Ramblings of a Unix Geek

I've been doing this for a long time... I ramble!

How I learned to stop worrying and love the cloud

I’ve spent the past far-too-many years working in the finance industry, in mega-banks and card processors. These companies are traditionally very worried about information security. It’s not to say they always do it well (everyone makes a mistake), but it leads to a conservative attitude. These types of companies end up creating a massive set of standards and procedures to protect themselves. “Thou MUST do this. Thou MUST do that.

The cloud is not your friend

Even after all this time I hear statements like “Oh, we can just run our code in the cloud”. This is the core of the lift and shift school of cloud usage. And these people are perfectly correct; they can just run their stuff in the cloud. But it won’t work so well. I’ve previously written about lift and shift issues, but here I want to focus on the “resiliency” issue.

What we can learn from the rebellion leadership failures in The Last jedi

This is an odd post for me. I’m terrible as a manager. I’m terrible as a team leader. I think I’m good as a teacher and mentor, but that’s a different role. Lead by example, teach what I know, learn when I can. I’ve definitely not been in the military. And yet I’m about to write about effective leadership… or maybe bad leadership. Finally I get to see The Last Jedi.

Can't Patch, Won't Patch

Whenever a new “critical” vulnerability is found, the cry goes out across the land; Patch! Patch! Patch! Whenever a major incident is caused by known vulnerabilities the question is always Why didn’t they patch? We’ve known about this for months! They should have patched! Sometimes this is valid criticism, and learning why the organisation wasn’t patched can lead to some insights into failure modes.

Meltdown and Spectre

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you may have heard of two panic panic panic bugs, known as Meltdown and Spectre. People are panicking about them because they are CPU level issues that may impact almost every modern CPU around. Meltdown is Intel specific, but Spectre affects Intel, AMD, and potentially others (Redhat claims POWER and zSeries is impacted). What is the problem? In short, modern CPUs may execute instructions out of order, especially when the order doesn’t matter.

Technology is not enough

“To summarise the summary of the summary; people are a problem” - Douglas Adams, The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe The above quote is one of my favourite jokes (I’ve used it in a previous post); it highlights how people can complicate any situation. We can try to avoid this by automating as much as possible but, at the end of the day, there’s always a human involved somewhere; even if it’s the team that manages the automation!

The three tier network is dead

It’s a fairly common design in enterprise networks; a three tier network architecture, with firewalls between the tiers. Typically these layers are split up with variations of the following names: Presentation Layer (Web) Application Layer (App) Data (or storage) Layer (Data) Typically you may have additional tooling in front of each layer; e.g a load balancer, a web application firewall, data loss protection tools, intrusion detection tools, database activity monitoring…

Software for my digital safe

A few weeks back I completed my Arduino hack for a digital safe. What was missing, however, was the software to drive it. One requirement I had was to let it work with password managers. I also had the idea that maybe remote access (e.g. control the safe while away from home, to grant a guest access) might be useful. This kinda meant it’d be easiest to do as a web site, with internet connections forwarded via the router.

Know your threats and defend accordingly

A couple of weeks ago I was asked a question around the disposal of SSDs. The question went along the lines of “In the old days we could just overwrite the disk many times (eg with DBAN). What should we do, now, with SSDs?” Recently, a bunch of Infineon TPMs were found to have a flaw that generated weak RSA keys. This could have lots of impact, including Bitlocker disk encryption.

Adapting a digital safe to be computer controlled

For a number of years I had one of these cheap electronic safes. They allow for a combination to be set. I bought this one from Harbor Freight in 2004: This post isn’t about that safe though. About 10 years later the safe started to stop working; the control panel stop responding, it made horrible noises… Fortunately anger lifting and dropping the safe got it working again to open the door.