WordPress & Spam: Key’s Solution

Recently I began to see an increase in malicious login attempts to my servers from bots (ie. automated attempts to login via FTP, POP/IMAP, SSH and so on) which gave me an idea for a new side-project on NerdTools known as the Bad Bots Intrusion & Spam Detection database.

After a few hours of developing a database was generating before my eyes of all the bad bots and their failed attempts, which then got me thinking, aside from using the database with a firewall can this be intergrated with WordPress to stop spam before its even posted?

A few more hours developing and I have now created two plugins which are listed in the WordPress extension directory. One is called NerdTools Bad Bots Spam Reporter which cleverly and annonymously reports the IP address of an author whenever a comment is classed as spam, and the other is called NerdTools Bad Bots Spam Defender which again annonymously screens every authors IP address against the database and if a match is found it won’t allow the comment to be saved.

Going a little deeper into the reporting plugin; when a comment is classed as spam the authors IP address is reported to the database but it won’t be entered straight away, our system will wait and see if any patterns form, if so it will then be entered and further comments will not be allowed.

It may seem madness having two seperate plugins to work as one but I didn’t want to force people into reporting comments if they don’t want to and vice versa with the defending plugin.

In terms of infrastructure the database is hosted on a high performance SSD server which has memcache enabled. Future plans include clustered servers for even greater performance.

Not bad for a few hours work!

 

 

 

 

Review of Oak Tree Dental Practice in Stourbridge

I became a patient at Oak Tree Dental Practice after my current dental practice at the time was going through some major changes and didn’t seem to be offering a good enough service. As part of a management change I was given a checkup and told I would need 6 fillings (3 existing and 3 new that needed redoing) but I couldn’t get an appointment for months, meanwhile I was still paying a monthly Denplan fee and worrying that I would eventually have no teeth and no one seemed to be taking it seriously.

I took the plunge and went to see Mr Jonathan Edward Swinscoe for a “free” checkup. I ended up paying £35 for the apparently free checkup, but he comforted me and said he could get all the fillings done in one go. I transferred my Denplan contract to him which cost £15 and the plan was to wait until the next month when the transfer was complete so the work would be done at no extra cost.

The time came for my appointment and I have to be honest I was dreading it. I had a while to think back about what Jonathan said and it just felt too good to be true, but it was too late to back out now. It didn’t help that the receptionists were too busy gosipping and dancing away to the radio, they seemed frustrated that the whole waiting room wasn’t joining in with them.

The time came where Jonathan called me in, he sat me down on a damp dentist chair that had just been cleaned and then injected, no questions about what medication I was on, no explanation of what is going to happen or anything like that, literally pain killer was injected and I was sent back out to the waiting room. He didn’t seem in a talkative mood thinking back now.

After he saw another client I was taken back into the room to the yet again damp dentist chair. The nurse was out of the room but Jonathan started drilling out my teeth by himself. He had the drill in one hand and suction tube in the other and choked me several times as he wasn’t removing the water quick enough but luckily the nurse came back and took over.

It is worth mentioning at this point that he didn’t have any gloves on and he didn’t give me any protective eyeware meaning my £200 glasses were almost destroyed.

I thought things couldn’t get any worse but at this point but then he started being incredably rough, to the point where I had to keep stopping him because of the pain and was physically shaking. Each time he stopped he would start again straight away and it soon became obvious that he was rushing drilling out the teeth out to get them all done in time, I was really worried that he would drill to far and hit a nerve but luckily that didn’t happen!

After the drilling had finished he stopped and made a sexist comment infront of his female nurse and myself, he said “Not only women have bad days you know!” so now it felt like he was having a bad day and taking it out on me? Great!

He then started putting the fillings in place, again he was rough, applying a fair amount of pressure jolting my neck around for each filling. He put his palm flat on my head which wasn’t very comfortable but at this point I just wanted to get out of there. He just didn’t seem to care, but then again he was having a bad day, so that’s okay then?

After all the fillings were done he literally scooted off to his computer and ignored me, he didn’t explain any care instructions, what had been done or anything, I literally got blanked which was rude. The nurse then asked me to move off the chair so she could wipe it down and then whisked me (still shaking) to a small table in the corridor and offered to sign me up for Denplan. I explained with a numb mouth that I had already transferred to him and then went out the reception where I was told I would need to pay and again had to explain.

I finally got to the safety of my car still shaking and it is safe to say I will never ever be setting foot back in that practice ever again and I will never ever recommend it to anyone.

To add insult to injury I have been left with really sensitive teeth and can no longer drink really hot or really cold drinks. I have also had to have the fillings adjusted by another dentist as they were poorly fitted causing “the battery effect”.

To be clear, this review is about Review of Oak Tree Dental Practice 78 Bridgnorth Road, Wollaston , Stourbridge, DY8 3PA and is not to be confused with practices of a similar name.

My experience with KGUARD and the Mars Home NVR Combo Kit

I’ve had a KGUARD Mars Home NVR Kit installed at my house for just over a year now, I bought it from eBuyer and paid a little more than I should have thinking it was a great investment and should last a good few year… it has been okay but unfortunatley the NVR side of it recently gave up the ghost.

The NVR initially started complaining about hard disk errors, randomly rebooted and is now just stuck on the boot up screen. Being familiar with embedded devices it ended up looking pretty bricked but unfortunatley there’s no obvious way to reflash the firmware. After a long email conversation with Danny Wu at KGUARD support, he wished me good luck at trying to reflash the firmware and has ignored me ever since, it would be okay but never actually told me how to get the box into recovery mode despite asking a fair few times… I’ll try fix the NVR at some point and if I have any joy I’ll write another post.

It’s not so bad right, you can still use the cameras?

In the meantime I installed iSpy connect – recommended by my friend Chris at work – on my home computer and thought that if I nipped out to Maplins and bought a slightly over priced TP Link PoE switch I could simply swap cables over and have some sort of CCTV system working in no time… was I wrong! Turns out the cameras aren’t 802.3af compliant so it won’t work without a little adjustment.

I didn’t want to go buy more kit without knowing the cameras would actually work, so I got an extension lead and a 12v 2A adapter trailing out the window at 2am, after a bit of tinkering I managed to get a stream from one of the cameras – annoyingly the cameras have their own static IP addresses which are own a different subnet to my home network and on reboot the settings revert back to default… adding a second IP to my network card sorted that.

The next day I nipped back to Maplins and got some PoE splitters, I popped into B&Q as well and got some IP rated junction boxes to cram everything into. After a bit of creativity the end result is that I can now use the KGUARD cameras but I have to have a slightly ugly looking box alongside them to shelter the PoE splitter, its not too bad but I’ve taken the opportunity to upgrade to some Trendnet TV-IP310PI’s and you can really tell the difference.

IMG_20160605_121000
PoE bodge

At least you won’t need to run new network cables?

Pah – Initially I wasn’t going to run new network cables as I thought the existing KGUARD ones would be good enough, unfortuantley not. When I went to put the new cameras waterproof connector in place I discovered that the existing KGUARD network cables only had 6 cores and just felt incredibly cheap, not wanting to take risks and to make things future proof I ended up spending the best part of a day feeding new cables through roof and under floors.

KGUARD network cable
KGUARD network cable

Where’s the happy ending?

It does come eventually, along the way I’ve ate a “cheddar and ham toasty”, got Chris up a ladder, learnt how to run and terminate my own network cables and recycled the KGUARD cameras to cover blind spots that weren’t covered before – those two both with the help of Chris one Saturday – and learnt that ultimatley you are always better building your own system as once you are past the year warranty neither the retailer nor manufacturer could care less!

I was torn between iSpy or BlueIris for software – I ended up going with iSpy which is opensource but should really be classed as freemium. If you want to do anything useful (playback footage, watch remotely or recieve email alerts) you have to upgrade to a premium version which is a monthly cost – not to worry though, I’m currently working on a VB program which will allow both live and pre-recoded playback of files possible and Chris is working on an alternative mobile ap.

I can’t thank KGUARD enough for this valuable learning experience and I would strongly recommend that if you are thinking about getting a KGUARD system then look elsewhere! If I hadn’t have had such good knowledge of network and computing then I’d have ended up with one very expensive set of paper weights.

Setup your own live pet webcam for free using Yawcam

I’ve been experimenting for a while with different ways to stream live to the Internet from webcams, IP cameras and capture cards for the Coop Cam project, here is a basic guide on how to setup a simple live stream using a basic webcam.

What is required?

You will need a couple of things, including:

  • A computer with a webcam
  • An Internet connection with decent upload speed
  • Router access to port forward

Software

To create the stream we will use a free piece of opensource software called Yawcam, you can download it directly from here or learn more about the software here.

Installation is pretty simple, download and launch the installer then follow the on screen instructions.

Configuration

After the installation has finished open your newly installed software, you will see a screen like below:

1

The first thing we need to do is set the stream type, to do this go to Settings > Edit Settings…

2

Under Output select Stream and change the Stream type to MJPEG and hit OK

3

Next we need to select your webcam, head to Settings > Device > Change to and select your webcam from the list

4

Finally, back on the main screen hit enable on the Stream option – we are ready to go!

5

Previewing your stream

Here is the exciting part, previewing your live stream! On the same computer open up your browser and head to http://127.0.0.1:8081/video.mjpg

If everything is configured correctly you should see your webcam displayed live.

Here is my example of Spirit our pet quail:



What next?

The next thing you need to do is configure port forwarding in your router to allow people to connect in and view  your stream. I can’t really go into specific detail as there are many different types of router with different configuration options but basically what you want to do is forward port 8081 to your computer so anyone that connects to your-public-ip:8081/video.mjpg can see your stream.

You will also want to make sure that your computer has a static IP address or DHCP reservation to make sure the local IP address doesn’t change.

If you need help with that part let me know and I’ll give you a hand.

Will my Internet connection be able to cope?

This depends entirely on your upload speed, by default Yawcam only allows 10 concurrent connections.

For added security and to take the strain off your Internet connection I can relay your stream via Coop Cam’s powerful relay servers. They are able to take the single stream from your camera and amplify it allowing hundreds of users to connect at once.

The upside to this is that you will only have one connection being uploaded to the relay server, the server then handles everything else and even hides your public IP address – If you would like to know more please get in touch.

Notes

  • If you want Yawcam to start streaming automatically when you login to your computer then head to Settings > Edit Settings… > Startup and tick Start Stream output
  • You can check that port forwarding has been setup correctly by using the NerdTools Port Scanner, if it isn’t working double check your firewall settings
  • If your Internet connection has a dynamic IP address you’ll want to look into a Dynamic DNS service

Find Out Who Registered A Domain Name

The Internet is an amazing place where we can expand our knowledge – or – just look pictures of animals with funny captions, but have you ever wondered to yourself who owns that domain, who took the time to build that amazing website, see if a business is legit or maybe you just want to learn a new nerdy skill?

A domain name can be registered by anyone so long as its available and not registered to anyone else, and can be bought at anytime through hundreds, thousands or maybe millions of companies known as domain registrars. The job of a domain registrar is to take money and convert it into domain registrations as they are essentially the middle men between the domain registries (the top dogs of the domain world, the owners of the bit after the dot) and ourselves.

When a domain is registered, regardless of the registrar used, contact details will always need to be provided. These details form what’s known as the legal registrant and can be either a company or an individual who will legally own the name for however long it has been registered for.

That’s great but what next? Well here comes the juicy bit! All that information is kept in a global database known as the WHOIS database (pronounced “who is”) which is free to browse and will give an insight into any domain registration.

Querying WHOIS

The following guide will show you step by step how to query the WHOIS database for free with no special software required. To keep things simple I will be using a website that I created which has a built in WHOIS tool.

  • First things first we need to head to the WHOIS tool, click onto the following link or type it into your address bar directly: http://www.nerdtools.co.uk/whois/
  • Once the website loads you’ll see a box where it asks you to enter a domain name, enter the domain which you would like to query and press Enter or the “Let’s do this! >” button
    whois-query-1
  • After a few seconds you’ll be redirected to a new page that shows the domain details in a similar format to one shown below:
    whois-query-2
  • As  you can see from the screenshot above a lot of information is returned, so much that it doesn’t all fit on screen without scrolling but once you read through you will easily see who owns the domain, when it was registered, when it expires and other useful information

Notes

  • In the example above you can see no “Registrant’s address” is returned, this is because its a .UK domain and Nominet (the registry behind all .UK domains) allow the address to be hidden for any non-trading individuals, but with domains such as .COM, .NET, .ORG the information will always be available
  • Depending on the domain name things may look a little different to the one in the example
  • Any changes to a domains details can take up to 24 hours to show so things may not always be accurate
  • There are strict terms that need to be followed when it comes to using the information returned from a lookup and these can be found usually be found at the bottom – It’s not shown in the screenshot as it was so big, to see them click here and scroll down
  • Sometimes registrars offer a privacy package that will hide the registrants contact information and replace it with the registrars instead, if you see a domain like this that’s trading as a business stay well away as it could be up to no good!

Server Security Tips

Whenever I deploy a new server I always ensure that any flaws which I’ve picked up from my few years of server experience are fixed, leaving the new server as secure as can be and ready for use.

Below are a few tips for keeping your server as secure as can be:

  • Have a secure root password – Use something random and at least 8 characters long
  • Use non-default ports – Change the default port for services commonly targeted by bots or attackers such as SSH
  • Check your logs – Look for authentication failures and put the related IPs in a block or reject rule using iptables
  • Process users – Make sure processes have their own users and aren’t ran as root

More tips will be added once I remember them!

Install EPEL Repository on CentOS 7 (x64)

The simple one line command below will enable the EPEL repository on CentOS 7

rpm -Uvh http://dl.fedoraproject.org/pub/epel/7/x86_64/e/epel-release-7-2.noarch.rpm

Once ran you will see confirmation that it has been installed successfully, that’s it!

Notes

  • You can find out more about the EPEL repository here
  • If you don’t already have a server, I’d strongly recommend starting with DigitalOcean

Icecast PHP Stats

A recent project of mine called Coop Cam uses several live video streams served by an Icecast server at different mount points which works great, but I found there was no real solution to simply display how many viewers were actually watching the live streams.

I put together a basic PHP code that reads the Icecast XML stats file and retrieves the current overall viewers (or listeners as its officially known) of all available mount points.

Code

// get the stats xml file //
$output = file_get_contents('http://admin:[email protected]:8000/admin/stats');

// explode to make the magic happen //   
$listeners = explode('',$output);
$listeners = explode('',$listeners[1]);

// output to the world //
echo "Currently <b>$listeners[0]</b> people are watching the live stream!";

Once you have amended the admin password, server name and port the code above will then connect to your server and read the /admin/stats XML file. From here it will literally pick out the content shown between the <listeners></listeners> tags and that then becomes the $listeners[0] variable, simply place this wherever you want to display the amount of current viewers.

Notes

  • This code may or may not work depending on if your hosting provider allows the file_get_contents function – In my case I use my own dedicated servers and it works without issue, if you have any problems I’m sure I can sort something for you!
  • You can show the amount of sources, file connections and so on by amending the code to reflect the correct tags – A full list of tags can be seen by visiting the youricecastservername.com:8000/admin/stats page
  • You can find a live working example of this script here or actually see it in place here
  • Finally, you can download the script by clicking here

Disable Virtualmin Two-factor Authentication

Virtualmin is constantly being developed and gaining ever useful features, and for a while now has featured two-factor authentication which is great, although what happens if you get locked out of your system? As long as you have SSH or console access then you can follow the steps below to easily get back in.

Disabling two-factor authentication for a single user

  • Get root SSH or console access
  • Edit the file /etc/webmin/miniserv.users, comment out the current line for the user then create a fresh copy above it
  • Remove any mention of “totp” and the long string of characters near the end and save, for example your file should now look like the following:
...
root:x::::::::0:0:::
#root:x::::::::0:0:totp:ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ:
...
  • Restart Webmin and log back in normally

Disabling two-factor authentication entirely

  • Get root SSH or console access
  • Edit the file /etc/webmin/miniserv.conf and find the line “twofactor_provider=totp” and replace with “twofactor_provider=” and save
  • Edit the /etc/webmin/miniserv.users as mentioned above
  • Restart Webmin and log back in normally

Notes

  • I’ve had success with this on Webmin 1.760 running on CentOS 7.0

A word of warning about Kimsufi and ESXi

Kimsufi are well known for offering cheap dedicated servers and over the years I’ve had no problems until recently.

I purchased a KS-5 for running VMware ESXi on, it was a fairly good spec Xeon with 16GB of ram and 2TB disk space for about £30 a month plus a one time setup fee. It was quickly provisioned which was great, but after logging into my account I found a problem – There was no obvious place to order additional IPv4 addresses which rendered the server completely useless to me. I was prompted to select an operating system, so I did thinking this would make ordering IP addresses possible, but still nothing.

I contacted support immediately and asked if ordering additional IP addresses was possible, and if not to cancel and refund my account. They responded in a nut shell saying its not possible, and that because I’d installed the VMware template that they provided they wouldn’t refund me which was annoying, they also implied that because the service was so cheap I should be grateful and suggested using their sister brand SoYouStart, amusing.

Luckily I paid with PayPal so I opened a dispute and got my money back. It’s not about the money though, its about Kimsufi not making the facts clear and then fobbing you off. I’d usually recommend them, but not anymore.

I’ve since found a better provider, Online.net offering similar spec servers capable of running ESXi with, wait for it, the option to order additional IP addresses! Amazing.