By default, the installation of VMware’s vCenter and ESXi use self-signed certificates with hardcoded passwords to protect the private keys of their SSL web services. While it gets you services that work out of the box, it is really bad form and a poor security practice. If you install (or update to) version 5.1 of the VMware infrastructure components, you will be left with a bunch of warning windows like the ones on the left. If you’re lucky enough to have access to your own public key infrastructure, you can issue your own certificates to replace those provided by VMware so you don’t see constant warnings. However, if you undertake this effort be forewarned: VMWare’s guidance (Replacing Default vCenter 5.1[…]

Two weeks ago, I finally got a chance to try out a Windows 8 system. First, I have to give huge kudos to Dell, who makes the XPS 12 system I’m playing with. This system seems to be the ideal platform for a Windows 8 user. A thin and light notebook with plenty of power, with the ability to flip the screen around and make it into a touchscreen tablet. That said, during my initial installation of the system, alarm bells immediately rang in my head. “This system doesn’t comply with many password policies!” I found that as I joined my Windows 8 system to my company’s domain (which enforces a number of things through group policy), some configurations were allowed[…]

The term “black swan event” was introduced by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in the book Fooled By Randomness. Black swan events have three major characteristics: they are rare, they cause a significant or extreme impact, and upon retrospection, they are actually predictable. As described very well in this Wired article, “getting hacked” is a black swan event. While “getting hacked” can mean many different things, let’s take the example as used in the Wired article of having your identity stolen by hackers. It is rare enough that many of us will probably never experience it. Some cases have an extreme impact such as having your identity stolen, losing funds from your bank account, or having your computer or mobile devices wiped. And as this blog and any number of[…]

Ever forget your password on a website? Yeah, thought so. Ever hit the “forgot password” link on a website and got your password emailed back directly to you? If that’s the case, it means that website saves your password in plain text so that they can email it back to you. This is a terrible security practice for a few reasons: Email is not a secure protocol, so even if you use a secure protocol to log in (HTTPS), when your password is emailed it becomes exposed to the world. If that website is hacked, your password will be quite available and visible to the attacker. Even if the website is not attacked, your password is available to anyone who has[…]

We are working with a security policy that treats two passwords of equivalent strength: 8 character password with two character sets represented (pick two of upper/lower/number/symbol) 6 character password with three character sets represented (pick three of upper/lower/number/symbol) The question arises, how equivalent (or not) are they? Well, it’s time to do some math. Total Possible Passwords One way to measure password strength is in the total number of passwords that one might be able to generate that meet that criteria. More would be better. There are 26 uppercase, 26 lowercase, 10 digit, and 33 ASCII-printable symbols available on the average keyboard (totaling 95 options). If we simply asked how many possible 6 character passwords are there, you can multiply 95 for[…]

I’ve had some interesting experiences with two companies recently that I’d like to share. We all do business with companies online: we buy from them, we schedule appointments, we put in support requests, and so on. Today, I very seldom use the mail, and don’t shop in person very often. How these businesses treat customer security is interesting. Some places are very technically savvy and have robust, secure online transactions. Being realistic, though, I know that my dentist’s office does not employ a full-time sysadmin. They buy an off-the-shelf customer care solution and hire someone to install it on their website. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes that’s bad… First was with my mechanic. I like my mechanic – they’ve saved me[…]