Add1son's Blog

A place for pondering, planning and projects

How to make the most secure Windows Server ever!!1!

AKA – What to do if you install 2 antivirus products on one machine and RDP/Vsphere console are completely non-responsive.

Our guys at Symantec have done the footwork in the user forums to see if they could resolve the issue in this forum post.Boot into safe mode with networking on the Windows Hosts that you are working on by pressing F8 during the BIOS splash prior to boot. It is possible that your VM will breeze through the bios faster than you can click F8 during the boot sequence. If this is the case right click the VM -> Edit Settings -> Options -> Advanced -> Boot Options -> “Power on boot delay” -> Add millisecond value (e.g. 1000 for 1 full second)

Login to the server and after this use the following code to allow for an uninstall to be processed by the server. If multiple machines are having this issue save the following code into a .bat file and then place it in a network shared location and run it on each machine

REG ADD “HKLM\SYSTEM\CURRENTControlSet\Control\SafeBoot\Network\MSIServer” /VE /T REG_SZ /F /D “Server”
net start msiserver

At this point you will be able to uninstall the antivirus that is causing the issues and then restart your server and everything should be back up and running.

That concludes the How to portion of this post but the bigger question is how could this be avoided by the antivirus itself and/or does this occur with every antivirus? It surely would be interesting to see what products cause the most of this problem. Perhaps that will be a post for the future.

The title of this post was a bit tongue in cheek in that if not even IT staff is able to access a server it must be Fort Knox! One would think that if the primary goal is to secure a computer does that mean that the antivirus has failed in its goals or has it succeeded? It is interesting to me that an antivirus wouldn’t see another antivirus installing as being malicious or potentially causing harm. This opens a larger door in the balance between security and ease of use. Should an Antivirus product not allow you to access the sites of their competitors? This would make sure something like this wouldn’t happen but it also has the possibility to cause more issues than it is preventing.

Most people know not to install two copies of AV over one another but it does happen and most likely will continue to happen. This will also question the use of classic signature based AV in the sense that we are generally moving towards more innovative ways of capturing this sort of data in machine learning / AI integrated products. I will conclude this post with the question in that what if an AI was turned against itself in the form of having to AV products that were AI driven? Would we be in a worse spot than what inspired this blog post? Only time will tell.

Weekly Rundown Week 4 2018

Newsworthy
Books
Tools that I am enjoying
  • Pocket – I have been using this when browsing my news feeds on my phone as to save things for later to add to my rundowns. The feature of just being able to share an article and then selecting pocket (Android) is nice and centrally managed. Naturally, if something self hosted existed for this it would be neat to use but for now Pocket works very well. The integration with Firefox / Firefox accounts is also an awesome feature.

Weekly Rundown Week 3 2018

Newsworthy
Sites
Habits
Books
Tunes
Tools that I am testing
  • Wavebox – Follow up from 2 weeks ago. The lack of extension support is what is keeping me away from buying premium at this point. The program is built on chromium / electron but doesn’t allow extensions such as Mailvelope or uBlock origin. Perhaps if I start using more webapps I will reconsider this choice.

DNS After Death

The Domain Name System (DNS) is a hierarchical decentralized naming system for computers, services, or other resources connected to the Internet or a private network. It associates various information with domain names assigned to each of the participating entities. Most prominently, it translates more readily memorized domain names to the numerical IP addresses needed for locating and identifying computer services and devices with the underlying network protocols. By providing a worldwide, distributed directory service, the Domain Name System is an essential component of the functionality on the Internet, that has been in use since 1985.

via wikipedia

“What happens when you type in google.com” is a classic interview question. The general idea of the question is that you can go in depth so far as to dissect what happens at every keystroke or you can say “well the website resolves”.  Either way in your answer the way that this system works is through DNS. This system has been in use for the last ~33 years and it is a great way that records work assuming that they are maintained. The idea that you will be able to maintain these records forever is a bit optimistic and some would even say impossible.

The issue here being when your DNS records expire through your name registrar of choice, they are going to be once again available for purchase. This means that if someone can purchase my domain they own my web identity. Obviously, this means that they could serve malware at my domain, redirect to another website and even setup a page defaming me. None of these are of that much concern as they are not avoidable but the most interesting idea behind a DNS record going to someone else is that the person would be able to inherit email that was meant to be sent to me. If that the email wasn’t encrypted they would have basically bought a PO box that previously belonged to me and receive all of my mail. The alternative to this being that you can host your email through a company on a server that belongs to someone else which isn’t without sacrifice as a decision to make. To dive into the inherit flaws in this is outside the scope of this blog post as these are not things that are within your control.

DNSSEC does exist that mitigates this issue to a point but it is not widely used. The idea here being that you no longer own the DNS records and the idea that possibly this could be mitigated. The idea that you could either license the domain for an extended period to make sure that the communication you were receiving goes to a next of kin perhaps or the alternative would be that you would be able to have a domain funeral. The domain funeral in this case being exactly akin to a traditional process of moving on to the afterlife (if you believe in that sort of thing) or being placed in a grave never to be accessed again. Currently with a system of this age the mortality of man was not factored into the system at design nor should it have been necessarily. The implications of this however are that if you own DNS you become a person without the proper mitigation which is not the standard now.

A business need seems to exist for a post mortem world of computational glory. A business built by trusted enthusiasts for other enthusiasts. Currently offerings for this are very primitive in Dead Man’s Switch as far as I can tell nothing like this exists. Granted the needs of this go beyond DNS and can extend to VPS systems that could be taken down, memories that need to be parsed out through multiple terabytes of hardware and cloud storage, and various online personas that a person can request to be archived or pulled down entirely. The amount of data that we store and use isn’t going to go down in size over time and largely the mortality of man isn’t considered when these systems are designed.

An anecdote that I can share is that I have a Great Grandfather who is currently 92 years old. He has a large sum of computational equipment and I believe that he was a great inspiration to myself in getting interested in computers. He has purchased video cameras since they were available and has recorded a myriad of family memories with them as well as a small collection of DSLR styled cameras and I believe he has 3 computers in his home office at my time of this writing. His wife or my Great Grandmother passed away leaving him a widow and it was at this moment that I started to ponder the implications of his passing as it isn’t a question of if so much as a question of when. This view depending on interpretation is “dark” or perhaps “removed” but the immediate thought of this being, I am the computer guy in the family and they are probably going to ask me for assistance on this. What would he want done with his records? Which ones would he want purged? What things should be cherished and where are they? What accounts currently exist in his name? What does he want done with them if anything? The ideas here being to honor my grandfather by honoring his wishes in the same way a will would be honored after his passing.

This post got a little into the weeds per say but the question that will be left here is this: What is your plan for your computers, DNS records and online accounts after you pass?

Update: I had read about this previously but I wasn’t able to find the information but now I have it! Andrew Kalat (@Lerg) wrote a book called “Managing Digital Legacies” and did a talk titled “Online No One Knows You’re Dead” at Shmoocon 2016.

Weekly Rundown Week 2 2018

Newsworthy
Video
Habits
  • Reading: The Daily Stoic

Weekly Rundown Week 1 2018

Newsworthy
Video
Tools that I am testing
  • Wavebox – Centralized cloud management built on chromium, disappointing it doesn’t have ublock origin built in but enterprise level SSO is interesting. Also doesn’t have support for WordPress natively.
  • QuietRSS – Portable RSS reader for the time being before I setup Tiny Tiny RSS as a self hosted alternative
  • Toby The Tab Manager – Mostly would be useful inside of an enterprise for onboarding / shared favorites but looking into something better than just Firefox’s bookmark manager on a Flash drive
Habits

2018

Today is the first of the year and 2018 is the first year that has started with genuine excitement for me. 2017 was a great year full of professional and personal development and I look forward to achieving everything that I set out to for 2018. When the previous year began I was thinking about goals that I would like to achieve and for the most part I was able to do them as documented on this blog of mine. The CSA+ I was able to get and I have been able to continue to increase my skills with a lab environment that will be replicated in my home office in the coming weeks.

2018 brings the following goals (tentative):

  • Continue to develop and read into philosophy as well as increase physical fitness
  • Refinance my home in an attempt to reduce overhead and free up money to go into solar power
  • Focus on making time for the things that matter
  • Continue to develop self hosted data analysis
  • Pursue an additional certificate or two perhaps dealing in virtualization, Windows Server and/or Linux

Weekly Rundown Week 51+52

Newsworthy
Video
Projects
  • Garage getting clean
  • Office staying clean
  • Ping Pong Table (New!)
  • Finishing iPod reassembly
  • Python 3 transition
Habits
  • See above
Rundown of other Rundowns