!

My animation got a nice mention here on Androinica: http://androinica.com/2012/01/galaxy-nexus-it-crowd-boot-animation/

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Magic of RSYNC… http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=664 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=664#respond Wed, 28 Sep 2011 13:46:21 +0000 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=664 I routinely back up my RHEL boxes with RSYNC over SSH…   It’s just something I do.   Yeah, I know, I’m using “X” commercial backup application and it works well, yadda, yadda, yadda.   However, I still make at least weekly backups with RSYNC to a NAS.  It is a habit of mine, like hookers and blow.

Question came up, “how do you do a bare metal restore from that backup?” which tags along with the question “how do you do a bare metal copy from old server to brand new server?”

If the hardware isn’t too odd (usually hardware RAID controllers you have drivers in your initrd is the limiting factor here, but you can work around that too with some Linux foo skillz…), or it’s a bare metal restore to same hardware, yes, you can use RSYNC.

for my examples: “sourceserver” is the other running server that you want to bare metal copy to the destination.
“target” is the destination server.
First: boot the destination server with a rescue disk.   I use RHEL rescue CD.
Create your partitions to taste, and reboot again with the RHEL rescue CD.

Second: Mount partitions in the order you want them.  example: (I just picked an example partition table, seriously, match what you really need…)
mount /dev/sda2 /mnt/sysimage
mkdir /mnt/sysimage/boot
mount /dev/sda1 /mnt/sysimage/boot
mkdir /mnt/sysimage/home
mount /dev/sda5 /mnt/sysimage/home
mkdir /mnt/sysimage/var
mount /dev/sda6 /mnt/sysimage/var

this mounts all of the “target” under /mnt/sysimage on the rescue cd.
Third: I have this script I run:  (which you can make on the rescue disk, once again, a little bit of foo goes a long way…)

#!/bin/sh
rsync –verbose  –stats –owner –group –devices \
–recursive –times –perms –links \
–rsh=/usr/bin/ssh \
–delete \
–include=/opt/nfs \
–exclude=/proc \
–exclude=/sys \
root@”sourceserver”:/ /mnt/sysimage
#

enter your SSH password  (yes, you should allow root logon through SSH for this one, if you don’t know how to enable that, look it up on google, it’s braindead easy…)

Fourth: reset the permissions on the “/” share and make sure they are right:
chmod 755 /
Fifth: Finally, fix grub.  (this example is from my VMware ESX servers…)

From the linux rescue:

Issue the grub command:
grub

then type in these commands:  (depending on your hard drive layout and 0 = zero for those easily confused…)
device (hd0) /dev/sdm  (this server was /dev/sdm instead of something normal like /dev/sda…   salt to taste, or add butter like Paula Dean…)
root (hd0,0)
setup (hd0)
quit

then reboot and test, test again, enjoy!

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Harbor Freight Auto-Darkening Solar Welding Helmet Repair http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=648 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=648#comments Mon, 26 Sep 2011 18:49:51 +0000 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=648 A little over a year ago, I purchased one of Harbor Freight’s auto-darkening welding helmets.  For $50, it’s a great deal.

helmet1

Unfortunately, after less than a year of use, it simply stopped working.  Somewhat ironically, the way you find out that your helmet has stopped working is by getting a flash burn in your eyes when you weld using a broken helmet.

One of the guys in my welding class mentioned that there are batteries in the helmet which can go bad over time.  Batteries in a solar-powered helmet?  Clearly this guy was nuts — but I thought I’d check it out anyway.

Turns out, he wasn’t crazy.  There are two CR2330 coin cells soldered directly to the main circuit board inside of the unit:

batteryChecking the batteries with my voltmeter, I quickly discovered that one of them was completely dead.  The other battery was still putting out a solid 3VDC.

Since soldering in batteries every time they go dead is not exactly a user-friendly solution, I decided to replace them with AAA’s.  Here’s the procedure.

1)  Remove the darkness adjustment knob by gently prying it off with a screwdriver.  Un-screw the plastic nut which holds the unit in place.

2)  Remove the clear plastic shield from the front of the helmet, and then gently remove the electronics assembly by unhooking the retaining spring.

3)  Use a utility knife to pop open one corner of the enclosure.  Work your way around the circumference with a screwdriver, breaking apart the plastic weld, until the cover can be removed.

4) Mark the locations of the (+) and (-) of each coin cell.  Using your desoldering braid, remove the coin cells.

5)  Go to Radio Shack and buy two AAA battery holders.  I used these:

batt-holder

6)  Solder one AAA holder in place of each of the coin cells that you removed.  Be sure to observe polarity.

solder wires in

2holders

7)  Using the shaft of your soldering iron, melt a hole in the side of the enclosure so that the wires from the battery holders can exit.  You’ll also want to melt a corresponding hole in the cover.

8)  Mix up some 2-part epoxy, and epoxy the wires to the enclosure.  This step probably is not necessary, but I don’t want to burn my eyeballs again.

epoxy

9) Wait for the epoxy to dry.  Take this opportunity to clean all the viewing windows with Windex and a lint-free cloth, then  reassemble the unit.  There are four friction pins which seem to hold everything together just fine.

reassemble

10)   Re-install the electronics housing into the helmet.  Re-attach the darkness adjustment dial.

11)  Glue the two AAA holders to the inside of the helmet.  I initially used the same epoxy that I used to hold the wires in place, but it didn’t bond to either the plastic of the helmet or the plastic in the battery holders.  I ended up using my hot glue gun, which worked very well.

glue

glue2

12)   Install four AAA batteries, and then test your helmet.  I found – quite by accident – that the helmet will darken when you look at a halogen light bulb.

13)  Go weld stuff.

Good luck with your repair!

~Eric

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My Conversation with an AIM Bot http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=641 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=641#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2011 16:17:36 +0000 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=641 AIM Bots are nothing new — a poorly coded Eliza clone will IM you and attempt to get you to click on a URL.   The URLs I’ve seen tend to fall into one of two categories:  either a link to a malware download (usually an .exe) or a “free sign up” of some type which asks for your credit card information.

Here’s a conversation I had with an AIM bot which called itself “Jenny”…  (note:  I added the .noclick suffix to the URL)

(1:11:17 PM) incandescence20: 🙂
(1:12:49 PM) x2716057: this seems legitimate.
(1:13:06 PM) incandescence20: hello whats up? 21/f you
(1:13:35 PM) x2716057: my name is Alan Turing
(1:13:58 PM) incandescence20: Jenny
(1:14:17 PM) x2716057: Jenny.py I bet
(1:14:37 PM) incandescence20: o i’m sorry i can be forgetful at times..
(1:15:01 PM) x2716057: The thing about Arsenal is, they always try to walk it in.
(1:15:30 PM) incandescence20: so whats up
(1:15:39 PM) x2716057: My hovercraft is full of eels.
(1:16:08 PM) incandescence20: not much just got done reading a book.. it got me feeling naughty..
(1:17:00 PM) x2716057: I bet that you have a webcam you want me to check out.
(1:17:22 PM) incandescence20: are you in the mood 4 some fun?
(1:18:13 PM) x2716057: Are we going to balance my checkbook?
(1:18:37 PM) incandescence20: weII i have a webcam do you wanna play?
(2:13:15 PM) x2716057: Shocking!
(2:13:38 PM) incandescence20: i would love to let you watch me play with my pussy for u do you want to see?
(2:14:24 PM) x2716057: What kind of cat do you have?
(2:14:42 PM) incandescence20: ok click http://secretchatroulette.noclick.com/acceptinvite?=1796 & fill out your info don’t worry it’s FREEE!!!
(2:15:28 PM) x2716057: All that trouble to write an AIM bot and your URL doesn’t even work. Sheesh.
(2:15:48 PM) incandescence20: if i was a bot ..why would i be wearing this hat?? lolz
(2:16:34 PM) x2716057: you must be regex’ing on the word bot
(2:16:59 PM) x2716057: if ( $string=~/bot/i ) { print “I am not a bot”}

Jenny stopped talking to me after the last IM.  I guess she doesn’t like Perl.

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Backtrack 5 is out! Do you get a kernel panic when you startx? The FIX is here! http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=630 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=630#comments Wed, 18 May 2011 15:40:54 +0000 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=630 So, being someone who used Backtrack daily for my career, I routinely make sure I’m current with Backtrack.  So Backtrack 5 is out, I went and grabbed x64 KDE version, backedup up my PSKL directory on BT4R2, and blew it away…

First thing, startx didn’t load from the DVD until I removed some cache files…
rm /root/.kde/cache-root/icon-cache.kcache
rm /root/.kde/cache-root/plasma_theme_Volatile.kcache
rm /root/.kde/cache-bt/icon-cache.kcache
rm /root/.kde/cache-bt/plasma_theme_Volatile.kcache

So finally startx loaded and I was able to use the graphical installer to install it to my hard drive on my laptop.

When I rebooted, I did startx, and got a kernel panic (blinking caps lock light).   So I’m like, “M’kay, x64 kde is borked…” so I grabbed x64 gnome, repeat process, same things, x32 gnome, repeat process, same thing.  ok, it’s NOT borked, I’m just not doing it right.

so I searched and searched, found nothing immediately useful.  (I could bore the heck out of anyone with some of the searches I did to get at this one…)

Finally, I found this kernel parameter: i915.modeset=1

they should rename that to “setbrokentofixed=1”

So, put that at the end of your GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT in your /etc/default/grub and update-grub!

Boom, I appended that and now startx works and I can enjoy the BT5 goodness…   Now I just gotta configure my metasploit account on there and put my pskl directory back with all out awesome scripts.

Enjoy BackTrack 5!

Update (June 15th 2011): Talking with a few others, including the great comments here, you might need this like in your /etc/default/grub
Alternative line from Daveonator:
GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX_DEFAULT=”text splash vga=791 i915.modeset=1″
then update-grub.

Try it, and let us know.


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Facebook HTTPS setting is borked http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=614 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=614#comments Mon, 07 Feb 2011 19:01:18 +0000 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=614 We are all so busy applauding facebook for adding an “always use HTTPS” setting (thanks for finally responding to firesheep, folks), but maybe we should look a little more closely at it before telling the moms of the world to just set it and forget it. The stupid thing turns itself off (and doesn’t turn itself back on) when you go to a non-HTTPS facebook page.

In case you haven’t seen it described on 50,000 websites at this point, here’s the deal with the new “feature:”

Click on “Account” at the upper right of your facebook page and choose “Account Settings” … you’ll get something like this:

facebook-01

Click on “Account Security” and you’ll be able to check the new https box, illustrated here:

facebook-02b

note that it says “whenever possible” … this implies that there are some parts of the facebook site that are NOT capable of being served up via https. I have no idea why this is still the case, but it clearly is. The wording would also imply that once you check this box, you will get a https connection “whenever possible” and a http connection when https is not possible. What it DOESN’T say is that the first time you view a non-https page, the box will simply uncheck itself and next time you go to a https-capable page, it’ll be back in vanilla http mode.

So what are these non-https-capable pages? I can’t speak for all of them, but I’d be willing to bet that most of them are “facebook applications.” The only facebook app I use is Scrabble. After checking the https box, I tried to go to Scrabble and I got this page first:

facebook-04

Excellent, right? It is warning me that I’m leaving the safe-and-cozy https-zone. What this warning SHOULD say is “if you hit ‘continue,’ you are permanently turning off the https option.”

Yes, that’s right, once I’m done playing my turn in the http-only-danger-zone of the Scrabble application, I go back to facebook home and I’m back to http.

facebook-05

I went back to check my account settings and I see this:

facebook-02

Well, that’s just fantastic. What’s the point of saying “whenever possible” when it means “until impossible?” This has to be a mistake, and I hope they fix it… then we can all tell our moms to go and re-check the box as it has probably been turned off when they went to play farmville or whatever the hell other pages are non-https.


Update:
This was discussed on Tech News Today (first 5 minutes)


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Never Use Email Tech Support. Ever. http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=611 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=611#comments Fri, 14 Jan 2011 14:22:23 +0000 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=611 Today I’d like to thank Panasonic for reminding me why I should never use an “email tech support” form, even if the question I have is simple and clear. In the future I’ll look back on this post to remind myself to either call tech support or simply shoot myself in the face.
A bit of background on this exchange (so that you know what the techs know):
I bought a few Panasonic C1 Toughbook convertible tablets (to replace old Lenovo ThinkPad X60 tablets). All of our Lenovo tablets had built-in Verizon radios (Sierra mini PCIe cards) even though we only activated about 10 of them at any given time. They were a cheap option so we figured “why not” when we bought the tablets. Tablets would change hands and I’d simply move the activation from one radio to another and the user would never know the difference. I’ve also been known to physically remove these radios from Lenovo tablets and move them to Dell laptops when the need came up. Worked just fine.
When I was shopping for the Toughbooks I noticed that they only come with a Gobi option for a WWAN radio and the option is rather expensive. I figured “why pay a few hundred $$ for a Gobi radio when I already have a bunch of Verizon radios laying around for free?” I examined the first few Toughbooks and found what I suspected would be there: a mini PCIe slot with antenna wires ready to be connected to a radio…just like the Dells…just like the Lenovos. I tried installing 2 different models of Sierra Wireless radios and neither of them worked. It was as if they were not there at all. I suspect there is a hardware switch somewhere that enables the mini PCIe slot or some alternate BIOS that adds in the ENABLE/DISABLE option for WWAN (which is documented as being in the BIOS in the Gobi-equipped machines)…or maybe they did something completely different and goofy that I’m not thinking of.
I didn’t want to spend 4 hours on the phone searching for an answer to this question, so I figured I’d use their “contact tech support” form and wait for an email response. Here is what I sent:

Subject: Hardware
Inquiry: Toughbook CF-C1 tablets… I have 7 of them so far.
I got them without WWAN cards but now I would like to add them. I see the mini PCIe slot and the antenna wires seem all ready to go, but when I put in a Sierra Wireless MC5725 (Verizon) card, it is as if it isn’t there. The system doesn’t see it at all. The option in the bios to enable or disable a WWAN card seems to be missing completely. These Sierra cards work fine in my Dells and my Lenovos.
Is it possible to get this to work? Is there a hardware switch somewhere that I need to turn on to enable the mini-PCIe slot?

It only took about 8 hours to get a response I should have expected:

Thank you for your continued support of Panasonic Toughbook computers.

The CF-C1 does not have a Sierra Wireless MC5725 (Verizon) card it has a Qualcomm / Gobi module.

Yes, yes… that is what I was confused about: which card the system ships with. Thanks so much for taking the time to skim my question with the attention of a coke-sniffing gnat.

If anybody out there knows the definitive answer to my question, I’d love to hear it, but really just for the sake of curiosity. I’ve decided to just have the users get MiFi units instead of messing with built-in Verizon cards from now on.

For what it’s worth, these Toughbooks are really really nice. They are REALLY expensive, but really nice, too. They are shockingly light…the first time people pick them up they think it is an empty shell and not a real computer. They are very fast, too, and the semi-ruggedness is very handy for us because our users aren’t the most gentle people with their hardware. Battery life is excellent, especially if you get the optional second battery (get it).

Thanks, Panasonic tech support!

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Did you know that there is a fiber tester inside your SFPs? http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=549 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=549#respond Tue, 07 Dec 2010 20:21:14 +0000 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=549 Cisco calls it DOM – Digital Optical Monitoring – and it’s built into some of their SFP, XenPak, and X2 transceivers:

http://www.cisco.com/en/US/docs/interfaces_modules/transceiver_modules/compatibility/matrix/OL_8031.html

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the feature isn’t built into any of the common SFPs that most network engineers use on a day to day basis, such as the GLC-LX or GLC-SX units.  Cisco thinks that DOM functionality is worth an extra $300 a pop, putting the cost of a DOM-enabled single mode SFP close to $800.

I have found, however, that some third-party SFPs include the DOM functionality.  I’ve been using the single-fiber SFPs from Champion One for many years.  They work great, only use a single fiber (instead of a pair) and give you DOM functionality for free.

Here’s how to get started with DOM:

1)  Enable support for non-Cisco SFPs:

PSKL_6509(config)#service unsupported-transceiver

2)  Enable DOM Monitoring :

PSKL_6509(config)#transceiver type all

3)  Install some DOM-compatible transceivers.

4)  Take some light measurements!  In this example, I’m using a 1000SFP31B20L Single Fiber SFP in slot 2/9/22:

PSKL_6509#sh interfaces gigabitEthernet 2/9/22 transceiver 

ITU Channel not available (Wavelength not available),
Transceiver is internally calibrated.
If device is externally calibrated, only calibrated values are printed.
++ : high alarm, +  : high warning, -  : low warning, -- : low alarm.
NA or N/A: not applicable, Tx: transmit, Rx: receive.
mA: milliamperes, dBm: decibels (milliwatts).

                                  Optical   Optical
            Temperature  Voltage  Current   Tx Power  Rx Power
Port        (Celsius)    (Volts)  (mA)      (dBm)     (dBm)
----------  -----------  -------  --------  --------  --------
Gi2/9/22      44.1       3.26      22.2      -2.5      -5.1

This feature is incredibly handy when troubleshooting fiber issues.  A low value in the Rx Power column indicates that you have a bad fiber, or more commonly, a dirty jumper somewhere.    You can even use MRTG or Cacti to log and graph your optical health over time.

~Eric

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The TSA and Your Privates http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=535 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=535#comments Wed, 17 Nov 2010 21:32:08 +0000 http://www.pskl.us/wp/?p=535 I’ve had a lot of thoughts lately on the TSA’s new practices for protecting us from terrorist shenanigans during air travel. My privacy-minded friends and I pass links back and forth each day with horror stories from people who have felt violated by the TSA. All of this came to a head today when Jeff Jarvis said this on twitter this morning:

I may stand alone, but I’d rather be groped than blown up in an airplane with a murderer who had not been groped.

This is clearly an oversimplification of the argument (it isn’t an “A or B” situation…a lot of people on twitter were shouting “False Dichotomy!!”) and is beneath Jeff, in my opinion. For those who don’t know Jeff, you can find info about him here http://www.buzzmachine.com/about-me/

Generally speaking, I’m a big fan of his work and of his opinions. Just about every time I hear him speak or read his blog, I feel like he “gets it.” Not so much today, though. Jeff kept spouting fallacious arguments in favor of the TSA’s policies and many people responded unfavorably to what he was saying (Jeff has about 55,000 followers, FYI). I think he’d agree that most of his twitter feedback was negative. I jumped in and sent a few replies but I was frustrated, as usual, by the 140 character limit. Jeff replied to a few of my tweets in a very civil manner, as one would expect, except for the fact that he called me a drama queen. Oh, and he joked that people who are against the TSA procedures must have small penises. Once again, this is beneath you, Jeff.

I won’t recap the entire conversation here (you can see it on twitter if you want to), but Jeff agreed to read my argument if I were to post it in blog form… so here we are. I’ll try to keep this as brief as possible, Jeff, I know you’re a busy guy.

“Enhanced” Security Screenings Are Merely Security Theater And Will Not Keep Us Safe

To many people, this is not news. Many years ago (pre-9/11), George Carlin put it brilliantly when he spoke of the illusion of safety. More recently, Bruce Schneier coined the term “Security Theater.” I don’t know why I’m even writing this post since so many others have already made the point so much better than I ever could, such as Noah Shachtman in this piece from the WSJ….but I’ll do it anyway because I have some bits I’d like to add.

Fallacy #1: If we had these measures 10 years ago, it would have prevented 9/11

My opinion:

The only thing preventing 9/11 from happening again is 9/11 itself. Today’s terrorists know they can’t pull off another 9/11-style hijack-then-crash-into-specific-targets attack again because the passengers won’t stand for it. On September 10th, 2001, we were all told that we should comply and be quiet if we are on a hijacked plane. The September 11th attacks depended upon that and, for the most part, it worked. Evidence has shown that this is no longer the case. Passengers that get goofy on a flight get a first-class ass kicking courtesy of their fellow passengers.

So if we had today’s security and September 10th’s mindset, could they have pulled it off? Of course they could have. They possibly wouldn’t have their boxcutters but there are plenty of other ways to intimidate Sept 10th-mindset passengers with equipment you can still get on a plane. Don’t make me list specifics, I don’t want to get a visit from the FBI. Use your imagination… that’s what the terrorists do. Even using something as simple (and previously thought of as harmless) as boxcutters was fairly inventive on their part. They made use of something they were pretty sure they could get through security. When all you have to do is sit around, day after day, thinking of ways to beat a system, you will find a way. As long as the TSA procedures are made public and the limitations are detailed, which has to be the case, the enemy will think of a method to abuse those limitations. Remember, we cannot project our perception of what is acceptable behavior onto them: they will use children or other extreme measures that will make us sick to our very cores if it will help them accomplish their goals.

Fallacy #2: Today’s security would have caught the underwear bomber.

My opinion:

This one comes straight from one of Jeff’s tweets. While this is essentially true, it misses the point entirely. We started taking our shoes off because of the “shoe bomber” and now we get groped because of the “underwear bomber.” Do you see the pattern? There was never another shoe bomber, there will probably never be another underwear bomber (I’d also like to point out that neither of these dingbats boarded a plane in the US…they both went through European security). Both of them sat around their (no doubt) smelly apartments for weeks formulating a plan based on the limitations of the security through which they would have to pass. I really really hate to say it, but there are probably more dingbats sitting in smelly apartments thinking about the same stuff right now.

We keep reacting to previous threats and the bad guys keep evolving. That is the very crux of security theater: make it look like we’re “doing something about the problem.” Would there have been another underwear bomber if we hadn’t started the new procedures? Possibly, but he probably would have been just as successful as the first one. My understanding of the underwear bomber is that he was a nervous mess. He would have been denied access to a plane in Israel simply from one of their well-trained security people talking to him. They probably would have snagged the shoe bomber, too.

Fallacy #3: The logical conclusion is that we’ll all end up flying naked. THEN we’ll be safe for sure.

My opinion:

This may not come as a surprise, but the goal of a terrorist attack is not “blow up planes” or “hijack planes” … it is to kill or injure a very large group of people. Airlines were, for a long time, an ideal target for this kind of action. Some planes carry over 200 people and none of them can get away from the bad guys. Security was really lousy up until the hijack-happy 80’s when people suddenly became afraid to fly. Security was beefed up and hijackings went way down (especially on flights coming out of the US). As a result of this heightened security, pulling off the September 11th attacks took a great deal of planning, organization, and luck.

After September 11th, airlines in the US ceased to be a viable target for serious terrorists. I say “serious” terrorists because the terrorists who have tried to walk through security since then are crackpots and utter failures. The combination of heightened security efforts (pre-gropefest) and passengers who will not be cowed into compliance makes the chances of success drop lower and lower. I’m not saying that there will never be another airplane-based terror attack, I’m just saying the chances are extremely slim at this point. The bombs-disguised-as-toner recently showed that airplanes can still work for terrorists on SOME level but it also shows that they are not willing to try their luck with security checkpoints any more.

If you look at it from the viewpoint of a terrorist who hates America (I know it makes you feel dirty, but you have to understand the enemy if you ever wish to defeat them), I’ll bet you can think of a LOT better targets than airplanes for accomplishing your goals. Once again, I’m not going to name specifics, but I’ve only thought about this for a few minutes and I can think of a few horrific ideas. Now imagine that you are a terrorist and this is ALL you think about.

I’m not saying all this so that you live your life in fear. We simply can’t allow that to happen. The truth is you have a much better chance of being struck by lightning than being injured in a terrorist attack. This doesn’t mean we should not be diligent, but there are limits to what is APPROPRIATE diligence. I feel strongly that the new TSA procedures cross that line. There are better ways to accomplish the overall goal and it is the job of the TSA to find these methods. Replace security theater with actual security.

I don’t know who said it first this morning, but somebody on twitter brought up the following Ben Franklin quote:

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety

Couldn’t be more apt.

Some other reading you might be interested in:

Bruce Schneier talking specifically about new TSA procedures
Bruce Schneier – Beyond Security
Jason Alexander’s take on the situation
TSA confiscates heavily-armed soldiers’ nail-clippers
Former FBI Agent shares his feelings about the TSA

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