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Month: February 2009

Funny Quote

I came across a funny quote on Twitter yesterday:

“Anyone who thinks American Idol is a great show should be smacked upside the head with a Wal-Mart.”

Black Hat DC 2009

6a00d83451e4d369e2011278f92f2d28a4I’m on my way back from the Black Hat DC 2009 briefings, and thought I’d give a brief synopsis of my experience there while waiting to catch a plane.

This was the first opportunity I’ve had to attend such a conference, and it was made possible by Alan over at (yes, you made my year!).  Being in the DC area, this smaller-brother version of the Black Hat Vegas conference is geared more towards the federal sector, which was perfect for me since that is where I work.

The conference was kicked off by Paul Kurtz (check it out here), former advisor to Presidents Clinton and Bush, and current candidate for President Obama’s Cyber-Czar position.  He described the complex, if not disturbing, state of our country’s cyber-readiness in response to a “cyber Katrina” disaster.

It is a grim situation for which a lack of communication between the various parts of our cyber infrastructure are at fault.  He likened it to the pilot training facility in Florida, which trained the pilots of the 9/11 attack, not passing along any info to the government about what was going on.  The same thing, said Kurtz, is occuring with our country’s ISP’s.  He didn’t really go into how to solve it in detail, but I was left fearing that an increase in communication between ISP’s and the government would only lead to more of a Big Brother scenario than we already have.

I chose to attend the Attack and Defense tract of briefings as opposed to the Reverse Engineering tract at Black Hat.  All in all, I was not disappointed, though a few of the topics were very dry and very granular.  Some of the other attendees I talked to were in agreement that the level of detail tended to get very specific, and thus less relevant to the majority of the people attending.

Still, I learned a lot in many of the briefings, including:

  • Blinded by Flash: Widespread Security Risks Flash Developers Don’t See (presentation here)
  • Dissecting Web Attacks (presentation here)
  • Windows Vista Security Internals (presentation here)

The best presentation I saw this week was by an independent hacker going by the name of Moxie Marlinspike, who’s presentation on New Techniques for Defeating SSL/TLS generated the most buzz amongst the conference attendees and the blogosphere.

Moxie demonstrated a method he devised using a tool he wrote called SSLStrip, which allows one to launch a man-in-the-middle attack on someone attempting to log onto a secure site by taking advantage of “positive feedback” techniques currently employed by modern web browsers, and making someone think they are on a secure web site.  In actuality, they are on your version of the site, and once you have their login credentials captured, you send them on their way without knowing the difference.

Moxie had a 100% success rate of fooling people on the Tor network using this technique, collecting passwords for Paypal, Facebook, and other popular “secure logon” sites.

There were other good briefings, and I met a bunch of cool people.  As I posted on Twitter during the conference, rubbing elbows with the DC securiy elite made me realize how quaint Asheville is. I hope to be able to attend more conferences of this genre, and the opportunity for learning is much greater than sitting in a training room listening to a teach drone on about a single subject.

Ubuntu Pocket Guide & Reference – FREE!

It seems Keir Thomas has released a nice little book “Ubuntu Pocket Guide and Reference” which can be purchased for under 10 clams. However, he has also released the PDF version free to the world.

I really like Ubuntu and not just because it’s one of the easiest distros to make everything work (I.E. non-free video drivers etc)… truly is a very nice distro in all ways. (especially for the new users)

So if you’re new to Linux and are trying out Ubuntu, head over and grab the free PDF. If you like it….buy it. While Linux kernels are free, we still need to support the guys writing about it. 🙂

Main links of note:

Ubuntu –
Ubuntu Guides –
Ubuntu Community Forums –


Verizon Wireless Broadband – RHEL 5.x / CentOS 5.x

I’m using the UM175 model so your mileage may vary.

Note: Red Hat officially supports various DELL branded EVDO modems by default in 5.x (see release notes)

Insert the UM175 and make sure the system detects it.

usb 5-1: USB disconnect, address 3
usb 5-1: new full speed USB device using uhci_hcd and address 4
usb 5-1: configuration #1 chosen from 1 choice
cdc_acm 5-1:1.0: ttyACM0: USB ACM device <—— Note the cdc_acm driver was loaded for it and the device is under ttyACM0 (/dev/ttyACM0)

Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out how to use NetworkManager under RHEL 5.3 (yet) so I reverted back to the standard “network” service instead.

Example: (You DO NOT need to do this if you’re NOT using NetworkManager)
shell> sudo /sbin/service NetworkManager stop
shell> sudo /sbin/chkconfig –level 2345 NetworkManager off
shell> sudo /sbin/chkconfig –level 2345 network on
shell> sudo /sbin/service network start

Then use the “system-config-network” utility (Under – SystemAdministrationNetwork )

1. Select the “Hardware” tab and click “New”

2. Select “Modem” as the hardware type.
Note: The above info from dmesg shows “ttyACM0”, this will NOT be listed in the “Modem Device” selection (at least under mine it wasn’t), so simply erase what’s there and type in “/dev/ttyACM0” (no quotes). I left everything else the same and clicked “OK”.

3. Select the “Devices” tab and click “New” this will start a Wizard.
* Select “Modem” and click Forward.
* Fill in “Phone Number” with “#777” (no quotes)
* Fill in “Provider Name” with whatever (I put Verizon)
* Fill in “Login Name” with “” (no quotes)
* Fill in “Password” with “vzw” (no quotes)
* Click Forward and leave the defaults (DNS etc.)

4. Activate your new configuration (this will restart the network controls etc)

You may want/need to set various options under the ppp configuration (like auto start etc).

You should now be able to connect. Until someone posts how to get the NetworkManager working, you may want to create a shortcut of the “Network” applet on your Panel/Desktop. 🙂

Note: There are various ways to skin this cat. I just posted the easiest way I could for the general “Desktop” usage. ;0)

Vmware / Vmtools under CentOS 5.x Guests

I’ve seen various posts about people having issues installing/configuring the vmtools package under their CentOS guest.

So here’s my new “Quick Tip”

Inside your CentOS 5.x guest VM
Install/update the kernel source and gcc packages.

sudo yum -y install kernel-devel gcc

Then under the Vmware host application select “VM “Install Vmware Tools” and the “tools” package will be mounted to your host, simply untar the vmware-tools.tar.gz and run the install script inside.

The script will now use your kernel headers and the gcc packages to compile the needed modules.

You can either follow the on screen instructions to unload/load the required modules or simply reboot.