Category: Desktop Computing

Mar 02

Download the full Firefox stand-alone installer

There’s nothing more frustrating than downloading an installer that assumes that you’re going to have internet access on the machine that you subsequently intend to run the installer on (called a stub installer).

For example, downloading firefox so that you can get to your enterprise storage arrays java based admin interface without the agony presented by internet explorer’s tendency to throw its toys out the pram over the certificate and the settings are locked down by IE policy, this policy, that policy and the other policy that all exist to make the environment so much more “secure” but actually just don’t allow anything, anywhere, ever.  It’s secure!, it’s been signed off as being suitably unusable to prevent exposing ourselves to any kind of imaginary threat!  Aren’t we clever?.  No.  Rant over.

It’s secure!, it’s been signed off as being suitably unusable to prevent exposing ourselves to any kind of imaginary threat!

I’ve probably digressed, I can’t tell.  I’m too angry.  And you are too probably, if you’ve ended up here.  Installers that assume an internet connection are completely useless in the enterprise environment (best read in the voice of Clarkson).

Whats even more frustrating is that the stub installer is the only apparent option, judging by mozillas website.  Well it isn’t the only option – you can still download the full-fat, stand-alone installer from their ftp site – but ftp is blocked by your firewall!

No bother, just replace ftp:// with http:// at the beginning of the URL, or even better just click here for the 64 bit version (or here for the 32 bit version).

 

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Feb 06

When Google Chrome won’t start.

So Chrome won’t start and the error message is unhelpful.  Microsoft support won’t help of course and Google’s sledgehammer approach is

“just blow away your User Data and start over”

but you don’t want to loose your bookmarks, stored passwords etc that make your life easier and more efficient.  Plus you can’t remember half your passwords anymore.

Well, here’s what that unhelpful error message should look like in a perfect world…

…It’d save a lot of pain if it did.  You’re welcome Google.

So, using Task Manager, kill off any running Google Chrome processes (from having clicked on it 20 times before realising it’s never going to start).

To get to the folder you need to rename in order to get your Chrome browser up and running again with all your bookmarks intact (mine survived ok),

Click Start, Run,

Rename the Default folder to BackupDefault

Try restarting Chrome.  Hopefully you’re sorted.

If not, Google also recommend deleting the following User Data folder.  I don’t know what will survive if you do.  Fortunately, it never came to that for me.

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Jan 03

Protect your Anonymity online with Vadalia, Privoxy and Proxychains

Happy New Year.  You will be monitored.  We are watching you.  We know who you are.  We know where you are.

The following is a concise guide to configuring Internet Anonymity on Linux by leveraging the tor network (vidalia) and a local proxy server (privoxy) then running your web browser using proxychains.

I have tried the tor browser bundle but couldn’t access most of my websites so found it to be pretty useless in everyday life.  This however, lets me access all my sites fine (so far), so provides protective anonymity without getting in the way.

I have found certain sites like Google sometimes use captcha to prove you’re a human but it’s no big deal.  It is a response that is more likely to be coming from OpenDNS rather than Google actually.

Disclaimer:  The following should be used for educational purposes only and not to facilitate any illegal online activity.

This is a compliment to your firewall.  It should remain ON.  You can further harden your web browser by “jailing” it to prevent penetration by following this guide here.

Remember:  Todays paranoia is tomorrows security standard.

TEST
firefox www.dnsleaktest.com www.whatismyip.com
You should see your IP address and location.

This information is logged along with the sites you visit and held by your ISP in line with new regulations.  Everything they need to lead them right to your door.  FTS.

PACKAGES TO INSTALL
sudo apt-get install privoxy vidalia proxychains

PRIVOXY – local privacy proxy server runs on 127.0.0.1:8118
vi /etc/privoxy/config, search for localhost:8118 and replace with 127.0.0.1:8118

VIDALIA – tor front-end. set up relaying to use local privoxy proxy (enter privoxy settings above) then add vidalia to Session & Startup apps list.

  Note that the green Tor onion may take a little while to go green after your computer initially connects to the network/wifi.

DNS SERVICES – change your network/wifi IPv4 settings
Use OpenDNS addresses 208.67.222.222 208.67.220.220

PROXYCHAINS
ProxyChains allows to run any program through HTTP or SOCKS proxy.
This tool tunnels all TCP and DNS connections of given applications.

Note: precede launcher command of application with proxychains, i.e. proxychains firefox %u

vi /etc/proxychains.conf
comment out strict_chain
uncomment dynamic_chain
add these lines under [ProxyList] section
socks4 127.0.0.1 9050
socks4a 127.0.0.1 9050
socks5 127.0.0.1 9050
http 127.0.0.1 8118

TEST
proxychains firefox www.dnsleaktest.com www.whatismyip.com
You should see that you now appear to be in a foreign country, not your actual geographical location.

Download the latest Linux .iso file to create some bandwidth and view the bandwidth graph in vidalia.

That’s it.  You’re Anonymous!

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Dec 14

Best file manager on Linux? Dolphin.

Need a powerful file manager on Linux?  Minimalism is so last decade.  Functionality is king and it needn’t look ugly either.  Look no further than Dolphin.  KDE’s file manager and it’s an absolute cracker of a file manager.  It’s nothing new as it’s been about a while.

My favourite feature, other than the split screen and integrated command line panel (so long as you install konsole as well as dolphin), is being able to pause multiple, individual in-flight IO operations.  This is great if you’re making multiple copies to a USB stick and want to queue up the individual copy requests so they’ll ultimately complete quicker.

It’s quite simply the best file manager I’ve ever seen.  All about functionality.

sudo apt-get install dolphin konsole

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Dec 14

Notepad++ for Linux (Notepadqq)

Add yours and my favourite text editor (Notepad++) to your preferred Linux distribution (Linux Mint) using the following commands…

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:notepadqq-team/notepadqq
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install notepadqq

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Nov 07

Protect your Linux system by jailing your web browser

Your Linux system is inherently less vulnerable to attack than Microsoft Windows for a number of reasons.

  1. You’re less of a target to virus attack by being in the minority (Only 2.18% of people run Linux as their desktop operating system with most of those running a Debian derivative, the most popular being Linux Mint).
  2. You execute user processes as a non-privileged user (Remote code executing in your browser is not running in the context of a local Administrator account so has much less privileges to do potentially damaging things to your computer and data).
  3. Your Linux system is built entirely from packages obtained and installed from known, trusted repositories (No dodgy software downloaded from goodness-knows-where that may or may not be what you think it is.  The code of any given package undergoes constant scrutiny and improvements by the open source community.)
  4. There’s no marketing, advertising, ransom-ware or hidden agendas lurking in the operating system or the applications that are ultimately built by the people, for the people, and distributed to the people for free (feel the love).

Despite all these advantages, we live in the (dis)information age, and that means that the way to reach your users is through their web browsers.  So this next part should interest you.

…we live in the disinformation age, and that means the way to reach you is through your web browser.  So this next part should interest you.

How do I protect my web browser? (Firefox is the default web browser on Linux Mint -my OS and browser of choice)

firewall

  1. Enable the firewall (above)
  2. Once a new installation of Linux Mint is complete, I reboot, log on, Install all pending updates by typing sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade in a terminal window.
  3. Connect to my WiFi network, open Firefox and install the AdBlock Plus and uBlock Origin plugins.

And that’s it.  Or at least it has been until now, and in fairness it’s kept me safe since 2005.  I’ve never installed anti-virus software and never had a problem in over a decade.  AV products on Linux such as clam are usually for the benefit of Windows users on the same network or mail attachment scanning on Linux mail servers, neither of which is applicable in my home network environment.

Today though, I learned about something else.  The existence of firejail, -a program that “jails” certain other programs, and I really like what I see.

Like most Linux programs, it’s super quick to install with a quick sudo apt-get install firejail command in a terminal window and as easy to “use”.  In firejail’s case, you just edit the shortcuts of your existing launchers and pre-pend the command firejail

e.g. firefox %u becomes firejail firefox %u

firejail

By jailing the firefox process, it prevents the web browser from being able to access your system, quite literally.  Kind of like a firewall for processes rather than TCP/UDP ports, that only allows certain interactions with the rest of the operating system through.

For example, look what happens when trying to upload a picture I’ve saved to my Desktop to this very blog post…

desktop

The Desktop looks empty.  Nothing.  Blank.  No files or subfolders.  Yet my Desktop folder contains loads of images and other files and subfolders, as does my Pictures folder – same again, blank.  This is because firefox is jailed.  It can’t get out and into your filesystem.  Brilliant – and only a little inconvenient as it can still access my Downloads folder.  So if I want to upload a file, I just have a make a copy into my Downloads folder first using my File manager caja (which isn’t jailed).  Uploading to my Dropbox account using the web based interface would be a bit of a pain, but the Dropbox daemon running on my computer does all my file syncing anyway, so it doesn’t present a problem.  I don’t actually need to use Dropbox’ web interface.

This all works in accordance with the application profile in /etc/firejail/firefox.profile -there’s loads of them, not just for firefox but other internet/vulnerable programs like filezilla, transmission etc too.

Filezilla’s firejail profile on the other hand seems to be a lot more lenient and allows access to your home directory where you might wish to upload an entire folder structure to your web server.  You could always edit the filezilla.profile to harden it yourself I guess.

Whilst I found firejail in my repositories, I didn’t find the accompanying firetools package – a simple launcher that sits on your desktop.  It’s not really needed if you’ve edited your launchers to your favourite apps already and just allows you to add some additional programs to it and shows any running jailed processes if you’re interested in seeing that.  It places a convenient icon in your systray area too, for easy recall.

firetoolsfiretools-trayfiretools-processes

 

 

 

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Oct 31

What groups am I a member of?

Need to know what groups you’re a member of in Active Directory, but don’t have access to AD Users and Groups management snap-in?  Try this command.  It may help to run cmd.exe as Administrator if that privilege is available to you, but may not be necessary.

gpresult /r

The output at the bottom will be something like this, along with any additional Global group names you’re a member of.

gpresult

An alternative is whoami /groups which provides an output similar to this…

whoami

Note: whoami also works on Linux/UNIX systems.

 

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Sep 07

Inject Administrators/Full Control permissions into inaccessible folders.

Note:  This can also be used to inject Everyone/Full Control, or a specific user, using the username or SID.  The Administrators Group SID is always S-1-5-32-544.  Other well-known SIDs are listed here.

Download the command line version of SetACL.exe from here.  Like all the best things in life, it’s free.

Open a command prompt as Adminstrator (right click cmd.exe, run as admin)

setacl -on “C:\Private No Entry” -ot file -actn ace -ace “n:Administrators;p:full” -rec cont_obj -ignoreerr

The “Private No Entry” folder should now have Administrators, Full Control Permissions.  If not, don’t fret, read on…

The following command gives Administrators the “dream ticket” to accessing all data by setting ownership to Administrators on all folders and files and forcing subdirectories to re-inherit inheritable Administrators:Full Control permissions from the parent.

setacl -on “C:\Private No Entry” -ot file -actn setprot -op “dacl:np;sacl:nc” -rec cont_obj -actn setowner -ownr “n:S-1-5-32-544”

If you still receive “Operating System Message:Access Denied” or similar, then you’ll need to take a robocopy of the “inaccessible” data using the /B switch to exploit OS Backup Right, leaving permissions behind using /COPY:DAT (instead of /COPY:DATSOU or /COPYALL) then repeat the process above on the copied data instead.

robocopy “C:\Private No Entry” “T:\Cracked Data” /B /COPY:DAT /E /NP /R:1 /W:1

Now view the Inherited permissions on the copied data…  You’ll see it has a whole bunch of new, open permissions that it’s got from the parent folder T:.

cacls “T:\Cracked Data”

The cracked data could be robocopied back over the original inaccessible source data using /MIR /COPYALL /SEC /SECFIX switches if required.  If it doesn’t allow it, then note that I have successfully robocopied an empty folder over the top of an inaccessible folder before using just /MIR  (in order to delete it), then robocopied the cracked data back into place, e.g.

robocopy “T:\Empty Folder” “C:\Private No Entry” /MIR /B

robocopy “T:\Cracked Data” “C:\Private No Entry” /MIR /SEC /B

Finally, if you want to re-harden the folder whilst retaining the access you’ve granted Administrators, then use the following commands…

Presently, access has been attained via inherited permissions so before removing inheritance, first inject a non-inherited ACE that allows administrators access, i.e.

setacl -on “C:\Private No Entry” -ot file -actn ace -ace “n:S-1-5-32-544;p:full” -rec cont_obj

Verify the Administrators:Full Control permissions are present on the folder

cacls “C:\Private No Entry”

Finally it is safe to remove inheritance without losing access (strictly speaking, you are “protecting the child object from inherited permissions on the parent object”)

setacl -on u567149 -ot file -actn setprot -op “dacl:p_nc;sacl:p_nc”

This sequence of commands can be used to copy users home directories that are typically hardened to only permit the user themselves access to the data contained within.  If you are using it to migrate home dierctories, there is a loop to re-apply user-specific permissions to each homedirectory afterwards here

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Jul 15

Install hevc codec for .mkv video on Linux Mint

Given how complete Linux Mint is out of the box, I’m surprised to have experienced this problem even after installing all extra codecs from the repositories after initial installation.

Upon attempting to play the latest .mkv episode of Silicon Valley, I received the following error in VLC Media Player.

“unable to decode hevc, there’s nothing you can do about this error”

Or words to that effect.  I’d include a screen-shot of the error but I’ve fixed it now, so am sharing the fix with you instead.  I’ll keep it succinct.

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:strukturag/libde265

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install gstreamer0.10-libde265

sudo apt-get install gstreamer1.0-libde265

sudo apt-get install vlc-plugin-libde265

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Dec 12

Adding a blocklist to Transmission torrent client on Linux

When using a torrent client on Windows such as utorrent, it’s not a bad idea to run peer block to protect your computer from inbound connections from a maintained list of known ip addresses.

Linux comes with a torrent client built in, usually Transmission, although Deluge is a bit more like utorrent, i.e. shows more info on the screen, has a few more options etc.  Transmission works perfectly well though and ticks the minimalist box if that’s your thing.  Both are available via the repositories using the built in package manager.

Peer Block isnt available for Linux.  Transmission however, supports the use of blocklists, so increasing your level of protection has actually never been simpler.

In Preferences, just add the following url to the Blocklist field and click Update.  Done.

http://list.iblocklist.com/?list=bt_level1&fileformat=p2p&archiveformat=gz

transmission

To provide system-wide protection, you should install ufw from the package manager.

  gufw is a GUI that can be used to enable ufw and configure rules.

ufw is installed by default in Linux Mint but is not turned on.

firewall

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