A screen shot of the LHS Podcast Website at 2019-10-16

#Podcast Summary – “LHS Episode 307: #Ansible Deep Dive”

Recently, I was a guest of the Linux In The Ham Shack Podcast (LHS), talking about Ansible.

The episode I recorded was: LHS Episode #307: Ansible Deep Dive

About a year ago, Bill (NE4RD) and Russ (K5TUX) were talking about Ansible, and I spotted a couple of... maybe misunderstandings, maybe mistakes, or perhaps just where they misspoke about it? Whatever it was at the time, I offered to talk about Ansible, and then scheduling became a major issue. We tried to meet up online a few times over the year and this was the first opportunity I had to actually talk to them.

In this conversation, I talk about what Ansible is and how it works. I go into quite a bit of depth on how you would install packages, make file changes, and then explain how to use, obtain and create Ansible Roles. I also go into Handlers, local and remote Inventories, Ansible Tower and AWX.

When I was talking about Ansible playbooks and tasks, particularly towards the beginning of the podcast, I was looking at the code samples I put together for the Admin Admin Podcast Deep Dive into Ansible. The custom OpenStack modules I referenced in the show were written by my friend and colleague, Nick Cross.

I get a bit of stick for my pronunciation of Inventories, which is ... fun :) As usual, I "Um" and "Ah" quite a bit. It becomes exceptional apparent how much work Dave Lee does for me in my usual Admin Admin Podcast!

FDE Flag by the dock side in Berlin, with a WECC sign in the background.

#FDEConf2019 – My Impressions

Last year, I was very fortunate be selected as a Fujitsu Distinguished Engineer (FDE), and earlier this year I was advised that my membership of that group was renewed (this is not a forgone conclusion - it's something you need to achieve each year!)

Some FDEs have occasional local meet-ups, but our whole group's "big do", when we induct new members into the group, the "FDE Conference" was held this year (#FDEConf2019 on Social Media) at WECC, Berlin.

The FDE Conference spans two days (plus travelling) and this year was no exception. I travelled from Manchester with Associate FDE, Lucy McGrother, and stayed at the Ellington Hotel in Berlin. On arrival, several of the FDEs who were at the Ellington created a chat group on Linked In and organised going out for dinner at the Bavarian Berlin restaurant (which was really tasty!)

I'd already started eating before I remembered to take a photo! D'oh!
I did better with Desert!

The following day, the first "real" day of the event, a few of us caught an Uber to the conference (I've never used Uber before, but was very impressed with the UX of it!) where we discovered that a "Uber X" (the bigger ones) for 6 people can't fix 6 people into! I had my knees around my ears, which was fun!

I was speaking at the event on the first day, so I made my way to my room, only to discover that not only was the venue "HDMI only" (damn you DisplayPort-only laptop!) but also that an update overnight on my blog (to update syntax highlighting I don't use any more) had taken out the presentation software I was using. Cue running around looking for an DisplayPort/HDMI Adaptor, and then trying to figure out what had actually broken on the site! Oh well - soon sorted!

Welcome speech delivered by the ever enthusiastic Joseph Reger, and then we were off to the "Breakout Sessions"!

The first talk I attended was by Caragh O'Carroll, on Data Maturity. I'd had a bit of a preview of the talk a week or so before the talk was actually given (a dry-run, so to speak), and it was great to hear that I'd literally had 10% of what would actually be in the talk. Some of my suggestions had been incorporated, and the whole room was up and moving around for one piece of the story half way through. It was really energising!

After that, I was on stage. Because Joseph had run over slightly, the speaker in the slot before me had timed his talk to the minute and so overran into the "moving around" block. I was slightly nervous as this meant my timing could have gone out (but as it turned out, I nailed it to the minute!) I've written up some notes on my talk already elsewhere on this blog, so I won't go into too much detail, aside from to add that after I wrote that post, I was told that people were being turned away from the door, so that's a bit of an ego boost :)

I'd intended next to attend a talk on Microservices Architectures, but unfortunately the room was rammed (it wasn't even "standing room only" - they'd run out of room for people to stand!) Instead, I went away and spoke to some of the vendors. RedHat were there, dispensing Red Fedora hats to anyone who deposited a "contact card". Yep, I went for it!

Jon in a Red Hat from RedHat standing in front of the Fujitsu Distinguished Engineers banner
After I received the hat, it didn't come off... until I got home and my wife's raised eyebrow suggested it wouldn't have a long life if it remained there...

I also spoke to Pluralsight, a training vendor I'd previously sidelined in favour of another platform, but who appeared to have a much broader scope of content... so they convinced me to give it another try.

I spoke briefly to SUSE, but more-so because I wanted to find out how people I knew working for SUSE were doing than to find out about what SUSE were offering. I'm reasonably well switched on with SUSE as a project and a company so I didn't feel like I needed to get much from them. Also, sadly, none of the people who were there knew the people I was talking about, which wasn't a good start! :)

I also spent a couple of minutes talking to a partner I've had reasonably close dealings with, Symantec, and agreed to a conversation in the next couple of months. Again, it wasn't a long talk, as I knew the product set and context quite well.

The other sponsors had interesting content, but generally didn't cover areas that overlap with my work or my personal interests, so, while I interacted with them, I don't recall much of what was discussed.

The last break-out session of the day was Scott Pendlebury and Dave Markham's session on "Cyber Threat Intelligence and Dark Web Research" - a cumulative talk on the research they've done into various aspects of their jobs in the Advanced Threat Centre. This was a very in-depth talk, covering a large number of subjects in a very short space of time. Several people I spoke to after their talk were very interested in lots of little aspects of their talk... because it touched so many areas!

All Meme'd up, Dave and Scott's front slide was my favourite one!

There was a closing speech for the day, and then the rooms were re-jigged for the evening games and food. In one room was a big-screen, phone controlled, multi-player "Pong" game (hosted by Piing) and a spin of "Cards Against Humanity" called "Cards Against Complexity" (hosted by Citrix). Both were fun, but what was much MORE fun was the game after Pong - a big-screen, phone controlled, multi-player buggy racing game. The first round, naturally, I won!

Me winning the first round of Buggy Racing. I didn't manage to achieve *that* feat again! Photo courtesy of Caragh, who spotted me celebrating and snapped it!

Following the games, I went back to the hotel with a couple of the other FDEs (discovering how not-Uber, non-Uber services are), and had a couple of drinks in the bar. Bed and awake for breakfast the following morning.

Day two was about the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and what ideas we, as a company, could come up with to help progress those goals.

A slide from the morning, showing the Sustainable Development Goals

We had talks from three different individuals who are helping to steer the conversation. Neil Bennett, Dr. Leonardo Gheller Alves (link to his latest project) and Thomas Deloison. Our speakers, talking over individual radio channels to tuned headphones, told us about how we could impress them with our projects... and talking of the projects, there were three "target" cities - Berlin (naturally), Bangalore and Tokyo (also, naturally). Each city was prompted to look at three areas of interest - Homes & Communities, Transport and Environment. Each city/interest set was split into three groups (numbered 1-9), each of whom were to approach the subject and come up with a project to solve an issue in their chosen area.

The process, orchestrated by the co-creation conductor - Jo Box, took us on a journey, looking at the city and it's issues, pushing us into looking at how those issues impact a single member of that city and, then pulling us into how we might help that person improve their lives.

My team, Tokyo 9 (dealing with "Environment") considered the path of an elderly Japanese lady "Mikika" and thought about what issues she had. We explored the fact that she lived in a "Walk-up" apartment, and probably was concerned with the fates of all of her family (including her own brother, as well as their children and grandchildren). We expanded on that to work out what things in Mikika's environment would cause her issues, and how we might help to solve those issues... As it worked out, we ended up crossing from "Environment" into "Housing", as we imagined building a new town on a brownfield environment inside Tokyo, and how that town might be better engineered to support family lives for all stages of life, from rearing children near home, to supporting young adults in their quest for a career, and later to the care and support of elderly family members who might be living nearby.

Our final presentation board
The physical view of our final presentation - what makes up our project?

Sadly, we didn't win, but I loved being a part of the team. I have to give lots of respect to all my team members, but particularly to Liz Parnell, a recent member of the FDE community and Sean Barker. These were both our voices for the pitches to our fellow Tokyo teams, and also in our final pitch to the judges.

Following the pitches, we went off-site for a walk around (I managed to do some tourist-y shopping for the family and then chatted with some other FDEs at the "Other" hotel) before heading back for drinks and dinner.

During the dinner, I was approached by someone from the RedHat stand, who asked if they could borrow my hat. I was, by this point, the only person at the event still wearing my coveted red fedora. I finally let him borrow my hat, only to find it on the head of Dr. Joseph!

In the latter part of the dinner were speeches from members of the Management Team, essentially reminding us that we're amazing and need to keep being so great. I subsequently managed to talk to my local management representative - Tim White, with whom I got a great selfie!

Jon Spriggs and Tim White. Jon wears a Red Hat.
Yes, I've got my red fedora back by now!

We also saw all the new FDEs and Associate FDEs being inducted in, and also those staff who were awarded for significant internal research papers.

And then, we all had a lot more drinks, and when the bar shut down, we returned to the bar at the hotel, and had some more.

A reasonable handful of us ended up on the same flight back to Manchester the following day, so it was nice to catch up with a few of the FDEs on the return.

I should say though, it took me a few days to recover! Hence, this post only arriving now... so, erm, perhaps that'll teach me for taking my own vodka to a venue that's only serving beer and wine? (#ThePerilsOfOnlyDrinkingSpirits)

Nah, didn't think so! 😁

If you work for Fujitsu, and want to know more about the FDE program, want to become an FDE or just want to know more about what I do for Fujitsu, please get in touch. I'm in the Address Book and I am frequently on our IM system. I'd be more than happy to talk with you!

If you don't work for Fujitsu, but would be interested, start by looking at the roles available in your region (e.g. via this page). Each region may have a different recruiting tool (that's big business for you!) but if you spot something and want to know whether it might be the right sort of role for you, you can contact me via one of the options up the top of my blog and I'd be glad to try to help you, if it's right for you!

Featured image is "Inspiring couple of days in Berlin attending #FDEConf2019" by Paul Clarke.

nobodys perfect nbc GIF by The Good Place from Giphy

Talk Summary – FDE Conference “Automation in an Infrastructure as Code World”

Format: Theatre Style room. ~70 attendees.

Slides: Available to view (Firefox/Chrome recommended - press "S" to see the required speaker notes), Code referenced in the slides also available to view.

Video: Not on the day, but I recorded a take of it at home after the event. The delivery on the day was better, but the content is there at least! :)

Slot: Slot 2 Wednesday 14:15-15:00

Notes: FDE is the abbreviation of "Fujitsu Distinguished Engineer", an internal program at Fujitsu. Each year they hold a conference for all the FDEs to attend. This is my second year as an FDE, and the first where I'm presenting.

This slide deck was massively re-worked, following some excellent feedback at BCMcr9. I then, unusually for me, gave the deck two separate run through sessions with colleagues, and tweaked it following each run.

This deck includes Creative Commons licensed images (which is fairly common for my slide decks), but also, in a new and unusual step for me, includes meme gifs from Giphy. I'm not really sure about whether this is step forward or back for me, as I do prefer permissive licenses. That said, the memes seem to be more engaging - particularly as they're animated. I've never had someone comment on the images in my slide deck until I did the first run through with the memes in with a colleague, and then again when I ran it a second time they particularly brought up the animated images... so the memes are staying for now.

I'm also slightly disappointed with myself that I couldn't stick to the "One Bold Word" style of presentations (the format preferred by Jono Bacon), and found myself littering more and more content into the screen. I was, however, proud of myself for including the "Tweetable content" slide, as recommended, I think, by Lorna Mitchell (@LornaJane). I also included a "Your next steps" slide, as recommended by Andy Bounds (although I suspect he'd be disappointed with the "Questions?" slide at the end!)

This deck required quite a bit of research on my part. I'd never written CloudFormations (CF) before, and I'd only really copied-and-pasted Terraform (I refer to it as TF which probably isn't right) before. I wrote a full stack of machines in CF, Azure Resource Manager (ARM) for the native technologies, as well as the same stacks in both TF and Ansible for both Azure and AWS. I also looked into how to deploy the CF and ARM templates with both Terraform and Ansible, and finally how to use TF from Ansible. I already knew how to run Ansible from within userdata/customdata arguments in AWS and Azure, but I included it and tested it as part of the deck too.

I had some amazing feedback from the audience and some great questions asked of me. I loved the response from the audience to some of my GIFs (although one comment that was made was that I need to stop the animations after the first run!)

Following the session, as I'd hoped, it brought a few of the fellow attendees to the forefront to ask if we can talk further about the subject and I would encourage you, if you are someone who uses these tools to give me a shout - I want to do more and find out about your projects, processes and tools!

My intention is to start using this slide deck at meet-ups in the Greater Manchester area, hopefully without having to re-write it that much!

BarCamp Manchester Logo, from barcampmanchester.co.uk

My talk summaries from BarCamp Manchester 9

BarCamp Manchester 9 (#BcMcr9) is a BarCamp style Unconference. It was held in the offices of Auto Trader in the centre of Manchester. It was a two day event, however, I was unable to attend the Saturday. Sundays are usually quieter days, and apparently the numbers were approximately half of the peak of Saturday on the Sunday.

Lunch was provided by Auto Trader. The day was split into 7 slots, or sessions, running for 25 minutes each, with 5 minutes between slots to change rooms. There were three theatre layout rooms, each with a projector, and one room with soft chairs around the edges.

There and Back Again/How The Internet Works

Format: Presentation with slides. 30ish attendees.

Slot: Slot 1 Sunday 11:00-11:25

Notes: This slide deck was reused from when I delivered it in 2012. Some stuff had changed (the prevalence of WiFi being one, CAT5e being referenced raised some giggles), but most had not.

There were some comments raised during the talk about the slides, but nothing significant (mostly by network engineers, commenting on things like routing a local network. Ugh.)

Following the talk, someone came up to suggest some changes (primarily that the slides need to link back to the graphics created). Someone else noted that there were too many acronyms that should probably have been explained. As such, this deck is likely to change and be published here at some point soon.

I sent a tweet, following this talk:

At #BCMCR9? See my talk on "How The Internet Works" and looking for the slides? See here: https://www.slideshare.net/JonTheNiceGuy/there-and-back-again-15506394 And feel free to message me if you've got any questions!

Jon Spriggs (@jontheniceguy) @ Sep 22 12:03pm

Automation in an Infrastructure as Code World

Format: Presentation with slides. 8 attendees, reduced to 4 half way through.

Slot: Slots 5 and 6 Sunday 14:00-14:55

Notes: This was a trial run of my talk for the Fujitsu FDE Conference I'm attending in a couple of weeks. The audience were notified as such. I took two slots on the "grid", and half way through my session, half the audience walked out.

Following the talk, someone came and suggested some changes, which I'll be implementing.

The slides for this talk are still being developed and will be shared after the FDE conference on this site.

Decentralised Social Media? - Secure Scuttlebutt

Format: Conversation with a desktop client application (Patchwork) loaded on the projector, and the Google Play entry for Manyverse on a browser tab. 3 attendees.

Slot: Slot 7 (last slot of the day) Sunday 15:00-15:25

Notes: This was an unplanned session, and probably should have been run earlier in the day. The audience members were very interactive, and asked lots of sensible questions.

I sent a tweet, following this talk:

Did you come to my talk at #BcMcr9 about #SecureScuttleButt? If you run a SSB client (patchwork, patchbay, patchfox or manyverse) and want to follow me, I'm @p3gu8eLHxXC0cuvZ0yXSC05ZROB4X7dpxGCEydIHZ0o=.ed25519 and @3SEA7qNZQPiYFCzY6K57f0LTc9l+Bk6cewQc6lbs/Ek=.ed25519

Jon Spriggs (@jontheniceguy) @ Sep 22 4:46pm

And if you want to know more about #SecureScuttlebutt, take a look at http://Scuttlebutt.nz! It's fun!

Jon Spriggs (@jontheniceguy) @ Sep 22 4:49pm
“Swatch Water Store, Grand Central Station, NYC, 9/2016, pics by Mike Mozart of TheToyChannel and JeepersMedia on YouTube #Swatch #Watch” by “Mike Mozart” on Flickr

Time Based Security

I came across the concept of "Time Based Security" (TBS) in the Sysadministrivia podcast, S4E13.

I'm still digging into the details of it, but in essence, the "Armadillo" (Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside) protection model is broken (sometimes known as the "Fortress Model"). You assume that your impenetrable network boundary will prevent attackers from getting to your sensitive data. While this may stop them for a while, what you're actually seeing here is one part of a complex protection system, however many organisations miss the fact that this is just one part.

The examples used in the only online content I've found about this refer to a burglary.

In this context, your "Protection" (P) is measured in time. Perhaps you have hardened glass that takes 20 seconds to break.

Next, we evaluate "Detection" (D) which is also, surprisingly enough, measured in time. As the glass is hit, it triggers an alarm to a security facility. That takes 20 seconds to respond and goes to a dispatch centre, another 20 seconds for that to be answered and a police officer dispatched.

The police officer being dispatched is the "Response" (R). The police take (optimistically) 2 minutes to arrive (it was written in the 90's so the police forces weren't decimated then).

So, in the TBS system, we say that Detection (D) of 40 seconds plus Response (R) of 120 seconds = 160 seconds. This is greater than Protection (P) of 20 seconds, so we have an Exposure (E) time of 140 seconds E = P - (D + R). The question that is posed is, how much damage can be done in E?

So, compare this to your average pre-automation SOC. Your firewall, SIEM (Security Incident Event Management system), IDS (Intrusion Detection System) or WAF (Web Application Firewall) triggers an alarm. Someone is trying to do something (e.g. Denial Of Service attack, password spraying or port scanning for vulnerable services) a system you're responsible for. While D might be in the tiny fractions of a minute (perhaps let's say 1 minute, for maths sake), R is likely to be minutes or even hours, depending on the refresh rate of the ticket management system or alarm system (again, for maths sake, let's say 60 minutes). So, D+R is now 61 minutes. How long is P really going to hold? Could it be less than 30 minutes against a determined attacker? (Let's assume P is 30 minutes for maths sake).

Let's do the calculation for a pre-automation SOC (Security Operations Centre). P-(D+R)=E. E here is 31 minutes. How much damage can an attacker do in 31 minutes? Could they put a backdoor into your system? Can they download sensitive data to a remote system? Could they pivot to your monitoring system, and remove the logs that said they were in there?

If you consider how much smaller the D and R numbers become with an event driven SOAR (Security Orchestration and Automation Response) system - does that improve your P and E numbers? Consider that if you can get E to 0, this could be considered to be "A Secure Environment".

Also, consider the fact that many of the tools we implement for security reduce D and R, but if you're not monitoring the outputs of the Detection components, then your response time grows significantly. If your Detection component is misconfigured in that it's producing too many False Positives (for example, "The Boy Who Cried Wolf"), so you don't see the real incident, then your Response might only be when a security service notifies you that your data, your service or your money has been exposed and lost. And that wouldn't be good now... Time to look into automation 😁

Featured image is “Swatch Water Store, Grand Central Station, NYC, 9/2016, pics by Mike Mozart of TheToyChannel and JeepersMedia on YouTube #Swatch #Watch” by “Mike Mozart” on Flickr and is released under a CC-BY license.

"Confused" by "CollegeDegrees360" on Flickr

Using AWSCLI on Ubuntu/Ubuntu-in-WSL

This is a brief note to myself (but might be useful to you)!

awscli (similar to the Azure az command) is packaged for Ubuntu, but the version which is in the Ubuntu 18.04 repositories is "out of date" and won't work with AWS. You *actually* need to run the following:

sudo apt update && sudo apt install python3-pip -y && sudo -H pip3 install --upgrade awscli

If you've unfortunately already installed awscli from apt, do the following:

sudo apt remove awscli -y

Then, logout (for some reason, binary path caching is a thing now?) and log back in, and then run the above pip install line.

Solution found via this logged issue on the awscli git repo.

Featured image is "Confused" by "CollegeDegrees360" on Flickr and is released under a CC-BY-SA license.

"Hacker" by "The Preiser Project" on Flickr

What to do when a website you’ve trusted gets hacked?

Hello! Maybe you just got a sneeking suspicion that a website you trusted isn't behaving right, perhaps someone told you that "unusual content" is being posted in your name somewhere, or, if you're really lucky, you might have just had an email from a website like "HaveIBeenPwned.com" or "Firefox Monitor". It might look something like this:

An example of an email from the service "Have I Been Pwned"

Of course, it doesn't feel like you're lucky! It's OK. These things happen quite a lot of the time, and you're not the only one in this boat!

How bad is it, Doc?

First of all, don't panic! Get some idea of the scale of problem this is by looking at a few key things.

  1. How recent was the breach? Give this a score between 1 (right now) and 10 (more than 1 month ago).
  2. How many websites and services do you use this account on? Give this a score between 1 (right now) and 10 (OMG, this is *my* password, and I use it everywhere).
  3. How many other services would use this account to authenticate to, or get a password reset from? Give this a score between 1 (nope, it's just this website. We're good) and 10 (It's my email account, and everything I've ever signed up to uses this account as the login address... or it's Facebook/Google and I use their authentication to login to everything else).
  4. How much does your reputation hang on this website or any other websites that someone reusing the credentials of this account would get access to? Give this a score between 1 (meh, I post cat pictures from an anonymous username) and 10 (I'm an INFLUENCER HERE dagnamit! I get money because I said stuff here and/or my job is on that website, or I am publicly connected to my employer by virtue of that profile).
  5. (Optional) If this is from a breach notification, does it say that it's just email addresses (score 1), or that it includes passwords (score 5), unencrypted or plaintext passwords (score 8) or full credit card details (score 10)?

Once you've got an idea of scale (4 to 40 or 5 to 50, depending on whether you used that last question), you've got an idea of how potentially bad it is.

Take action!

Make a list of the websites you think that you need to change this password on.

  1. Start with email accounts (GMail, Hotmail, Outlook, Yahoo, AOL and so on) - each email account that uses the same password needs to be changed, and this is because almost every website uses your email address to make a "password" change on it! (e.g. "Forgot your password, just type in your email address here, and we'll send you a reset link").
  2. Prominent social media profiles (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) come next, even if they're not linked to your persona. This is where your potential reputation damage comes from!
  3. Next up is *this* website, the one you got the breach notification for. After all, you know this password is "wild" now!

Change some passwords

This is a bit of a bind, but I'd REALLY recommend making a fresh password for each of those sites. There are several options for doing this, but my preferred option is to use a password manager. If you're not very tech savvy, consider using the service Lastpass. If you're tech savvy, and understand how to keep files in sync across multiple devices, you might be interested in using KeePassXC (my personal preference) or BitWarden instead.

No really. A fresh password. Per site. Honest. And not just "MyComplexPassw0rd-Hotmail" because there are ways of spotting you've done something like that, and when they come to your facebook account, they'll try "MyComplexPassw0rd-Facebook" just to see if it gets them in.

ℹ️ Using a password manager gives you a unique, per-account password. I just generated a fresh one (for a dummy website), and it was 2-K$F+j7#Zz8b$A^]qj. But, fortunately, I don't have to remember it. I can just copy and paste it in to the form when I need to change it, or perhaps, if you have a browser add-on, that'll fill it in for you.

Making a list, and checking it twice!

Fab, so you've now got a lovely list of unique passwords. A bit like Santa, it's time to check your list again. Assume that your list of sites you just changed passwords for were all compromised, because someone knew that password... I know, it's a scary thought! So, have a look at all those websites you just changed the password on and figure out what they have links to, then you'll probably make your list of things you need to change a bit bigger.

Not sure what they have links to?

Well, perhaps you're looking at an email account... have a look through the emails you've received in the last month, three months or year and see how many of those come from "something" unique. Perhaps you signed up to a shopping site with that email address? It's probably worth getting a password reset for that site done.

Perhaps you're looking at a social media site that lets you login to other services? Check through those other services and make sure that "someone" hasn't allowed access to a website they control. After all, you did lose access to that website, and so you don't know what it's connected to.

Also, check all of these sites, and make sure there aren't any unexpected "active sessions" (where someone else is logged into your account still). If you have got any, kick them out :)

OK, so the horse bolted, now close the gate!

Once you've sorted out all of these passwords, it's probably worth looking at improving your security in general. To do this, we need to think about how people get access to your account. As I wrote in my "What to do when your Facebook account gets hacked?" post:

What if you accidentally gave your password to someone? Or if you went to a website that wasn’t actually the right page and put your password in there by mistake? Falling prey to this when it’s done on purpose is known as social engineering or phishing, and means that someone else has your password to get into your account.

A quote from the "Second Factor" part of "What to do when your Facebook account gets hacked?"

The easiest way of locking this down is to use a "Second Factor" (sometimes abbreviated to 2FA). You need to give your password ("something you know") to log into the website. Now you also need something separate, that isn't in the same store. If this were a physical token (like a SoloKey, Yubikey, or a RSA SecurID token), it'd be "something you have" (after all, you need to carry around that "token" with you), but normally these days it's something on your phone.

Some places will send you a text message, others will pop up an "approve login" screen (and, I should note, if you get one and YOU AREN'T LOGGING IN, don't press "approve"!), or you might have a separate app (perhaps called "Google Authenticator", "Authy" or something like "Duo Security") that has a number that keeps changing.

You should then finish your login with a code from that app, SMS or token or reacting to that screen or perhaps even pressing a button on a thing you plug into your computer. If you want to know how to set this up, take a look at "TwoFactorAuth.org", a website providing access to the documentation on setting up 2FA on many of the websites you currently use... but especially do this with your email accounts.

Featured image is "Hacker" by "The Preiser Project" on Flickr and is released under a CC-BY license.

JonTheNiceGuy and "The Chief" Peter Bleksley at BSides Liverpool 2019

Review of BSIDES Liverpool 2019

I had the privilege today to attend BSIDES Liverpool 2019. BSIDES is a infosec community conference. The majority of the talks were recorded, and I can strongly recommend making your way through the content when it becomes available.

Full disclosure: While my employer is a sponsor, I was not there to represent the company, I was just enjoying the show. A former colleague (good friend and, while he was still employed by Fujitsu, an FDE - so I think he still is one) is one of the organisers team.

The first talk I saw (aside from the welcome speech) was the keynote by Omri Segev Moyal (@gelossnake) about how to use serverless technologies (like AWS Lambda) to build a malware research platform. The key takeaway I have from that talk was how easy it is to build a simple python lambda script using Chalice. That was fantastic, and I'm looking forward to trying some things with that service!

For various reasons (mostly because I got talking to people), I missed the rest of the morning tracks except for the last talk before lunch. I heard great things about the Career Advice talk by Martin King, and the Social Engineering talk by Tom H, but will need to catch up on those on the videos released after.

Just before lunch we received a talk from "The Chief" (from the Channel 4 TV Series "Hunted"), Peter Bleksley, about an investigation he's currently involved in. This was quite an intense session, and his history (the first 1/4 of his talk) was very interesting. Just before he went in for his talk, I got a selfie with him (which is the "Featured Image" for this post :) )

After lunch, I sat on the Rookies Track, and saw three fantastic talks, from Chrissi Robertson (@frootware) on Imposter Syndrome, Matt (@reversetor) on "Privacy in the age of Convenience" (reminding me of one of my very early talks at OggCamp/BarCamp Manchester) and Jan (@janfajfer) about detecting data leaks on mobile devices with EVPN. All three speakers were fab and nailed their content.

Next up was an unrecorded talk by Jamie (@2sec4u) about WannaCry, as he was part of the company who discovered the "Kill-Switch" domain. He gave a very detailed overview of the timeline about WannaCry, the current situation of the kill-switch, and a view on some of the data from infected-but-dormant machines which are still trying to reach the kill-switch. A very scary but well explained talk. Also, memes and rude words, but it's clearly a subject that needed some levity, being part of a frankly rubbish set of circumstances.

After that was a talk from (two-out-of-six of) The Beer Farmers. This was a talk (mostly) about privacy and the lack of it from the social media systems of Facebook, Twitter and Google. As I listen to The Many Hats Club podcast, on which the Beer Farmers occasionally appear, it was a great experience matching faces to voices.

We finished the day on a talk by Finux (@f1nux) about Machiavelli as his writings (in the form of "The Prince") would apply to Infosec. I was tempted to take a whole slew of photos of the slide deck, but figured I'd just wait for the video to be released, as it would, I'm sure, make more sense in context.

There was a closing talk, and then everyone retired to the bar. All in all, a great day, and I'm really glad I got the opportunity to go (thanks for your ticket Paul (@s7v7ns) - you missed out mate!)

"Key mess" by "Alper Çuğun" on Flickr

Making Ansible Keys more useful in complex and nested data structures

One of the things I miss about Jekyll when I'm working with Ansible is the ability to fragment my data across multiple files, but still have it as a structured *whole* at the end.

For example, given the following directory structure in Jekyll:

+ _data
+---+ members
|   +--- member1.yml
|   +--- member2.yml
+---+ groups
    +--- group1.yml
    +--- group2.yml

The content of member1.yml and member2.yml will be rendered into site.data.members.member1 and site.data.members.member2 and likewise, group1 and group2 are loaded into their respective variables.

This kind of structure isn't possible in Ansible, because all the data files are compressed into one vars value that we can read. To work around this on a few different projects I've worked on, I've ended up doing the following:

- set_fact:
    my_members: |-
        {%- for var in vars | dict2items -%}
          {%- if var.key | regex_search(my_regex) is not none -%}
            "{{ var.key | regex_replace(my_regex, '') }}": 
              {%- if var.value | string %}"{% endif -%}
              {{ var.value }}
              {%- if var.value | string %}"{% endif %},
          {%- endif -%}
        {%- endfor -%}
    my_regex: '^member_'

So, what this does is to step over all the variables defined (for example, in host_vars\*, group_vars\*, from the gathered facts and from the role you're in - following Ansible's loading precedence), and then checks to see whether the key of that variable name (e.g. "member_i_am_a_member" or "member_1") matches the regular expression (click here for more examples). If it does, the key (minus the regular expression matching piece [using regex_replace]) is added to a dictionary, and the value attached. If the value is actually a string, then it wraps it in quotes.

So, while this doesn't give me my expressive data structure that Jekyll does (no site.data.members.member1.somevalue for me), I do at least get to have my_members.member1.somevalue if I put the right headers in! :)

I'll leave extending this model for doing other sorts of building variables out (for example, something like if var.value['variable_place'] | default('') == 'my_members.member' + current_position) to the reader to work out how they could use something like this in their workflows!

Featured image is "Key mess" by "Alper Çuğun" on Flickr and is released under a CC-BY license.

"Untitled" by "Ryan Dickey" on Flickr

Run an Ansible Playbook against a Check Point Gaia node running R80+

In Check Point Gaia R77, if you wanted to run Ansible against this node, you were completely out of luck. The version of Python on the host was broken, modules were missing and ... well, it just wouldn't work.

Today, I'm looking at running some Ansible playbooks against Check Point R80 nodes. Here's some steps you need to get through to make it work.

  1. Make sure the user that Ansible is going to be using has the shell /bin/bash. If you don't have this set up, the command is: set user ansible shell /bin/bash.
  2. If you want a separate user account to do ansible actions, run these commands:
    add user ansible uid 9999 homedir /home/ansible
    set user ansible password-hash $1$D3caF9$B4db4Ddecafbadnogoood (note this hash is not valid!)
    add rba user ansible roles adminRole
    set user ansible shell /bin/bash
  3. Make sure your inventory specifies the right path for your Python binary. In the next code block you'll see my inventory for three separate Check Point R80+ nodes. Note that I'll only be targetting the "checkpoint" group, but that I'm using the r80_10, r80_20 and r80_30 groups to load the variables into there. I could, alternatively, add these in as values in group_vars/r80_10.yml and so on, but I find keeping everything to do with my connection in one place much cleaner. The python interpreter is in a separate path for each version time, and if you don't specify ansible_ssh_transfer_method=piped you'll get a message like this: [WARNING]: sftp transfer mechanism failed on [cpr80-30]. Use ANSIBLE_DEBUG=1 to see detailed information (fix from Add pipeline-ish method using dd for file transfer over SSH (#18642) on the Ansible git repo)
cpr80-10        ansible_user=admin      ansible_password=Sup3rS3cr3t-
cpr80-20        ansible_user=admin      ansible_password=Sup3rS3cr3t-
cpr80-30        ansible_user=admin      ansible_password=Sup3rS3cr3t-







And there you have it, one quick "ping" check later...

$ ansible -m 'ping' -i hosts checkpoint
cpr80-10 | SUCCESS => {
    "changed": false,
    "ping": "pong"
cpr80-30 | SUCCESS => {
    "changed": false,
    "ping": "pong"
cpr80-20 | SUCCESS => {
    "changed": false,
    "ping": "pong"

One quick word of warning though, don't use gather_facts: true or the setup: module. Both of these still rely on missing libraries on the Check Point nodes, and won't work... But then again, you can get whatever you need from shell commands..... right? ;)

Featured image is “Untitled” by “Ryan Dickey” on Flickr and is released under a CC-BY license.