Linux User Group of Mauritius Promoting open source software in our beautiful island

28Jun/150

Government of Mauritius website allows weak security

Posted by logan



govmu.org

A few days ago, Sruti mentioned on the Mauritius Internet Users mailing list that she had problems resetting her password on the Mauritius Government website.

Out of curiosity, I decided to check if the login works correctly. While working on this, I made an interesting observation: The connection offered on the website is weak, in terms of security !

By observing the SSL connection on my smartphone I came across a weak encryption offered by m.govmu.org, which is mobile version of the government of Mauritius website. Stunned by this discovery, I also check the PC-version of the government website and noticed that It also offers the same weak encryption.

SSL handshake has read 2749 bytes and written 362 bytes
---
New, TLSv1/SSLv3, Cipher is RC4-MD5
...
SSL-Session:
Protocol : TLSv1
Cipher : RC4-MD5

The govmu.org website allows RC4-MD5 which is considered to be weak encryption, according to RFC7464 . The document, which is now a standard on the Internet, recommends removal of RC4 as an encryption mechanism, due to practical attacks demonstrated against it.

Implications for Mauritian Citizens

It is possible to intercept and decrypt sensitive Information that a user sends to the Mauritius Government website, as it is. It is possible to set-up a practical attack, under certain circumstances. This is more dangerous, as more and more people are using wifi which magnifies the problem.



--Logan

Filed under: govmu No Comments
28Jun/150

openSUSE:42 – a new beginning

Posted by Ish

People usually ask what is the difference between openSUSE and SUSE? Some even ask how to pronounce it :-) Well, before it hits hard, you should pronounce it suze. SUSE is an enterprise class Linux distribution and it comes in two flavours:

– SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop
– SUSE Linux Enterprise Server

openSUSE on the other hand is the community version. Much of the development that happens in openSUSE lands in SUSE enterprise editions.

What is openSUSE 42?

openSUSE_42Following additional support and core SUSE Linux Enterprise code given to the openSUSE project, the latter is on a new journey for future releases. At the moment the nomenclature is undecided. Serious discussions are going on the openSUSE project mail list. To know what we are talking about, we have been calling it openSUSE 42. The number 42 comes from the project name openSUSE:42 in the openSUSE Build Service.

On the mail lists I see suggestions like Leap, Oak and Rock & Roll making its way. No consensus has been reached yet. Hoping to get hold on a 42-spin soon :-)

26Jun/150

23:59:60, the cyberisland and the leap second that we forgot

Posted by logan



The US is busy planning for the leap second transition


Please see my previous blog post if you are not familiar with the leap second issue.


The US has a document for "Best Practices" (URL: http://www.gps.gov/news/2015/05/leap-second/2015-best-practices-for-leap-second.pdf) which has been published by the Department of Homeland Security. I'm going to quote a few sections from it: Sponsored by the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in coordination with the United States Naval Observatory, National Institute of Standards and Technology, the USCG Navigation Center, and the Nation al Coordination Office for Space - Based Positioni ng, Navigation and Timing . This product is intended to assist federal, state, local, and private sector organizations with preparations for the 30 - June 2 015 Leap Second event.

Below the introduction part of the document are a list of well detailed steps to prepare for the transition for the leap second that will occure on the 30th of June.

Meanwhile in Mauritius

I immediately went to look for the same information for Mauritius. My first choice is the Mauritius Standards Bureau. Looking at the relevant pages show nothing about Time (url: http://msb.intnet.mu/).

My 2nd choice is thus CERT-MU, which is the Mauritian equivalent of CyberSecurity, expecting to find a document for "Best Practices" for the Leap Second. Result of the search on CERT-MU website : Zero.

At this I start wondering what could be impacted by leap second in Mauritius. Websites crashes have been reported when previous leap seconds were added. Quote from a website: Sites such as Reddit, Gawker, LinkedIn, Foursquare and Yelp crashed after a "leap second" was added to the universal clock in order to keep up with the Earth's rotation. So, A few critical websites might crash. This is important to everyday users.

Other problems ?

Wikipedia says that: Older versions of Motorola Oncore VP, UT, GT, and M12 GPS receivers had a software bug that would cause a single timestamp to be off by a day if no leap second was scheduled for 256 weeks. How many companies are relying on GPS for their operation: Car fleets, Car drivers, boats, and people with smartphones, and The Amadeus airline reservation system was disrupted for more than two hours which affects plane fights.

Conclusion

Important information such as leap second transition should have been available on CERT-MU website so that people and organizations can better prepare themselves, and avoid disruptive problems across the Mauritian Infrastructure.

Filed under: ntp No Comments
23Jun/150

Havoc on the 30th of june

Posted by logan

Big news: The earth is not rotating uniformly !

Planet earth does not rotate uniformly. They are some subtle changes that affect its rotation. Those subtle changes affect the reference clocks that are used to keep time accurate on your computer, your smartphone, and the servers at Google, Yahoo!,Facebook, and instagram. If you think that time is not important, Have a look at your facebook posts, and see the time-stamp attached to each facebook post. Time is used everywhere on the internet :)

A Leap second

To account for those subtle changes in rotation, a leap second was introduced. A second is introduced each time those subtle changes occur. However, that insertion can cause issues on systems such as GPS. Some systems might not be able to handle the additional second, and crash and/or overload. The next leap second will occur on the 30th of June at midnight.

Keep your time in sync

The solution consists of using an NTP client on your servers, and correctly sync with a reliable Time Source, such as pool.ntp.org. So, please make sure that your servers are properly configured with NTP :)



--Logan

Filed under: ntp No Comments
22Jun/150

Re-configure touchpad after KDE Plasma 5 installation in openSUSE

Posted by Ish

I installed KDE Plasma 5 on my openSUSE 13.2 machine. Aww. That looks quite sleek & I adore the classic menu. After a long time using both Gnome 3 (on various distros) and Unity, I am appreciating a vanilla KDE desktop. One could simply replace KDE 4 by KDE Plasma 5 in openSUSE as:

sudo zypper in plasma5-session

Note: As stated, this will replace KDE 4 and your previous desktop preferences will be overridden.

Once installed, re-login after selecting the Plasma 5 environment at the login prompt.

openSUSE KDE Plasma 5

openSUSE KDE Plasma 5

How to re-configure the touchpad?

My touchpad behaved differently. It was set to two-finger scroll, while I prefer the vertical edge scroll. I looked around but could not find any GUI utility to re-configure the touchpad. Could only find mouse controls under System Settings.

I believe these glitches won’t be around when KDE Plasma 5 will ship by default in openSUSE. Meanwhile for people who’re giving a try, the fix is to install kcm-touchpad5 and look for the Input Devices in systemsettings5.

sudo zypper in kcm-touchpad5

System Settings > Hardware > Input Devices > Touchpad

openSUSE-Plasma-5-touchpad

Thanks to wolfi323 from the openSUSE forums
20Jun/150

Top websites visited by Mauritius and the compromised cyberisland

Posted by logan


Alexa top 10 Websites visited by Mauritians

alexa

Alexa is a web statistic tool which is very useful. The problem in Mauritius, is that we do not have much statistics. I was expecting facebook, yahoo, and youtube. One site (ask.com) immediately drew my attention and I knew that something was very wrong in Mauritius !



Ask.com or how a lot of computers are compromised in the Cyberisland


The ask toolbar is generally found on computers that have been compromised, and installed surreptitiously. At the 10th place, we have ask.com, which is a malware that infects a lot of browsers. I saw it on a few laptops of my co-workers, and friends. However, I never imagined that it was so widespread in Mauritius! Widespread enough that it's the 10th most visited website by the island ! ask.com is typically accessed via browser toolbar that generates bad search results, and is notorious to remove completely.

Ask toolbar slows down the computers on which it is installed. It is very difficult to remove completely. The computers that have ask toolbar installed are very likely to contain other malware. Those computers tend to slow down entire corporate networks due to excessive traffic. Microsoft rates it as high, in terms of security severity: Microsoft Advisory. I went to check with CERT-MU which is the in its own terms "... Mauritian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-MU), a division of the National Computer Board (NCB), Mauritius, to educate and enhance the awareness of the general public on the technological and social issues facing internet users, particularly on the dangers of getting online." and found nothing concerning ask toolbar.



Tagged as: No Comments
20Jun/150

Using Linux or BSD as your slave for repetitive editing

Posted by logan

Generating URI on blogsum

Blogsum is a minimalist & secure CMS which I use. The only problem so far is generating the blog post URL. Generally, it's a long string of text such as Using Linux or BSD as your slave . However, I cannot use this as a URL generator. One way would be to use javascript or any decent client-side language to do that. What output would I expect ? Something like "Using-Linux-or-BSD-as-your-slave" . That's a pain to generate manually: I have to copy-paste it, and replace every space with a '-". However there is another way if you're using Linux or BSD.

The power of sed

Some people tend to jump on fully fledged programming languages like Perl, or Python. To me, it's like using a car to travel 5 meters down the road. The same group of people would probably use google to look up thousand of ways to do the editing. There's a way to do it on a single line of fairly readable code, using sed. Sed is a tiny piece of software available under all BSD and Linux systems. It stands for "Stream Editor". Sed can be used to do a lot of complex tasks.

sed has an easy to remember usage pattern for those kind of tasks that you can type on your terminal:

echo "Using Linux or BSD as your slave for repetitive editing" | sed 's/ /-/g'

The output is: Using-Linux-or-BSD-as-your-slave-for-repetitive-editing

Analysing the command we just typed

echo just prints whatever you want. echo "XXX", would print XXX on a terminal. By using echo "XXX XXX" and adding a '|' we take the "XXX", and send it for further processing. In this case, we send it to sed.

sed takes the input "XXX XXX", and applies an operation. In this case the, s means substitute. Now, what do we want to substitute ? We want to substitute the space character, with "-". we use the / and then the " " to tell that to sed. Now, what character do we want to use ? the "-". We use '/', and then '-', and another / to terminate the expression. What does the 'g' stand for ? By default it will replace only the first occurence of space with "-". We need to do it for all instances of space. so we use g for "global" replacement. That's it: we're done. Linux or BSD just did the grunt work for you :)



(Please don't hesitate to leave your comments :))
--Logan

Tagged as: No Comments
20Jun/150

Using Linux or BSD as your slave for repetitive editing

Posted by logan

Generating URI on blogsum

Blogsum is a minimalist & secure CMS which I use. The only problem so far is generating the blog post URL. Generally, it's a long string of text such as Using Linux or BSD as your slave . However, I cannot use this as a URL generator. One way would be to use javascript or any decent client-side language to do that. What output would I expect ? Something like "Using-Linux-or-BSD-as-your-slave" . That's a pain to generate manually: I have to copy-paste it, and replace every space with a '-". However there is another way if you're using Linux or BSD.

The power of sed

Some people tend to jump on fully fledged programming languages like Perl, or Python. To me, it's like using a car to travel 5 meters down the road. The same group of people would probably use google to look up thousand of ways to do the editing. There's a way to do it on a single line of fairly readable code, using sed. Sed is a tiny piece of software available under all BSD and Linux systems. It stands for "Stream Editor". Sed can be used to do a lot of complex tasks.

sed has an easy to remember usage pattern for those kind of tasks that you can type on your terminal:

echo "Using Linux or BSD as your slave for repetitive editing" | sed 's/ /-/g'

The output is: Using-Linux-or-BSD-as-your-slave-for-repetitive-editing

Analysing the command we just typed

echo just prints whatever you want. echo "XXX", would print XXX on a terminal. By using echo "XXX XXX" and adding a '|' we take the "XXX", and send it for further processing. In this case, we send it to sed.

sed takes the input "XXX XXX", and applies an operation. In this case the, s means substitute. Now, what do we want to substitute ? We want to substitute the space character, with "-". we use the / and then the " " to tell that to sed. Now, what character do we want to use ? the "-". We use '/', and then '-', and another / to terminate the expression. What does the 'g' stand for ? By default it will replace only the first occurence of space with "-". We need to do it for all instances of space. so we use g for "global" replacement. That's it: we're done. Linux or BSD just did the grunt work for you :)



(Please don't hesitate to leave your comments :))
--Logan

Tagged as: No Comments