SSH & HTTPS on the same port: Surprisingly easy

If you’re stuck behind a school or university firewall, you’ll often find that they’re unreasonably restrictive (as a user – as an administrator, well actually, most of the admins probably think it’s a bit over the top too, given it really doesn’t stop much untoward behaviour for the inconvenience caused).

As long as you want web traffic to sites that haven’t been blacklisted or have restricted keywords in the URL (sigh), you’ll be fine. But if, for example, you need SSH access to a *nix server offsite, you’re stuck using various web based SSH console solutions.

As always, there are a variety of ways around it: some more complex than others. But a good place to start is the fact that most corporate firewalls are not only unreasonably restrictive – they’re also lazy.

Port 443 is used for secure web traffic, and the firewall can’t really do much to inspect the back-and-forth through that port (you know, by design), so in many cases, they just let traffic through without even bothering to check that it’s actually HTTPS.

I mean, really. If someone is trying to get access through port 22, they can probably figure out how to achieve the same end through 443 (this post, case-in-point).

Enter the demultiplexers – software tools to simply listen on 443 and direct SSH traffic to sshd and HTTPS traffic to httpd (the two kinds of traffic are trivially and flawlessly distinguishable). Continue Reading…

Stay Classy, Cert Companies

Let’s Encrypt has been a welcome addition to the security landscape – if only because it’s nice to do business with someone who actually gives a damn.

The trouble with HTTPS has always been more of a “business model” thing than a technical thing – anyone can set up strong encryption on their server and send/receive encrypted traffic to their users, but the initial connection needs to also confirm to the user that the site is who it says it is, and therein lies the rub.

The solution for the past 2 decades or so has been to have big corporations (called certificate authorities) who are trusted by browsers (the software, not the people) issue the certificates and keys needed for encryption. When a browser connects, it can identify whether or not one of the certificate authorities vouches for your website. If it does, the browser knows to trust that it is, indeed, connecting to the correct site.

This is a crucial step, as otherwise another site, posing as, say jonathan.ihle.in might manage to trick a browser into connecting to it. The connection itself would be perfectly encrypted, but the encryption would be for nought – as the user would be sending all their private data to the wrong party.

The problem with this arrangement is twofold – it forces site operators to decide whether or not a site is worth spending money to encrypt and it puts the issuing of certificates and keys into for-profit organisations who have varying demands for determining site identification. The end result: many sites remain without encryption.

Let’s Encrypt was created to resolve this specific issue. Continue Reading…

The backdoor in the iPhone *is* Apple

So recently, the FBI has obtained an order to have an iPhone compromised for an investigation.

The issue is thus:

  1. The iPhone is locked with a 4 digit passcode and the FBI doesn’t know what that passcode is.
  2. The iPhone’s data is encrypted – so they can’t just yank out the flash memory and attempt to read the contents. The passcode is required, through the operating system on the iPhone to decrypt that data.
  3. Because 4 digit codes aren’t really very secure (only 10,000 possible combinations), iOS will gradually force longer and longer delays between failed attempts to unlock the phone. (Edit: As Kieran points out below, codes in recent versions of iOS allow up to 6 digits, or 100,000 combinations)
  4. As an added layer of security, a user can set their iPhone to wipe its data after 10 consecutive failed attempts.

 

The FBI wants the data on that phone. But the process of brute forcing an unlock might wipe that data out and even if not, will still take a long time with the lockout delays and manual passcode entry. So a US federal magistrate has ordered Apple to do whatever is necessary to work around these safeguards so the FBI can access the data quickly and safely.

Apple is refusing.

They’re refusing on the grounds that (among other things) this will create a “backdoor” that will compromise all iPhones ever.

This is not true. iPhones are already all compromised. The backdoor is Apple. Continue Reading…

ECU Assignment Stapler

A working copy of the stapler can be found here.

Why does this thing exist?

When you submit assignments, you should submit them in PDF, not Word format.

There are a few reasons why, but the main two are as follows:

  1. You can be more sure that your tutor or lecturer will see the same thing you submitted
    Word documents can display differently depending on the version or device used.
    This is far less of an issue with PDF.
  2. You can’t accidentally munge your keyboard and change the final document.
    Probably not normally a consideration, but after 9 hours staring at papers on the significance of First Name Consonant Frequency in Childhood Misbehaviour*, you can easily make silly mistakes and be completely unaware that you just moved a crucial paragraph and are now submitting the antithesis of your intended argument.
(*Not a paper, but totally should be)

Continue Reading…

Milktape – brief excitement, abiding disappointment

Milktape - don't bother.

Pointlessness.

About 15 years ago (whoa!), I was researching which MP3 player to sink my limited funds into.

I did not want an iPod, a position that I continue to hold to this day – the veneer is nice, but the premium you pay for an inferior experience (particularly on the library management end) wasn’t worth it for me.

One of the options way out of my range was a little number called the “Rome MP3” – it managed to straddle both ends of the technological spectrum by simultaneously being a solid state MP3 player and a playable cassette. I’ll let that sink in.

rome_mp3

Check that puppy out.

Continue Reading…