How Real Is Cyber Threat?

Technology is like anything else that can be used for good or for evil purposes.  Many things have dual purposes or even more than just dual purposes, and technology is no exception to this fact.  Perhaps, there is an exception to the rule, but my small brain cannot think up one for the moment.  Anyhow, there are forces in the world that are trying to use technology for evil purposes.  For an example, from nuclear to cyber threats.  Nuclear threat has existed for many decades already, and by now most people know what MAD means.  In this blog post I’m not going to bother with voicing my opinion on nuclear threat.  Instead, I’m going to focus on voicing my opinion on cyber threat.

Lately, we have seen big powers like USA and China accuse each other of cyber warfare.  It’s obvious that it’s hard to know who is doing what in term of hacking one another in the cyberspace.  Nonetheless, I think I know why cyber threat is a growing concern.

On the surface, before we unravel all the layers of onion, we truly cannot see why there are fusses about cyber security.  For some people, they think that cyber threat can be dealt with best cyber security practices and no more than that.  Of course, it’s true that cyber security measures such as installing well known antivirus software and firewall are definitely going to help counter most cyber vulnerabilities.  Nonetheless, there are other cyber vulnerabilities out there that won’t be eliminated by even the most powerful firewall and antivirus programs.  Why?  I think there are some well kept or new cyber vulnerabilities that have not been dealt with, because these cyber vulnerabilities are well kept secrets or too new.  By using these cyber vulnerabilities and better hacking tools, hackers are able to wreck havocs on the cyber networks of the world.

When we peel more layers of the onion off, we can see that cyber security is very important.  How come?  In my opinion, it’s about a digital future where money mainly get create in digital form.  This is the future trend that our present (the world) is heading for.  Of course, if we just rely on cyber networks for communication and not for banking and monetization, then cyber security can only be boiled down to privacy and few other things but not of money matters.  Nonetheless, cyber networks as in the Internet can be used for electronic commerce, banking, and the whole nine yards.  This means cyber security is needing to be taken seriously, otherwise hackers can just waltz in and erase, steal, change, and do whatever else to the digital money that belong to various money matter institutions such as banking, electronic commerce giants, and whatnot.

I can imagine a scenario that a group of powerful hackers that is sponsored by a powerful organization hacks a cyber system of a country to a point that they erase all of the digital money from this country, leaving this country as a bankrupted nation.  Nonetheless, this country can totally create new digital money out of thin air if she wants to, but will this be ethically, legally, and sensibly?  Can such an incident be covered up easily?  After all, we’re living in a globalized world, and transactions are having been done globally all the time; something like this if to rain upon a country will not be easily covered up.

This is why I think cyber security issues are so important nowadays.  Without proper measures to protect cyber networks, the vulnerable Internet can gradually weaken the trust of digital money transactions, leaving countries and everyday people seek out the traditional means of doing transactions.  Perhaps, this is why we’re seeing the prevalence of traditional transactions today.  Cash is one good example of traditional transactions.

When I’m hearing how one country is having difficulty in protecting a state secret from being leaked out through the cyber networks, I think it’s absurd that such a country is connecting her secret networks to the Internet in the first place.  I think each country should keep her state secrets on an Intranet that won’t be connected to the regular Internet.  Furthermore, such a country needs to provide physical protections to her Intranet, because when hacking cannot be done remotely someone ought to waltz into such a network physically so the hacking can be done eventually.  For an example, stealing state secrets with the usage of a thumb drive (USB devices or similar devices).

In summary, I think the fusses about cyber security threat are real.  This is why we are hearing countries complain about being victims to hack attacks and whatnot.  Corporations are also experiencing cyber security issues, because corporate espionage can be done through cyber networks with ease.  Whenever an entity is connecting to the Internet and it doesn’t matter what type of entity that is, cyber security issues become real just like any other important issue that matters.  Of course, if there is a day that we do not rely on the Internet anymore and money transactions do not take place in the Internet, then cyber threat will not be a threat of anything but only a historical fact.

Personal Note:  The advance of encryption is also important, because encryption can be incorporated into various network tools to secure the Internet transactions.  With strong encryption, it’s harder for hackers to decrypt the Internet transactions into plain text, thus preventing important information from being leaked.

Advertisements

Installing And Securing Linux Mint 17, And Installing Adobe Reader

I was installing Linux Mint 17 for a virtual machine on my PC, and I decided it was a good idea to record the whole process.  Furthermore, I also installed Adobe Reader manually on Linux Mint 17, and so by watching this video you will also know how to do this.  If you’re trying to do what I’ve done within this video, make sure you do not deny shell access and lock the password for the regular user or users that you want to use, because if doing so you will not be able to log into the system.  Of course, if you follow my video closely, deny shell access means editing the /etc/passwd file, and lock password means editing the /etc/shadow file by executing the command line passwd -l [username].

Moreover, if you’re trying to edit the /etc/fstab file as I’d done in the video, make sure you make a copy of the original /etc/fstab file first before editing the original /etc/fstab file.  /etc/fstab file is very important, because it tells the system how to load up the devices such as hard drive, and screwing this file up will prevent your system from loading/booting.  Having the original copy of /etc/fstab file will allow you to restore it in the case that you screw up the original /etc/fstab file.

If you are going to pay close attention to my part of editing /etc/fstab file, you will notice that I’d made error on adding rw option to the /tmp and /dev/shm devices, but you will also notice that I had correct the errors in the video few seconds later.  Basically, rw option is correct, but in the video, before I made the option as rw I had the option as wr.  By having the option as wr, the system won’t recognize this option.  So instead of wr, it should be rw.

rw is a permission option.  By adding rw option to /tmp and /dev/shm, the /tmp and /dev/shm devices won’t allow anything to execute commands in these devices, but these devices only allow whatever to read and write to them.  Anyhow, you can check out this video right after the break.  Enjoy!!!

Allowing Specific IP Addresses To Access QNAP’s Web Apps Using .htaccess File And Preventing All Other IP Addresses From Meddling With QNAP’s Web Apps

If you’re using QNAP as a NAS, you probably know that QNAP allows you to install web apps onto QNAP server.  Web apps are cool, but these web apps can be a security nightmare.  This is why you often have to upgrade these web apps.  One example of a popular web app that you can install on QNAP server is WordPress.  Anyhow, whether a web app might carry a computer vulnerability or not, you want to secure your QNAP’s web apps with .htaccess file.  By adding .htaccess file to /share/Web directory in QNAP server, you add one more hoop (security layer) for hackers to have dealt with.  In the video right after the break, I’m going to show you how to add a very simple .htaccess file to QNAP’s /share/Web directory to thwart a possible malicious user which might be able to bypass the router’s firewall and hack your QNAP server using web apps’ vulnerabilities.  Enjoy!!!

Adding .htaccess File To QNAP’s /share/Web/ To Secure All Web Applications Within

Legal Disclaimer:  Following the tip within this blog post at your own risk.  You have been warned, thus you know that you are going to do something dangerous here to your web server or QNAP server.  With this knowledge of yours and by having reading this warning or skipping this clear warning, you cannot hold me for your stupidity or dangerous action against your very own QNAP server or web server or against anyone’s web server that you’re responsible for its administrative duties and procurements.

Are you running a web server on QNAP NAS?  NAS stands for Network Attached Storage server.  If you are for whatever purpose, whether this web server is for production purpose or testing purpose, you might want to know that .htaccess file can help secure QNAP’s web applications such as WordPress, Drupal, and the rest.  Here’s how to create proper .htaccess file that controls all web applications at once on your QNAP server.

  1. You need to change into directory of /share/Web by using this Linux command [cd /share/Web].  Of course, please do ignore the square brackets as these are only for clarifying the command line.
  2. Quickly do [ls -la] to figure out if you have an .htaccess file already.  If you do, please make a backup of this file in case you need this original file again for whatever purpose.  To make a backup of this .htaccess file that you already have had in the QNAP’s /share/Web directory, use this command [cp -p -a /share/Web/.htaccess /share/Web/.htaccess-old].
  3. Once you had followed the step #2 herein, then you can try to remove the original .htaccess file (Not the backup one you just made OK?) by using this command [rm -rf /share/Web/.htaccess].  Be very careful with [rm -rf] command line, because if you misspell a file or a directory you’re trying to remove, you will definitely lose such directory or file forever and won’t be able to recover it.
  4. Now let us create the .htaccess file again, but this time we’re creating it the way we like it.  Of course, .htaccess is a complex file, thus regular Joe like us needs not to worry about making this file too complex.  Instead, let a regular Joe like us to just create simple .htaccess file that denies all IP addresses but only allows a specific IP addresses.  This means, if you want to allow one or two specific IP addresses to access QNAP’s web applications, this .htaccess file should satisfy your command.  So here we go…
    1. Creating .htaccess file by using this command [touch /share/Web/.htaccess].
    2. Now, let’s edit the .htaccess file we just created by using this command [vim /share/Web/.htaccess].
    3. Let’s enter the lines below for our new .htaccess file shall we?  These lines must be in the order as follow…
      1. order deny,allow
      2. allow from 192.168.0.x (please use your very own IP address here)
      3. allow from 192.168.0.x (please use your very own IP address here)
      4. deny from all
    4. What we had done was adding 2 IP addresses to the allow list in .htaccess file so these 2 IP addresses will be able to interact/access the web applications that reside in QNAP’s /share/Web directory.  You can add more IP addresses or remove most IP addresses but allowing only one according to your desire by simply adding more [allow from…] or remove [allow from…] lines.  Of course all [allow from…] lines must be written or typed out above the line which said [deny from all] and below the line which said [order deny,allow].  Now, we must save our newly edited .htaccess file by doing this while you’re still in the vim editor.
      1. Hit escape key on the keyboard to exit the editing mode.
      2. Type in [:wq] and hit enter key on the keyboard.  Of course, please do ignore the square brackets as these are only for clarifying the command line.
  5. The last step is to secure our new .htaccess file by doing two things.
    1. First thing to secure is to make sure the owner and the group owner of the .htaccess file are indeed the right owner and group owner.  For me personally, I prefer to not use admin user and administrators group for any web application files and directories, because I don’t want the evil doers to be able to use one of these files with high privilege access to escalate the privilege and execute malicious commands.  This is why on my QNAP server I rather make most of my web applications’ files and directories in the name of user httpdusr and group owner everyone.  So let’s do this command to make this happens OK?  Type in [chown httpdusr:everyone /share/Web/.htaccess].  Afterward, just do [ls -la /share/Web/.htaccess] to see if .htaccess file indeed is using user httpdusr and group owner everyone.
    2. Second thing to secure is to make sure the .htaccess file has the right permission.  So we need to use this command [chmod 400 /share/Web/.htaccess].  What this command does is change the permission of .htaccess file in /share/Web directory to read only for user (owner of the .htaccess file) and no other permission is allowable for anyone else, hint the two zeros after #4.  These two zeros stand for no permission for group user (whoever has the group authorization of whichever group) and no permission for everyone else (this is the last 0 for).  Finally, you can do [ls -la /share/Web/.htaccess] to confirm that the permission for .htaccess file is indeed 400 or not.  If it’s so, it means only the QNAP web server user httpdusr will be able to read the file, but even this user cannot write to or execute whatever within this .htaccess file.

Now, with this .htaccess file configuration for your QNAP’s /share/Web directory, the web applications that are residing within this specific Web directory will not be accessible to anyone with any IP address unless somebody is using the IP address that is being allowed by this very .htaccess file.

Do you know that by following the tip herein, you can also use this very tip for non-QNAP web server?  Just create a similar .htaccess file within whatever web server’s directory to prevent snooping to most IP addresses and allow only the IP addresses that are being allowed within.

Virtual Machine Is A Very Beautiful Thing

Virtual machine is a very beautiful thing, but the majority computer users might be ignorant of it.  How beautiful virtual machine is?  Let me just say this right off the bat, virtual machine is there to piss off evil doers!  It’s so beautiful that you can basically download computer viruses onto a virtual machine without the fear of these nasty things go around and infect a physical machine.  Of course, with just about anything, if one is so inept in computer things, one might be able to allow the computer viruses and what not to infect the whole Intranet (LAN) network even one is using a virtual machine.  Nonetheless, one has to be very inept to do so.  For an example, allowing virtual machine to be on the same subnet with a physical machine without its own protection measures (i.e., antivirus, firewall and what not) — thus, showing just another door to the evil doers.  The evil doers can use a compromised active virtual machine as a gateway for their Intranet (LAN) hacking activities.  The beautiful thing is that if one is smart enough to secure a virtual machine, one basically has a hardened sandbox which can easily be used as a platform for browsing the dangerous web at will.  Perhaps, even downloading computer viruses and what not for testing purposes such as testing to see the effectiveness of an antivirus program.  Professional antivirus software reviewers are mostly using a hardened virtual machine to test to see how effective an antivirus program can be.

Virtual machine is so beautiful that it is very perverted.  How?  I’ve heard how many people have seen their computers got infected with computer viruses, worms, trojans, and what not just because they have been browsing dangerous pornographic websites.  What’s worse is that these folks do not use readily available simple measures such as Javascript blocker software/plugins (e.g., ScriptSafe, Noscript, etc…).  For an example, I’d talked to one person who complained that he would format his computer often, because he caught too many computer viruses.  This very person would like to say that he’s an advance computer user.  Nonetheless, he’d told me that he befuddled how his Windows machine kept on catching a flu (i.e., sarcasm for computer viruses).  Furthermore, he told me that it was too easy for his computer to catch a flu whenever he got perverted.  Obviously, it meant that he browsed pornographic websites and his computer caught a flu.  In the end, he told me his assumption that there’s no way a PC can be OK if one is browsing a pornographic website.  I told him flat out that he’s dead wrong.  The simplest answer I could give to him at that point was that just make sure his physical machine is clean (i.e., not being infected with any computer virus) and then install a virtual machine.

Virtual machine is beautiful since it’s allowing us to have a secure sandbox to play around.  Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than just a secure sandbox, because a virtual machine can run just about all major operating systems.  Furthermore, a virtual machine can be a quick testing ground for security software and what not.  If a virtual machine user doesn’t like what he or she sees, he or she can simply go through few clicks to delete a virtual machine and make a new one.  My suggestion for whoever that does browse the web dangerously is to install a virtual machine on a clean physical machine, install Linux such as Ubuntu, install firewall and ClamAV onto Ubuntu, harden up Ubuntu (virtual machine) as if it’s running on a real machine, and then browse the dangerous web.

Virtual machine is a strange beast, because it can do certain things exceptionally well and efficient, but it can be totally useless at times.  For an example, playing games on a virtual machine is a no no.  First of all, a virtual machine does not use a dedicated graphic card, because it’s emulating one.  Even if a virtual machine environment allows a physical computer to share dedicated graphic resources, I doubt a virtual machine could really share dedicated graphic resources efficiently.  Playing intensive graphic resource demanding games would be almost impossible.  Nonetheless, if one uses a virtual machine for applications such as virtualizing a NAS (i.e., Network Attached Storage server), it can become very interesting.  Imagining this further, how interesting it is for one to be able to clone a virtualized NAS easily, right?  Virtual machine platforms such as VirtualBox is certainly carrying the option of allowing a computer user to clone a virtual machine through few clicks of a mouse.

In summary, virtual machine is very beautiful, but the degrees of beautifulness are scaling accordingly according to whoever is using it.  One can simply use a virtual machine to test out how effective an antivirus software can be, but one can also use it to run a virtualized NAS.  If one is horny, one can simply browse the dangerous pornographic websites with a virtual machine.  Basically, virtual machine is quite useful and secure if one knows how to use it as a sandbox.

 

There’s Time To Be Nice, But Digital One Isn’t So

Should you be a nice guy when it comes to Internet etiquette?  The answer isn’t so simple since it’s all depending on the context of things.  For an example, a friend sent you an email for whatever purpose, important or not, you might have to reply to him or her.  Down to earth Internet etiquette cannot be so disconnected from physical world, otherwise we are not who we are, as in being human with complex emotions.  Thus, our strong human traits such as politeness can also be our weaknesses.  This is why social engineering is useful for some bad actors who have intension to hack into your digital life.

Without going to rant much on elusive Internet/digital philosophy, let me get to the point.  I’d recently received many online bank surveys through my email inbox.  The politeness of online etiquette wanted me to click on the survey request link in the email so I could start a survey, because being polite is good, whether that would be on the web or off the web.  Unfortunately, in the back of my head, my impolite part of the brain told me to not being so nice and polite, because the survey itself might not be sent from the bank.  I think there are ways to fake emails that look like they’re from the legitimate party.

My eventual action was usually a quick delete of such email.  Why?  Although I’m a nobody and poor, thus my bank account would be a waste of time for whoever wants to hack into it.  Thus, I’m not supposed to be all that protective toward my online bank account.  Regardless, I don’t really like being hack, because it feels very invasive.  Imagine a stranger just walks into your life and does whatever to you, how do you feel?  This is the feeling of being hack, because you don’t know the hacker or hackers!  So, it was a quick and simple decision, I rather not being polite and willy nilly clicking on a bank account survey link.  I don’t care if the email is legitimate or not, I just won’t subject myself to downloading malware or virus or trojan onto my computer just so I could have a nice digital etiquette.

In summary, I think we need to be very cautious about the stuffs that go through our emails.  Especially, survey invitations and what not might not be so innocent.  I’m writing this post is to remind my future self and whoever else to be more cautious about Internet security in regarding to email.  Furthermore, I like to remind my future self and whoever else that if a hacker has your email account, he or she can basically try to reset your passwords from your bank accounts, social website accounts, and what not.  If hackers are successful at resetting your online accounts’ passwords, then they’re basically taking control of your digital life.  Simply put, do you want a stranger to take over your life, albeit it’s an Internet one?