Are the Russian (Hackers) Still Coming?

The headlines in the news these days are about hackers attempting to infiltrate sites, mostly from Russia or China. The targets are many American sites, both government and private. How does IT Cybersecurity folks know if they’re coming? Going through the application logs for all attempts is a start. However, the best source of knowledge is the first line of defense: the Firewall. So it’s best to have a tool like Elasticsearch to make a readable report on the firewall logs, to figure out which ports are being probed.

It’s imperative any exposed ports are being denied on the firewall side to prevent any successful hack. In a real world example, in the past 7 days, the hackers were scanning for popular vulnerable applications such as telnet, RDP (Windows Remote Desktop), Microsoft SQL, or SMTP.

Thankfully, those ports are being blocked on the firewall. Unfortunately, this does not deter them from trying again and again. Network and system admins must put in the due diligence in controlling access and patching applications. No matter the business requirements, security must take precedence and IT Professionals must have the tools to detect, analyze, and protect.

Automatically Renew SSL Cert with LetsEncrypt and getssl

Let's Encrypt Logo

With the recent federal government shutdown, it’s quite apparent their IT administrators still renew SSL certificates manually since many government websites went offline after the certs expired. Politics aside, since having secured connection and valid certificates are important these days, it should be a point for administrators to start automating the process. At the very least, have a project or plan in place to anticipate the shutdown and go through all of the important websites for possible cert renewals, 1-2 months in advance. As an Enterprise administrator, it’s also essential to have alerts or calendar reminders to renew an expiring cert. However, the best solution is to setup an automated job.

This is where tools out there like getssl and certbot can help. For this website, getssl is used to automate the SSL renewal process. The key processes are as follows:

Ensure Apache web server is setup. Since getssl relies on obtaining the proper “ACME” code from the target website to confirm the correct URL host, a regular port 80 HTTP connection must be made available first.

Per getssl documentation, run the inital setup to create the proper folders and files in $HOME/.getssl

getssl -c yourdomain.com

Edit the getssl.cfg in $HOME/.getssl/yourdomain.com folder with the correct directory for Apache web server’s doc-root and configuration files. Note, package installed Apache HTTPD uses /etc/apache2 as the default config directory.

When getssl is all setup, create a crontab to run getssl twice every month, for timely renewal (within 30 days). Be sure to restart Apache HTTPD to make sure the web server reloads the latest cert files.

0 9 1,15 * * $HOME/getssl/getssl -u -a > $HOME/getssl/getssl.out.txt 2>&1

Installing Elasticsearch Client on PHP

For a simple demonstration of using Elasticsearch programmatically as a web app, it’s a little more practical to use PHP as a starting point to learn how to connect and display search results. As a guideline, the quick-start instruction from Elastic site is a starting point. To expand (possibly complete) the out of the box setup, below are the steps to setup PHP to enable Elasticsearch support.

First, install the PHP Curl support for Apache on Linux:

apt-get -y install php-curl

Setup the PHP Composer in the doc-root folder, as outlined from elasticsearch-php github. Setup the php libraries via Composer:

php composer.phar init
curl -s http://getcomposer.org/installer | php
php composer.phar install --no-dev

Be sure to get the dependency package “elasticsearch/elasticsearch” and use the latest version as default. Note, skip the development package as it’s not really necessary.

Then, edit the composer.json file to include the directive:

   "require": {
            "elasticsearch/elasticsearch": "~6.0"
   }

Finally, create a test page to see if it can connect to the Elasticsearch server:

<?php

require 'vendor/autoload.php';

use Elasticsearch\ClientBuilder;

$hosts = [
   'http://myelasticsearchhost:9200'
];

$client = ClientBuilder::create()
   ->setHosts($hosts)
   ->build();

$params = [
    'index' => 'myindexname',
    'body' => [
        'query' => [
            'match' => [
                'post_title' => 'elasticsearch'
            ]
        ]
    ]
];

$response = $client->search($params);

$totalhits = $response['hits']['total'];
echo "We have $totalhits total hits\n";

echo "<P>The hits are the following:</P>";
$result = null;
$i=0;
while ($i <= $totalhits)
{
        $result[$i] = $response['hits']['hits'][$i]['_source'];
        $i++;
}

foreach ($result as $key => $value)
{
        echo $value['post_title'], "<br>";
}

?>

Output will look something like this:

We have 2 total hits

The hits are the following:


Using Elasticsearch for JBOSS Logs
Deleting Entries in Elasticsearch Based On Timestamp