Archive for the ‘Linux and FreeBSD Desktop’ Category

Linux Send Monitoring Alert Emails without Mail Server via relay SMTP with ssmtp / msmtp

Friday, July 10th, 2020

ssmtp-linux-server-sending-email-without-a-local-mail-server-mta-relay-howto

If you have to setup a new Linux server where you need to do a certain local running daemons monitoring with a custom scripts on the local machine Nagios / Zabbix / Graphana etc. that should notify about local running custom programs or services in case of a certain criteria is matched or you simply want your local existing UNIX accounts to be able to send outbound Emails to the Internet.

Then usually you need to install a fully functional SMTP Email server that was Sendmail or QMAIL in old times in early 21st century andusually postfix or Exim in recent days and configure it to use as as a Relay mail server some Kind of SMTP.

The common Relay smtp setting would be such as Google's smtp.gmail.com, Yahoo!'s  smtp.mail.yahoo.com relay host, mail.com or External configured MTA Physical server with proper PTR / MX records or a SMTP hosted on a virtual machine living in Amazon's AWS or m$ Azure that is capable to delivere EMails to the Internet.

Configuring the local installed Mail Transport Agent (MTA) as a relay server is a relatively easy task to do but of course why should you have a fully stacked MTA service with a number of unnecessery services such as Email Queue, Local created mailboxes, Firewall rules, DNS records, SMTP Auth, DKIM keys etc. and even the ability to acccept any emails back in case if you just want to simply careless send and forget with a confirmation that remote email was send successfully?

This is often the case for some machines and especially with the inclusion of technologies such as Kubernettes / Clustered environments / VirtualMachines small proggies such as ssmtp / msmtp that could send mail without a Fully functional mail server installed on localhost ( 127.0.0.1 ) is true jams.

ssmtp program is Simple Send-only sendMail emulator  has been around in Debian GNU / Linux, Ubuntu, CentOS and mostly all Linuxes for quite some a time but recently the Debian package has been orphaned so to install it on a deb based server host you need to use instead msmtp.
 

1. Install ssmtp on CentOS / Fedora / RHEL Linux

In RPM distributions you can't install until epel-release repository is enabled.

[root@centos:~]# yum –enablerepo=extras install epel-release

[root@centos:~]# yum install ssmtp


2. Install ssmp / msmtp Debian / Ubuntu Linux

If you run older version of Debian based distribution the package to install is ssmtp, e.g.:

root@debian:~# apt-get install –yes ssmtp


On Newer Debians as of Debian 10.0 Buster onwards install instead

root@debian:~# apt install –yes msmtp-mta

can save you a lot of effort to keep an eye on a separately MTA hanging around and running as a local service eating up resources that could be spared.
 

3. Configure Relay host for ssmtp


A simple configuration to make ssmtp use gmail.com SMTP servers as a relay host below:

linux:~# cat << EOF > /etc/ssmtp/ssmtp.conf
# /etc/ssmtp/ssmtp.conf
# The user that gets all the mails (UID < 1000, usually the admin)
root=user@host.name
# The full hostname.  Must be correctly formed, fully qualified domain name or GMail will reject connection.
hostname=host.name
# The mail server (where the mail is sent to), both port 465 or 587 should be acceptable
# See also https://support.google.com/mail/answer/78799
mailhub=smtp.gmail.com:587
#mailhub=smtp.host.name:465

# The address where the mail appears to come from for user authentication.
rewriteDomain=gmail.com
# Email 'From header's can override the default domain?

FromLineOverride=YES

# Username/Password
AuthUser=username@gmail.com
AuthPass=password
AuthMethod=LOGIN
# Use SSL/TLS before starting negotiation
UseTLS=YES
UseTLS=Yes
UseSTARTTLS=Yes
logfile        ~/.msmtp.log

EOF

This configuration is very basic and it is useful only if you don't want to get delivered mails back as this functionality is also supported even though rarely used by most.

One downside of ssmtp is mail password will be plain text, so make sure you set proper permissions to /etc/ssmtp/ssmtp.conf
 

– If your Gmail account is secured with two-factor authentication, you need to generate a unique App Password to use in ssmtp.conf. You can do so on your App Passwords page. Use Gmail username (not the App Name) in the AuthUser line and use the generated 16-character password in the AuthPass line, spaces in the password can be omitted.

– If you do not use two-factor authentication, you need to allow access to unsecure apps.
 

4. Configuring different msmtp for separate user profiles


SSMTP is capable of respecting multiple relays for different local UNIX users assuming each of whom has a separate home under /home/your-username

To set a certain user lets say georgi to relay smtp sent emails with mail or mailx command create ~/.msmtprc

linux:~# vim ~/.msmtprc


Append configuration like:

# Set default values for all following accounts.
defaults
port 587
tls on
tls_trust_file /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt
account gmail
host smtp.gmail.com
from <user>@gmail.com
auth on
user <user>
passwordeval gpg –no-tty -q -d ~/.msmtp-gmail.gpg
# Set a default account

account default : gmail


To add it for any different user modify the respective fields and set the different Mail hostname etc.
 

5. Using mail address aliases


msmtp also supports mail aliases, to make them work you will need to have file /etc/msmptrc with
 

aliases               /etc/aliases


Standard aliasses them should work 

linux:~# cat /etc/aliases
# Example aliases file
     
# Send root to Joe and Jane
root: georgi_georgiev@example.com, georgi@example.com
   
# Send everything else to admin
default: admin@domain.example

6. Get updated when your Debian servers have new packages to update 

msmpt can be used for multiple stuff one example use would be to use it together with cron to get daily updates if there are new debian issued security or errata update pending packages, to do so you can use the apticron shell script.

To use it on debian install the apticron pack:
 

root@debian:~# apt-get install –yes apticron

apticron has the capability to:

 * send daily emails about pending upgrades in your system;
 * give you the choice of receiving only those upgrades not previously notified;
 * automatically integrate to apt-listchanges in order to give you by email the
   new changes of the pending upgrade packages;
 * handle and warn you about packages put on hold via aptitude/dselect,
   avoiding unexpected package upgrades (see #137771);
 * give you all these stuff in a simple default installation;

 

To configure it you have to place a config copy the one from /usr/lib/apticron/apticron.conf to /etc/apticron/apticron.conf

The only important value to modify in the config is the email address to which an apt-listchanges info for new installable debs from the apt-get dist-upgrade command. Output from them will be be send to the configured EMAIL field  in apticron.conf.
 

EMAIL="<your-user@email-addr-domain.com>"


The timing at which the offered new pending package update reminder will be sent is controlled by /etc/cron.d/apticron
 

debian:~# cat /etc/cron.d/apticron
# cron entry for apticron

48 * * * * root if test -x /usr/sbin/apticron; then /usr/sbin/apticron –cron; else true; fi

apticron will use the local previous ssmtp / msmpt program to deliver to configured mailbox.
To manually trigger apticron run:
 

root@debian:~# if test -x /usr/sbin/apticron; then /usr/sbin/apticron –cron; else true; fi


7. Test whether local mail send works to the Internet

To test mail sent we can use either mail / mailx or sendmail command or some more advanced mailer as alpine or mutt.

Below is few examples.

linux:~$ echo -e "Subject: this is the subject\n\nthis is the body" | mail user@your-recipient-domain.com

To test attachments to mail also works run:

linux:~$ mail -s "Subject" recipient-email@domain.com < mail-content-to-attach.txt

or

Prepare the mail you want to send and send it with sendmail

linux:~$ vim test-mail.txt
To:username@example.com
From:youraccount@gmail.com
Subject: Test Email
This is a test mail.

linux:~$ sendmail -t < test-mail.txt

Sending encoded atacchments with uuencode is also possible but you will need sharutils Deb / RPM package installed.

To attach lets say 2 simple text files uuencoded:

linux:~$ uuencode file.txt myfile.txt | sendmail user@example.com

echo "

To: username@domain.com From: username@gmail.com Subject: A test Hello there." > test.mail

linux:~$ cat test.mail | msmtp -a default <username>@domain.com


That's all folks, hope you learned something, if you know of some better stuff like ssmtp please shar e it.

Stop SSH Bruteforce authentication attempt Attacks with fail2ban

Monday, July 6th, 2020

Fail2ban stop restrict ssh bruteforce authentication attempt attacks

Most of webmasters today have some kind of SSH console remote access to the server and the OpenSSH Secure Shell service is usually not filtered for specific Networks but fully accessbible on the internet. This is especially true for home brew Linux Web servers as well as small to mid sized websites and blogs hosted on a cheap dedicated servers hosted in UK2 / Contabo RackSpace etc.

Brute force password guess attack tools such as Hydra and a distributed password dictionary files have been circulating quite for a while and if the attacker has enough time as well as a solid dictionary base, as well as some kind of relatively weak password you can expect that sooner or later some of the local UNIX accounts can be breaked and the script kiddie can get access to your server and make quickly a havoc, if he is lucky enough to be able to exploit some local vulnerability and get root access …

If you're a sysadmin that has to manage the Linux server and you do a routine log reading on the machine, you will soon get annoyed of the ever growing amount of different users, that are trying to login unsucessfully to the SSH (TCP port 22) service filling up the logs with junk and filling up disk space for nothing as well as consuming some CPU and Memory resources for nothing, you will need some easy  solution to make brute force attacks from an IP get filtered after few unsuccessful login attempts.
 

The common way to protect SSH would then be to ban an IP address from logging in if there are too many failed login attempts based on an automatic firewall inclusion of any IP that tried to unsuccessfully login lets say 5 or 10 reoccuring times.

In Linux there is a toll called “fail2ban” (F2B) used to limit brute force authentication attempts.

F2B works with minimal configuration and besides being capable of protecting the SSH service, it can be set to protect a lot of other Server applications like;

 Apache / NGINX Web Servers with PHP / Mail Servers (Exim, Postfix, Qmail, Sendmail), POP3 IMAP / AUTH services (Dovecot, Courier, Cyrus), DNS Bind servers, MySQL DBs, Monitoring tools such as Nagios, FTP servers (ProFTPD / PureFTP), Proxy servers (Squid), WordPress sites (wp-login) brute force attacks, Web Mail services (Horde / Roundcube / OpenWebmail), jabber servers etc.

To get a better overview below is F2B package description:
 

linux:~# apt-cache show fail2ban|grep -i description-en -A 21
Description-en: ban hosts that cause multiple authentication errors
 Fail2ban monitors log files (e.g. /var/log/auth.log,
 /var/log/apache/access.log) and temporarily or persistently bans
 failure-prone addresses by updating existing firewall rules.  Fail2ban
 allows easy specification of different actions to be taken such as to ban
 an IP using iptables or hostsdeny rules, or simply to send a notification
 email.
 .
 By default, it comes with filter expressions for various services
 (sshd, apache, qmail, proftpd, sasl etc.) but configuration can be
 easily extended for monitoring any other text file.  All filters and
 actions are given in the config files, thus fail2ban can be adopted
 to be used with a variety of files and firewalls.  Following recommends
 are listed:
 .
  – iptables/nftables — default installation uses iptables for banning.
    nftables is also suported. You most probably need it
  – whois — used by a number of *mail-whois* actions to send notification
    emails with whois information about attacker hosts. Unless you will use
    those you don't need whois
  – python3-pyinotify — unless you monitor services logs via systemd, you
    need pyinotify for efficient monitoring for log files changes

 

Using fail2ban is easy as there is a multitude of preexisting filters and actions (that gets triggered on a filter match) already written by different people usually found in /etc/fail2ban/filter.d an /etc/fail2ban/action.d.
as well as custom action / filter / jails is easy to do.
Fail2ban is available as a standard distro RPM / DEB package
on most modern versions of Ubuntu (16.04 and later), Debian, Mint and CentOS 7, OpenSuSE, Fedora etc.
 

1. Install Fail2ban package


– On Deb based distros do the usual:

linux:~# apt update
linux:~# apt install –yes fail2ban


On RPM distros Fedora / CentOS / SuSE etc.
 

linux:~# sudo yum -y install epel-release
linux:~# sudo yum -y install fail2ban

2. Enable fail2ban ban rules for SSH failed authentication filtering

Create the file /etc/fail2ban/jail.local :
 

# cat > /etc/fail2ban/jail.local


Paste below content:
 

[DEFAULT]
# Ban hosts for one hour:
bantime = 360
# Override /etc/fail2ban/jail.d/00-firewalld.conf:
banaction = iptables-multiport

[sshd]
enabled = true
maxretry = 10
findtime = 43200
# ban for 1 day
bantime = 3600
# ban for 1 day
#bantime = 86400

This config will ban for 1 day any IP that tries to access more than 10 unsuccesful times sshd daemon.
This works through IPTABLES indicated by config banaction = iptables-multiport config making fail2ban to automatically add a new iptables block rule valid for 1 day.

To close the file press CTRL + D simulanesly

  • maxretry controls the maximum number of allowed retries.
  • findtime specifies the time window (in seconds) which should be considered for banning an IP. (43200 seconds is 12 hours)
  • bantime specifies the time window (in seconds) for which the IP address will be banned (86400 seconds is 24 hours).

If SSH listens to a different port from 22 on the machine, you can specify the port number with port = <port_number> in this file.

3. Start fail2ban service


Either use the /etc/init.d/fail2ban start script or systemd systemctl
 

linux:~# systemctl enable fail2ban
linux:~# systemctl restart fail2ban

4. Fail2ban operational principle in short


Fail2ban uses Filters, Actions And Jails:

Filtersspecify certain patterns of text that Fail2ban should recognize in log files.
Actionsare things Fail2ban can do once a filter is matched.
Jailstell Fail2ban to match a filter on some logs. When the number of matches goes beyond a certain limit specified in the jail, Fail2ban takes an action specified in the jail.

If still wonder what is Fail2ban jail? Each configured jail tells fail2ban to look at system logs and take actions against attacks on a configured service, in our case OpenSSH service.
 

5. Blocking repeated unsuccessful password authentication attempts for longer periods


If more than number of failed ssh logins happen to occur (lets say 35 reoccuring ones in /var/log/auth.log (the debian failed ssh login file) or /var/log/secure (redhat distros failed ssh log file).
You will perhaps want to permanently block this IP for 3 days or so, here is how:
 

banaction = iptables-multiport
maxretry  = 35
findtime  = 259200
bantime   = 608400
enabled   = true
filter    = sshd

Add this to [sshlongterm] section to make it finally look like this:
 

[sshlongterm]
port      = ssh
logpath   = %(sshd_log)s
banaction = iptables-multiport
maxretry  = 35
findtime  = 259200
bantime   = 608400
enabled   = true
filter    = sshd


Of course to load new config restart fail2ban
 

# /etc/init.d/fail2ban restart


Default jail as well as the sshlongterm jail should now work together. Short term attacks will be handled by the default jail under [sshd], and the long term attacks handled by our own second jail [sshlongterm].
 

6. Checking which intruders were blocked by fail2ban


Fail2ban creates a separate chain f2b-sshd to which it adds each blocked IP for the period of time preset in the config, to list it:

linux:~# /sbin/iptables -L f2b-sshd
Chain f2b-sshd (1 references)
target     prot opt source               destination         
REJECT     all  —  165.22.2.95          anywhere             reject-with icmp-port-unreachable
REJECT     all  —  ec2-13-250-58-46.ap-southeast-1.compute.amazonaws.com  anywhere             reject-with icmp-port-unreachable
REJECT     all  —  cable200-116-3-133.epm.net.co  anywhere             reject-with icmp-port-unreachable
REJECT     all  —  mail.antracite.org   anywhere             reject-with icmp-port-unreachable
REJECT     all  —  139.59.57.2          anywhere             reject-with icmp-port-unreachable
REJECT     all  —  111.68.98.152.pern.pk  anywhere             reject-with icmp-port-unreachable
REJECT     all  —  216.126.59.61        anywhere             reject-with icmp-port-unreachable
REJECT     all  —  104.248.4.138        anywhere             reject-with icmp-port-unreachable
REJECT     all  —  210.211.119.10       anywhere             reject-with icmp-port-unreachable
REJECT     all  —  85.204.118.13        anywhere             reject-with icmp-port-unreachable
REJECT     all  —  broadband.actcorp.in  anywhere             reject-with icmp-port-unreachable
REJECT     all  —  104.236.33.155       anywhere             reject-with icmp-port-unreachable
REJECT     all  —  114.ip-167-114-114.net  anywhere             reject-with icmp-port-unreachable
REJECT     all  —  142.162.194.168.rfc6598.dynamic.copelfibra.com.br  anywhere             reject-with icmp-port-unreachable
REJECT     all  —  server.domain.cl     anywhere             reject-with icmp-port-unreachable
REJECT     all  —  ip202.ip-51-68-251.eu  anywhere             reject-with icmp-port-unreachable
REJECT     all  —  188.166.185.157      anywhere             reject-with icmp-port-unreachable
REJECT     all  —  93.49.11.206         anywhere             reject-with icmp-port-unreachable
RETURN     all  —  anywhere             anywhere            

Conclusion


What we have seen here is how to make fail2ban protect Internet firewall unrestricted SSHD Service to filter out 1337 skript kiddie 'hackers' out of your machine. With a bit of tuning could not only break the occasional SSH Brute Force bot scanners that craw the new but could even mitigate massive big botnet initiated brute force attacks to servers.
Of course fail2ban is not a panacea and to make sure you won't get hacked one days better make sure to only allow access to SSH service only for a certain IP addresses or IP address ranges that are of your own PCs.

Make Laptop Sleep on LID (Monitor) close in Linux Debian and Ubuntu systemd Linux

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

make-laptop-auto-sleep-on-lid-close-in-Linux-Ubuntu-Debian-Linux

I need to make my laptop automatically sleep on LID Screen close but it doesn't why?

If have used your laptop for long years with Windows or any Windows user is used to the default beavrior of Windows to automatically sleep the computer on PC close. This default behavior of automatically sleep on LID Close has been Windows standard for many years
and the reason behind that usually laptop is used for mobility and working on a discharging battery so a LID screen close puts the laptop in (SLEEP) BATTERY SUSPEND MODE aiming to make the charged battery last longer. However often for Desktop use in the Office LID close 
trigger of laptop sleep mode is annoying and undesired I've blogged earlier on that issue and how to make laptop not to sleep on LID close on M$ Windows 10 here.

This bahavior was copied and was working in many of the Linux distributions for years however in Debian GNU / Linux and Ubuntu 16.X this feature is often not properly working due to a systemd bug. Of course closing the notebook LID screen without putting
the PC in sleep mode is not a bug but a very useful feature for those who use their laptop as a Desktop machine that is non-stop running, however for most ppl default behavior to auto-suspend the computer on Laptop Monitor close is desired.

Here is how to  force the close of the laptop lid to go to suspend/sleep mode and when open the lid, it wake it up.
 

1. First requirement is to make sure the laptop has installed the package pm-utils, if it is not there install it with:

# apt-get install –yes pm-utils

2. Next we need to edit logind.conf and append 3 variables

# vim /etc/systemd/logind.conf


Normally the file should have a bit of commented informative lines as well as a commented variables that could be enabled like so:

[Login]
#NAutoVTs=6
#ReserveVT=6
#KillUserProcesses=no
#KillOnlyUsers=
#KillExcludeUsers=root
#InhibitDelayMaxSec=5
#HandlePowerKey=poweroff
#HandleSuspendKey=suspend
#HandleHibernateKey=hibernate
#HandleLidSwitch=suspend
#HandleLidSwitchExternalPower=suspend
#HandleLidSwitchDocked=ignore
#PowerKeyIgnoreInhibited=no
#SuspendKeyIgnoreInhibited=no
#HibernateKeyIgnoreInhibited=no
#LidSwitchIgnoreInhibited=yes
#HoldoffTimeoutSec=30s
#IdleAction=ignore
#IdleActionSec=30min
#RuntimeDirectorySize=10%
#RemoveIPC=yes
#InhibitorsMax=8192
#SessionsMax=8192


These entries are usually the files that are used by default as a systemd settings.
Before starting make a copy just you happen to mess systemd.conf, e.g.:

cp -rpf /etc/systemd/logind.conf /etc/systemd/logind.conf_bak


To make the PC LID close active append in the end of file below 3 lines:

HandleSuspendKey=suspend
HandleLidSwitch=suspend
HandleLidSwitchDocked=suspend

systemd-logind-conf-enable-suspend-sleep-on-laptop-lid-screen-close-linux

Save the file and to make systemd daemon reload restart the PC, even though theoretically systemd can be reloaded to digest its new /etc/systemd/logind.conf with:

# systemctl daemon-reexec

3. Assure yourself the Power Management LID setting of the Desktop Graphical User Interface are set to SUSPEND on close


I use MATE Desktop environment as it is simplistic and quite stable fork of GNOME 2.0, anyway depending on the GUI used on the Linux powered laptop e.g. GNOME / KDE Plasma / XFce etc. make sure the respective
 

Control Panel -> Power Management


settings are set to Force the Laptop Screen LID SUSPEND on Close.

Below is how this is done on MATE:

power-management-preferences-when-lid-is-closed-MATE-on-AC-power

power-management-preferences-when-lid-closed-on-battery-suspend

That's all folks, now close your Laptop and enjoy it going to sleep, open it up and get it awaked 🙂 Cheers ! 

Sysadmin tip: How to force a new Linux user account password change after logging to improve security

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

chage-linux-force-password-expiry-check-user-password-expiry-setting

Have you logged in through SSH to remote servers with the brand new given UNIX account in your company just to be prompted for your current Password immediately after logging and forced to change your password?
The smart sysadmins or security officers use this trick for many years to make sure the default set password for new user is set to a smarter user to prevent default password leaks which might later impose a severe security risk for a company Demiliterized networks confidential data etc.

If you haven't seen it yet and you're in the beautiful world of UNIX / Linux as a developer qa tester or sysadmin sooner or later you will face it.
Here of course I'm talking about plain password local account authentication using user / pass credentials stored in /etc/passwd or /etc/shadow.

Lets Say hello to the main command chage that is used to do this sysadmin trick.
chage command is used to change user password expiry information and  set and alter password aging parameters on user accounts.

1. Force chage to make password expire on next user login for a new created user
 

# chage -d 0 {user-name} 


Below is a real life example
 

chage-force-user-account-password-expiry-linux

2. Get information on when account expires

[hipo@linux ~]$ chage -l hipo
Last password change                                    : Apr 03, 2020
Password expires                                        : Jul 08, 2020
Password inactive                                       : never
Account expires                                         : never
Minimum number of days between password change          : 0
Maximum number of days between password change          : 90
Number of days of warning before password expires       : 14

3. Use chage to set user account password expiration

The most straight forward way to set an expiration date for an active user acct is with:

# chage -E 2020-08-16 username


To make the account get locked automatically if the password has expired and the user did not logged in to it for 2 days after its expiration.

# chage -I 2 username


– Set Password expire with Minimum days 7 (-n mindays 7), (-x maxdays 28) and (-w warndays 5)

# passwd -n 7 -x 28 -w 5 username

To check the passwod expiration settings use list command:

# chage -l username
Last password change                                    : юни 18, 2020
Password expires                                        : юли 16, 2020
Password inactive                                       : never
Account expires                                         : never
Minimum number of days between password change          : 7
Maximum number of days between password change          : 28
Number of days of warning before password expires       : 5

chage is a command is essential sysadmin command that is mentioned in every Learn Linux book out there, however due to its often rare used many people and sysadmins either, don't know it or learn of it only once it is needed. 
A note to make here is some sysadmins prefer to use usermod to set a password expire instead of chage.

usermod -e 2020-10-14 username

For those who wonder how to set password expiry on FreeBSD and other BSD-es is done, there it is done via the pw system user management tool as chage is not present there.

A note to make here is chage usually does not provide information for Linux user accounts that are stored in LDAP. To get information of such you can use ldapsearch with a query to the LDAP domain store with something like.
 

ldapsearch -x -ZZ -LLL -b dc=domain.com,dc=com objectClass=*


It is worthy to mention also another useful command when managing users this is getent used to get entries from Name Service Switch libraries. 
getent is useful to get various information from basic /etc/ stored db files such as /etc/services /etc/shadow, /etc/group, /etc/aliases, /etc/hosts and even do some simple rpc queries.

Linux: Compress website images for better responsiveness with Trimage Graphical tool

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020

trimage-compress-reduce-lossless-encoding-of-pictures-for-seo-linux-screenshot0

If you run a Website or a Blog with images sooner or later you will end up with in looking for better ways to optimize the SEO of the website. I had a small discussion today with a friend of mine Mitko Ivanov who is working as SEO consultant expert,  we had a small discussion on the good practice of optimizing website pictures to reduce the website opening time. Ingeral part of Website responsiveness is the time the Browser needs to fetch all the page Images. Thus if your site is with multiple images, like this blog here, picture comperssion is definitely something that could make miracles in how website visualize for end user and increase rank in Search Engines. The easiest way to compress images of an amateur website of course is to use external picture compression service such as tinypng.com, this requires no knowledge at any computer technology and you can do it easy, but the problem is it shares your image to the remote website used for conversion and I personally think this is not the best idea.
For WordPress website owners of course there is plenty of plugins such as eWWW Image Optimizer that does realtime reduce of size of picture by chunking out the unnecessery bits.
Alternative to especially for people who have a little bit of technical knowledge is is to use some command line tool as optipng together with some kind of shell for loopfor details see my previous article Optimize PNG images by compressing on GNU / Linux, FreeBSD server to Improve Website overall Performance.
But for Many of Webmaster site owners this solution takes too much time as well many people just don't have even basic command line knowledge / are kinda of scared from the console but need to do image compression in a simple GUI way for those the good news are there is  Graphical cross-platform tool for losslessly optimizing PNG and JPG files for web. Trimage.
To use it it even unexperienced non enthusiast could simply roll out a new Virtual Machine on top of some VM Host machine such as Virtual Box and roll out some kind of Linux distribution via a graphical installer which is mega easy well guided and takes 15-20 minutes time.

Once machine is set-up either the Graphical Distribution tool for page management or via apt you can fetch Trimage. It is now existing in most Linux distributions so, to install it on any deb based distribution Debian / Mint / Ubuntu etc. do the usual:

# apt-get install –yes trimage


trimage-compress-reduce-lossless-encoding-of-pictures-for-seo-linux-screenshot1

Once you have it, just move the pictures you want to compress for losslessly optimizing from your website to your Computer with Linux. Trimage GUI on the background will run commands optipng, pngcrush, advpng or jpegoptim, imageoptim and depending on the filetype remove the unnecessery file data that are appended by the program with which image was produced Gimp / Photoshop / Camera software etc. All image files are losslessy compressed on the highest available compression levels, and EXIF and other metadata is removed so you just have to recopy ( upload ) the optimized images back to the website.

trimage-compress-reduce-lossless-encoding-of-pictures-for-seo-linux-screenshot2

That's all folks Enjoy ! 🙂

Fix KDE Plasma fails to load: “All shell packages missing. This is an installation issue, please contact your distribution” in Kubuntu Linux

Friday, September 27th, 2019

Kubuntu_Linux-logo_and_wordmark-fix-plasma-graphical-environment

I've been called yesterday by a friend who has referred me to a friend of him Zvezdomir from Gabrovo who had installation of Kubuntu Desktop Linux by some other colleague but then suddenly the colleague decided to leave the country thus the Kubuntu become completely unmanaged.
In the spirit of Murphy's laws soon after it broke and as the HDD was filled with a lot of important pictures data I received the call with a beseech to help him fix his existing broken Kubuntu installation on the relatively old IBM thinkpad notebook. 
No problem,  I switched the role of a Linux Desktop user tech support  as it is part of daily job of every system admini to be on the hotline for computer medication and never say no to incoming requests 🙂

It seems the guy had messed up his Graphical Environment when as a Linux novice user decided to experiment with changing environments, he used to be using GNOME and then due to some issues with some of the Image Viewer eog – Eye of Gnome / Shotwell / Gpaint whose borders was not showing properly or something he decided to Switch to KDE Plasma. This was successful but as he continued to try out things on the Linux he broke it up badly so after the machine booted he was getting the error after boot of Xorg  Plasma was producing below error.

All-shell-packages-missing-This-is-an-installation-issue-please-contact-your-distribution

"All shell packages missing. This is an installation issue, please contact your distribution"


After spending about 30 minutes on the phone explaining him how to switch to Console as he had even no basic concepts about how to manage his Linux box, the problem was solved below are few steps taken to fix All shell packages missing issue

1. Press Ctrl + Alt + F2 Simultaneously

Usually historically switching to console on GNU / Linux was possible with CTRL + ALT + F1 but this was changed as often newer Linux distros do use TTY1 console to launch the X GUI environment.
Here we had some struggles to explain him where F1 as he thought he is supposed to press CTRL + ALT + S + 2 (perhaps misheard on the phone …) and was panicing how he is supposed to press 4 buttons simultaneously after a while it was cleared it is CTRL + ALT + F2 …
PS. In some of the other Ubuntus Lubuntu or older Ubuntus if CTRL + ALT + F2 doesn't work,

some of the other Virtual Text Consoles should be accessible with CTRL + ALT + F3CTRL + ALT + F4 etc.

2.  Login with your user login name

Once the login: field appears I had to explain him about 10 times how he should type his non-privileged user as it is always the case with computer novice. I had to stress here he should press Enter after the username / login is typed …

3. Become root (superuser) after standard login with:

sudo su

3. If the machine is not connected to internet (this might be the case if errors are produced on below 4. 5. steps)

Assuming you're already superuser (root) and you have no internet because the Network Manager is unable to connect due to failure of KDE Plasma to start, in order to connect to lets say already configured WI-Fi home wireless router,
restart networking with

service NetworkManager restart

Since internet connectivity will be required in order to be able to install the missing packages and update the package repositories, next test whether internet is reachable.

ping google.com
PING google.com (172.217.169.110) 56(84) bytes of data.
64 bytes from sof02s31-in-f14.1e100.net (172.217.169.110): icmp_seq=1 ttl=56 time=15.2 ms
64 bytes from sof02s31-in-f14.1e100.net (172.217.169.110): icmp_seq=2 ttl=56 time=11.5 ms
64 bytes from sof02s31-in-f14.1e100.net (172.217.169.110): icmp_seq=3 ttl=56 time=6.00 ms
^C
— google.com ping statistics —
3 packets transmitted, 3 received, 0% packet loss, time 5ms
rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 6.003/10.892/15.220/3.783 ms

N.B.! We had stumble blocks here too, as the Wi-Fi router seemed to be far away from the room where the PC was, after he moved to the other room where Signal was fine and re-issuing the service NetworkManager restart ping worked.

4. Next to get the latest list with available installable packages on the Ubuntu run the usual

apt-get update


5. Do install / reinstall kubuntu-desktop meta package

Finally to Fix the broken desktop GUI (that is not appearing instead of the Plasma login

apt-get install –yes kubuntu-desktop

Finally reboot the Laptop with reboot cmd:

reboot

On next boot Kubuntu's usual login screen should be as it used to be until you have broken your package system with tampering with the packages.

And Hooray ! It works again 🙂

By the way as I googled a bit to investigate futher, the problem seems to be common and the solution with a lot of fuzzling is given also pointed as an bug in Ubuntu's launchpad here

Getting Console and Graphical hardware system information on Linux with cpuinfo, neofetch, CPU-X (CPU-Z Unix alternative), I-nex and inxi

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

getting-console-information-and-graphical-hardware-system-information-Linux-cpuinfo-neofetch-cpu-x-i-nex-1

Earlier I've wrote extensive article on how to get hardware information on Linux using tools such as dmidecode, hardinfo, lshw, hwinfo, x86info and biosdecode but there are few other hardware reporting tools for Linux worthy to mention that has been there for historical reasons such as cpuinfo as we as some new shiny ones such as neofetch (a terminal / console hardware report tool as well the CPU-X and I-Nex  which is Linux equivalent to the all known almost standard for Windows hardware detection CPU-Z worthy to say few words about.
 

1. cpuinfo

Perhaps the most basic tool to give you a brief information about your Processor type (model) number of Cores and Logical Processors is cpuinfo

I remember cpuinfo has been there since the very beginning on almost all Linux distributions's repository, nowadays its popularity of the days when the kings on the Linux OS server scenes were Slackware, Caldera OpenLinux and Redhat 6.0 Linux and Debian 3.0  declined but still for scripting purposes it is handy small proggie.

To install and run it in Debian  / Ubuntu / Mint Linux etc.:

aptitude install -y cpuinfo

/usr/bin/cpu-info

Linux-get-processor-system-info-in-console-cpu-info

2. neofetch

The next one worthy to install and check is neofetch (a cross-platform and easy-to-use system information
 command line script that collects your Linux system information and display it on the terminal next to an image, it could be your distributions logo or any ascii art of your choice.)

The cool thing about neofetch is besides being able to identify the System server / desktop hardware parameters, it gives some basic info about number of packages installed on the system, memory free and in use, used kernel and exact type of System (be it Dell PowerEdge Model XX, IBM eSeries Model / HP Proliant Model etc.

neofetch-OS-hardware-information-Linux-ascii-system-info-desktop-notebook

neofetch info generated on my home used Lenovo Thikpad T420

neofetch-OS-hardware-information-Linux-ascii-system-info-pcfreak-home-server
neofetch info from pc-freak.net running current machine

neofetch even supports Mac OS X and Windows OS ! 🙂

To install neofetch on Mac OS X:
 

/usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)"


or via Mac ported packages using brew

brew install neofetch


neofetch-screenshot-from-Mac-OS-X

neofetch is even installable on Windows OS that has the scoop command line installer tool installer manager with below PowerShell code in cmd.exe (Command line):

powershell Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned -scope CurrentUser
iex (new-object net.webclient).downloadstring('https://get.scoop.sh')
scoop install git
scoop install neofetch

neofetch-microsoft-windows-hardware-command-line-report-tool-screenshot


By the way Scoop was quite a finding for me and it is pretty handy to install plenty of useful command line Linux / UNIX tools, such as curl, wget, git etc. in the same easy straight forward way as a standard yum or apt-get on Windows (without explicitly installing things as GnuWin and CygWin).
 

3. CPU-X graphical user interface hardware report Linux GUI alternative to Windows CPU-Z


The packages for CPU-X are a bit outdated and even though there are rpm packages for Fedora, OpenSuSE and .deb package for Debian for Debian, Ubuntu and ArchLinux (pacman), there is no up to date version for Debian 10 and the package builds distributed for different Linux distros are a bit outdated.

Thus to install CPU-X on any Linux distribution it is perhaps best to use the portable version (static binary) of CPU-X.
It is currently available on https://github.com/X0rg/CPU-X/releases

To install latest portable version of CPU-X

wget https://github.com/X0rg/CPU-X/releases/download/v3.2.4/CPU-X_v3.2.4_portable.tar.gz

mkdir CPU-X
cd CPU-X

tar -zxvvf CPU-X_v3.2.4_portable.tar.gz
-rwxr-xr-x yohan/users 4563032 2019-01-13 22:15 CPU-X_v3.2.4_portable.bsd64
-rwxr-xr-x yohan/users 5484968 2019-01-13 22:15 CPU-X_v3.2.4_portable.linux64

cp -rpf CPU-X_v3.2.4_portable.linux64 /usr/local/bin/
ln -sf /usr/local/bin/CPU-X_v3.2.4_portable.linux64 /usr/local/bin/cpu-x


Next run as superuser (root)
 

hipo@jeremiah:~$ su -c 'cpu-x'

As seen from below screenshots cpu-x reports a lot of concrete specific hardware data on:

  • Processor
  • Motherboard
  • Memory
  • System
  • Graphic card
  • Performance

cpu-x-cpu-cpu-z-alternative-linux-screenshot-CPU-info

cpu-x-cpu-cpu-z-alternative-linux-screenshot-caches-info

cpu-x-cpu-cpu-z-alternative-linux-screenshot-Motherboard-info

cpu-x-cpu-cpu-z-alternative-linux-screenshot-memory-info

cpu-x-cpu-cpu-z-alternative-linux-screenshot-system-info

cpu-x-cpu-cpu-z-alternative-linux-screenshot-graphics-info

CPU-X can be installed also on FreeBSD very easily by just installing from BSD port tree sysutils/cpu-x/
It is also said to work on other *BSDs, NetBSD, OpenBSD Unixes but I guess this will require a manual compilation based on FreeBSD's port Makefile.

4. I-Nex another GUI alternative to CPU-Z for UNIX / Linux

I-Nex is even more useful for general hardware reporting as it reports many hardware specifications not reported by CPU-X such as Battery type and Model Name  (if the hardware report is on a laptop), info on USB devices slots or plugged USB devices brand and specifications, the available Network devices on the system (MAC Addresses) of each of it, Installed and used drivers on Hard Disk (ATA / SATA / SCSI / SSD), HW Sector size, Logical Block size, HDD Sectors count and other specific Hard Drive data as well as information on available Audio (Sound Blaster) devices (HDA-Intel), used Codecs, loaded kernel ALSA driver, Video card used and most importantly indicators on Processor reported CPU (temperature).

To install I-nex

Go to https://launchpad.net/i-nex or any of the mirror links where it resides and install the respective package, in my case, I was doing the installation on Debian Linux, so fetched current latest amd64 package which as of moment of writting this article is i-nex_7.6.0-0-bzr977-20161012-ubuntu16.10.1_amd64.deb , next installed it with dpkg
 

dpkg -i i-nex_7.6.0-0-bzr977-20161012-ubuntu16.10.1_amd64.deb

As the package was depending on some other .deb packages, which failed to install to install the missing ones I had to further run
 

apt –fix-broken install

i-nex-cpu-info-linux-hardware-info-program

hre

I-Nex thermal indicators about CPU temperature on a Linux Desktop notebook

i-nex-gpu-info-linux-hardware-info-program

i-nex-mobo-info-linux-hardware-info-program

i-nex-audio-info-linux-hardware-info-program

i-nex-drivers-info-linux-hardware-info-program

i-nex-system-info-linux-hardware-info-program

i-nex-battery-info-linux-hardware-info-program

There are other Hardware identification report tools such as CUDA-Z that are useful to check if you have Nvidia Video Card hardware Installed on the PC to check the status of CUDA enabled GPUs, useful if working with nVidia Geforce, Quadro, Tesla cards and ION chipsets.

If you use it however be aware that CUDA-Z is not compatible with 3rd-party linux drivers for NVidia so make sure you have the current official Nvidia version.

5. Inxi full featured system information script

Inxi is a 10000 lines mega bash script that fetches hardware details from multiple different sources in /proc /sys and from commands on the system, and generates a beautiful looking console report that non technical users can read easily.

inxi-10-k-mega-bash-shell-script-reporting-on-installed-system-computer-hardware

inxi -Fx

inxi-report-on-installed-hardware-on-my-lenovo-thinkpad-home-laptop

Each of the pointed above tools has different method of collection of Hardware information from various resources e.g. – kernel loaded modules, dmesg, files like /proc/meminfo /proc/version /proc/scsi/scsi /proc/partitions.
Hence some of the tools are likely to report more info than otheres, so in case if some information you need regarding the system plugged in hardware is missing you can perhaps obtain it from another program. Most Linux distribution desktop provided GNOME package are including Hardinfo gui tool, but in many cases above mentioned tools are likely to add even more on info on what is inside your PC Box.
If you're aware of others tools that are useful not mentioned here please share it.

Scanning ports with netcat “nc” command on Linux and UNIX / Checking for firewall filtering between source and destination with nc

Friday, September 6th, 2019

scanning-ports-with-netcat-nc-command-on-Linux-and-UNIX-checking-for-firewall-filtering-between-source-destination-host-with-netcat

Netcat ( nc ) is one of that tools, that is well known in the hacker (script kiddie) communities, but little underestimated in the sysadmin world, due to the fact nmap (network mapper) – the network exploratoin and security auditing tool has become like the standard penetration testing TCP / UDP port tool
 

nc is feature-rich network debugging and investigation tool with tons of built-in capabilities for reading from and writing to network connections using TCP or UDP.

Its Plethora of features includes port listening, port scanning & Transferring files due to which it is often used by Hackers and PenTesters as Backdoor. Netcat was written by a guy we know as the Hobbit <hobbit@avian.org>.

For a start-up and middle sized companies if nmap is missing on server usually it is okay to install it without risking to open a huge security hole, however in Corporate world, due to security policies often nmap is not found on the servers but netcat (nc) is present on the servers so you have to learn, if you haven't so to use netcat for the usual IP range port scans, if you're so used to nmap.

There are different implementations of Netcat, whether historically netcat was UNIX (BSD) program with a latest release of March 1996. The Linux version of NC is GNU Netcat (official source here) and is POSIX compatible. The other netcat in Free Software OS-es is OpenBSD's netcat whose ported version is also used in FreeBSD. Mac OS X also comes with default prebundled netcat on its Mac OS X from OS X version (10.13) onwards, on older OS X-es it is installable via MacPorts package repo, even FreeDOS has a port of it called NTOOL.

The (Swiss Army Knife of Embedded Linux) busybox includes a default leightweight version of netcat and Solaris has the OpenBSD netcat version bundled.

A cryptography enabled version fork exists that supports that supports integrated transport encryption capabilities called Cryptcat.

The Nmap suite also has included rewritten version of GNU Netcat named Ncat, featuring new possibilities such as "Connection Brokering", TCP/UDP Redirection, SOCKS4 client and server support, ability to "Chain" Ncat processes, HTTP CONNECT proxying (and proxy chaining), SSL connect/listen support and IP address/connection filtering. Just like Nmap, Ncat is cross-platform.

In this small article I'll very briefly explain on basic netcat – known as the TCP Army knife tool port scanning for an IP range of UDP / TCP ports.

1. Scanning for TCP opened / filtered ports remote Linux / Windows server

Everyone knows scanning of a port is possible with a simple telnet request towards the host, e.g.:

telnet SMTP.EMAIL-HOST.COM 25

The most basic netcat use that does the same is achiavable with:

$ nc SMTP.EMAIL-HOST.COM 25
220 jeremiah ESMTP Exim 4.92 Thu, 05 Sep 2019 20:39:41 +0300


Beside scanning the remote port, using netcat interactively as pointing in above example, if connecting to HTTP Web services, you can request remote side to return a webpage by sending a false referer, source host and headers, this is also easy doable with curl / wget and lynx but doing it with netcat just like with telnet could be fun, here is for example how to request an INDEX page with spoofed HTTP headers.
 

nc Web-Host.COM 25
GET / HTTP/1.1
Host: spoofedhost.com
Referrer: mypage.com
User-Agent: my-spoofed-browser

2. Performing a standard HTTP request with netcat

To do so just pype the content with a standard bash integrated printf function with the included end of line (the unix one is \n but to be OS independent it is better to use r\n  – the end of line complition character for Windows.

printf "GET /index.html HTTP/1.0\r\nHost: pc-freak.net\r\n\r\n" | nc pc-freak.net 80

3. Scanning a range of opened / filtered UDP ports

To scan for lets say opened remote system services on the very common important ports opened from UDP port 25 till, 1195 – more specifically for:

  • UDP Bind Port 53
  • Time protocol Port (37)
  • TFTP (69)
  • Kerberos (88)
  • NTP 123
  • Netbios (137,138,139)
  • SNMP (161)
  • LDAP 389
  • Microsoft-DS (Samba 445)
  • Route BGP (52)
  • LDAPS (639)
  • openvpn (1194)

nc -vzu 192.168.0.1 25 1195

UDP tests will show opened, if no some kind of firewall blocking, the -z flag is given to scan only for remote listening daemons without sending any data to them.

4. Port Scanning TCP listening ports with Netcat

As prior said using netcat to scan for remote opened HTTP Web Server on port 80 an FTP on Port 23 or a Socks Proxy or MySQL Database on 3306 / PostgreSQL DB on TCP 5432 is very rare case scenario.

Below is example to scan a Local network situated IP for TCP open ports from port 1 till 7000.

# nc -v -n -z -w 5 192.168.1.2 1-7000

           nc: connect to host.example.com 80 (tcp) failed: Connection refused
           nc: connect to host.example.com 20 (tcp) failed: Connection refused
           Connection to host.example.com port [tcp/ssh] succeeded!
           nc: connect to host.example.com 23 (tcp) failed: Connection refused

Be informed that scanning with netcat is much more slower, than nmap, so specifying smaller range of ports is always a good idea to reduce annoying waiting …


The -w flag is used to set a timeout to remote connection, usually on a local network situated machines the timeout could be low -w 1 but for machines across different Data Centers (let say one in Berlin and one in Seattle), use as a minimum -w 5.

If you expect remote service to be responsive (as it should always be), it is a nice idea to use netcat with a low timeout (-w) value of 1 below is example:
 

netcat -v -z -n -w 1 scanned-hosts 1-1023

5. Port scanning range of IP addresses with netcat


If you have used Nmap you know scanning for a network range is as simple as running something like nmap -sP -P0 192.168.0.* (to scan from IP range 1-255 map -sP -P0 192.168.0.1-150 (to scan from local IPs ending in 1-150) or giving the network mask of the scanned network, e.g. nmap -sF 192.168.0.1/24 – for more examples please check my previous article Checking port security on Linux with nmap (examples).

But what if nmap is not there and want to check a bunch 10 Splunk servers (software for searching, monitoring, and analyzing machine-generated big data, via a Web-style interface.), with netcat to find, whether the default Splunk connection port 9997 is opened or not:

for i in `seq 1 10`; do nc -z -w 5 -vv splunk0$i.server-domain.com 9997; done

6. Checking whether UDP port traffic is allowed to destination server

Assuring you have access on Source traffic (service) Host A  and Host B (remote destination server where a daemon will be set-upped to listen on UDP port and no firewall in the middle Network router or no traffic control and filtering software HUB is preventing the sent UDP proto traffic, lets say an ntpd will be running on its standard 123 port there is done so:

– On host B (the remote machine which will be running ntpd and should be listening on port 123), run netcat to listen for connections

# nc -l -u -p 123
Listening on [0.0.0.0] (family 2, port 123)


Make sure there is no ntpd service actively running on the server, if so stop it with /etc/init.d/ntpd stop
and run above command. The command should run as superuser as UDP port 123 is from the so called low ports from 1-1024 and binding services on such requires root privileges.

– On Host A (UDP traffic send host

nc -uv remote-server-host 123

netcat-linux-udp-connection-succeeded

If the remote port is not reachable due to some kind of network filtering, you will get "connection refused".
An important note to make is on some newer Linux distributions netcat might be silently trying to connect by default using IPV6, bringing false positives of filtered ports due to that. Thus it is generally a good idea, to make sure you're connecting to IPV6

$ nc -uv -4 remote-server-host 123

Another note to make here is netcat's UDP connection takes 2-3 seconds, so make sure you wait at least 4-8 seconds for a very distant located hosts that are accessed over a multitude of routers.
 

7. Checking whether TCP port traffic allowed to DST remote server


To listen for TCP connections on a specified location (external Internet IP or hostname), it is analogous to listening for UDP connections.

Here is for example how to bind and listen for TCP connections on all available Interface IPs (localhost, eth0, eth1, eth2 etc.)
 

nc -lv 0.0.0.0 12345

Then on client host test the connection with

nc -vv 192.168.0.103 12345
Connection to 192.168.0.103 12345 port [tcp/*] succeeded!

8. Proxying traffic with netcat


Another famous hackers use of Netcat is its proxying possibility, to proxy anything towards a third party application with UNIX so any content returned be printed out on the listening nc spawned daemon like process.
For example one application is traffic SMTP (Mail traffic) with netcat, below is example of how to proxy traffic from Host B -> Host C (in that case the yandex current mail server mx.yandex.ru)

linux-srv:~# nc -l 12543 | nc mx.yandex.ru 25


Now go to Host A or any host that has TCP/IP protocol access to port 12543 on proxy-host Host B (linux-srv) and connect to it on 12543 with another netcat or telnet.

to make netcat keep connecting to yandex.ru MX (Mail Exchange) server you can run it in a small never ending bash shell while loop, like so:

linux-srv:~# while :; do nc -l 12543 | nc mx.yandex.ru 25; done


 Below are screenshots of a connection handshake between Host B (linux-srv) proxy host and Host A (the end client connecting) and Host C (mx.yandex.ru).

host-B-running-as-a-proxy-daemon-towards-Host-C-yandex-mail-exchange-server

Host B netcat as a (Proxy)

Host-A-Linux-client-connection-handshake-to-proxy-server-with-netcat
that is possible in combination of UNIX and named pipes (for more on Named pipes check my previous article simple linux logging with named pipes), here is how to run a single netcat version to proxy any traffic in a similar way as the good old tinyproxy.

On Proxy host create the pipe and pass the incoming traffic towards google.com and write back any output received back in the named pipe.
 

# mkfifo backpipe
# nc -l 8080 0<backpipe | nc www.google.com 80 1>backpipe

Other useful netcat proxy set-up is to simulate a network connectivity failures.

For instance, if server:port on TCP 1080 is the normal host application would connect to, you can to set up a forward proxy from port 2080 with

    nc -L server:1080 2080

then set-up and run the application to connect to localhost:2080 (nc proxy port)

    /path/to/application_bin –server=localhost –port=2080

Now application is connected to localhost:2080, which is forwarded to server:1080 through netcat. To simulate a network connectivity failure, just kill the netcat proxy and check the logs of application_bin.

Using netcat as a bind shell (make any local program / process listen and deliver via nc)

netcat can be used to make any local program that can receive input and send output to a server, this use is perhaps little known by the junior sysadmin, but a favourite use of l337 h4x0rs who use it to spawn shells on remote servers or to make connect back shell. The option to do so is -e

-e – option spawns the executable with its input and output redirected via network socket.

One of the most famous use of binding a local OS program to listen and receive / send content is by
making netcat as a bind server for local /bin/bash shell.

Here is how

nc -l -p 4321 -e /bin/sh


If necessery specify the bind hostname after -l. Then from any client connect to 4321 (and if it is opened) you will gain a shell with the user with which above netcat command was run. Note that many modern distribution versions such as Debian / Fedora / SuSE Linux's netcat binary is compiled without the -e option (this works only when compiled with -DGAPING_SECURITY_HOLE), removal in this distros is because option is potentially opening a security hole on the system.

If you're interested further on few of the methods how modern hackers bind new backdoor shell or connect back shell, check out Spawning real tty shells article.

For more complex things you might want to check also socat (SOcket CAT) – multipurpose relay for bidirectional data transfer under Linux.
socat is a great Linux Linux / UNIX TCP port forwarder tool similar holding the same spirit and functionality of netcat plus many, many more.
 

On some of the many other UNIX operating systems that are lacking netcat or nc / netcat commands can't be invoked a similar utilitiesthat should be checked for and used instead are:

ncat, pnetcat, socat, sock, socket, sbd

To use nmap's ncat to spawn a shell for example that allows up to 3 connections and listens for connects only from 192.168.0.0/24 network on port 8081:

ncat –exec "/bin/bash" –max-conns 3 –allow 192.168.0.0/24 -l 8081 –keep-open

9. Copying files over network with netcat


Another good hack often used by hackers to copy files between 2 servers Server1 and Server2 who doesn't have any kind of FTP / SCP / SFTP / SSH / SVN / GIT or any kind of Web copy support service – i.e. servers only used as a Database systems that are behind a paranoid sysadmin firewall is copying files between two servers with netcat.

On Server2 (the Machine on which you want to store the file)
 

nc -lp 2323 > files-archive-to-copy.tar.gz


On server1 (the Machine from where file is copied) run:
 

nc -w 5 server2.example.com 2323 < files-archive-to-copy.tar.gz

Note that the downside of such transfers with netcat is data transferred is unencrypted so any one with even a simple network sniffer or packet analyzier such as iptraf or tcpdump could capture the file, so make sure the file doesn't contain sensitive data such as passwords.

Copying partition images like that is perhaps best way to get disk images from a big server onto a NAS (when you can't plug the NAS into the server).
 

10. Copying piped archived directory files with netcat

On computer A:

export ARIBTRARY_PORT=3232
nc -l $ARBITRARY_PORT | tar vzxf –

On Computer B:

tar vzcf – files_or_directories | nc computer_a $ARBITRARY_PORT

11. Creating a one page webserver with netcat and ncat


As netcat could listen to port and print content of a file, it can be set-up with a bit of bash shell scripting to serve
as a one page webserver, or even combined with some perl scripting and bash to create a multi-serve page webserver if needed.

To make netact serve a page to any connected client run in a screen / tmux session following code:

while true; do nc -l -p 80 -q 1 < somepage.html; done

Another interesting fun example if you have installed ncat (is a small web server that connects current time on server on connect).
 

ncat -lkp 8080 –sh-exec 'echo -ne "HTTP/1.0 200 OK\r\n\r\nThe date is "; date;'

12. Cloning Hard disk partitions with netcat


rsync is a common tool used to clone hard disk partitions over network. However if rsync is not installed on a server and netcat is there you can use it instead, lets say we want to clone /dev/sdb
from Server1 to Server2 assuming (Server1 has a configured working Local or Internet connection).

On Server2 run:
 

nc -l -p 4321 | dd of=/dev/sdb

Following on Server2 to start the Partition / HDD cloning process run

dd if=/dev/sdb | nc 192.168.0.88 4321


Where 192.168.0.88 is the IP address listen configured on Server2 (in case you don't know it, check the listening IP to access with /sbin/ifconfig).

Next you have to wait for some short or long time depending on the partiiton or Hard drive, number of files / directories and allocated disk / partition size.

To clone /dev/sda (a main partiiton) from Server1 to Server2 first requirement is that it is not mounted, thus to have it unmounted on a system assuming you have physical access to the host, you can boot some LiveCD Linux distribution such as Knoppix Live CD on Server1, manually set-up networking with ifconfig or grab an IP via DHCP from the central DHCP server and repeat above example.


Happy netcating 🙂

How to change default Text editor in Linux

Saturday, August 31st, 2019

This is a very trivial question but, as I thought someone that is starting with Linux basics Operating might be interested I will shortly explain in this small article how to change default text editor on Linux.

Changing default text editor is especially helpful if you have to administer a newly purchased dedicated servers, that comes with default Operating System preinstalled.

By default many Linux distributions versions such as Debian / Ubuntu comes with nano comes with a default text editor nano (ANOther enhanced free Pico editor clone) many people as me are irritated and prefer to use instead vim (Vi Improved), mcedit (the Midnight Commander), joe or emacs as a default.
 

1. Changing default console text editor on Debian based Linux


On Debian / Ubuntu / Mint and other deb based distributions the easiest way to change text editor is with update-alternatives cmd.
 

update-alternatives –config editor


changing-default-text-editor-in-linux

Using Debian update-alternatives is useful as it makes the change OS global wide and the default mc viewer program mcview will also understand the change in the default text editor, which makes it the preferrable way to do it on deb based OS family.

An alternative way to set the default programs for the OS system wide is to create the respective symbolic link in /etc/alternatives actually what update-alternatives wrapper script does is exactly this it creates the required symlink.

2. Changing default text editor on any Linux


To change the text editor for only a single system existing user in /etc/passwd you need to edit $HOME/.bashrc, e.g. ~/.bashrc on Debian based Linux or on Fedora / RHEL / CentOS by adding to ~/.bash_profile
 

vim ~/.bashrc


And add

alias editor=vim

or

export EDITOR='/path/to/text-editor/program'
export VISUAL='/path/to/text-editor/program'

To change to mcedit for example when opening in any program that triggers to run default text editor

export EDITOR='/usr/bin/mcedit'
export VISUAL='/usr/bin/mcedit'


To make the change system wide on any Linux distribution you have to add the export EDITOR / export VISUAL at the end of /etc/bash.bashrc

To load the newly included .bashrc* instructions use source command
 

source ~/.bashrc

3. Changing the default text editor for mcview if all else fails

Once mc is running, use following menu keys order (also visible from Midnight Commander) menus:
 

    F9 Activates the top menu.
    o Selects the Option menu.
    c Opens the configuration dialog.
    i Toggles the use internal edit option.
    s Saves your preferences.

mcview-how-to-change-default-text-editor-screenshot

That's all folks Enjoy !