Defeating keyless entry front door locks.

I’m the least mathey person I know. My bio will attest to that – my skills are terrible but my curiousity is high. There’s a certain magic to numbers that I get a glimpse of every now again when I manage to win a struggle with them and it’s compelling to me. Math is a representation of data and while me and Math don’t along very well, me and Data are best bros. I spend my days mucking about in log files on other people’s systems looking for reasons, root causes, and footprints. The trails become clear once you tame the data and turn thousands of unruly log lines into succint sorted output. These same techniques are used by good guys and bad guys alike and from them we learn that some things are truly hard. We also learn that some things only look hard, but really aren’t.

Four digit numbers crop up repeatedly in our society. In the late 1990’s I had a TD bank account and my bank card had a 6-digit PIN. That did not last long because the international consortium of bankey people standardized on 4-digits for PINS which is too bad because that exponentially decreased the security of my PIN. Overnight the odds of guessing my PIN plummeted from 1 in 1,000,000 to 1 in 10,000. But, hey, the bankey heads know what they’re doing, right? But I digress…

I’m not sure how we landed on 4 digits, but that frequency turns up all over the place. My bank card PIN is 4-digits, my credit card PINs are 4 digits, even my front door lock is 4 digits. That begs the question: how long would it take to guess the code to open my front door? Let’s ask math.

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Centralizing logs with Papertrail

Sysadmins have a love/hate relationship with logs. We spend hours and hours every day diving through them looking for clues about what happened that shouldn’t have, what didn’t happen that should have, what systems and people are actually doing, and gauging capacity for the future.

It’s one thing to look at one log for one particular issue; but some complex issues lead a merry chase through many logs or many servers which can get very complicated very fast. To ease that burden, all but the simplest of setups should employ some form of log centralization. Centralized logs are easier to access en masse and they’re easier to bring analytical tools to bear to pry out their secrets.

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Rise of the Machines – Why do old things matter?

I went to a Christmas craft show today and a large part of the space was devoted to antiques and collectibles. The vendors had very large spaces with lots of old stuff ranging from typewriters to old door locks, to china and Polariod cameras. These guys weren’t just cleaning out their attics, they were definitely “in the business”.

Picking through old mechanical stuff is a great joy of mine. It doesn’t have to necessarily work as long as it retains enough of its parts that I can see how it used to work. I don’t have much use for old magazines and china, but I love old machines; or, at least, the things that preceded our machines of today. I must not be alone because the vendors there obviously know there is business in collecting and selling this stuff. That got me thinking about the reasons why we love old stuff.

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What does brute force SSH hacking look like?

Brute force hacking is the easiest, least effective, and messiest method of all the ways to attempt to gain access to a system. It leaves a really obvious trail, and it’s fairly easy to stop unless you’ve become the target of large organization that really is out to get you.

By definition, brute force hack attempts are simply some variation of just trying to guess a proper username and password combination. I will look at attempts to break in to a Linux box via SSH, but the principals are the same regardless of the attack target.

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Looking for hacking activity in Apache Logs

This is my first post with Ghost and since it contains code snippets and command line goodies I thought it would be a good test for Ghost’s markdown language. Let’s see how it goes.

The sheer number of bad people on the planet mean that there’s a really good chance your website has at least been probed to see if it is a good attack platform. It may also mean that your website has already been compromised and is doing bad things for some other person as we speak. Some people I talk to say things like “well, if I get hacked, I’ll deal with it then”. But that’s dumb. It’s dumb because when someone compromises your website, they’re not going to put a big banner on it letting you know. It may be days, weeks or months before you notice.

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I am 1:249/207 Hear me Bark!

I was assigned a Fidonet node number tonight. That will mean almost nothing to anyone, but to me it’s an accomplishment. It took me 3 days of hacking around to get this thing set up.

Fidonet was the predominant pre-Internet message network which was created in 1984 and had an initial 12 nodes (BBSes), peaking in 1996 with ~40,000 nodes and down to about ~2,000 now.

I’ve been a Linux hacker (the good kind) all my adult life and have therefore been surrounded by other hackers of varying degrees of competency. Through those people I’ve learned that anyone can run a script, but the true mark of a craftsman in any trade is the ability to apply abstract knowledge to new situations.

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My Pebble Watch: First Week Using and Coding

One of my gifts for Christmas was a Pebble “classic” smart watch. I’ve wanted one for a while because the idea of smart watches and other wearable computing devices is interesting to me, but having never had any experience with one, it was hard for me to determine if I’d actually like it. The Pebble Classic is cheap enough ($109 here in Canada, generally) that it’s worth the risk. I’ve had my Pebble for a little over a week now and here are my thoughts.

The Concept

The million dollar questions is why would anyone need yet another device to tell them when they have an email or a text message? It’s a good question and part of the reason why I was not 100% sold on the idea, but here’s what I thought the advantages would be and so far it has worked out as I expected.

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Pebble: Moving Beyond the Basics

I’m into month two with my Pebble Classic and in that time I’ve gone through almost every app and watch face in the Pebble App store. That has enabled me to gain a lot of insight into how I use my Pebble and the surprise ending is that although notifications are a big part of its usefulness, I use it for much more than that.

I decided to write this post after reading David Breger’s post on LinkedIn about why he does not wear his Pebble any more. I tried to comment on the post but the Submit button would not enable for me, so I ended up thinking about his post and about how my experience with the Pebble so deeply differed from his. I finally came to realize that David’s post solely focuses around notifications and he has completely missed, or at least did not talk about, the rest of the Pebble ecosystem. So I aim to fix that.

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What can I do with a Chromebook?

I recently bought a Chromebook. Over the years I have had a short, unimpressive experience with one of those “Netbooks” that tried to create a place in the market so I was prepared to be a little disappointed. However, the critical role this thing had to fulfill is to be a backup computer to RDP into work if my primary system died so I was willing to put up with some limitations as long as it could plug that hole.

The first thing I learned during this process is that customer reviews from Chromebook users are almost totally useless. They mostly consist of incredibly naive and clearly non-technical people who were shocked and dismayed that their $250 “laptop” did not run Windows or MS Office. I doubt the critical thinking skills of these people because if it were possible to produce such a beast at that price point, it seems obvious to me that the market would be flush with them. Having said that, there are some low end $350 full-blown laptops out there from Acer and HP so the market is pretty close.

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