Author Archives: packetmischief.ca
Author Archives: packetmischief.ca
Following on the heels of my previous post, Five Functional Facts about AWS Identity and Access Management, I wanted to dive into a separate, yet related way of enforcing access policies in AWS: Service Control Policies (SCPs).
SCPs and IAM policies look very similar—both being JSON documents with the same sort of syntax—and it would be easy to mistake one for the other. However, they are used in different contexts and for different purposes. In this post, I'll explain the context where SCPs are used and why they are used (and even why you'd use SCPs and IAM policies together).
Read on, dear reader!
There are roughly a GAJILLION articles, blogs, and documents out there that explain how to setup Amazon CloudFront to work with WordPress.
Most of them are wrong in one or more ways.
This post is part of an open-ended series I'm writing where I take a specific protocol, app, or whatever-I-feel-like and focus on five functional aspects of that thing in order to expose some of how that thing really works.
The topic in this post is the AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) service. The IAM service holds a unique position within AWS: it doesn't get the attention that the machine learning or AI services get, and doesn't come to mind when buzzwords like “serverless” or “containers” are brought up, yet it's used by-or should be used by-every single AWS customer (and if you're not using it, you're not following best practice, tsk, tsk) so it's worthwhile to take the time to really get to know this service.
I've been asking myself an uncomfortable question lately: “Can IT certifications become a liability? Have I reached a point where my IT certifications have become a liability to me?”
Given that my technical background is largely in the networking space (exhibit A, exhibit B, exhibit C (CIE)), one of the first things I tried to wrap my head around when being introduced to AWS is how networking works in the AWS cloud.
What I attempted to do was build a mental model by relating cloud networking constructs such as Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), subnets, and routing tables to on-prem, physical networking constructs. This worked pretty well but I did get tripped up at times because some of these constructs don't map exactly one-for-one.
This post will explain the mental model I used while also calling attention to the elements or behaviors that don't map exactly between on-prem and AWS.
In a previous post, I reviewed what a public subnet and Internet Gateway (IGW) are and that they allowed outbound and _in_bound connectivity to instances (ie, virtual machines) running in the AWS cloud.
If you're the least bit security conscious, your reaction might be, “No way! I can't have my instances sitting right on the Internet without any protection”.
Fear not, reader. This post will explain the mechanisms that the Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) affords you to protect your instances.
So, you've created a compute instance (ie, a virtual machine) on Amazon EC2. Next question: does the instance require access to and/or from the Internet?
Protip: just because you created the instance in the public cloud, i.e. the cloud that you get to over the Internet, it doesn't mean that your instances all need to sit on the Internet. They can have direct inbound and outbound Internet access, no Internet access, or something in between (which I'll explain).
The basic building block for networking on AWS is the VPC (Virtual Private Cloud). Within a VPC, you define your IP space, gateways, ACLs, DHCP options, and more. Gateways will be the focus of this article.
Continuing on with the theme of previous cheat sheet articles, this article will help decode the format for Amazon Web Services’ Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) instance types.
Ok, you've just launched an Amazon EC2 instance (ie, a virtual machine) and you're ready to login and get to work. Just once teeeensy problem though… you have no idea how to actually connect to the instance!
This post will walk through how to log into brand new Linux/BSD and Windows instances (the steps are slightly different for different OS families).
For the past few months I've been involved in a case study project with some colleagues at Cisco where we've been researching what the most relevant software skills are that Cisco's pre-sales engineers could benefit from. We're all freaking experts at Outlook of course (that's a joke ?) but we were interested in the areas of programming, automation, orchestration, databases, analytics, and so on. The end goal of the project was to identify what those relevant skills are, have a plan to identify the current skillset in the field, do that gap analysis and then put forward recommendations on how to close the gap.
This probably sounds really boring and dry, and I don't blame you for thinking that, but I actually chose this case study topic from a list of 8 or so. My motivation was largely selfish: I wanted to see first-hand the outcome of this project because I wanted to know how best to align my own training, study, and career in the software arena. I already believed that to stay relevant as my career moves along that software skills would be essential. It was just a question of what type of skills and in which specific Continue reading
I spent a long time creating my first Spark bot, Zpark. The first commit was in August and the first release was posted in January. So, six months elapsed time. It's also over-engineered. I mean, all it does is post messages back and forth between a back-end system and some Spark spaces and I ended up with something so complex that I had to draw a damn block diagram in the user guide to give people a fighting chance at comprehending how it works.
Its internals could've been much simpler. But that was part of the point of creating the bot: examining the proper architecture for a scalable application, learning about new technologies for building my own API, learning about message brokers, pulling my hair out over git's eccentricities and ultimately, having enough material to write this blog post.
In this post I'm going to break down the different functional components of Zpark, discuss what each does, and why-or not-that component is necessary. If I can achieve one goal, it will be to retire to a tropical island ASAP. If I can achieve a second goal, it will be to give aspiring bot creaters (like yourself, presumably) a strong Continue reading
Cisco Encrypted Traffic Analytics (ETA) sounds just a little bit like magic the first time you hear about it. Cisco is basically proposing that when you turn on ETA, your network can (magically!) detect malicious traffic (ie, malware, trojans, ransomware, etc) inside encrypted flows. Further, Cisco proposes that ETA can differentiate legitimate encrypted traffic from malicious encrypted traffic.
The immediate mental model that springs to mind is that of a web proxy that intercepts HTTP traffic. In order to intercept TLS-encrypted HTTPS traffic, there's a complicated dance that has to happen around building a Certificate Authority, distributing the CA's public certificate to every device that will connect through the proxy and then actually configuring the endpoints and/or network to push the HTTPS traffic to the proxy. This is often referred to as “man-in-the-middle” (MiTM) because the proxy actually breaks into the encrypted session between the client and the server. In the end, the proxy has access to the clear-text communication.
Is ETA using a similar method and breaking into the encrypted session?
In this article, I'm going to use an analogy to describe how ETA does what it does. Afterwards, you should feel more comfortable about how Continue reading
For a long while now I've been brainstorming how I could leverage the API that's present in the Cisco Spark collaboration platform to create a bot. There are lots of goofy and fun examples of bots (ie, Gifbot) that I might be able to draw inspiration from, but I wanted to create something that would provide high value to myself and anyone else that choose to download and use it. The idea finally hit me after I started using Zabbix for system monitoring. Since Zabbix also has a feature-rich API, all the pieces were in place to create a bot that would act as a bit of middle-ware between Zabbix and Spark. I call the bot: Zpark.
Didn't I just write the 2016 statistics post like… last week? Another year has flown by and with it another year of attempting to prioritize my writing. I'll be honest, I'm not optimistic about what I'm going to find when I compare 2017 to 2016. It was a year filled with a lot of change and opportunity so I'll use that as my excuse as to why I didn't write as much or as often as I had planned.
I was thinking though: every year I set a goal of writing more posts than the previous year, but that's only 1 metric to go by. Most of my posts are very detailed and fleshed out. It's nothing to write a post that's 1000 words. I regularly eclipse 2000 words and have even hit 3000 words. Perhaps I should be thinking more about word count and not post count? Certainly a 2000 word post takes more effort than a 1000 word post. On the other hand, word count says nothing about quality and could easily lead to excessive wordiness and run-on posts just to tilt the metrics.
Enough musing. Let's review the data!
Continuing in a tradition I started early this year where I take a look back at the year that just passed, I've again been very fortunate to have had an amazing year, both in my professional and personal lives. Writing this post is my way of forcing myself to stop and take notice of what I was involved in (something I'm not very good at letting myself do in the moment) and also give readers a chance to see the “me” behind the scenes.
Let's go through the list!
For the benefit of readers who haven't worked with Flask or don't know what Flask is, it's a so-called microframework for writing web-based applications in Python. Basically, the framework takes care of all the obvious tasks that are needed to run a web app. Things like talking HTTP to clients, routing incoming requests to the appropriate handler in the app, and formatting output to send back to the client in response to their request. When you use a framework like this, you as the developer can concentrate a lot more on the application logic and worry a lot less about hooking the app into the web.
As you may have guessed from the title of this post, one of the other tasks that Flask manages is logging within the application. For example, if you want to emit a log message when a user logs in or when they upload a new photo, Flask provides a simple interface to generate those log messages.
Flask has a large community of active users built around it and as a result, there's tons of best practice information out there on scaling, talking to a database, and even whole tutorials on how to Continue reading
If you're an IT professional and you have at least a minimal awareness of what Cisco is doing in the market and you don't live under a rock, you would've heard about the major launch that took place in June: “The network. Intuitive.” The anchor solution to this launch is Cisco's Software Defined Access (SDA) in which the campus network becomes automated, highly secure, and highly scalable.
The launch of SDA is what's called a “Tier 1” launch where Cisco's corporate marketing muscle is fully exercised in order to generate as much attention and interest as possible. As a result, there's a lot of good high-level material floating around right now around SDA. What I'm going to do in this post is lift the hood on the solution and explain what makes the SDA network fabric actually work.
This post has been sitting in the “drafts” folder for a while now. Clearly, since it's August and is therefore a little late to be deciding on a plan that is supposed to carry through all 12 months of 2017. Regardless, I think it's still worth sharing how I've attempted to increase the frequency of my blogging. My basic goal for 2017 is:
Create more content in 12 months than I ever have before in order to a) significantly build up the depth and breadth of knowledge on my blog, b) increase my skills as a writer, and c) continue to build this blog and the readership as a key part of my online persona and brand.
In order to achieve this goal, I've identified a couple of tactical objectives:
In order Continue reading