Never put important data on anyone else’s hardware. Ever.

Friday, January 22, 2021 

In early January, 2021, two internet services provided unintentional and unequivocal demonstrations of the intrinsic trade-offs between running one’s own hardware and trusting “The Cloud.”  Parler and Gab, two “social network” services competing for the white supremacist demographic both came under fire in the wake of a violent insurrection against the US government when the plotters used their platforms (among other less explicitly extremist-friendly services) to organize the attack.

Parler had elected to take the expeditious route of deploying their service on AWS and discovered just how literally the cloud is metaphorically like atmospheric clouds—public and ephemeral—when first their entire data set was extracted and then their services were unilaterally terminated by AWS knocking them completely offline (except, of course, for the exfiltrated data, which is still online and being combed by law enforcement for evidence of sedition.)

Gab owns their own servers and while they had trouble with their domain registrar, such problems are relatively easy to resolve: Gab remains online.  Gab did face the challenge of rapid scaling as the entire right-wing extremist market searched for a safe haven away from the fragile Parler and from the timid and begrudging regulation of hate speech and calls for immediate violence by mainstream social networks in the fallout over their contributions to the insurrection and other acts of right-wing terrorism.

In general customers who engage cloud service providers rather than self-hosting do so to speed deployment, take advantage of easy scalability (up or down), and offload management of common denominator infrastructure to a large-scale provider, all superficially compelling arguments.  However convenient this may seem, it is rarely a good decision and fails to rationally consider some of the intrinsic shortcomings, as Parler discovered in rather dramatic fashion, including loss of legal ownership of the data on those services, complete abdication of control of that data and service, and an intrinsic and inescapable misalignment of business interests between supplier and customer.

Anyone considering engaging a cloud service provider for a service that results in proprietary data being stored on third party hardware or on the provision of a business critical service by a third party should ensure contractual obligations with well defined penalties explicitly match the implicit expectations of privacy, stewardship, suitability of service, and continuity and that failures are actionable sufficient to make whole the client in the event of material breach.

Below is a list of questions I would have for any cloud provider of any critical service.  In general, if a provider is willing to even consider answering the results will be shockingly unsatisfactory.  Every company that uses a cloud service, whether it is hosting on AWS or email provisioning by Google or Microsoft is a Parler waiting to happen: all of your data exposed and then your business terminated.  Cloud services are acceptable only for insecure data and for services that are a convenience, not a core requirement.

Like clouds in the sky, The Cloud is public and ephemeral.

A: A first consideration is data protection and privacy:

What liability does The Company, and employees of The Company individually, have should they sell or lose control of The Customer’s data?   What compensation will The Customer receive if control of The Customer’s data is lost?  Please clarify The Company’s criminal and civil liabilities and contractual obligations under the following scenarios:

1) A third party exfiltrates The Customer’s data entrusted to The Company’s care in an unauthorized manner.

2) An employee of The Company willfully misuses The Customer’s data entrusted to The Company in any way.

3) The Company disposes of equipment in a manner which makes The Customer’s data entrusted to The Company accessible to third parties.

4) The company receives a National Security Letter (NSL) requesting information pertaining to The Customer or to others who have data about The Customer on The Company’s service.

5) The company receives a warrant requesting information pertaining to The Customer or  to others who have data regarding The Customer on The Company’s service.

6) The company receives a subpoena requesting information pertaining to The Customer or to others who have data regarding The Customer on The Company’s service that is opened or has been in stored on their hardware for more than 180 days.

7) The company receives a civil discovery request for information pertaining to The Customer or to others who have data regarding The Customer on The Company’s service.

8) The company sells or provides access to The Customer’s data or meta information about The Customer or The Customer’s use of The Company’s system to a third party.

9) The Company changes their terms of service at some future date in a way that is inconsistent with the terms agreed to at the time of The Customer’s engagement of the services of The Company.

10) The Company fails to inform The Customer of a breach of control of The Customer’s data.

11) The Company fails to inform The Customer in a timely manner of a change in policy regarding third party access to The Customer’s data.

12) The Company erroneously exposes The Customer’s data to third party access due to negligence or incompetence.

B: A second consideration is a serial dependency on the reliability of The Company’s service to The Customer’s activity:

By relying on The Company’s service, The Customer typically will rely on the performance and availability of The Company’s products.  If The Company product fails or fails to provide service as expected, The Customer may incur losses, including direct financial losses, loss of reputation, loss of convenience, or other harms.  What warranty does The Company make in the performance of their services?  What recourse does The Customer have for recovery of losses should The Company fail to perform?

Please provide details on what compensation The Company will provide in the following scenarios:

1) The Company can no longer perform the agreed and expected services due to reasons beyond The Company’s control.

2) The Company’s service fails to meet expectations in way that causes a material loss to The Customer.

3) The Company suffers an extended outage or compromise of service that exceeds a reasonable or agreed maximum accepted duration.

C: A third consideration is the alignment of interests between The Customer and The Company which may not be complete and may diverge in the future:

Engagement of the services of The Company requires an investment of time and resources on the part of The Customer in excess of any fees The Company may charge to adopt The Company’s products and services.  What compensation will be provided should The Company’s products fail to meet  performance and utility expectations?  What compensation will be provided should expenditure of resources be required to compensate for The Company’s failure to meet service expectations?

Please provide details on what compensation The Company will provide in the following scenarios:

1) The Company elects to no longer perform the agreed and expected services due to business decisions made by The Company.

2) Ownership or control of The Company changes to an entity that is not aligned with the values of The Customer and which The Customer can not support, directly or indirectly.

3) Control of The Company passes to a third party e.g. through an acquisition or change of control of the board and which results in use of The Customer’s data in a way that is unacceptable to The Customer.

4) The Company or employees of The Company are found to have engaged in behavior, speech, or conduct which is unacceptable to The Customer.

5) The Company’s products or services are found to be unacceptable to The Customer for any reason not limited to security flaws, missing features, access failures, lack of performance, etc and The Company is not able to or is unwilling to meet The Customer’s requirements in a timely manner.

If your company depends on third party provisioning of IT services, you’re just one viral tweet away from being out of business.  Build an IT department that knows how to use a command line and run your critical services on your own hardware.

Posted at 16:01:48 GMT-0700

Category: FreeBSDLinuxSecurity

Integrate Fail2Ban with pfSense

Monday, July 13, 2020 

Fail2Ban is a very nice little log monitoring tool that is used to detect cracking attempts on servers and to extract the malicious IPs and do the things to them–usually temporarily adding the IP address of the source of badness to the server’s firewall “drop” list so that IP’s bad packets are lost in the aether.   This is great, but it’d be cool to, instead of running a firewall on every server each locally detecting and blocking malicious actors, to instead detect across all services and servers on the LAN and push the results up to a central firewall so the bad IPs can’t reach the network at all. This is one method to achieve that goal.

I like pfSense as a firewall and run FreeBSD on my servers; I couldn’t find a prebuilt tool to integrate F2B with pfSense, but it wasn’t hard to hack something together so it worked. Basically I have F2B maintain a local “block list” of bad IPs as a simple text file which is published via Apache from where pfSense’s grabs it and applies it as a LAN-wide IP filter.  I use the pfSense package pfBlockerNG to set up the tables but in the end a custom script running on the pfSense server actually grabs the file and updates the pfSense block lists from it on a 1 minute cron job.

There are plenty of well-written guides for getting F2B working and how to configure it for jails; I found the following useful:

The custom bits I did to get it to work are:

Custom F2B Action

On the protected side, I modified the “dummy.conf” script to maintain a list of bad IPs in an Apache served location that pfSense could reach.  F2B manages that list, putting bad IPs in “jail” and letting them out as in any normal F2B installation–but instead of being the local server’s packet filter, it is a web-published text list.

# Fail2Ban configuration file
# Author: David Gessel
# Based on: dummy.conf by Cyril Jaquier


# Option:  actionstart
# Notes.:  command executed on demand at the first ban (or at the start of Fail2Ban if actionstart_on_demand is set to false).
# Values:  CMD

actionstart = if [ -z '' ]; then 
                  printf %%b "# \n" 
              chmod 755 
              echo "%(debug)s started"

# Option:  actionflush
# Notes.:  command executed once to flush (clear) all IPS, by shutdown (resp. by stop of the jail or this action)
# Values:  CMD

actionflush = if [ ! -z '' ]; then
                  rm -f 
                  printf %%b "# \n" 
              chmod 755 
              echo "%(debug)s clear all"

# Option:  actionstop
# Notes.:  command executed at the stop of jail (or at the end of Fail2Ban)
# Values:  CMD
actionstop = if [ ! -z '' ]; then
                  rm -f 
                  printf %%b "# \n" 
             chmod 755 
             echo "%(debug)s stopped"

# Option:  actioncheck
# Notes.:  command executed once before each actionban command
# Values:  CMD
actioncheck =

# Option:  actionban
# Notes.:  command executed when banning an IP. Take care that the
#          command is executed with Fail2Ban user rights.
# Tags:    See jail.conf(5) man page
# Values:  CMD

actionban = printf %%b "\n" 
            sed -i '' '/^$/d' 
            sort -u  -o 
            chmod 755 
            echo "%(debug)s banned  (family: )"

# Option:  actionunban
# Notes.:  command executed when unbanning an IP. Take care that the
#          command is executed with Fail2Ban user rights.
# Tags:    See jail.conf(5) man page
# Values:  CMD

# flush the IP using grep which is supposed to be about 15x faster than sed  
# grep -v "pattern" filename > filename2; mv filename2 filename

actionunban = grep -v ""  > 
              chmod 755 
              echo "%(debug)s unbanned  (family: )"

debug = []   --


init = BRT-DNSBL

target = /usr/jails/claudel/usr/local/www/data-dist/brt/dnsbl/brtdnsbl.txt
temp = .tmp
to_target = >> 

Once this list is working, then move to the pfSense side.

Set up pfBlockerNG

The basic setup of pfBlockerNG is well described, for example in and it provides a lot of useful blocking options, particularly with externally maintained lists of internationally recognized bad actors.  There are two basic functions, related but different:


Domain Name Service Block Lists are lists of domains associated with unwanted activity and blocking them at the DNS server level (via Unbound) makes it hard for application level services to reach them.  A great use of DNSBLs is to block all of Microsoft’s telemetry sites, which makes it much harder for Microsoft to steal all your files and data (which they do by default on every “free” Windows 10 install, including actually copying your personal files to their servers without telling you!  Seriously.  That’s pretty much the definition of spyware.)

It also works for non-corporate-sponsored spyware, for example lists of command and control servers found for botnets or ransomware servers.  This can help prevent such attacks by denying trojans and viruses access to their instruction servers.  It can also easily help identify infected computers on the LAN as any blocked requests are logged (to at the moment, which is an unfortunate choice given that is now a well-reputed DNS server like Google’s but, it seems, without all the corporate spying.)  There is a bit of irony in blocking lists of telemetry gathering IPs using lists that are built using telemetry.

Basically DNSBLs prevent services on the LAN from reaching nasty destinations on the internet by returning any DNS request to look up a malicious domain name with a dead-end IP address.  When your windows machine wants to report your web browsing habits to microsoft, it instead gets a “page not found” error.


This integration concept uses an IPBL, a list of IP addresses to block.  An IPBL works at a lower level than a DNSBL and typically is set up to block traffic in both directions–a script kiddie trying to brute force a password can be blocked from reach the services on the LAN, but so too can the reverse direction be blocked–if a malicious entity trips F2B, not only are they blocked from trying to reach in, so too are any sneaky services on your LAN blocked from reaching out to them on the internet.

All we need to do is get the block list F2B is maintaining into pfSense.  pfBlockerNG can subscribe to the list easily enough, but the minimum update time is an hour, which is an awfully long time to let someone try to guess passwords or flood your servers with 404 requests or whatever else you’re using F2B to detect and stop.  So I wrote a simple script that executes a few simple commands to grab the IP list F2B maintains, clean it, and use it to update the packet filter drop lists:


#!/usr/bin/env sh
# set -x # uncomment for "debug"

# Get latest block list
/usr/local/bin/curl -m 15 -s https://server.ip/brtdnsbl.txt > /var/db/pfblockerng/original/BRTDNSBL.orig
# filter for at least semi-valid IPs.
/usr/bin/grep  -Eo '[0-9]{1,3}\.[0-9]{1,3}\.[0-9]{1,3}\.[0-9]{1,3}' /var/db/pfblockerng/original/BRTDNSBL.orig > /var/db/pfblockerng/native/BRTDNSBL.txt
# update pf tables
/sbin/pfctl -t pfB_BRTblock -T replace -f /var/db/pfblockerng/native/BRTDNSBL.txt > /dev/null 2>&1

HT to Jared Davenport for helping to debug the weird /env issues that arise when trying to call these commands directly from cron.

Preventing Self-Lockouts

One of the behaviors of pfBlockerNG that the dev seems to think is a feature is automatic filter order management.  This overrides manually sorted filter orders and puts pfB’s block filters ahead of all other filters, including, say, allow filters of your own IPs that you don’t want to ever be locked out in case you forget your passwords and accidentally trigger F2B on yourself.  To fix this, you have to use a non-default setting and make all IP block list “action” types “Alias_Native.”

pfBlockerNG Native IP Block Lists

To use Alias_Native lists, you write your own per-alias filter (typically “drop” or “reject”) and then pfBlockerNG won’t auto-order them for you on update.

pfSense Filter Order

Cron Plugin

The last ingredient is to update the list on pfSense quickly.  pfSense is designed to be pretty easy to maintain so it overwrites most of the file structure on upgrade, making command line modifications frustratingly transient.  I understand that /root isn’t flushed on an upgrade so the above script should persist inside the /root directory.  But crontab -e modifications just don’t stick around.  To have cron modifications persist, install the “Cron” package with the pfSense package manager.  Then just set up a cron job to run the script above to keep the block list updated.  “*/1” means run the script once a minute.

pfSense Cron Config


The system seems to be working well enough; the list of miscreants as small, but effectively targeted: 11,840 packets dropped from an average of about 8-10 bad IPs at any given time.

pfBlockerNG current status

Posted at 05:48:43 GMT-0700

Category: FreeBSDHowToSecuritytechnology

Lets encrypt with security/dehydrated (acme-client is dead)

Thursday, June 27, 2019 

Well….  security/acme-client is dead.  That’s sad.

Long live dehydrated, which uses the same basic authentication method and is pretty much a drop in replacement (unlike scripts which use DNS authentication, say).

In figuring out the transition, I relied on the following guides:

If you’re migrating from acme-client, you can delete it (if you haven’t already)

portmaster -e acme-client

And on to installation.  This guide is for libressl/apache24/bash/dehydrated.  It assumes you’ve been using acme-client and set it up more or less like this.

Installation of what’s needed

if you don’t have bash installed, you will. You can also build with ZSH but set the config before installing.

cd /usr/ports/security/dehydrated && make install clean && rehash


portmaster security/dehydrated

This guide also uses sudo, if it isn’t installed:

cd /usr/ports/security/sudo && make install clean && rehash


portmaster /security/sudo

Set up directories and accounts

mkdir -p /var/dehydrated
pw groupadd -n _letsencrypt -g 443
pw useradd -n _letsencrypt -u 443 -g 443 -d /var/dehydrated -w no -s /nonexistent
chown -R _letsencrypt /var/dehydrated

If migrating from acme-client this should be done but:

mkdir -p -m 775 /usr/local/www/.well-known/acme-challenge
chgrp _letsencrypt /usr/local/www/.well-known/acme-challenge

# If migrating from acme-client

chmod 775 /usr/local/www/.well-known/acme-challenge
chown -R _letsencrypt /usr/local/www/.well-known

Configure Dehydrated

ee /usr/local/etc/dehydrated/config


014 DEHYDRATED_USER=_letsencrypt

017 DEHYDRATED_GROUP=_letsencrypt

044 BASEDIR=/var/dehydrated

056 WELLKNOWN="/usr/local/www/.well-known/acme-challenge"

065 OPENSSL="/usr/local/bin/openssl"


save and it should run:

su -m _letsencrypt -c 'dehydrated -v'

You should get roughly the following output:

# INFO: Using main config file /usr/local/etc/dehydrated/config
Dehydrated by Lukas Schauer

Dehydrated version: 0.6.2
GIT-Revision: unknown

OS: FreeBSD 11.2-RELEASE-p6
Used software:
bash: 5.0.7(0)-release
curl: curl 7.65.1
awk, sed, mktemp: FreeBSD base system versions
grep: grep (GNU grep) 2.5.1-FreeBSD
diff: diff (GNU diffutils) 2.8.7
openssl: LibreSSL 2.9.2

File adjustments and scripts

by default it will read /var/dehydrated/domains.txt for the list of domains to renew

Migrating from acme-client? Reuse your domains.txt, the format is the same.

mv /usr/local/etc/acme/domains.txt /var/dehydrated/domains.txt

Create the deploy script:

ee /usr/local/etc/dehydrated/

The following seems to be sufficient


/usr/local/sbin/apachectl graceful

and make executable

chmod +x /usr/local/etc/dehydrated/

Give the script a try:


This will test your apache config and that the script is properly set up.

There’s a bit of a pain in the butt in as much as the directory structure for the certs changed. My previous guide would put certs at /usr/local/etc/ssl/acme/, this puts them at /var/dehydrated/certs/

Check the format of your certificate references and use/adjust as needed. This worked for me – note you can set your key locations to be the same in the config file, but the private key directory structure does change between acme-client and dehydrated.

sed -i '' "s|/usr/local/etc/ssl/acme/|/var/dehydrated/certs/|" /usr/local/etc/apache24/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf

Or if using httpd-ssl.conf

sed -i '' "s|/usr/local/etc/ssl/acme/|/var/dehydrated/certs/|" /usr/local/etc/apache24/extra/httpd-ssl.conf

And privkey moves from /usr/local/etc/ssl/acme/private/ to /var/dehydrated/certs/ so….

sed -i '' "s|/var/dehydrated/certs/private/|/var/dehydrated/certs/|" /usr/local/etc/apache24/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf

# or

sed -i '' "s|/var/dehydrated/certs/private/|/var/dehydrated/certs/|" /usr/local/etc/apache24/extra/httpd-ssl.conf

Git sum certs

su -m _letsencrypt -c 'dehydrated --register --accept-terms'

Then get some certs

su -m _letsencrypt -c 'dehydrated -c'

-c is “chron” mode which is how it will be called by periodic.

and “deploy”


If you get any errors here, track them down.

Verify your new certs are working

cd /var/dehydrated/certs/
openssl x509 -noout -in fullchain.pem -fingerprint -sha256

Load the page in the browser of your choice and view the certificate, which should show the SHA 256 fingerprint matching what you got above.  YAY.

Automate Updates

ee /etc/periodic.conf

insert the following


note the flag is –keep-going (-g) Keep going after encountering an error while creating/renewing multiple certificates in cron mode

Posted at 11:38:45 GMT-0700

Category: FreeBSDSecuritytechnology

Let’s Encrypt….

Sunday, December 10, 2017 

Let’s encrypt, why not?

Wanna know how I did it for FreeBSD/Apache/acme-client, jump below.

Let’s encrypt is a service from the fine people at Mozilla, who, when they’re not trying to prove that Firefox can be a Chrome clone, do some really good stuff. Certificates are what give you the little warm fuzzy feeling of a green lock icon, and when properly configured, avoid giving you that terrifying feeling that something horrible is about to happen if you visit a site with an expired one or a self-signed one.

There are some huge structural problems in the certificate concept that seem to exist only to validate the certificate mafia, that can charge $100s per year for a validated certificate, as if executing the script to issue one was somehow expensive. It is not, you can generate one yourself that provides exactly the same security as one provided by a big company that gets their root certs distributed in a browser, but browsers reject these with scary messages so webmasters have to keep buying them.

Now there’s a theory behind why they’re ripping you off: the premise is that the certificate verifies the site is who it says it is – that if you go to, you’re actually visiting your real bank, not being redirected by a man-in-the-middle attack to some fake landing page to harvest your passwords, log into your account, and steal all your cats.  There are a few problems with this:

  • Nobody actually checks a URL so while a certificate sort of adds some weight to the probability that is owned by mybank, not some hacker a few tables over ARP poisoning the cafe wifi, it doesn’t do anything if you click on a link to
  • The companies that claim to check IDs and verify owners, do not.  That would cost money. You think they’re gonna actually do that?  No… (CAcert actually does, but they don’t get a root cert because… they do it for free. And don’t have Mozilla’s money and clout.)
  • Stealing a root cert private key can generate significant LOLZ; it happens a lot.
  • Law enforcement the world over has “lawful intercept” certs.  You’re probably on some country’s poop list if you have ever used social media. Their laws permit intercepting your communications.  Some country’s laws somewhere certainly do no matter who you are.
  • But dang, those annoying warnings that do nothing to secure you mean that people who publish a website just for the good of the planet either have to pay up, go through a lot of hassle, or leave their user’s content streams exposed to the world’s prying eyes…

…Until Let’s Encrypt came along.  It is a lovely little set of tools and services that not only issue browser-accepted certs (see the green lock?) but also automate renewal.  They basically check that you have enough control over your website to let a script write a file that that they can read back and verify, and if so, you’re who you say you are: the person with write access to the server powering the website they’re giving the certificate too.  That’s all anyone can really do, and is as secure as any other cert there is for identification of a site: that is except for stolen certs, url typos, law enforcement certs, or malicious code on your computer, if you visit and you don’t get any warnings, you’re probably reading data coming off my computer and not some hacker pretending to be me.

I got Let’s Encrypt to work, but it took some modifications of the existing guides, and I think the service is a good thing that more people should use, so in the spirit of investing some of my resources into the great shared experiment that is Open Source, here’s my How To:

Upstream Guides:

I found these two guides extremely helpful.

Step 1: Installing the certificate generation tool

There are a few different software tools to manage the Let’sEncrypt process.  I elected to use Kristaps Dzonsons acme-client, ported to FreeBSD by Bernard Spil.

I was using OpenSSL on my site.  Bernard and Kristaps have some strong opinions on OpenSSL and heartbleed and a few other problems and therefore require LibreSSL.   If you’re using it already, great.  If not, you’ll have to install it.  It wasn’t too terrible, but I ran into a few issues:
Or, easy peasy

# ee /etc/make.conf
set  DEFAULT_VERSIONS+= ssl=libressl
# portmaster -od security/libressl security/openssl
# portmaster -rd security/libressl

if that fails with

===>>> The argument to -r must be a package name, or a glob pattern

Then try:

# pkg version -v | grep libre
libressl-2.6.3 = up-to-date with index
# portmaster -rd libressl-2.6.3
or for a complete refresh
# portmaster -Rafd

Curl will probably fail with LibreSSL (and with the latest, if it has brotli support enabled).  Check the google to see if these fixes are still needed, or just:

# cd /usr/ports/ftp/curl
# make config

disable TLS-SRP

ftp/curl 7.75.0 has an issue with pied piper brotli, which requires modifying the makefile to build --without-brotli as indicated in comment #2 

(Sunpoet, the curl port maintainer, got back to me with an update: when PR/223966 is integrated in Brotli, he will add an optional Brotli support flag and it should work fine at that point without the Makefile edit.)

Step 2: Actually installing acme-client

The really easy part: you should be able to

# portmaster security/acme-client

and be on your way to configuration heaven.

Step 3: Initial configuration

The defaults for acme-client expect certain directories to exist and the installer doesn’t create them.

# mkdir -pm750 /usr/local/www/.well-known && chown -R www:www /usr/local/www/.well-known
# mkdir -pm750 /usr/local/www/.well-known/acme-challenge && chown -R www:www /usr/local/www/.well-known/acme-challenge

The how-to’s seemed to forget the last one.

And make a modification to your httpd.conf file to permit the Let’s Encrypt servers to have access to these folders:

# ee /usr/local/etc/apache24/httpd.conf

add the following:

# Lets Encrypt challenge directory configured per 
<Directory "/usr/local/www/.well-known/">
        Options None
        AllowOverride None
        Require all granted
        Header add Content-Type text/plain

And, for each VHOST that is going to get a cert:

# ee /usr/local/etc/apache24/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf

add to each non-ssl VHOST definition the following:

Alias /.well-known/ /usr/local/www/.well-known/

such that you end up with something like (yours may be different, especially watch out for BasicAuth or ModRewrite, addressed further down):

<VirtualHost IP.NU.MB.ER:80>
    DocumentRoot /usr/local/www/data-dist/domain-root
    ServerAlias *
    Alias /.well-known/ /usr/local/www/.well-known/
    ErrorLog /var/log/domain-error_log
    CustomLog /var/log/domain-access_log combined
    ScriptAlias /cgi-prg /www/cgi-prg

Don’t forget!

# apachectl restart

Step 4: First Try

At this point the system should be configured sufficiently to do a trial run with a single domain from the command line. Later on there are some scripts that will automate the process of both converting a large number of VHOSTed domains on a server to Let’s Encrypt and for maintaining them and getting email notifications if anything goes wrong in the, hopefully, fully automatic renewal process.

# acme-client -mvnNC /usr/local/www/.well-known/acme-challenge

This should create all the directories still needed and populate them, then check with the lets encrypt server and get a certificate and install it in the right place.  Inshalla.

If you get something like

acme-client: transfer buffer: [{ "type": "urn:acme:error:malformed","detail": "Provided agreement URL[]does not match current agreement URL[]","status": 400 }] (267 bytes)

That means the lets encrypt agreement has changed.  You can’t do much but write the port maintainer or wait for an update.  It will get fixed quickly and should only happen once a year.  I don’t think you’ll get it at all unless you’re unlucky enough to try to update when it is changing.  I was.

More likely you’ll get something like

acme-client: transfer buffer: [{ "type": "http-01", "status": "invalid", "error": { "type": "urn:acme:error:unauthorized", "detail": "Invalid response from (etc...)

This means there’s a problem accessing the /.well-known/ directory by the server.  There can be a lot of reasons for this:

  • You didn’t restart apache # apachectl restart
  • There was an error in the config file (look at the output of the restart) and therefore apache didn’t actually reaload with your new config.
  • DNS isn’t pointing where you think it is pointing.  Check with nslookup/whois to make sure.  Really.
  • You have the directories protected in some way – like with .htaccess.  (see below)

But if it goes well, you’ll get something like:

acme-client: /usr/local/etc/acme/ account key exists (not creating)
acme-client: /usr/local/etc/ssl/acme/private/ domain key exists (not creating)
acme-client: directories
acme-client: DNS:
acme-client: DNS: 2001:418:142b:290::3d5
acme-client: DNS: 2001:418:142b:28d::3d5
acme-client: req-auth:
acme-client: /usr/local/www/.well-known/acme-challenge/_ffVe6jHNHbIG1XKAeoqQmmtryWMGCKsfHIWWkl5lJw: created
acme-client: challenge
acme-client: status
acme-client: certificate
acme-client: full chain
acme-client: DNS:
acme-client: DNS:
acme-client: DNS: 2001:5a8:100::b817:9fb0
acme-client: DNS: 2001:5a8:100::b817:9fb1
acme-client: /usr/local/etc/ssl/acme/ created
acme-client: /usr/local/etc/ssl/acme/ created
acme-client: /usr/local/etc/ssl/acme/ created

Yay, you’ve got certs!  Now update your vhosts file to point to the certs you just created.  You may need to add a 443 container or, if it exists, update it to point to the new certs and restart apache.

# ee /usr/local/etc/apache24/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf

<VirtualHost IP.NU.MB.ER:443>
      DocumentRoot /usr/local/www/domainroot
      SSLCertificateFile /usr/local/etc/ssl/acme/
      SSLCertificateKeyFile /usr/local/etc/ssl/acme/private/
      SSLCertificateChainFile /usr/local/etc/ssl/acme/
      Header set Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=31536000; includeSubDomains"
      ErrorLog /var/log/domain-error_log
      CustomLog /var/log/domain-access_log combined

save and restart, look for any errors (typos on directory paths etc. will be detected and apache won’t restart, but be aware, it won’t quit either).

# apachectl restart
 Performing sanity check on apache24 configuration:
 Syntax OK
 Stopping apache24.
 Waiting for PIDS: 81160.
 Performing sanity check on apache24 configuration:
 Syntax OK
 Starting apache24.

Navigate to and check out your new green lock.  Check security and you should find:


Acme-Client Options

# man acme-client has all the deets, but we’re using:

  • -m to append the domain name to paths, use this and always use it or never.
  • -v for verbose output so we can see what is going on.
  • -n to check if an account key exists and create if not (no reason to omit)
  • -N to check if a domain key exists and create if not (also no reason to omit)
  • -C to specify the path to the challenge dir.  These guides all assume a centralized challenge dir outside the main serving path, and to which we redirect via an alias directive.
  • -F which forces the recreation of certs even if they haven’t expired (this counts against your 10 per 3 hours limit)
  • -s which redirects the process to the Let’s Encrypt staging server, which has no volume limits but also doesn’t create certs browsers accept.  (Using this is fine, but requires cleanup to switch to the production server, see below)
  • -e which is used to add a SAN to the certificate.  Removing one is a bit more involved (see below).

Automating Registration

Lets say you have a lot of domains, you might want to automate the process.  I modified the renewal script to automate the registration process.  This saved some time, but one quirk is you can only register 10 domains (certificates, including SANs, basically 10 lines of the domains list) per 3 hours (they say-I found it takes more like 12 hours to be allowed to register more).

First create  a file with all the domains you want to register for a Let’s Encrypt certificate in the same format as the renewal script uses (it can be the same file, but I made it different as I was experimenting)

# ee /usr/local/etc/acme/newdomains.txt 

# ee /usr/local/etc/acme/


# This script was adapted by Richard Fassett from
# by Bernard Spil
# See
# and updated again from richard fassett's script at
# this requires a file called /usr/local/etc/acme/newdomains.txt of the format
# domain.tld sub.domain.tld alt.domain.tld
# domain2.tld 
# domaind3.tld sub.domain3.tld 
# etc
# This should only be run to bulk-add domains.

# Define location of dirs and files

# Loop through the newdomains.txt file with lines like
cat ${DOMAINSFILE} | while read domain subdomains ; do

  # Create the cert directory with the command
  # acme-client -mvnNC /usr/local/www/.well-known/acme-challenge (domain subdomains)
  acme-client -mvnN -C "${CHALLENGEDIR}" ${domain} ${subdomains}


# chmod +x /usr/local/etc/acme/

A few fixes/recoveries that might be useful at this point: add SAN, remove SAN, switch from staging to production Let’s Encrypt servers.

Automation can break things, you might find you adjusted a few domains incorrectly or want to add a SAN later.

If you need to redo a domain from scratch, for example if you use the “s” option which created a cert from the staging server that doesn’t have volume limits (maybe you’re testing a lot of domains or trying to debug a particularly tricky .htaccess or DNS condition) – you might create a domain with acme-client -mvnsNC /usr/local/www/.well-known/acme-challenge and then want to generate the production cert.  You also need to do this to remove a SAN.  If you try without deleting the directories, you’ll get something like unknown SAN entry. (You replace “” with your domain.)

# setenv DD
# rm -r /usr/local/etc/ssl/acme/private/$DD && rm -r /usr/local/etc/acme/$DD && rm -r /usr/local/etc/ssl/acme/$DD && acme-client -mvnFNC /usr/local/www/.well-known/acme-challenge $DD www.$DD

If you need to add a new SAN to an existing domain

acme-client -mvneFNC /usr/local/www/.well-known/acme-challenge

it is the -e that “extends” the certificate.

Step 5: Automating Renewal

You might notice that the duration of the certificate is rather short: 3 months.  You really don’t want to be responding to certificate expired errors every 3 months, so let’s automate the renewal process.  For this you can create two files and store them on your server.  One is the renewal script itself and the other is a list of domains to renew.  This assumes you have more than one domain.  If you only have one domain, this is a bit overkill, but it will work, so why not?  You might get more domains in the future.   Everyone does.

First create a file with your list of domains, call it something creative like “domains.txt”  This is really a certificate request list with the “primary” domain and Subject Alternative Names (SANs) each on a single line.  In theory the SANs can be all over the place and Let’s Encrypt allows up to 100 per certificate (quite a lot), so the implication of “domains.txt” naming is a bit inaccurate, but that’s what everyone is using so we won’t be contrary.  You have to make sure that all the subdomains resolve—the Let’s Encrypt servers are going to look them up via DNS and if there aren’t working entries, this will fail with one of the errors above.  Check first.  I have not tested whether, if for example, you own,, and and they all point to the same directory, you can use one cert with different TLDs (or domains) as SANs; you should be able to, but I didn’t try.

# ee /usr/local/etc/acme/domains.txt

Now that you’ve saved that, the following script is adapted from a few at the references listed above and works on my server.  I made a few adjustments and corrections (there was a name change for acme-client which hasn’t quite propagated through all the HowTos yet).

# ee /usr/local/etc/acme/


# This script was adapted from by Bernard Spil
# See
# ... and further modified by David Gessel  
# This script will fail if the directories haven't been set up and
# domains in domain.txt have been successfully verified

# Define location of dirs and files

# is changed to 1 if any domains expired and were renewed

# Loop through the domains.txt file with lines like
cat ${DOMAINSFILE} | while read domain subdomains ; do

    # acme-client returns RC=2 when certificates 
    # weren't changed; use set +e to capture the return code
    set +e
    # Renew the key and certs if required
    acme-client -mvb -C "${CHALLENGEDIR}" ${domain} ${subdomains}
   # now that we have the return code, set script to exit if 
   # nonzero is returned
   set -e

   # if anything is expired, we'll want to do something 
   # (e.g., restart HTTPS)
   if [ $RC -ne 2 ] ; then

if [ "$CHECKEXPIRATION" -ne "0" ] ; then
        service apache24 restart

# chmod +x /usr/local/etc/acme/

This works quite well and will walk through your domains and renew as needed.

I have 36 domain/certificate lines in my “domains.txt” file and timing this script it takes 2.13 seconds to execute on my server.  There’s no real problem running it every night and if you have a lot of domains, you should remember you can only get 10 certs at a time and they won’t renew for about a week before expiry, a limitation I ran into in the bulk setup process.  You can spread your domain renewals out over the three months by force renewing blocks of them if you have more than about 60 per server.

You probably want to automate the process as a cron job. But before we do, lets address one more little problem: one of the shortcomings of the script process below is that the output messages of the script are output to stdout and only cron’s stderr is emailed to the admin. If your shell environment is wrong or the path to the script is wrong, cron will tell you, but if your domains don’t resolve or the script can’t reach /.well-known/, you will not get any warnings. That’s might be a bummer. So I redirect the output of the script to a log file. It gets overwritten with each execution, so it doesn’t need to be rotated – it is just the output of the last execution. It should be filled with lines including “adding SAN” (which it tells you for each domain) and “certificate valid” which it tells you for each cert that doesn’t need to be renewed. But it might tell you something else, like it barfed trying to reach the /.well-known/ directory because, say, you messed around with .htaccess or forgot to renew your domain and it is being redirected to parking or something. The following script first checks to see if there are any lines in /var/log/lets-encrypt-renew other than the expected, and if so, emails just those lines. You shouldn’t get anything until renewal time or if there’s an error. If you don’t care about renewal notices, you can edit the script to ignore those too.

# ee /usr/local/etc/acme/


# this script scans the log file created by the renewal execution cron job
# then removes any lines containing "adding SAN" or "certificate valid", which
# are normal messages, and mails whatever is left over using the "mail" command
# check full paths (or use relative) but full paths can avoid some errors
# use "# which grep" and "# which mail" on your system to check.


/usr/bin/grep -v "adding SAN" /var/log/lets-encrypt-renew | \
/usr/bin/grep -v "certificate valid" | /usr/bin/cat | \
{ while read status

  if [ "$PROBLEM" -ne "0" ] ; then
        /usr/bin/grep -v "adding SAN" /var/log/lets-encrypt-renew | \
        /usr/bin/grep -v "certificate valid" | \
        /usr/bin/mail -s "Lets Encrypt Errors" $1

# chmod +x /usr/local/etc/acme/

My cron configuration is set up as

# crontab -e

#*     *     *   *    *        command to be executed
#-     -     -   -    -
#|     |     |   |    |
#|     |     |   |    +----- day of week (0 - 6) (Sunday=0)
#|     |     |   +------- month (1 - 12)
#|     |     +--------- day of        month (1 - 31)
#|     +----------- hour (0 - 23)
#+------------- min (0 - 59)

# expanded path
# Let's Encrypt renewal check
*       3       *       *       *        /usr/local/etc/acme/ > & /var/log/lets-encrypt-renew
*       4       *       *       *        /usr/local/etc/acme/

Note that this requires that mail works. On servers that aren’t serving email, I use SSMTP and configured it more or less following this guide and and this especially the tip about using # chpass to change the default Full Name for root from “Charlie &” to something useful like “ServerName Root.”

You can test the mail function by adding a random word (or domain) to your domains.txt file and then executing

# /usr/local/etc/acme/ > & /var/log/lets-encrypt-renew
# /usr/local/etc/acme/

If everything is set up right, you’ll get an email complaining about your random word not being valid.  If you restore the correct domains.txt file and execute the above two commands you should not get an email at all.

# more /var/log/lets-encrypt-renew

should show only lines with “adding SAN” and “certificate valid” in them. If you execute # /usr/local/etc/acme/ you shouldn’t get any message.

.htaccess Problems

If you’re controlling access to a directory or have some non-HTML style process listening, you might run into challenges giving the Let’s Encrypt server access to the /.well-known/ directory.  I found the following formulation worked:

AuthType Basic
     AuthName "Please login."
     AuthUserFile "/xxx/.htpasswd"
     # the directive below also "requires" that the requested URL include /.well-known/
        Require expr %{REQUEST_URI} =~ m#^/.well-known/.*#
        Require valid-user

Basically the script above allows (requires) a “valid-user” (one with an entry in the AuthUserFile and valid matching password) and also requires (allows) a URL that is going to /.well-known/ and subdirectories thereof.  This also works in /usr/local/etc/apache24/httpd.conf and /usr/local/etc/apache24/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf

modRewrite to HTTPS problems

You can also create problems by rewriting to HTTPS.  You might want to do this now that you have certs that will auto-renew and you can provide a secure experience for everyone.   In order to get to the /.well-known/ directory, you have to add an exception to the mod-write rule for traffic to this subdirectory like so:

	RewriteEngine on
           RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !^/\.well\-known/acme\-challenge/
	RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off
            RewriteRule (.*) https://%{SERVER_NAME}/$1 [R=301,L]

Also, if you redirect on a 404, some formulations cause problems. This one does not seem to:

ErrorDocument 404 /index.php

Posted at 06:43:58 GMT-0700

Category: FreeBSDHowToSecuritytechnology

Open letter to the FCC 5 regarding net neutrality

Saturday, November 25, 2017 

I’m in favor of net neutrality for a lot of reasons; a personal reason is that I rely on fair and open transport of my bits to work overseas.  If you happen to find this little screed, you can also thank net neutrality for doing so as any argument for neutrality will likely be made unavailable by the ISPs that should charge exorbitant rents for their natural monopolies and would be remiss in their fiduciary responsibility should they fail to take every possible step to maximize shareholder value, for example by permitting their customers access to arguments contrary to their financial or political interests.

I sent the following to the FCC 5.  I am not, I’m sorry to say, optimistic.

Please protect Net Neutrality. It is essential to my ability to operate in Iraq, where I run a technical security business that relies on access to servers and services in the United States. If access to those services becomes subject to a maze of tiered access limitations and tariffs, rather than being treated universally as flat rate data, my business may become untenable unless I move my base of operations to a net neutrality-respecting jurisdiction. The FCC is, at the moment, the only bulwark against a balkanization of data and the collapse of the value premise of the Internet.

While I understand and am sympathetic to both a premise that less government regulation is better in principal and that less regulated markets can be more efficient; this “invisible hand” only works to the benefit in a “well regulated market.” There are significant cases where market forces cannot be beneficial, for example, where the fiduciary responsibility of a company to maximize share-holder value compels exploitation of monopoly rents to the fullest extent permitted by law and, where natural monopolies exist, only regulation prevents those rents from becoming abusive. Delivery of data services is a clear example of one such case, both due to the intrinsic monopoly of physical deployment of services through public resources and due to inherent opportunities to exert market distorting biases into those services to promote self-beneficial products and inhibit competition. That this might happen is not idle speculation: network services companies have routinely attempted to unfairly exploit their positions to their benefit and to the harm of fair and open competition and in many cases were restrained only by existing net neutrality laws that the FCC is currently considering rescinding. The consequences of rescinding net neutrality will be anti-competitive, anti-productive, and will stifle innovation and economic growth.

While it is obvious and inevitable that network companies will abuse their natural monopolies to stifle competition, as they have attempted many times restrained only by previous FCC enforcement of the principal of net neutrality, rescinding net neutrality also poses a direct risk to the validity of democracy. While one can argue that Facebook has already compromised democracy by becoming the world’s largest provider of news through an extraordinarily easily manipulated content delivery mechanism, there’s no evidence that they have yet exploited this to achieve any particular political end nor actively censored criticism of their practices. However, without net neutrality there is no legal protection to inhibit carriers from exploiting their control over content delivery to promote their corporate or political interests while censoring embarrassing or opposing information. As the vast majority of Americans now get their news from on-line resources, control over the delivery of those resources becomes an extraordinarily powerful political weapon; without net neutrality it is perfectly legal for corporations to get “their hands on those weapons” and deploy them against their economic and political adversaries.

Under an implicit doctrine of net neutrality from a naive, but then technically accurate, concept of the internet as a packet network that would survive a nuclear war and that would treat censorship as “damage” and “route around it automatically,” to 2005’s Madison River ruling, to the 2008 Comcast ruling, to 2010’s Open Internet Order the internet has flourished as an open network delivering innovative services and resources that all businesses have come to rely on fairly and equally. Overturning that historical doctrine will result in a digital communications landscape in the US that resembles AT&Ts pre-breakup telephone service: you will be permitted to buy only the services that your ISP deems most profitable to themselves. In the long run, if net neutrality is not protected, one can expect the innovation that has centered in the US since the birth of the internet, which some of us remember as the government sponsored innovation ARPAnet, to migrate to less corporatist climates, such as Europe, where net neutrality is enshrined in law.

The American people are counting on you to protect us from such a catastrophic outcome.

Do not reverse the 2015 Open Internet Order.


David Gessel


Posted at 10:27:50 GMT-0700

Turn off windows update now!

Monday, March 14, 2016 

If you haven’t already, turn off Windows update now.  Microsoft has recently started installing Windows 10 spyware without consent.  A good friend of mine had a bunch of systems at the company where he runs IT hacked by Microsoft over the weekend, which broke the certificate store for WPA-2 and thus their wifi connections.

To be clear, Windows 10 is spyware.  Microsoft has changed their business model from selling a product to selling data – your data – to whoever they want.  Windows 10 comes with a EULA that gives them the right to steal everything on your computer – your email, your private pictures, your home movies, your love letters, your medical records, your financial records – anything they want without telling you.  “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.

If this happens to you,  I suggest contacting your state attorney general and filing a complaint against Microsoft.  Hopefully a crushing class action suit or perhaps jail time for the executives that dreamed up this massive heist will help deter future corporate data thieves, though that’s certainly irrational optimism.

I wish I could recommend switching to Linux for everyone, but there’s a lot of software that still depends on Windows and a lot of users that will have a hard time migrating (developers: please stop developing for Microsoft).  Apple seems unequivocally better in refusing to act as key player in bringing about Total Information Awareness.  I’m not a huge fan of their walled garden and computers as overpriced fashion accessories approach, but it is far better than outright theft.  For those that are slightly computer savvy, there’s Linux Mint, which is quite usable and genuinely free.

These instructions might help prevent that disaster of an update being visited upon you (and possibly law enforcement visits to come after Microsoft starts sifting through all your datas and forwarding on whatever they find).  The latest reports suggest they aren’t enough, but it is the best I have found other than isolating your windows box from the internet completely.

Posted at 14:27:03 GMT-0700

Category: NegativePrivacySecuritytechnology

PGP Usability Regression thanks to Enigmail

Thursday, February 25, 2016 

The latest auto update to Enigmail, the essential plugin for Thunderbird for encrypted mail, is a fairly dynamic project that occasionally makes UI and usability decisions that not everyone agrees with.

The latest is a problem for me.  I use K9 for mobile mail and K9 doesn’t support PGP/MIME, but Enigmail just:


Why?  OK – PGP/MIME leaks less metainformation than inline PGP, but at the expense of compatibility.  K9 should support PGP/MIME, but it doesn’t.  Enigmail should have synchronized with K9 and released PGP/MIME when mobile users could use it.

But encryption people often insist that the only use case that matters is some edge case they think is critical.  They like to say that nobody should read encrypted mail on a mobile device because the baseband of the device is intrinsically insecure (all cell phones are intrinsically insecure – phones should treat the data radio as a serial modem and the OS and the data modem should interact only over a very simple command set – indeed, the radio should be a replaceable module, but that gets beyond this particular issue).

For now, make sure your default encoding is Inline-PGP or you’ll break encryption.   Encryption only works if it is easy to use and universally available. When people can’t read their messages, they just stop using it.  This isn’t security, this is a mistake.

Posted at 01:52:42 GMT-0700

Category: cell phonesPrivacySecuritytechnology

Signal Desktop: Probably a good thing

Tuesday, December 8, 2015 

Signal is an easy to use chat tool that competes (effectively) with What’sApp or Viber. They’ve just released a desktop version which is being “preview released/buzz generating released.”  It is developed by a guy with some cred in the open source and crypto movement, Moxie Marlinspike.  I use it, but do not entirely trust it.

I’m not completely on board with Signal.  It is open source, and so in theory we can verify the code.  But there’s some history I find disquieting.  So while I recommend it as the best, easiest to use, (probably) most secure messaging tool available, I do so with some reservations.

  • It originally handled encrypted SMS messages.  There is a long argument about why they broke SMS support on the mailing lists.  I find all of the arguments Whisper Systems made specious and unconvincing and cannot ignore the fact that the SMS tool sent messages through the local carrier (Asiacell, Korek, or Zain here).  Breaking that meant secure messages only go through Whisper Systems’ Google-managed servers where all metadata is captured and accessible to the USG. Since it was open source, that version has been forked and is still developed, I use the SMSSecure fork myself
  • Signal has captured all the USG funding for messaging systems.  Alternatives are not getting funds.  This may make sense from a purely managerial point of view, but also creates a single point of infiltration.  It is far easier to compromise a single project if there aren’t competing projects.   Part of the strength of Open Source is only achieved when competing development teams are trying to one up each other and expose each other’s flaws (FreeBSD and OpenBSD for example).  In a monoculture, the checks and balances are weaker.
  • Signal has grown more intimate with Google over time.  The desktop version sign up uses your “google ID” to get you in the queue.  Google is the largest commercial spy agency in the world, collecting more data on more people than any other organization except probably the NSA.  They’re currently an advertising company and make their money selling your data to advertisers, something they’re quite disingenuous about, but the data trove they’ve built is regularly mined by organizations with more nefarious aims than merely fleecing you.

What to do?  Well, I use signal.  I’m pretty confident the encryption is good, or at least as good as anything else available.  I know my metadata is being collected and shared, but until Jake convinces Moxie to use anonymous identifiers for accounts and message through Tor hidden nodes, you have to be very tech savvy to get around that and there’s no Civil Society grants going to any other messaging services using, for example, an open standard like a Jabber server on a hidden node with OTR.

For now, take a half step up the security ladder and stop using commercial faux security (or unverifiable security, which is the same thing) and give Signal a try.

Maybe at some later date I’ll write up an easy to follow guide on setting up your own jabber server as a tor hidden service and federating it so you can message securely, anonymously, and keep your data (meta and otherwise) on your own hardware in your own house, where it still has at least a little legal protection.


Posted at 10:21:22 GMT-0700

Category: PositivePrivacyreviewsSecuritytechnology

10 Gbyte Win10 Spyware “upgrade” now forced on users

Sunday, September 27, 2015 

Microsoft has, historically, done some amazingly boneheaded things like clippy, Vista, Win 8, and Win 10.  They have one really good product: Excel, otherwise everything they’ve done has succeeded only through illegal exploitation of an aggressively defended monopoly. OK, maybe the Xbox is competitive, but I’m not much of a gamer.

Sadly for the world, the model of selling users for profit to advertisers and spies has gained ground to the point where Microsoft was starting to look like the least evil major entity in closed-source computing.  Poor microsoft.  To lose the evil crown must be at least as humiliating as their waning revenue and abject failures in the mobile space (so strange… try to enter a space where they don’t have a monopoly to force users to accept their mediocre crap and they fail, who’da thunk it?)

“There is a difference between policy and practice. We don’t read customers mail. We don’t read customer documents. We don’t triangulate YouTube views and searches. We don’t use the content of your Hotmail to target ads in Bing,”

Frank Shaw, Corporate Vice President of Corporate Communications for Microsoft

Well, never fear: Windows 10 is here and they’re radically one-upping the data theft economy by p0wning not just the data you idiotically entrust to someone else’s server for free without ever considering why they’re giving you that useful service for “free” or what they, or whoever buys their ultimately failed business, might do with your data, but also the data you consider too sensitive for the Google or the Apple.  Windows 10 exfiltrates all your data to Microsoft for their use and profit without your information.  Don’t believe it? Read their Privacy Statement.

Finally, we will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary.

And it is free (as in beer but not as in speech).  What could possiblay go wrong?

Well, people weren’t updating fast enough so Microsoft is now pushing that update on you involuntarily.  Do you have a data cap that a 10G download might break and cost you money?  So what!  Your loss!  Don’t have enough space on your drive for a 10G hidden folder of crapware foisted off on you without your permission?  Tough crap, Microsoft don’t care.

To be clear, Windows 10 is spyware.  If this was coming from a teenage hacker somewhere, they’d be facing jail time.  It is absolutely, unequivocally malware that will create a liability for you if you use it.  If you have any confidentiality requirement, you must not install windows 10.  Ever. Not even on your home machine.  Just don’t.

The only way to prevent this is really annoying and a little risky: disable automatic downloads.  One of the problems with Microsoft’s operating systems is the unbelievably crappy spaghetti code that results in a constant flow of cracks, a week’s worth are patched every Tuesday.  About 1 serious vulnerability every fortnight these days (note this is about the same as Ubuntu and about 1/4 the rate of OSX or iOS, why people think Apple products are “secure” is beyond me – live in that fantasy walled garden!  But nice logo you paid a 50% premium for on your shiny device). Not patching increases the risk that some hacker somewhere will steal your datas, but patching guarantees that Microsoft will steal your datas.  Keep your anti-virus up to date and live a little dangerously by keeping Microsoft out.

Here’s an interesting article: how-to-clean-the-windows-10-crapware-off-your-windows-7-or-81-pc

And a tool referenced in that article: GWX control panel (that can help remove the windows 10 infection if you got it).

And a list of patches I found that are related to Win10 malware that you can remove if you haven’t installed it yet (Windows 10 eliminates the ability to choose or selectively remove patches, once you’re in for the ride, you’re chained in: all or nothing.)

Basic advice:

  • Disable automatic updates and automatic downloads of updates.
  • Review each update Microsoft offers.  This is tedious, my win 7 install reports 384 updates, 5-10 a week, but other than security patches, you probably don’t really need them.  Only install a patch if there’s a reason.  Sorry, that sucks, but there’s always Linux Mint: free like beer AND free like speech.
  • If you’re still on Win 7/8, uninstall the spyware Microsoft has probably already installed.  If you’re on Windows 8, you probably want to upgrade to Windows 7 if at all possible.
  • If you succumbed to the pressure and became a Microsoft Product by installing Windows 10, uninstall it.
  • If uninstall doesn’t work, switch to Mint or reinstall 7.

Most importantly, if you develop software for servers or for end users, stop developing for Microsoft (and Apple too).  Respect the privacy of your customers by not exposing them to exploitation by desperate operating system vendors.  In many classes of applications, your customers buy their computers to run your software: they don’t care what operating system it requires – that should be transparent and painless.  Microsoft is no longer an even remotely acceptable choice.  Server applications should run under FreeBSD or OpenBSD and desktop applications should run under Linux.  You can charge more and generate more profit because the total net cost for your customers will be lower.  Split the difference and give them a more reliable, more secure, and lower cost environment and make more money doing so.

Posted at 08:07:54 GMT-0700

Category: FreeBSDHowToLinuxSecuritytechnology

The CA System is Intractably Broken

Tuesday, July 21, 2015 

I’m dealing with the hassle of setting up certs for a new site over the last few days. It means using startcom’s certs because they’re pretty good (only one security breach) and they have a decently low-hassle free certificate that won’t trigger BS warnings in browsers marketing fake cert mafia placebo security products to unwitting users. (And the CTO answers email within minutes well past midnight.)

And in the middle of this, news of another breach to the CA system was announced on the heels of Lenovo’s SuperFish SSL crack, this time a class break that resulted in a Chinese company being able to generate the equivalent of a lawful intercept cert and provided it to a private company. Official lawful intercept certificates are a globally used tool to silently crack SSL so official governments can monitor SSL encrypted traffic in compliance with national laws like the US’s CALEA.

(aww, someone liked this:

But this time, it went to a private company and they were using it to intercept and crack Google traffic, and Google found out. The absurdity is to presume that this is an infrequent event. Such breaches (and a “breach” isn’t a lawful intercept tool, which are in constant and widespread use globally, but such a tool in the “wrong” hands) happen regularly. There’s no data on the ratio of discovered breaches to undiscovered breaches, of course. While it is possible that they are always found, seemingly accidental discoveries suggest far wider misuse than generally acknowledged.

The cert mafia should be abolished. Certificate authorities work for authoritarian environments in which a single entity is trusted by fiat as in a dictatorship or a company. The public should trust public opinion and a tool like Perspectives would end these problems as well as significantly lower the barrier to a fully encrypted web as those of us trying to protect our traffic wouldn’t need to choose between forking over cash to the cert mafia for fake security or making our users jump through scary security messages and complex work-arounds.

Posted at 00:53:59 GMT-0700

Category: FreeBSDPrivacySecuritytechnology