HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS)

The HTTP Strict Transport Security feature lets a web site inform the browser that it should never load the site using HTTP, and should automatically convert all attempts to access the site using HTTP to HTTPS requests instead.

Example Use case:
If a web site accepts a connection through HTTP and redirects to HTTPS, the user in this case may initially talk to the non-encrypted version of the site before being redirected, if, for example, the user types or even just

This opens up the potential for a man-in-the-middle attack, where the redirect could be exploited to direct a user to a malicious site instead of the secure version of the original page.

For HTTP sites on the same domain it is not recommended to add a HSTS header but to do a permanent redirect (301 status code) to the HTTPS site.

Google is always “tweaking” their search algorithms, and, at least at present time, gives greater weight to secure websites.

# Optionally load the headers module:
LoadModule headers_module modules/

<VirtualHost *:443>
# Guarantee HTTPS for 1 Year including Sub Domains
Header always set Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=31536000; includeSubdomains; preload"

Then you might (optionally, but recommended) force ALL HTTP users to HTTPS:

# Redirect HTTP connections to HTTPS
<VirtualHost *:80>
ServerAlias *
<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off
#RewriteRule (.*) https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [R=301,L]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://%{HTTP_HOST}$1 [redirect=301]

That’s it…


Load Testing web application with Selenium and TestNG

I’ve used Selenium for while to do verification tests of web applications, recently I discovered a very simple way to use it with TestNG and Maven to do some performance testing. TestNG allows for the use of annotations to allow multi-threading and iterations.



And as for a simple test to get started with… scripting of steps is available online or could be in a future blog post.

package com.example.selenium;

import org.openqa.selenium.WebDriver;
import org.openqa.selenium.WebDriverException;
import org.openqa.selenium.firefox.FirefoxDriver;
import org.slf4j.Logger;
import org.slf4j.LoggerFactory;
import org.testng.Assert;
import org.testng.annotations.BeforeClass;
import org.testng.annotations.Test;
* Simple test example for Selenium
public class SeleniumTest {

private static final Logger LOGGER = LoggerFactory.getLogger(SeleniumTest.class);
* TODO Un-comment or change if needed to set your local path!
public void oneTimeSetUp() {
System.out.println("-------------------------------------- init ----------------------------------------");
* NOTE: uses TestNG - behaves differently than JUnit
@Test(invocationCount = 1, threadPoolSize = 5)
public void testLoadApp() {

final String fn = "testLoadApp";
final String baseUrl = "";
LOGGER.debug("[START] Thread Id: {} is started!", Thread.currentThread().getId());

WebDriver driver = null;
final long start = System.currentTimeMillis();
driver = (WebDriver)new FirefoxDriver();

final String actual = driver.getTitle();
LOGGER.debug("Page Title is {}", actual);
final String expected = "GIANTGEEK.COM";
//perform whatever actions, like login, submit form or navigation

}catch(final WebDriverException ex){
}catch(final Exception ex){
finally {
final long elapsed = System.currentTimeMillis() - start;
LOGGER.debug("[END] Thread Id: {}, elapsed={}", Thread.currentThread().getId(),elapsed);
if(driver != null){

WARNING: Selenium Tests MAY fail if the browser used for testing is updated in the Operating System. Updating the pom.xml to a newer release usually helps!


Poodle.. or rather, what’s all the fuss with SSLv3

The “Poodle” attack on websites and browsers was all over the media a few weeks ago, following in the shadow of Heartbleed.

Here’s what most users need to know… This is an vulnerability that exists in secure internet communication because…

  1. While most newer systems rely on TLS security, they still support older protocols (SSLv3 in particular for this issue)
  2. As secure communications generally attempt to find a “common” method, they will often “drop down” to older supported versions (even if they are now often considered insecure!)
  3. Most browser and server software (unless recently patched) will allow for this “drop down” in security.
  4. Most software provides a mechanism to disable this by the user or in configuration.
  5. Upgrading your software will usually remove these “problematic” vulnerabilities.

Simply put… for a consumer, it’s best to upgrade to a newer browser or find the appropriate configuration to disable SSLv3 if you are unable to upgrade. Server administrators generally should update their sofware on a regular basis for security items such as this one!

NOTE: Many CDN’s such as CloudFlare are proactive and block this vulnerability.

Technical details on the Poodle vulnerability (if you’re into that sort of thing!):

Instructions here are for Apache HTTPd 2.2.23 and newer, other servers will require a similar change:

  1. sudo vi /etc/apache2/mods-enabled/ssl.conf
  2. Change the following line from:
    SSLProtocol All -SSLv2
    SSLProtocol All -SSLv2 -SSLv3
  3. sudo service apache2 reload
  4. sudo service apache2 restart

Can be tested at the following websites:


Install Subversion Server on Ubuntu

Subversion is a commonly used central version control system for software development. There are currently still a large number of organizations that rely upon it, many have since moved on to Git.

  1. sudo apt-get install apache2 apache2-utils
  2. sudo apt-get install subversion subversion-tools libapache2-svn
  3. sudo mkdir /home/svn
  4. svnadmin create /home/svn/test
  5. Create a group for subversion users:
    sudo groupadd subversion
  6. sudo adduser USERNAME
  7. Add a user to the group:
    sudo useradd -G USERNAME subversion
  8. sudo chown -R www-data:subversion /home/svn/test
  9. sudo chmod -R g+rws /home/svn/test
  10. sudo a2enmod dav_svn
  11. To create/clobber a new file for the first user:
    sudo htpasswd -c /etc/apache2/.htpasswd YOURUSER
  12. To add additional users:
    sudo htpasswd /etc/apache2/.htpasswd YOURUSER
    (repeat for new users without the -c as that creates/clobbers the file)
  13. sudo vi /etc/apache2/sites-available/000-default.conf
    Then add to the bottom:
    (NOTE1: the LimitExcept can be enabled to allow anonymous access):
    (NOTE2: the LimitXMLRequestBody can be uncomment to allow large commits)

    <Location /svn>
    DAV svn
    SVNParentPath /home/svn
    AuthType Basic
    AuthName "Subversion Repository"
    # AuthUserFile /etc/svn-auth
    AuthUserFile /etc/apache2/.htpasswd
    #LimitXMLRequestBody 0
    Require valid-user
  14. sudo service apache2 reload
  15. sudo service apache2 restart

    NOTE: At this point you should be able to browse and do a remote checkout of the code from another machine….

    svn co http://YOUR-IP-OR-HOSTNAME/svn/test --username YOURUSER --password YOURPASS

  16. sudo vi /etc/init/svnserve.conf
    Add the following:

    # svnserve - Subversion server
    description "Subversion server"
    start on (local-filesystems and net-device-up IFACE=lo and started udev-finish)
    stop on runlevel [06]
    chdir /home/svn
    respawn limit 2 3600
    exec /usr/bin/svnserve --foreground --daemon --config-file /home/svn/repos/conf/svnserve.conf --root /home/svn/repos/
  17. Then execute:
    sudo initctl start svnserve
  18. Back on the client side…
    Create a new folder inside your user folder:
    cd ~/test
  19. Check out the project into this folder:
    svn checkout http://YOUR-IP-OR-HOSTNAME/svn/test
  20. Let us just add a new HTML index file to the folder:
    vi index.html
  21. Add it to version control:
    svn add index.html
    Commit the new file:
    svn commit -m "commit message"
    svn up
  22. That should cover most cases for you…


Security through obscurity – hiding your server version information

I’ve recently spent a lot of time reviewing the OWASP documentation, and (like many corporations) realized that I’d neglected to keep up with this configuration item.

By sharing the exact version of each piece of server software you are using, “hackers” are able to quickly identify unpatched systems and their known vulnerabilities.

To make their work harder, there are a few simple steps that the server admin can take to remove this information from the HTTP Headers and error pages.

Apache HTTPd:

  1. sudo vi /etc/apache2/conf-enabled/security.conf
  2. Add:

    ServerTokens ProductOnly
    ServerSignature Off
  3. If using virtual hosts, add the following to each one:
    ServerSignature Off
  4. sudo service apache2 restart

Apache Tomcat:

  1. vi /opt/tomcat7/conf/server.xml
  2. Find the <Connector > entry and add:
  3. cd /opt/tomcat7/lib
  4. mkdir -p org/apache/catalina/util
  5. vi /opt/tomcat7/lib/org/apache/catalina/util/ Tomcat
  6. sudo service tomcat7 restart

PHP “X-Powered-By: PHP/5.x.x-1ubuntuX.X”

  1. sudo vi /etc/php5/apache2/php.ini
    expose_php = Off
  2. sudo service apache2 restart


Install free “recognized” SSL certificates for Apache2

Once you have your server running with a self-signed certificate you might find it useful to have a “real” certificate that does not warn users.

Many of the CA’s provide test certificates that are generally valid for 30-60 days, I’ve recently discovered StartSSL, that generates free certificates that are valid for a full year.

  1. Generating keys and certificates….

    NOTE: this process is rather involved and is documented better elsewhere, here’s what I needed to remember to get the keys and certificates.

    • save ssl.key (private)
    • save ssl.crt (pem encoded)
    • get file from control panel:
  2. Make sure that you move all three files to the /etc/apache2/ssl/ folder on the server.
  3. Edit the config file…
    sudo vi /etc/apache2/sites-available/default-ssl.conf

    Modify the values related to the keys and certs…

    SSLCertificateFile /etc/apache2/ssl/ssl.crt
    SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/apache2/ssl/ssl.key
    SSLCertificateChainFile /etc/apache2/ssl/

  4. Reload the config and restart…

    sudo service apache2 reload
    sudo service apache2 restart
  5. Test it out…


Install Splunk Universal Forwarder on Ubuntu

After a while it can get tedious to access and review server logs via the command line. There are several tools available that can provide the same information in a graphical manner. Recently I’ve migrated to Splunk as there are both Enterprise and Free versions available.

  1. Of course, you’ll need a Splunk server installed first, as the forwarder is really just another (lighter) instance that will forward the log information to a central location.
  2. Download the system appropriate installer from:
  3. Check to see if you are running 32 or 64 bit OS.uname -aIf you see i686 you are 32 bit, if x86_64 you are 64 bit!
  4. Download, you’ll likely need a different version:sudo dpkg -i splunkforwarder-6.1.3-220630-linux-2.6-intel.deb
    sudo dpkg -i splunkforwarder-6.1.3-220630-linux-2.6-amd64.deb
  5. Enable auto-start on reboot:cd /opt/splunkforwarder/bin/

sudo ./splunk enable boot-start

    1. Start the server:sudo service splunk start
    2. Set the password:

      The default ‘admin‘ password is ‘changeme‘ so we need to change it immediately to do anything else, or we will see errors in future steps.

      sudo /opt/splunkforwarder/bin/splunk edit user admin -password YOUR_NEW_PASSWORD -auth admin:changeme

    3. Set the server:sudo /opt/splunkforwarder/bin/splunk add forward-server YOUR_SERVER_ADDRESS:9997

      NOTE: if you get prompted for a splunk username/password you likely skipped the above step. Remember – the forwarder is a new ‘light’ installation of the server and as such has it’s own users!

    4. Enable some monitors on the box:Some common services and log locations to get you started…
      Apache2 HTTPd
      sudo /opt/splunkforwarder/bin/splunk add monitor /var/log/apache2 -index main -sourcetype Apache2
      sudo /opt/splunkforwarder/bin/splunk add monitor /opt/tomcat7/logs -index main -sourcetype Tomcat7
      sudo /opt/splunkforwarder/bin/splunk add monitor /var/log/mysql -index main -sourcetype MySQL
      Postfix (SMTP)
      sudo /opt/splunkforwarder/bin/splunk add monitor /var/log/mail.log -index main -sourcetype Postfix
      Squid3 (Proxy)
      sudo /opt/splunkforwarder/bin/splunk add monitor /var/log/squid/access.log -index main -sourcetype Squid3
      sudo /opt/splunkforwarder/bin/splunk add monitor /var/log/squid/cache.log -index main -sourcetype Squid3

      sudo /opt/splunkforwarder/bin/splunk add monitor /opt/sonar/logs -index main -sourcetype Sonar
      sudo /opt/splunkforwarder/bin/splunk add monitor /home/{user}/.pm2/logs -index main -sourcetype PM2
      sudo /opt/splunkforwarder/bin/splunk add monitor /home/scott/.npm/_logs -index main -sourcetype NPM
  1. (OPTIONAL) Verify configuration by opening file at the following:sudo su
    vi /opt/splunkforwarder/etc/apps/search/local/inputs.conf
  2. You now should be able to log into your server and see new data flowing from the forwarder.

    NOTE: this requires you to enable ‘receiving’ of data on the port specified above, usually 9997.


Enable larger file uploads via Tomcat manager

Shortly after I automated code deployments in my Tomcat7 development testing environment, I found that some larger builds began failing with the following error:

org.apache.tomcat.util.http.fileupload.FileUploadBase$SizeLimitExceededException: the request was rejected because its size (...) exceeds the configured maximum (62428800)

After a little digging, I found that the WAR files were exceeding the default maximum upload size, thankfully, this is trivial to increase.

sudo vi /usr/share/tomcat7-admin/manager/WEB-INF/web.xml

(Change 52428800 to a larger number, perhaps doubled like 104857600)

<!-- 50MB max = 52428800 (100MB = 104857600) -->


Improve Apache Tomcat logging performance

Logging is often an overlooked performance drain on systems requiring high throughput. Here’s a simple change to the default Tomcat logging configuration to implement. It works on all operating systems.

In the file:

.handlers =, java.util.logging.ConsoleHandler

.handlers =