Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Lightboard Lessons: Secure & Optimize VDI

Virtualization continues to impact the enterprise and how IT delivers services to meet business needs. Desktop Virtualization (VDI) offers employees anywhere, anytime, flexible access to their desktops whether they are at home, on the road, in the office or on a mobile device. In this edition of Lightboard Lessons, I show how BIG-IP can secure, optimize and consolidate your VMware Horizon View environment, providing a secure front end access layer for VMware’s VDI infrastructure.



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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Lock Down Your Login

Last week we talked about WebSafe and how it can help protect against phishing attacks with a little piece of code. This is important since malware can steal credentials from every visited web application from an infected machine. This time we’re going to look at how to protect against credential grabbing on a BIG-IP APM login page with WebSafe encryption layer.

You’ll need two modules for this, BIG-IP APM and of course, WebSafe Fraud Protection Service. The goal is to protect the laptop from any malware that grabs sensitive login credentials. In this case, the malware would be configured to grab the login page along with the username and password parameter fields. Command and control could also be set to retrieve any credentials from the infected machine at certain intervals, like every 5 minutes.

The first goal would be to encrypt the password. Within your BIG-IP admin GUI, you would navigate to Security>Fraud Protection Service> Anti-Fraud Profiles>URL List. APM’s logon page usually ends with ‘/my.policy’.


Create then click that URL to open the configuration page and enable Application Layer Encryption.


And select the Parameters tab to configure the fields you want to protect. In this case it is password and username.


In the screen grab, you can see ‘Obfuscate’ is selected and to both ‘Encrypt’ and ‘Substitute Value’ for the password field.

Now when the user goes to the page, a bit a JavaScript is injected in the page to protect the specified fields. If you run a httpwatch or wire shark on the page, you’ll see that the values for those parameters are obfuscated. This makes it incredibly difficult for the bad actor to determine the correct value.


And if the malware also grabs the password, since we set that to encrypt, all they get is useless information.

At this point, the BIG-IP will decrypt the password and pass on the traffic to appropriate domain controller for verification. This is a great way to protect your login credentials with BIG-IP. If you’d like to see a demonstration of this, check out F5’s Security Specialist Matthieu Dierick’s demo video. Pretty cool.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Lightboard Lessons: DNS Scalability & Security

The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup, loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries.

DNS lookups has exploded in recent years with mobile, IoT and the applications to support the growth. It is also a vulnerable target. In my first Lightboard Lesson, I show you how to scale, secure and consolidate your DNS infrastructure.



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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Don’t Take the Imposter’s Bait

Phishing has been around since the dawn of the internet. The term was first used in an AOL Usenet group back in 1996 but it wasn’t until 2003 when many baited hooks and lures started dropping. Popular transaction destinations like PayPal and eBay were some of the early victims of these spoofed sites asking customers to update their personal and credit card information. By 2004, it was a full-fledged ‘get rich quick scheme’ with many financial institutions – and their customers – as targets.

Oxford Dictionary defines Phishing as, ‘The fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.’

You’ve seen it, the almost perfect looking email with actual logos, images and links to a reputable company only to have it go to a slick looking replica complete with a login form. If you aren’t paying attention and do enter your credentials, you’ve just given a crook access to your money.

The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) reports a 250 percent jump in the number of detected phishing websites between October 2015 and March 2016. More than in any other three-month span since it began tracking back in 2004. That’s around 230,000 unique phishing campaigns a month. And as recent as last week, American Express users were hit with a phishing email offering anti-phishing protection. Go figure. If you clicked the link, you were taken to a bogus Amex login page which asks for all the important stuff: SSN, DoB, mother’s maiden, AMEX number plus security code and a few other vitals.

When complete, you’ll be redirected to the authentic site so you think you’ve been there all along. That’s how they work their magic. A very similar domain URL and all the bells of the original, including the real customer service 800 number.

You can combat it however.

F5’s WebSafe Web Fraud Protection can secure your organization (and your customers) against the evolving online fraud and you do not need any special client to detect it. WebSafe inserts an obfuscated JavaScript code which can detect malware like bait, mandatory words or if the fake was loaded from a different domain. It can validate source integrity like comparing fields for multiple users and detect threats like automatic transactions. Alerts are sent to an on premise dashboard and can also be forwarded to F5’s Security Operations Center (SOC).

If you are configuring malware protection for the login and transaction pages for a financial application, it’s as simple as adding an Anti-Fraud profile to your VIP.

First, you create an anti-fraud profile:




Then indicate which URL should be watched and the action:




Then enable Phishing detection:




And when a phishing attach occurs, both the domain and the username of the victim get reported to the dashboard :




The code that’s inserted is a little piece of JavaScript added to your website to detect the malicious activity. No action is needed on the part of the user since everything is handled within BIG-IP.




This tiny piece of code will dramatically reduce fraud loss and retain the most important asset in business—customer confidence.

Don't get fooled by a faker.

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* Image Courtesy: makeuseof.com

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

750th Blog Spectacular - Lessons of the LightBoard

I recently built out a LightBoard Studio for my home office so I can start contributing to the awesome LightBoard Lessons on DevCentral. These are short, informative videos explaining various technologies and often, how to implement on a BIG-IP system. Instead of writing on a whiteboard and looking over your shoulder into the camera as you explain something, Lightboards allow you to draw on and look through the crystal clear glass (into the camera) while discussing technical concepts. A transparent whiteboard. The LEDs that surround the glass accompanied with neon markers make the images pop. It’s pretty darn cool.

So the story goes, a college professor was looking for a better way to deliver lessons to his students both on campus and online without a chalkboard. He called it the Learning Glass and now there are Lightboards all over the world, especially in universities. Incidentally, there is cool video of Picasso painting on glass from 1949.

He had the right idea.

You may have read or watched Jason & John’s Lightboard Lessons: Behind the Scenes and I wanted to report on my own experiences. First, I followed Jason’s bill of materials (except the camera) and it provides most everything you need to get started. I initially thought about a 3’ x 5’ pane of glass due to my smaller venue but couldn’t find an appropriate frame for that size. Well, to be clear, there may have been one but it was way outside my budget. I looked at various saw horses, ladder frames and other apparatus thinking I could ‘make’ something that could properly hold the glass in place. No dice.

So I decided to go a little larger with the 4’ x 6’ size since there is a frame specifically built for this purpose. Rahm is correct about ordering the frame first since you’ll need to carefully measure the mounting holes so the glass can be drilled perfectly. It also takes a few weeks to order and have the glass delivered - at least in my area. This was fine since it allowed me to set up the other equipment like the lights, back drop and camera location. In addition, make sure you have the delivery folks help you place it on the frame…depending on the size, this is not a pick up and install yourself deal. The glass is large, heavy and certainly needs a few people to carry and properly align with the holes.

Once the glass is installed (and cleaned) you can wrap the LEDs around the edge. There are a couple ways to go with this step. You could use large binder clips to hold the lights at the edge or, like Jason, I got 3/8” shower u-channels to go around the glass and hold the lights in place. Instead of silicon to hold the u-channel, I used clamp clips to hold the outer metal. This allows me to easily change and adjust the LEDs if needed.
The Expo Neon markers do make a greasy mess and I’ve got the same Sprayway glass cleaner. I also got one of those magic erasers to help clean and old hotel room keys work well on dried ink. It’s not that difficult to have a clean slate but any smudges will certainly appear if it’s not sparkle-city.

This week I’ll be moving around the lights and doing some test shots for audio and visual screen tests and look forward to publishing my first LightBoard Lesson very soon. Shooting for next week if all tests go well. I’m excited.

It’s always been a dream of mine to have a home studio. Some guys want a man-cave, some want a game room, others a high end home theatre or a rack of computer equipment. Me? A studio.

And for my 750th DevCentral article I wanted to say: Thanks Gang!!


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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Q/A with Secure-24's Josh Becigneul - DevCentral's Featured Member for September

Josh Becigneul is the ADC Engineer for Secure-24 and DevCentral’s Featured Member for September!

Josh has been working in the IT industry in various positions for a little over 10 years. He’s moved through various disciplines including MS server administration, Linux, Networking, and now has been working primarily with F5 BIG-IPs. For the past 3 years he has focused on F5’s products and growing a team of engineers to manage them. Secure-24 delivers managed IT operations, application hosting and managed cloud services to enterprises worldwide.

DevCentral got an opportunity to talk with Josh about his work, life and the importance of being F5 Certified.

DevCentral: You’ve been an active contributor to the DevCentral community and wondered what keeps you involved?
Josh Becigneul: DevCentral has helped me greatly over the years as I’ve worked with F5 products, so I feel like it’s worth some of my time to spend both reading posts and helping others in the community. When I started off it helped to be able to explain a need and have someone create a basic iRule, or point me towards documentation explaining something. Now that my skills have grown, I want to pay it forward.

DC: Tell us a little about the areas of BIG-IP expertise you have.
JB: I started off on just BIG-IP LTM but over the years have grown into managing APM, GTM, ASM, and sometimes a mix of each. I’ve worked with 1500’s, 1600s, 3600’s, 3900’s and VIPRION. As well as Enterprise Manager and now BIG-IQ too.

DC: You are an ADC Engineer with Secure-24, an application hosting and cloud services organization. Can you explain how DevCentral helps with your daily challenges? Where does BIG-IP fit in the services you offer or within your own infrastructure?
JB: At Secure-24, BIG-IP has grown into an essential product for many portions of our organization, along with many of our customers utilizing its services to deliver their applications. We’ve got a large number of LTM customers, APM customers and we’ve been growing into ASM. GTM provides advanced DNS services for many of our customers around the globe. Most deployments using BIG-IP are custom tailored to suit the needs of the particular customer. These can vary from basic load balancing to advanced content steering, or small deployments of a few virtual services to large ones comprised of hundreds. 
With the variety of F5 products in use, having a resource like DevCentral is invaluable to our team. From being able to ask my peers questions about things, or utilizing the codeshare and wiki to learn more about iRules and iControl, I couldn’t imagine it not being available.

DC: Describe one of your biggest BIG-IP challenges and how DevCentral helped in that situation.
JB: One of the most useful things iRules allow us to do is virtual hosting; running many services behind a virtual service. Coupling this with APM allowed us to greatly simplify remote access for us and our customers. For several customers, we used APM to migrate them away from MS Forefront.
DC: I understand you are an F5 Certified Professional. Can you tell us about that and why you feel it is beneficial?
JB: Yes, I first became F5 Certified in 2015 with my 201 Certified BIG-IP Administrator, and followed that up at 2016’s F5 Agility conference by obtaining my 304 APM Specialist. I feel it is beneficial because it helps to reinforce what I’ve learned over the years, and (hopefully) lets my customers feel like they are in good hands. (DC: Josh also recently passed the 302 GTM Exam!)
DC: Lastly, if you weren’t an IT admin – what would be your dream job? Or better, when you were a kid – what did you want to be when you grew up?
JB: I’d probably be a roadie, and tour the world doing lights and sound for a huge band!
DC: Thanks Josh and get us backstage passes! Check out all of Josh’s DevCentral contributions, connect on LinkedIn and follow both Josh @vsnine and @secure_24.


And if you'd like to nominate someone to be the DevCentral Featured Member, please send your suggestions to the DevCentral Team!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Time to Get Prepping for the F5 Certification 201 Exam

Less than a month after gaining some cred (and relief) from passing the F5 Certification 101 exam, the DevCentral team is now embarking on our 201-TMOS Administration journey. The 201-TMOS Administration exam is the second exam required to achieve F5 Certified BIG-IP Administrator status. You see, the 101 is simply a gauge - a benchmark – to determine if you qualify to take the next exam to officially become F5 Certified. The 201 exam focuses on the TMOS operating system, the day-to-day operation and basic troubleshooting of BIG-IP devices. 

You won’t need to install the software but you do need to understand how to administer and troubleshoot it once it is running. You'll also need to understand how (and what) to provide accurate and appropriate information for senior engineers and/or F5 support. This exam is not so much 'what do you know' but more about 'how do you do it.' Theory plus experience.

The DevCentral team is taking the same preparation approach as we did for the 101. We’re doing weekly team study sessions with each person taking a section and presenting to the team. This allows us to share knowledge, experience and discuss the potential questions around a certain topic. We found this very successful while prepping for the 101. Plus it was a good excuse to get together to talk shop. In addition, we'll need to spend some hands-on time (at least I do) doing real GUI-click stuff.

The good news is there seems to be a lot of 201 resources available. Of course there is F5’s own Eric Mitchell’s comprehensive 201 Certification Study Guide along with the TMOS Administration Exam Blueprint.

Outside of F5, Rich Hill put together a great click-read-learn journey with the various exam sections and the corresponding links to F5 support, DevCentral and other resources. Funzune has a fantastic F5 BIG IP – 201 exam – TMOS administration (Tips and tricks) along with a how to set up F5 BIG-IP lab at home. This is critical since (as mentioned earlier) the 201 exam does require BIG-IP hands on participation.

You can pass the 101 by studying the material but you need actual experience to ace the 201.

TomsITPro has a good overview and career path article for F5 Certifications and there’s a nifty flash-card based 201 Study Guide on Cram.com which delivers 80 potential questions along with the answers. Like the 101, candidates need to answer 80 questions in 90 minutes so nail the ones you know and come back for the more difficult questions. And don’t forget to flag those so it is easier to review with 10 minutes left. Another great resource is the F5 Certified Professionals LinkedIn group. A very active group that always has good tips as members work their way through the process.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention TheF5Guy’s 5 reasons to become F5 Certified. As Nathan Abbott puts it, ‘Reason #1 – I’m “The F5 Guy”, I have to do my best to live up to my name!  Hehehe…

The one theme that runs through many of the 201 certification prep articles is that this exam is not something to take lightly. It is much more challenging than the 101. While the 101 has a 70% pass rate, the 201 hovers around 67%. 69% correct is a pass. And if you do pass you will be awarded the credential of F5 Certified BIG-IP Administrator.

That’s what we’re aiming for.


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