A Sticky Problem with Glue Records and 1&1 Internet

Recently I had a tidy up with my hosting infrastructure which involved moving a slave DNS server from one IP address to another. The easy part was setting up the server and changing the existing DNS A record to point to the new IP address, the fun started when it came to updating the Glue record held with 1&1.

If you weren’t already aware a Glue record is something set by the domain registrar (1&1 in this case) that points directly to the server where the domains DNS records are kept. This makes it possible  to have domain names with nameservers that are a subdomain of itself, for example nerdkey.co.uk could point to ns1.nerdkey.co.uk and ns2.nerdkey.co.uk.

The last time I’d update Glue records with 1&1 was a good few years ago, but it was a simple case of logging into the control panel, searching for the domain and then heading to the record for subdomain, hitting an edit button and then changing the existing A record IP address for a new one but it wasn’t that easy this time round.

After a little trial and error and a lot of head scratching it seems that since they rolled out their new control panel it just isn’t possible anymore to set or update Glue records – you could see the records don’t get me wrong, just not update them. Not to worry though, their technical support team will be able to update the records, right? WRONG! I emailed them several times, making things as clear as possible whilst at the same time thinking that their support advisers would be savvy enough to understand terms used within the industry they work in, didn’t go too well.

In a nutshell, here is the correspondence between us:

  • [Me] – Outlined the domain, that I wanted Glue records updating and the exact subdomains and IP addresses
  • [Them] – Asked me to confirm if these changes has already been made as my website was working fine (not what I asked?)
  • [Me] – Sent a slightly reworded version of the first, again outlining the essential details and that it hadn’t been updated
  • [Them] – Confirmed that website was working fine again, asked me to clear my cache and reply with any error messages (did they even read the email?)
  • [Me] – Sent a similar email along the lings of the first and second stating that they are the domain registrar and this is something they need to do, again included essential details
  • [Me] – Emailed them to see if any updates available
  • [Them] – Replied asking me to confirm that I wanted the NS2 record updated as well (because the last emails didn’t state that?)
  • [Them] – Responded saying the nameservers may possibly need to be reverted back to them for this to work, but they used a special “tool” instead and said to wait up to 48 hours
  • [Them] – Replied this morning (after the domain was transferred and Glue set correctly with a different provider) saying that everything is now set correctly

Enough was enough, it got to a point where I’d given them over a weeks worth of my time and they’d done little more then send me a few standard responses and ask for confirmation which was already given. My last attempt to gain faith in them involved changing the nameservers back to them to see if it would work and allow me to set the records, it partly did – I managed to set the NS1-4 subdomains to the correct A records then updated the domains nameservers to another provider temporarily straight after to avoid any downtime and left it a few hours. I came back a few hours later and tried to set the nameservers back to ns1-4.koserver.co.uk but got an error message saying the nameservers weren’t registered and found out that the update to the temporary nameservers hadn’t taken affect, slowly grinding my entire hosting network to a halt – great!

I know I hadn’t waited the standard propagation times, but given the past experience and useless support and the fact that everything was slowly grinding to a halt, it was time to transfer. After research I’d narrowed things down to two providers – I wanted to give Name.com a try, but as their system for transferring in .UK’s wasn’t automated I abandoned that plan and went for NameCheap. Within an hour the domain was with them and Glue records were set through the control panel and things are slowly coming back online.

In all my years of website hosting I have never had such a catastrophic outage, aside from looking into a second domain to host nameservers all my domains with 1&1 will be transferred elsewhere.

So in summary, if you know what you’re doing don’t go with 1&1. You’ll be treated like an idiot and just wasting your time throwing emails back and forth with them. They don’t really read your emails and the fact they removed such a critical feature without telling anyone speaks volumes in my opinion, I mean they still have an old support article on how to set Glue records, obviously doesn’t work though. It is a shame, but that’s life.

 

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

Encrypted AES VPN tunnel between pfSense 2.3 and Draytek 2830

For a long time now I’ve managed several VMware ESXi servers and for easy management I’ve created a local area network on each making backups, monitoring and the usual sysad tasks a breeze.

The icing on the cake is that I recently swapped from m0n0walll to pfSense and went about setting up a lan to lan VPN tunnel to my home network, so now I can access everything locally as if I was on the same network.

Home Network

My home network uses a Draytek 2830 connected to a Virgin Media Superhub. Unfortunatley the Draytek is getting on a little bit now and doesn’t have the processing power to deal with my 100mbit connection speed, so I’ve had to double NAT the network using the Superhub in router mode and then DMZ everything towards the Draytek.

This isn’t a bad thing though as all the “dumb” wireless devices (mobile phones, Roku’s, Nest thermostat, etc) connect direct to the Superhub whilst my home server and everything crucial connect via the Draytek. All in all I get 70mbit through the Draytek on average and there’s plenty of bandwidth left for the devices connected to the Superhub.

In the example below the home network subnet will be 192.168.100.x

Remote Network

The remote network is pretty simple, they are all setup the same apart from x is a different number based on the virtual host name – a pfSense machine sits at x.1 and deals with traffic to the local network.

In the example below the remote subnet will be 192.168.150.x

Important

  • Each local area network must be on a seperate subnet, otherwise things can quickly get messy and conflict!
  • Make sure you use a secure pre-shared key, anything above 32 characters will do nicely
  • The example details below are fake, replace them with your own details if you want this to work

Configuring pfSense

The guide below lists only the parts you need to change, if the option isn’t listed then leave it as is

Fairly straight forward, go to VPN > IPSec > Click Add P1

  • Enter the Remote Gateway as the WAN IP address of the Draytek (or the Superhub in my case)
  • Enter a brieft description in the Description box
  • If you are double NAT’d like me select Peer identifer as KeyID tag then enter the WAN2 address of Draytek else leave as Peer IP address
  • Enter your pre-shared key in the Pre-Shared Key box
  • Press Save

That’s your Phase 1 entry configured, now for Phase 2:

Go to VPN > IPSec > Click on Show Phase 2 Entries for Home

  • Enter Remote Network as the home network subnet – 192.168.100.0/24
  • Put a brief description in the Description box
  • Set PSF Key Group to 2
  • Press Save and then hit Apply Changes

Finally, we need to create a firewall rule to allow traffic to pass over the VPN:

  • Go to Firewall > Rules > IPSec and click Add
  • Change Protocol to any
  • Enter a brief description in the Description box
  • Press Save any hit Apply Changes

Configuring the Draytek

Now it is time to configure the Draytek – Go to VPN and Remote Access > LAN to LAN

For Common Settings:

  • Enter a Profile Name
  • Tick Enable this profile
  • Make sure Call Direction is set to Both

For Dial-Out Settings:

  • Set type of server to IPSec Tunnel
  • Enter the Remote WAN IP in the Server IP/Hostname for VPN box
  • Enter the pre-shared key set previously in the Pre-Shared Key box
  • For IPSec Security Method set it to High (ESP)AES with Authentication
  • Under Advanced set IKE phase 1 propsal to AES256_SHa1-G14 and IKE phase 2 proposal to AES256_SHA1 then press OK

For Dial-In Settings:

  • Set the Allowed Dial-In Type to IPSec Tunnel
  • Tick the box to Specify Remote VPN Gateway and enter the remote network WAN IP
  • Enter the pre-shared key set previously in the Pre-Shared Key box
  • For IPSec Security Method untick all apart from High (ESP) – AES

Under TCP/IP Netowrk Settings:

  • Set Remote Network IP as the remote network subnet – 192.168.150.0

Hit OK at the very bottom to save the profile, leave it a few seconds and it should connect. If it doesn’t connect automatically, head to the IPSec Status page in pfSense and hit Connect manually

Encrypted AES VPN tunnel between pfSense 2.3 and Ubiquiti EdgeRouter Lite

I recently retired my Draytek 2830 following a serious security flaw I discovered (that’s another post, stay tuned!) and took the plunge with a rather impressive looking Ubiquiti EdgeRouter Lite.

The other option was a rack mountable TP-Link TL-ER6020 although the maximum NAT throughput was only 180Mbps and it only had 128MB  DDR2 memory and no clear CPU specs, also the web interface looked tired and very restricted. Pound for pound the EdgeRouter was cheaper and has a better spec of anywhere up to and over 600Mbps, 512MB DDR2 memory and Dual‑Core 500 MHz, although it wasn’t rack mountable it was a no brainer with its modern web interface, also did I mention it can process 1 million packets per second?

The EdgeRouter also appeals to my inner nerd  (you can no doubt tell) as you can program it via web interface, command line or console connection and you can remove features you don’t need to boost performance. For example, it may only have 3 gigabit ports, but you can do whatever you like with them! In my case I have it configured as 1 WAN port and the other 2 ports are linked to two seperate LAN’s. I will write a full review when I get chance, but for now just take my word that it is the best router I have ever owned.

Anyway, to business!

Home Network

As before with the Draytek guide my home network is still double NAT’d but there isn’t a speed issue anymore. I do plan to eventually run everything via the EdgeRouter but first I need to install a few additional access points (I’m thinking a couple of airGateway-LR’s hidden in roof spaces will do, powered by PoE obviously!).

In the example below the home network subnet will be 192.168.100.x
and WAN address will be 1.2.3.4

Remote Network

The remote network is the same as before too – a pfSense machine sits at x.1 and deals with traffic to the local network.

In the example below the remote subnet will be 192.168.150.x and WAN address will be 5.6.7.8

Important

  • Each local area network must be on a seperate subnet, otherwise things can quickly get messy and conflict!
  • Make sure you use a secure pre-shared key, anything above 32 characters will do nicely and under no circumstances use the example key!
  • The example details below are fake, replace them with your own details if you want this to work

Configuring pfSense

The guide below lists only the parts you need to change, if the option isn’t listed then leave it as is. Anything to do with double NATing is in red, ignore this if your router is WAN facing.

Fairly straight forward, go to VPN > IPSec > Click Add P1

  • Enter the Remote Gateway as the WAN IP address of the EdgeRouter (or the Superhub in my case) 1.2.3.4
  • Enter a brieft description in the Description box – VPN to pfSense LAN
  • Select Peer identifer as KeyID tag then enter the WAN address of EdgeRouter (192.168.100.1) else leave as Peer IP address
  • Enter your pre-shared key in the Pre-Shared Key box – testing123
  • Set the DH Group to 14
  • Press Save

That’s your Phase 1 entry configured, now for Phase 2:

Go to VPN > IPSec > Click on Show Phase 2 Entries for Home

  • Enter Remote Network as the home network subnet – 192.168.100.0/24
  • Put a brief description in the Description box – Home
  • Set PSF Key Group to 14
  • Press Save and then hit Apply Changes

Finally, we need to create a firewall rule to allow traffic to pass over the VPN:

  • Go to Firewall > Rules > IPSec and click Add
  • Change Protocol to any
  • Enter a brief description in the Description box – Allow VPN Traffic
  • Press Save any hit Apply Changes

Configuring the EdgeRouter

First of all make sure you are running the latest firmware otherwise options may be missing and this may not go smoothly! Currently (March 2017) I’m running EdgeRouter Lite v1.9.1.

Configuring the EdgeRouter is pretty straight forward, you don’t need to do anything via command line or console (unless you really want to, knock yourself out!) – Go to VPN > IPSec Site-to-Site

  • First tick the box Show advanced options to show the encryption options
  • Under Global Options leave Automatically open firewall and exclude from NAT unless you want greater control over who can connect in
  • Under Site-to-site peers enter the Peer as the home WAN address – 5.6.7.8
  • Put a brief description in the Description box – Remote
  • In local IP enter any
  • For Encryption set AES-256
  • In Pre-shared secret enter the key set previously – testing123
  • Enter the Local subnet as 192.168.100.0/24
  • Enter the Remote subnet as 192.168.150.0/24

All being well you should end up with something like below:

Once everything is saved, head over to the pfSense IPSec Status page and hit connect if it hasn’t already established and  there you have it!

At this point you may be asking why did you uncheck the option to Automatically open firewall…, this is because I like to have greater control over what IP addresses are allowed access to my network.

To substitute this option I created a rule in the NAT section translating UDP port 4500 to the routers local IP address (192.168.100.1). In turn I set the Src Address Group of this rule to a list of predefined IP addresses, thus only allowing access to my networks and blocking the rest of the world.

 

 

 

Connect Directly to SunLuxy Camera Streams

For a while now I’ve used a cheap SunLuxy H.264 DVR as the heart of the CoopCam project and initially couldn’t get a direct link to the camera stream so had to screen captured the bog standard web interface using VLC and break the feed down into separate streams but recently after a fair bit of trial and error I discovered a much easier solution!

I had researched on and off for months, went through masses of trial and error with various software and ultimately found no solution but after being inspired again I headed to the DVR’s web interface to start from scratch. I stumbled across source code in a file called /js/view2.js that constructs an RTMP:// address to show live camera feeds through the web interfaces flash player – See snippet of code below:

dvr_viewer.ConnectRTMP(index, "rtmp://" + location.host, "ch" + index + "_" + (dvr_type=="main"?"0":"1") + ".264");

After removing the jargon the link came out as rtmp://dvraddress:port/ch#_#.264 with the first number being the channel you want to connect to (starting at 0) and the second being the stream (substream being 1 and main being 0)

I headed to VLC player, selected Open Network Stream and entered the following:

rtmp://192.168.0.100:81/ch0_0.264

Broken down you can see my DVR is on the local network as 192.168.0.100 at port 81  and that I wanted to view channel 1’s main stream, low and behold after a few seconds the camera started to play!

Notes

  • To convert the stream to something more useful you could use rtmpdump and ffmpeg on Linux systems – I’ll write another guide about that shortly
  • If you do something wrong and overload the DVR then you’ll hear a beep as the box reboots
  • If this works for you please comment your DVR make and model

How to List the Contents of a Web Directory

Any good web host will secure the contents of website directories which don’t have an index page by not allowing the  files or folders to be listed, instead you’ll get a 403 error page saying access is forbidden. Whilst this is good in practice, sometimes you might actually need to list the contents – and its simple to enable on an Apache web server – add one line to your .htaccess file and you’re done!

How it’s done

Options +Indexes

Notes

  • If you have access you can edit your web server configuration and make it global

Add a NAS drive to your Livedrive account for free

I used to be a customer of popular cloud backup service Livedrive. The upload and download speeds were nothing to shout about and one annoyance was having to pay extra to add a NAS drive to your account, but there is a workaround!

How so?

All you need to do is add a symbolic link to your NAS drive from your computer. Think of a symbolic link as a fancy shortcut, the only difference being it masks the destination instead of taking you straight there – you’ll see what I mean when you read on.

Imagine you have a Windows computer with your NAS drive with the root of the drive already mapped to Z:, you have a folder on your NAS called MyFiles and would be able to browse to Z:\MyFiles to see whatever is stored there. Next imagine we have a folder called C:\Backup which is already uploading to your Livedrive account, using  the following command we will make C:\Backup\MyFiles lead to your NAS and in turn be included with your Livedrive backup.

mklink /d "C:\Backup\MyFiles" "Z:\MyFiles"

For me, this worked absolutely fine and I had a couple of TB uploaded without ever being caught out. I’ve since jumped ship to Amazon Drive, whilst it is more expensive per year I’ve got it running from multiple computers and the upload and download speed always tops out my connection, so I can’t complain!

Notes

  • Use the above guide at your own risk – I won’t be held liable if anything happens to your Livedrive account, files or anything else because of this!
  • This doesn’t work with Dropbox or Google Drive  – sorry
  • You only need to run the command once, after that the link will be remembered
  • To remove the link just delete it as you would any other  file or folder