Google Securing The Web One Discrete Monopolizing Push At A Time

Contrary to speculation by some, Google’s decision for encrypting search data is motivated by the goal to make the web as a whole more secure and it’s not driven by economic interests. I think Google is silently forcing the internet to do what they should be doing on their own.
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Fixing CentOS Root Certificate Authority Issues

While trying to clone a repository from Github the other day on one of my EC2 servers and I ran into an SSL verification issue. As it turns out, Github renewed their SSL certificate (as people who are responsible about their web presence do when their certificate is about to expire). As a result, I couldn’t git clone over https. This presents a problem since all my deploys work using git clone over https.
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Joe Job and SPF

First off, get your mind out of the gutter. A joe job has absolutely nothing to do with what you’re thinking about. It’s email related and it can be a pain in the ass to deal with.

What is a Joe Job?
Joe Job is the term used to describe the act of forging bulk email to appear to the recipient as if the email were coming from the victim. Generally speaking, this term is used to describe an attack of this nature. This is to say that when a spambot or botnet sends a massive amount of email to a victim. The named was coined by an attack launched against in January of 1997. The perpetrator (SPAMMER) sent a flood of emails from spoofed addresses in a (successful) attempt to enrage the recipients to take action against the company.

Why do I care?
There are many reasons, but I will just cover a few until you get the picture. The main victim of a SPAM attack of this nature ends up having an INBOX full of junk. This junk can potentially include malware, virii, and any number of phishing or scam based attacks. Also, since there is so much email traversing the connection, the bandwidth gets sucked up and depending on the actual amount of SPAM coming in, could render the connection unusable until all the mail is filtered through. The problem comes in when there are thousands of messages, that could take days or even weeks. Since the originating address is spoofed, those who don’t know are going to get very upset with who they *believe* to be responsible for sending the email. The last item I am going to touch on is that the person whose email address was spoofed now has to deal with all the auto-responses and whatever else may automatically come their way. (I think you get the idea).

What I can do?
There is nothing that you can do to completely avoid it besides not using the internet or email. There are some steps that you can take. One of the first things is to take a look at SPF (Sender Policy Framework). To set this up in DNS, you need to do the following:

In your DNS zone file for, you should add something like the following:  IN TXT    "v=spf1 a mx -all"
  • v – The version of SPF to use
  • a mx – The DNS attributes permitted to send messages for
  • -all – Reject everything else that does match a or mx

This can also get more in depth depending on the number of email accounts you have and from where. For instance, let’s say your mail server’s name is and you also have email accounts on gmail ( your work email ( Your line would look something similar to the following:   IN   TXT   "v=spf1 mx -all"

The a line is saying that is authorized to send mail via your mail server. The include statements are basically saying that everything considered legitimate by either or should also be considered legitimate by you.

There is a lot more information on configuring SPF. The documentation should be read thoroughly as improperly configured SPF can prevent legitimate email from flowing. For more information of SPF and configuring it, check out:

SPF is just one method that can be used to fight against being a victim of a Joe job. You should always be using some method of SPAM filtering in addition to SPF. Layered security needs to be the approach when locking down any type of server or service.

Super Security vs. Ease of Use

I think I am going to get back onto my soapbox about being extraordinarily secure, only this time, I am going to compare it to ease of use. I would once again like to reiterate the fact that I am strongly for security in all its aspects. However, some people get into the presence of a security individual and freak out. They start saying that they know certain things are secure and insecure and then do them anyway.

A great example of this is SSH access to servers. Consider the following physical network layout.

                      ,---------- Server I
Inet---------|F/W|---+----------- Server II
                      `----------- Server III

If you want to leave certain nice to do’s or ease of use functionality available to your self such as leaving SSH open only to root or having a machine with anonymous FTP access available, then take a slightly different approach to securing your environment (or those particular machines): layered security. Without changing the physical layout of your network, change the network layout using iptables and/or tcp wrappers. Make the network look more like this:

                             ,------Server II
Inet-----|F/W|----Server I--<
                             `------Server III

This is essentially saying that all traffic that you want to funnel to Server II or Server III will now go through server I. This can be used in a variety of ways. Let's say that all 3 servers are in the DMZ (De-Militarized Zone) and that Server's II and III are hosting the services available to the outside. Allowing direct access to them via SSH or FTP probably isn't the best idea because these are services that allow files to be changed. So what can we do to change this?

First let's configure TCP wrappers. Starting out with the assumption that you are being paranoid where necessary, let's set SSH up to only allow incoming connections from Server I and deny from everywhere else. In the /etc/hosts.deny file on Server II, add the following lines (everything that goes for Server II goes for Server III to mimic the setup):

sshd1: ALL
sshd2: ALL

Now in the /etc/hosts.allow file on Server II, add the IP address of Server I (IPs are all made up):

sshd2: none

This now ensures that the only way SSH traffic will be allowed Server II is through (or from) Server I. But let's say that isn't enough for you. Let's say you want a little more security so you can sleep a little better at night. Enter netfilter and IPTables. On Server II, add the following to your firewall script:

iptables -A INPUT -p tcp --dport 22 -j SSH  # Send to the SSH chain
iptables -A SSH -s -j ACCEPT # Allow from Server I
iptables -A SSH -m limit --limit 5/s -j LOG # Log the problems
iptables -A SSH -j DROP # Drop everything else

So what's the point of all this extra configuration? Simple, it allows for a little more flexibility when it comes to your setup. Although I recommend having SSH keys and not allowing direct root access from anywhere, you can get away with a little more. You can allow root access via an SSH key. And if you have enough protections/layers/security in place, you may also even consider using a password-less SSH key depending on what the role of the contacting server is (ie. rsync over SSH).

In the optimal version of a network setup with SSH, you may want to only allow user access to Server II via entry only through Server I. Then to top it off, only allow sudo access to root if the user is in the sudoers file. This throws a lot more protections behind Server II, but makes it somewhat complicated to just do something simple. This is especially true if Server II is on an internal network which isn't very accessible anyway. The advice I generally give is in the form of the question, "What is tradeoff?" More times than not, ease of use the answer. So keeping in mind that ease of use isn't out of the realm of possibility, just remember that layered security can be your friend. It's usually how the tradeoff comes.