Categories
Admin Apache Uncategorized Web Site Technologies

The IT Detective agency: Excessive Requests for PAC file Crippling Web Server

Intro
Funny thing about infrastructure. You may have something running fine for years, and then suddenly it doesn’t. That is one of the many mysteries in the case of the excessive requests for PAC file.

The Details
We serve our Proxy Auto-config (PAC) file from a couple web servers which are load-balanced. It’s worked great for over 10 years. The PAC file is actually produced by a Perl script which can alter the content based on the user’s IP or other variables.

The web servers got bogged down last week. I literally observed the load average shoot up past 200 (on a 2-CPU server). This is not good.

I quickly noticed lots and lots of accesses for wpad.dat and proxy.pac. Some PCs were individually making hundreds of requests for these files in a day! Sometimes there were 15 or 20 requests in a minute. Since it is a script it takes some compute power to handle all those requests. So it was time to do one of two things: either learn the root cause and address it, or make a quick fix. The symptoms were clear enough, but I had no idea about the root cause. I also was fascinated by the requests for wpad.dat which I felt was serving no purpose whatsoever in our environment. So I went for the quick fix hopinG that understanding would come later.

To be continued…
As promised – three and a half years later! And we still have this problem. It’s probably worse than ever. I pretty much threw in the towel and learned how to scale up our apache web server to handle more PAC file requests simultaneously, see the references.

References
Scaling apache to handle more requests.

Categories
Admin Perl Web Site Technologies

Turning HP SiteScope into SiteScope Classic with Perl

Intro
HP siteScope is a terrific web application tool and not too expensive for those who have any kind of a budget. The built-in monitor types are a bit limited, but since it allows calls to user-provided scripts your imagination is the only real limitation. For those with too many responsibilities and too little time on their hands it is a real productivity enhancer.

I’ve been using the product for 12 years now – since it was Freshwater SiteScope. I still have misgivings about the interface change introduced some years ago when it was part of Mercury. It went from simple and reliable to Java, complicated and flaky. To this day I have to re-start a SiteScope screen in my browser on a daily basis as the browser cannot recover from a server restart or who knows what other failures.

So I longed for the days of SiteScope Classic. We kept it running for as long as possible, years in fact. But at some point there were no more releases created for the classic view. So I investigated the feasibility of creating my own conversion tool. And…partially succeeded. Succeeded to the point where I can pull up the web page on my Blackberry and get the statuses and history. Think you can do that with regular HP SiteScope? I can’t. Maybe there’s an upgrade for it, but still. It’s nice to have the classic interface when you want to pull up the statuses as quickly as possible, regardless of the Blackberry display issue.

Looking back at my code, I obviously decided to try my hand at OO (object oriented) programming in Perl, with mixed results. Perl’s OO syntax isn’t the best, which addles comprehension. Without further ado, let’s jump into it.

The Details
It relies on something I noticed, that this URL on your HP SiteScope server, http://localhost:8080/SiteScope/services/APIConfigurationImpl?method=getConfigurationSnapshot, contains a tree of relationships of all the monitors. Cool, right? But it’s not a tree like you or I would design. Between parent and child is an intermediate layer. I suppose you need that because a group can contain monitors (my only focus in this exercise), but it can also contain alerts and maybe some other properties as well. So I guess the intermediate layer gives them the flexibility to represent all that, though it certainly added to my complication in parsing it. That’s why you’ll see the concern over “grandkids.” I developed a recursive, web-enabled Perl program to parse through this xml. That gives me the tools to build the nice hierarchical groupings. But it does not give me the statuses.

For the status of each monitor I wrote a separate scraper script that simply reads the entire daily SiteScope log every minute! Crude, but it works. I use it for an installation with hundreds of monitors and a log file that grows to 9 MB by the end of the day so I know it scales to that size. Beyond that it’s untested.

In addition to giving only the relationships, the xml also changes with every invocation. It attaches ID numbers to the monitors which initially you think is a nice unique identifier, but they change from invocation to invocation! So an additional challenge was to match up the names of the monitors in the xml output to the names as recorded in the SiteScope log. Also a bit tricky, but in general doable.

So without further ado, here’s the source code for the xml parser and main program which gets called from the web:

#!/usr/bin/perl
# Copyright work under the Artistic License, http://www.opensource.org/licenses/Artistic-2.0
# build v.simple SiteScope web GUI appropriate for smartphones
# 7/2010
#
# Id is our package which defines th Id class
use Id;
use CGI::Pretty;
my $cgi=new CGI;
$DEBUG = 0;
# GIF location on SiteScope classic
$ssgifs = "/artwork/";
$health{good} = qq(<img src="${ssgifs}okay.gif">);
$health{error} = qq(<img src="${ssgifs}error.gif">);
$health{warning} = qq(<img src="${ssgifs}warning.gif">);
# report CGI
$rprt = "/SS/rprt";
# the frustrating thing is that this xml output changes almost every time you call it
$url = 'http://localhost:8080/SiteScope/services/APIConfigurationImpl?method=getConfigurationSnapshot';
# get current health of all monitors - which is scraped from the log every minute by a hilgarj cron job
$monitorstats = "/tmp/monitorstats.txt";
print "Content-type: text/plain\n\n" if $DEBUG;
open(MONITORSTATS,"$monitorstats") || die "Cannot open monitor stats file $monitorstats!!";
while(<MONITORSTATS>) {
  chomp;
  ($monitor,$status,$value) = /([^\t]+)\t([^\t]+)\t([^\t]+)/;
  $monitors{"$monitor"} = $status;
  $monitorv{"$monitor"} = $value;
}
open(CURL,"curl $url 2>/dev/null|") || die "cannot open $url for reading!!\n";
my %myobjs = ();
# the xml is one long line!
@lines = <CURL>;
#print "xml line: $lines[0]\n" if $DEBUG;
@multiRefs = split "<multiRef",$lines[0];
#parse multiRefs
# create top-level object
my $id = Id->new (
      id => "id0");
# hash of this object with id as key
$myobjs{"id0"} = $id;
 
# first build our objects...
foreach $mref (@multiRefs) {
  next unless $mref =~ /\sid=/;
#  id="id0" ...
  ($parentid) =  $mref =~ /id=\"(id\d+)/;
  print "parentid: $parentid\n" if $DEBUG;
# watch out for <item><key xsi:type="soapenc:string">groupSnapshotChildren</key><value href="#id3 ...
# vs <item><key xsi:type="soapenc:string">Network</key><value href="#id40"/>
  print "mref: $mref\n" if $DEBUG;
  @ids = split /<item><key/, $mref;
# then loop over ids mentioned in this mref
  foreach $myid (@ids) {
    next unless $myid =~ /href="#(id\d+)/;
    next unless $myobjs{"$parentid"};
# types include group, monitor, alert
    ($typebyregex) = $myid =~ />snapshot_(\w+)SnapshotChildren</;
    $parenttype = $myobjs{"$parentid"}->type();
    $type = $typebyregex ? $typebyregex : $parenttype;
    print "type: $type\n" if $DEBUG;
# skip alert definitions
    next if $type eq "alert";
    print "myid: $myid\n" if $DEBUG;
    ($actualid) = $myid =~ /href="#(id\d+)/;
    print "actualid: $actualid\n" if $DEBUG;
# construct object
    my $id = Id->new (
      id => $actualid,
      type => $type,
      parentid => $parentid );
# build hash of these objects with actualid as key
    $myobjs{$actualid} = $id;
# addchild to parent. note that parent should already have been encountered
    $myobjs{"$parentid"}->addchild($actualid);
    if ($myid !~ /groupSnapshotChildren/) {
# interesting child - has name (every other generation has no name!)
      ($name) = $myid =~ /string\">(.+?)<\/key/;  # use non-greedy operator
      print "name: $name\n" if $DEBUG;
# some names are not of interest to us: alerts, which end in "error" or "good"
      if ($name !~ /(error|good)$/) {
# name may not be unique - get extended name which include all parents
        if (defined $myobjs{"$parentid"}->parentid()) {
          $gdparid = $myobjs{"$parentid"}->parentid();
          $gdparname = $myobjs{"$gdparid"}->extname();
# extname -> extended, or distinguished name.  Should be unique
          $extname = $gdparname. '/' . $name;
        } else {
# 1st generation
          print "1st generation\n" if $DEBUG;
          $extname = $name;
        }
        print "extname: $extname\n" if $DEBUG;
        $id->name($name);
        $id->extname($extname);
        $id->isanamedid(1);
        $myobjs{"$parentid"}->hasnamedkids(1); # want to mark its parent as "special"
# we also need our hash to reference objects by extended name since id changes with each extract and name
may not be unique
        $myobjs{"$extname"} = $id;
      } # end conditional over desirable name check
    } else {
      $id->isanamedid(0);
    }
  }
}
#
# now it's all parsed and our objects are alive. Let's build a web site!
#
# build a cookie containing path
my $pi = $ENV{PATH_INFO};
$script = $ENV{SCRIPT_NAME};
$ua = $ENV{HTTP_USER_AGENT};
# Blackberry browser test
$BB = $ua =~ /^BlackBerry/i ? 1 : 0;
$MSIE = $ua =~ /MSIE /;
# font-size depends on browser
$FS = "font-size: x-small;" if $MSIE;
$cookie = $cgi->cookie("pathinfo");
$uri = $script . $pi;
$cookie=$cgi->cookie(-name=>"pathinfo", -value=>"$uri");
print $cgi->header(-type=>"text/html",-cookie=>$cookie);
($url) = $pi =~ m#([^/]+)$#;
#  -title=>'SmartPhone View',
# this doesn't work, sigh...
#print $cgi->start_html(-head=>meta({-http_equiv=>'Refresh'}));
print qq( <HEAD>
<meta http-equiv="Expires" content="0">
<meta http-equiv="Pragma" content="no-cache">
<meta HTTP-EQUIV="Refresh" CONTENT="60; URL=$url">
<TITLE>SiteScope Classic $url Detail</TITLE>
<style type="text/css">
a.good {color: green; }
a.warning {color: green; }
a.error {color: red; }
td {font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; $FS}
p.ss {font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;}
</style>
<link rel="shortcut icon" href="/favicon.ico" type="image/x-icon" />
<script type=text/javascript>
function changeme(elemid,longvalue)
{
document.getElementById(elemid).innerText=longvalue;
}
function restoreme(elemid,truncvalue)
{
document.getElementById(elemid).innerText=truncvalue;
}
</script>
</HEAD><body>
);
 
#print $cgi->h1("This is the heading");
# parse path
# top lvl name:2nd lvl name:3rd lvl name
$altpi = $cgi->path_info();
print $cgi->p("pi is $pi") if $DEBUG;
#print $cgi->p("altpi is $altpi");
# relative url
$rurl = $cgi->url(-relative=>1);
if ($pi eq "") {
# the top
# top id is id3
  print qq(<p class="ss">);
  $myid = "id3";
  foreach $kid ($myobjs{"$myid"}->get_children()) {
    my $kidname = $myobjs{"$kid"}->name();
# kids can be subgroups or standalone monitors
    my $health = recurse("/$kidname");
    print "$health{$health} <a href=\"$rurl/$kidname\">$kidname</a><br>\n";
    $prodtest = $kid if $kidname eq "Production";
  }
  print "</p>\n";
} else {
  $extname = $pi;
  print "pi,name,extname,script: $pi,$name,$extname,$script\n" if $DEBUG;
# print where we are
  $uriname = $pi;
  $uriname =~ s#^/##;
  #print $cgi->p("name is $name");
  #print $cgi->p("uriname is $uriname");
  $uricompositepart = "/";
  @uriparts = split('/',$uriname);
  $lastpart = pop @uriparts;
  print qq(<p class="ss"><a href="$script"><b>Sitescope</b></a><br>);
  print qq(<b>Monitors in: );
  foreach $uripart (@uriparts) {
    my $healthp = recurse("$uricompositepart$uripart");
# build valid link
    ##$link = qq(<a class="good" href="$script$uricompositepart$uripart">$uripart</a>: );
    $link = qq(<a class="$healthp" href="$script$uricompositepart$uripart">$uripart</a>: );
    $uricompositepart .= "$uripart/";
    print $link;
  }
  my $healthp = recurse("$uricompositepart$lastpart");
  $color = $healthp eq "error" ? "red" : "green";
  print qq(<font color="$color">$lastpart</font></b></p>\n);
  print qq(<table border="1" cellspacing="0">);
  #print qq(<table>);
  %hashtrs = ();
  foreach $kid ($myobjs{"$extname"}->get_children()) {
    print "kid id: " . $myobjs{"$kid"}->id() . "\n" if $DEBUG;
    next unless $myobjs{"$kid"}->hasnamedkids();
    foreach $gdkid ($myobjs{"$kid"}->get_children()) {
      print "gdkid id: " . $myobjs{"$gdkid"}->id() . "\n" if $DEBUG;
      $gdkidname = $myobjs{"$gdkid"}->name();
      $gdkidextname = $myobjs{"$gdkid"}->extname();
      my $health = recurse("$gdkidextname");
      my $type = $myobjs{"$gdkid"}->type();
# dig deeper to learn health of the grankid's grandkids
      $objct = $healthct{good} = $healthct{error} = $healthct{warning} = 0;
      foreach $ggkid ($myobjs{"$gdkidextname"}->get_children()) {
        print "ggkid id: " . $myobjs{"$ggkid"}->id() . "\n" if $DEBUG;
        next unless $myobjs{"$ggkid"}->hasnamedkids();
        foreach $gggdkid ($myobjs{"$ggkid"}->get_children()) {
          print "gggdkid id: " . $myobjs{"$gggdkid"}->id() . "\n" if $DEBUG;
          $gggdkidname = $myobjs{"$gggdkid"}->name();
          $gggdkidextname = $myobjs{"$gggdkid"}->extname();
          my $health = recurse("$gggdkidextname");
          $objct++;
          $healthct{$health}++;
        }
      }
      $elemct++;
      $elemid = "elemid" . $elemct;
# groups should have distinctive cell background color to set them apart from monitors
      if ($type eq "group") {
        $bgcolor = "#F0F0F0";
        $celllink = "$lastpart/$gdkidname";
        $truncvalue = qq(<font color="red">$healthct{error}</font>/$objct);
        $tdval = $truncvalue;
      } else {
        $bgcolor = "#FFFFFF";
        $celllink = "$rprt?$gdkidname";
# truncate monitor value to save display space
        $longvalue = $monitorv{"$gdkidname"};
        (my $truncvalue) = $monitorv{"$gdkidname"} =~ /^(.{7,9})/;
        $truncvalue = $truncvalue? $truncvalue : "&nbsp;";
        $tdval = qq(<span id="$elemid" onmouseover="changeme('$elemid','$longvalue')" onmouseout="restorem
e('$elemid','$truncvalue')">$truncvalue</span>);
      }
      $hashtrs{"$gdkidname"} = qq(<tr><td bgcolor="#000000">$health{$health} </td><td>$tdval</td><td bgcol
or="$bgcolor"><a href="$celllink">$gdkidname</a></td></tr>\n);
# for health we're going to have to recurse
    }
  }
# print out in alphabetical order
  foreach $key (sort(keys %hashtrs)) {
    print $hashtrs{"$key"};
  }
  print "</table>";
}
print $cgi->end_html();
#######################################
sub recurse {
# to get the union of health of all ancestors
my $moniext = shift;
my ($moni) = $moniext =~ m#/([^/]+)$#;
# don't bother recursing and all that unless we have to...
return $myobjs{"$moniext"}->health() if defined $myobjs{"$moniext"}->health();
print "moni,moniext: $moni, $moniext\n" if $DEBUG;
my ($kid,$gdkidextname,$health,$cumhealth);
$cumhealth = $health = $monitors{"$moni"} ? $monitors{"$moni"} : "good";
foreach $kid ($myobjs{"$moniext"}->get_children()) {
    if ($myobjs{"$kid"}->hasnamedkids()) {
      foreach $gdkid ($myobjs{"$kid"}->get_children()) {
        $gdkidextname = $myobjs{"$gdkid"}->extname();
# for health we're going to have to recurse
        $health = recurse("$gdkidextname");
        if ($health eq "error" || $cumhealth eq "error") {
          $cumhealth = "error";
        } elsif ($health eq "warning" || $cumhealth eq "warning") {
          $cumhealth = "warning";
        }
      }
    } else {
# this kid is end of line
      $health = $monitors{"$kid"} ? $monitors{"$kid"} : "good";
        if ($health eq "error" || $cumhealth eq "error") {
          $cumhealth = "error";
        } elsif ($health eq "warning" || $cumhealth eq "warning") {
          $cumhealth = "warning";
        }
    }
}
$myobjs{"$moniext"}->health("$cumhealth");
return $cumhealth;
} # end sub recurse

I call it simply “ss” to minimize the typing required. You see it uses a package called Id.pm which I wrote to encapsulate the class and methods. Here is Id.pm:

package Id;
# Copyright work under the Artistic License, http://www.opensource.org/licenses/Artistic-2.0
# class for storing data about an id
# URL (not currently protected): http://localhost:8080/SiteScope/services/APIConfigurationImpl?method=getC
onfigurationSnapshot
# class for storing data about a group
use warnings;
use strict;
use Carp;
#group methods
# constructor
# get_members
# get_name
# get_id
# addmember
#
# member methods
# constructor
# get_id
# get_name
# get_type
# get_gp
# set_gp
 
sub new {
  my $class = shift;
  my $self = {@_};
  bless($self, "Id");
  return $self;
}
# get-set methods, p. 355
sub parentid { $_[0]->{parentid}=$_[1] if defined $_[1]; $_[0]->{parentid} }
sub isanamedid { $_[0]->{isanamedid}=$_[1] if defined $_[1]; $_[0]->{isanamedid} }
sub id { $_[0]->{id}=$_[1] if defined $_[1]; $_[0]->{id} }
sub name { $_[0]->{name}=$_[1] if defined $_[1]; $_[0]->{name} }
sub extname { $_[0]->{extname}=$_[1] if defined $_[1]; $_[0]->{extname} }
sub type { $_[0]->{type}=$_[1] if defined $_[1]; $_[0]->{type} }
sub health { $_[0]->{health}=$_[1] if defined $_[1]; $_[0]->{health} }
sub hasnamedkids { $_[0]->{hasnamedkids}=$_[1] if defined $_[1]; $_[0]->{hasnamedkids} }
 
# get children - use anonymous array, book p. 221-222
sub get_children {
# return empty array if arrary hasn't been defined...
  defined @{$_[0]->{children}} ? @{$_[0]->{children}} : ();
}
# adding children
sub addchild {
  $_[0]->{children} = [] unless defined  $_[0]->{children};
  push @{$_[0]->{children}},$_[1];
}
 
1;

ss also assumes the existence of just a few of the images from SiteScope classic – the green circle for good, red diamond for error and yellow warning, etc.. I borrowed them SiteScope classic.

Here is the code for the log scraper:

#!/usr/bin/perl
# analyze SiteScope log file
# Copyright work under the Artistic License, http://www.opensource.org/licenses/Artistic-2.0
# 8/2010
$DEBUG = 0;
$logdir = "/opt/SiteScope/logs";
$monitorstats = "/tmp/monitorstats.txt";
$monitorstatshis = "/tmp/monitorstats-his.txt";
$date = `date +%Y_%m_%d`;
chomp($date);
$file = "$logdir/SiteScope$date.log";
open(LOG,"$file") || die "Cannot open SiteScope log file: $file!!\n";
# example lines:
# 16:51:07 08/02/2010     good    LDAPServers     LDAP SSL test : ldapsrv.drj.com exit: 0, 0.502 sec    1:
3481  0       502
#16:51:22 08/02/2010     good    Network DNS: (AMEAST) ns2  0.033 sec   2:3459      200     33      ok
#16:51:49 08/02/2010     good    Proxy   proxy.pac script on iwww    0.055 sec   2:12467 200     55   ok
     4288    1280782309      0    0  55      0       0      200  0
#16:52:04 08/02/2010     good    Proxy   Disk Space: earth /logs   66% full, 13862MB free, 41921MB total
 3:3598      66      139862
#16:52:09 08/02/2010     good    DrjExtranet  URL: wwwsecure.drj.com     0.364 sec    1:3604      200
364  ok 26125   1280782328     0    0   358     4       2       200  0
while(<LOG>) {
  ($time,$date,$status,$group,$monitor,$value) = /(\S+)\s(\S+)\t(\S+)\t(\S+)\t([^\t]+)\t([^\t]+)/;
  print '$time,$date,$status,$group,$monitor,$value' . "$time,$date,$status,$group,$monitor,$value\n" if $DEBUG;
  next if $group =~ /__health__/; # don't care about these lines
  $mons{"$monitor"} = 1;
  push @{$mont{"$monitor"}} , $time;
  push @{$mond{"$monitor"}} , $date;
  push @{$monh{"$monitor"}} , $status;
  push @{$monv{"$monitor"}} , $value;
}
# open output at last moment to minimize chances of reading while locked for writing
open(MONITORSTATS,">$monitorstats") || die "Cannot open monitor stats file $monitorstats!!\n";
open(MONITORSTATSHIS,">$monitorstatshis") || die "Cannot open monitor stats file $monitorstatshis!!\n";
# write it all out - will always print the latest values
foreach $monitor (keys %mons) {
# dereference our anonymous arrays
  @times = @{$mont{"$monitor"}};
  @dates = @{$mond{"$monitor"}};
  @status = @{$monh{"$monitor"}};
  @value = @{$monv{"$monitor"}};
# last element is the latest measured status and value
  print MONITORSTATS "$monitor\t$status[-1]\t$value[-1]\n";
  print MONITORSTATSHIS "$monitor\n";
  #for ($i=-11;$i<0;$i++) {
# put latest measure on top
  for ($i=-1;$i>-13;$i--) {
    $time = defined $times[$i] ? $times[$i] : "NA";
    $date = defined $dates[$i] ? $dates[$i] : "NA";
    $stat = defined $status[$i] ? $status[$i] : "NA";
    $val = defined $value[$i] ? $value[$i] : "NA";
    print MONITORSTATSHIS "\t$time\t$date\t$stat\t$val\n";
  }
}

As I said it gets called every minute by cron.

That’s it! I enter the url sitescope.drj.com/SS/ss to access the main program which gets executed because I made /SS a CGI-BIN directory.

This gives you a read-only, Java-free view into your SiteScope status and hierarchy which beckons back to the good old days of Freshwater SiteScope.

Know your limits
What it does not do, unfortunately, is allow you to run a monitor – that seems like the next most simple thing which I should have been able to do but couldn’t figure out – much less define new monitors (never going to happen) or alerts.

I use this successfully against my HP SiteScope instance of roughly 400 monitors which itself is on a VM and there is no apparent strain. At some point this simple-minded script would no longer scale to suit the task at hand, but it might be good for up to a few thousand monitors.

And now a word about open source alternatives
Since I was so enamored with SiteScope Classic there seemed to be no compelling reason to shell out the dough for HP SiteScope with its unwanted interface, so I briefly looked around at free alternatives. Free sounds good, right? Not so much in practice. Out there in Cyberspace there is an enthusiast for a product called Zabbix. I just want to go on the record that Zabbix is the most confused piece of junk I have run across. You are getting less than what you paid for ($0) because you will be wasting a lot of time with it, and in the end it isn’t all that capable. Nagios also had its limits – I can’t remember the exact reason I didn’t go down that route, but there were definite reasons.

HP SiteScope is no panacea. “HP” and “stifling bureaucracy” need to be mentioned in the same sentence. Every time we renew support it is the most confusing mess of line items. Every time there’s a new cast of characters over at HP who nothing about the account’s history. You practically have to beg them to accept your money for a low-budget item like SiteScope because they really don’t pursue it in any way. Then their SAID and contract numbers stuff is confusing if you only see it once every few years.

Conclusion
A conversion program does exist for turning the finicky HP SiteScope Java-encumbered view into pure SiteScope Classic because I wrote it! But it’s a limited read-only view. Still, it’s helpful in a pinch and can even be viewed on the Blackberry’s browser.

Another problem is that HP has threatened to completely change the API so this tool, which is designed for HP SiteScope v 10.12, will probably completely break for newer versions. Oh, well.

References
This post shows some silly mistakes to avoid when doing a minor upgrade in version 11.

Categories
Apache Linux Web Site Technologies

Turning Apache into a Redirect Factory

Intro
I’m getting a little more used to Apache. It’s a strange web server with all sorts of bolt-on pieces. The official documentation is horrible so you really need sites like this to explain how to actually do useful things. You needs real, working examples. In this example I’m going to show how to use the mod_rewrite engine of Apache to build a powerful and convenient web server whose sole purpose in life is for all types of redirects. I call it a redirect factory.

Which Redirects Will it Handle
The redirects will be read in from a file with an easy, editable format. So we never have to touch our running web server. We’ll build in support for the types of redirect requests that I have actually encountered. We don’t care what kind of crazy stuff Apache might permit. You’ll pull your hair out trying to understand it all. All redirects I have ever encountered fall into a relatively small handful of use cases. Ordered by most to least common:

  1. host -> new_url
  2. host/uri[Suffix] -> new_fixed_url (this can be a case-sensitive or case-insensitive match to the uri)
  3. host/uri[Suffix] -> new_prefix_uri[Suffix] (also either case-sensitive or not)

So some examples (not the best examples because I don’t manage drj.com or drj.net, but pretend I did):

  1. drj.com/WHATEVER -> http://drjohnstechtalk.com/
  2. www.drj.com -> http://drjohnstechtalk.com/
  3. drj.com/abcPATH/Preserve -> http://drjohnstechtalk.com/abcPATH/Preserve
  4. drj.com/defPATH/Preserve -> http://drjohnstechtalk.com/ghiPATH/Preserve
  5. drj.com/path/with/slash -> http://drjohnstechtalk.com/other/path
  6. drj.com/path/with/prefix -> http://drjohnstechtalk.com/other/path
  7. drj.net/pAtH/whatever -> https://drjohnstechtalk.com/straightpath
  8. drj.net/2pAtH/stuff?hi=there http://drjohnstechtalk.com/2straightpath/stuff?hi=there
  9. my.host -> http://regular-redirect.com/
  10. whatever-host.whatever-domain/whatever-URI -> http://whatever-new-host.whatever-new-domain/whatever-new-URI

All these different cases can be handled with one config file. I’ve named it redirs.txt. It looks like this:

# redirs file
# The default target has to be listed first
defaultTarget   D       http://www.drjohnstechtalk.com/blog/
# hosts with URI-matching grouped together
# available flags: "P" - preserve part after match
#                  "C" - exact case match of URI
 
# Begin host: drj.com:www.drj.com - ":"-separated list of applicable hostnames
/                       http://drjohnstechtalk.com/
/abc    P       http://drjohnstechtalk.com/abc
/def    P       http://drjohnstechtalk.com/ghi
/path/with/slash https://drjohnstechtalk.com/other/path
/path/with/prefix P  https://drjohnstechtalk.com/other/path
# end host drj.com:www.drj.com
 
# this syntax - host/URI - is also OK...
drj.net/ter             http://drjohnstechtalk.com/terminalredirect
drj.net/pAtH    C       http://drjohnstechtalk.com/straightpath
drj.net/2pAtH   CP      http://drjohnstechtalk.com/2straightpath
 
# hosts with only host-name matching
my.host                 http://regular-redirect.com/
www.drj.edu             http://education-redirect.edu/edu-path

The Apache configuration file piece is this:

# I really don't think this does anything other than chase away a scary warning in the error log...
RewriteLock ${APACHE_LOCK_DIR}/rewrite_lock
<VirtualHost *:90>
# Inspired by the dreadful documentation on http://httpd.apache.org/docs/2.0/mod/mod_rewrite.html
RewriteEngine on
RewriteMap  redirectMap prg:conf/vhosts/redirect.pl
#RewriteCond ${lowercase:%{HTTP_HOST}} ^(.+)$
RewriteCond ${redirectMap:%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI}} ^(.+)$
# %N are backreferences to RewriteCond matches, and $N are backreferences to RewriteRule matches
RewriteRule ^/.* %1 [R=301,L]
</VirtualHost>

Remember I split up apache configuration into smaller files. So that’s why you don’t see the lines about logging and what port to listen on, etc. And the APACHE_LOCK_DIR is an environment variable I set up elsewhere. This file is called redirect.conf and is in my conf/vhosts directory.

In my main httpd.conf file I extended the logging to prefix the lines in the access log with the host name (since this redirect server handles many host names this is the only way to get an idea of which hosts are popular):

...
    LogFormat "%{Host}i %h %l %u %t \"%r\" %>s %b \"%{Referer}i\" \"%{User-Agent}i\"" combined
...

So a typical log line looks something like the following:

drj.com 201.212.205.11 - - [10/Feb/2012:09:09:07 -0500] "GET /abc HTTP/1.1" 301 238 "http://www.google.com.br/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=drjsearch" "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 8.0; Windows NT 5.1; Trident/4.0; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; .NET CLR 3.0.4506.2152; .NET CLR 3.5.30729; .NET4.0C; .NET4.0E)"

I had to re-compile apache because originally my version did not have mod_rewrite compiled in. My description of compiling Apache with this module is here.

The directives themselves I figured out based on the lousy documentation at their official site: http://httpd.apache.org/docs/2.0/mod/mod_rewrite.html. The heavy lifting is done in the Perl script because there you have some freedom (yeah!) and are not constrained to understand all their silly flags. One trick that does not seem documented is that you can send the full URL to your mapping program. Note the %{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} after the “:”.

I tried to keep redirect.pl brief and simple. Considering the many different cases it isn’t too bad. It weighs in at 70 lines. Here it is:

#!/usr/bin/perl
# Copyright work under the Artistic License, http://www.opensource.org/licenses/Artistic-2.0
# input is $HTTP_HOST$REQUEST_URI
$redirs = "redirs.txt";
# here I only want the actual script name
$working_directory = $script_name = $0;
$script_name =~ s/.*\///g;
$working_directory =~ s/\/$script_name$//g;
$finalType = "";
$DEBUG = 0;
$|=1;
while (<STDIN>) {
  chomp;
  ($host,$uri) = /^([^\/]+)\/(.*)/;
  $host = lc $host;
# use generic redirect file
  open(REDIRS,"$working_directory/$redirs") || die "Cannot open redirs file $redirs!!\n";
  $lenmatchmax = -1;
  while(<REDIRS>) {
# look for alternate names section
    if (/#\s*Begin host\s*:\s*(\S+)/i) {
      @hostnames = split /:/,$1;
      $pathsection = 1;
    } elsif (/#\s*End host/i) {
      $pathsection = 0;
    }
    @hostnames = () unless $pathsection;
    next if /^#/ || /^\s*$/; # ignore comments and blank lines
    chomp;
    $type = "";
# take out trailing spaces after the target URL
    s/\s+$//;
    if (/^(\S+)\s+(\S{1,2})\s+(\S+)$/) {
      ($redirsURL,$type,$targetURL) = ($1,$2,$3);
    } else {
       ($redirsURL,$targetURL) = /^(\S+)\s+(\S+)$/;
    }
# set default target if specified. It has to come at beginning of file
    $finalURL = $targetURL if $type =~ /D/;
    $redirsHost = $redirsURI = $redirsURIesc = "";
    ($redirsHost,$redirsURI) = $redirsURL =~ /^([^\/]*)\/?(.*)/;
    $redirsURIesc = $redirsURI;
    $redirsURIesc =~ s/([\/\?\.])/\\$1/g;
    print "redirsHost,redirsURI,redirsURIesc,targetURL,type: $redirsHost,$redirsURI,$redirsURIesc,$targetURL,$type\n" if $DEBUG;
    push @hostnames,$redirsHost unless $pathsection;
    foreach $redirsHost (@hostnames) {
    if ($host eq $redirsHost) {
# assume case-insensitive match by default.  Use type of 'C' to demand exact case match
# also note this matches even if uri and redirsURI are both empty
      if ($uri =~ /^$redirsURIesc/ || ($type !~ /C/ && $uri =~ /^$redirsURIesc/i)) {
# find longest match
        $lenmatch = length($redirsURI);
        if ($lenmatch > $lenmatchmax) {
          $finalURL = $targetURL;
          $finalType = $type;
          $lenmatchmax = $lenmatch;
          if ($type =~ /P/) {
# prefix redirect
            if ($uri =~ /^$redirsURIesc(.+)/ || ($type !~ /C/ && $uri =~ /^$redirsURIesc(.+)/i)) {
              $finalURL .= $1;
             }
          }
        }
      }
    } # end condition over input host matching host from redirs file
    } # end loop over hostnames list
  } # end loop over lines in redirs file
  close(REDIRS);
# non-prefix re-direct. This is bizarre, but you have to end URI with "?" to kill off the query string, unless the target already contains a "?", in which case you must NOT add it! Gotta love Apache...
  $finalURL .= '?' unless $finalType =~ /P/ || $finalURL =~ /\?/;
  print "$finalURL\n";
} # end loop over STDIN

The nice thing here is that there are a couple of ways to test it, which gives you a sort of cross-check capability. Of course I made lots of mistakes in programming it, but I worked through all the cases until they were all right, using rapid testing.

For instance, let’s see what happens for www.drj.com. We run this test from the development server as follows:

> curl -i -H ‘Host: www.drj.com’ ‘localhost:90’

HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently
Date: Thu, 09 Feb 2012 15:24:25 GMT
Server: Apache/2
Location: http://drjohnstechtalk.com/
Content-Length: 235
Content-Type: text/html; charset=iso-8859-1
 
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//IETF//DTD HTML 2.0//EN">
<html><head>
<title>301 Moved Permanently</title>
</head><body>
<h1>Moved Permanently</h1>
<p>The document has moved <a href="http://drjohnstechtalk.com/">here</a>.</p></body></html>

And from the command line I test redirect.pl as follows:

> echo “www.drj.com/”|./redirect.pl

http://drjohnstechtalk.com/?

That terminal “?” is unfortunate, but apparently you need it to kill off any possible query_string.

You want some more? OK. How about matching a host and the initial path in a case-insensitive manner? No problem, we’re up to the challenge:

> curl -i -H ‘Host: DRJ.COM’ ‘localhost:90/PATH/WITH/SLASH/stuff?hi=there’

HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently
Date: Thu, 09 Feb 2012 15:38:12 GMT
Server: Apache/2
Location: https://drjohnstechtalk.com/other/path
Content-Length: 246
Content-Type: text/html; charset=iso-8859-1
 
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//IETF//DTD HTML 2.0//EN">
<html><head>
<title>301 Moved Permanently</title>
</head><body>
<h1>Moved Permanently</h1>
<p>The document has moved <a href="https://drjohnstechtalk.com/other/path">here</a>.</p></body></html>

Refer back to the redirs file and you see this is the desired behaviour.

We could go on with an example for each case, but we’ll conclude with one last one:

> curl -i -H ‘Host: DRJ.NET’ ‘localhost:90/2pAtHstuff?hi=there’

HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently
Date: Thu, 09 Feb 2012 15:44:37 GMT
Server: Apache/2
Location: http://drjohnstechtalk.com/2straightpathstuff?hi=there
Content-Length: 262
Content-Type: text/html; charset=iso-8859-1
 
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//IETF//DTD HTML 2.0//EN">
<html><head>
<title>301 Moved Permanently</title>
</head><body>
<h1>Moved Permanently</h1>
<p>The document has moved <a href="http://drjohnstechtalk.com/2straightpathstuff?hi=there">here</a>.</p>
</body></html>

A case-sensitive, preserve match. Change “pAtH” to “path” and there is no matching line in redirs.txt so you will get the default URL.

Creating exceptions

Eventually I wanted to have an exception – a URI which should be served with a 200 status rather than redirected. How to handle?

# Inspired by the dreadful documentation on http://httpd.apache.org/docs/2.0/mod/mod_rewrite.html
        RewriteEngine on
# just this one page should NOT be redirected
        Rewriterule ^/dontredirectThisPage.php - [L]
        RewriteMap  redirectMap prg:redirect.pl
        ... etc ...

The above apache configuration snippet shows that I had to put the page which shouldn’t be redirected at the top of the ruleset and set the target to “-“, which turns off redirection for that match, and make this the last executed Rewrite rule. I think this is better than a negated match (!) which always gets complicated.

Conclusion
A powerful redirect factory was constructed from Apache and Perl. We suffered quite a bit during development because of incomprehensible documentation. But hopefully we’ve saved someone else this travail.

References and related
This post describes how to massage Apache so that it always returns a maintenance page no matter what URI was originally requested.
I have since learned that another term used in the industry for rediect server is persistent URL (PURL). It’s explained in Wikipedia by this article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persistent_uniform_resource_locator

Categories
Admin IT Operational Excellence Linux Proxy Web Site Technologies

The IT Detective Agency: intermittent web page not found error

Intro
One of the high arts of IT is system integration, and an important off-shoot of this is acquisitions. We are involved in integrating a new location, which, unfortunately, we do not yet have full access to. The local networking is still provided by their vendor, not ours and this makes troubleshooting all the more difficult.

The Details
So the word begins to spread that users at this site are having intermittent problems accessing some of our secure web sites. As it was described to me, they can load the page in their browser for, say five straight times, get a simple Internet Explorer cannot display the web page error, and the sixth time (or whenever) it will load properly. All other connectivity was working. No one else at other locations was having this problem with this web site. More than strange, right?

In drjohn’s perfect IT world, problem reproducibility is critical to resolution, but we simply didn’t have it this time. I also could not produce the problem myself, which means relying on other people.

I’m not sure if we tried to contact their vendor or not at first. But if we had I’m sure they would have denied having anything to do with it.

So we got one of our confederates, Tim, over to this location and we hooked him up with Wireshark so he could get take a packet trace when the failure occurs. It wasn’t long before Tim reproduced the error and emailed us the packet capture.

In the following the PC has IP address 10.200.23.34, the web server is at 10.4.5.6. The Linux command used to look at the capture file is:

# tcpdump -A -r bodega-error.cap port 443 > /tmp/dump

1 15:54:27.495952 IP 10.200.23.34 > 10.4.5.6.https: S 2803722614:2803722614(0) win 64240 <mss 1460,nop,wscale 0,nop,nop,sackOK>
2 15:54:27.496309 IP 10.4.5.6.https > 10.200.23.34: S 3201081612:3201081612(0) ack 2803722615 win 5840 <mss 1432,nop,nop,sackOK>
3 15:54:27.496343 IP 10.200.23.34 > 10.4.5.6.https: . ack 1 win 64240
4 15:54:27.497270 IP 10.200.23.34 > 10.4.5.6.https: P 1:82(81) ack 1 win 64240
5 15:54:27.497552 IP 10.4.5.6.https > 10.200.23.34: . ack 82 win 5840
6 15:54:30.743827 IP 10.4.5.6.https > 10.200.23.34: P 1:286(285) ack 82 win 5840
..S.......^M..i.P.......HTTP/1.0 200 OK^M
Cache-Control: no-store^M
Pragma: no-cache^M
Cache-Control: no-cache^M
X-Bypass-Cache: Application and Content Networking System Software 5.5.17^M
Connection: Close^M
^M
<HTML><HEAD><META HTTP-EQUIV="REFRESH" CONTENT="0;URL=https://10.4.5.6/"></HEAD><BODY>
</BODY></HTML>
 
7 15:54:30.744036 IP 10.200.23.34 > 10.4.5.6.https: F 82:82(0) ack 286 win 63955
8 15:54:30.744052 IP 10.4.5.6.https > 10.200.23.34: F 286:286(0) ack 82 win 5840
9 15:54:30.744077 IP 10.200.23.34 > 10.4.5.6.https: . ack 287 win 63955
10 15:54:30.744289 IP 10.4.5.6.https > 10.200.23.34: . ack 83 win 5840

The output was scrubbed a bit of meaningless junk characters and I added serial packets numbers in the beginning by hand because I don’t (yet) know how to do that with tcpdump!

What, It’s Encrypted – what can you even learn from a trace?
Yeah, an SSL stream sure adds to the already steep challenges we faced in this problem. There just isn’t much to work with. But it is something. I’m about to say what I noticed in this packet trace, but for it to be meaningful you need to know like I did that the web server is situated almost four thousand miles from the user’s location.

The first packet is a SYN from the PC to web server on TCP port 443. So far so good. In fact packets one – three constitute the three-way handshake in TCP.

Although SSL is encrypted, the beginning of the protocol communication should show the SSL cipher being chosen. Unfortunately, tcpdump doesn’t seem to have the smarts to show any of this. So I got myself ssldump. On Ubuntu:

# sudo apt-get install ssldump

did the trick. Then run this same capture file through ssldump, which has very similar arguments to tcpdump:

# ssldump -r bodega-error.cap port 443

New TCP connection #1: 10.200.23.34(2027) <-> 10.4.5.6(443)
1 1  0.0013 (0.0013)  C>S SSLv2 compatible client hello
  Version 3.1
  cipher suites
  TLS_RSA_WITH_RC4_128_MD5
  TLS_RSA_WITH_RC4_128_SHA
  TLS_RSA_WITH_3DES_EDE_CBC_SHA
  SSL2_CK_RC4
  SSL2_CK_3DES
  SSL2_CK_RC2
  TLS_RSA_WITH_DES_CBC_SHA
  SSL2_CK_DES
  TLS_RSA_EXPORT1024_WITH_RC4_56_SHA
  TLS_RSA_EXPORT1024_WITH_DES_CBC_SHA
  TLS_RSA_EXPORT_WITH_RC4_40_MD5
  TLS_RSA_EXPORT_WITH_RC2_CBC_40_MD5
  SSL2_CK_RC4_EXPORT40
  SSL2_CK_RC2_EXPORT40
  TLS_DHE_DSS_WITH_3DES_EDE_CBC_SHA
  TLS_DHE_DSS_WITH_DES_CBC_SHA
  TLS_DHE_DSS_EXPORT1024_WITH_DES_CBC_SHA
  Unknown value 0xff
Unknown SSL content type 72
1    3.2480 (3.2467)  C>S  TCP FIN
1 2  3.2481 (0.0000)  S>CShort record
1    3.2481 (0.0000)  S>C  TCP FIN

The way to interpret this is that 0.0013 s into the TCP port 443 communication the cipher suites listed above were sent by the PC to the server. This corresponds to our packet number 4 in the trace file.

Using Wireshark to look at the trace is a lot more convenient – it provides packet numbers, timing, decodes packets and displays the SSL ciphers. But I wanted to show that it _could_ be done with text-based tools.

Look at the timings more closely. In the tcpdump output, packet 2, the SYN ACK, comes 1 ms after the SYN. But given the distances involved between PC and server, the SYN ACK should have come more like 100 ms later, at least. Similarly packet 5, which is an ACK, comes less than 1 ms after packet 4. A 1 ms ACK? Physically impossible.

I have seen this behaviour before – on our own load balance – which I know employs some TCP optimization tricks. So I concluded that they must have physically present at this site some kind of appliance which is doing TCP optimization. It can only provide blank ACKs in its rapid-fire responses since it can’t know what data the server is really going to respond with. That might all be OK. But I’m pretty sure the problem lies between packets 5 and 6. 5 is one of those meaningless rapid-fire empty ACKs generated by the local router. But the PC has just sent a wish list of SSL ciphers in packet 4. It needs to be responded to by the server which has to finish setting up the SSL session.

But that critical packet from the server never arrives. Perhaps even some of the SSL handshake is secretly completed between the local router and the server. Who knows? I have heard of man-in-the-middle devices that decrypt SSL sessions. And packet 6 contains fairly inappropriate content. It almost does look like it has been manufactured by a man-in-the-middle device. Its telling the browser to do a redirect to the same site, except specified by IP address rather than FQDN. And that doesn’t make a lot of sense. The browser likely realizes that this amounts to a looping redirect request so at that point it probably decides to cut its losses and FIN the connection in packet 7.

I traced my own PC hitting this same web server. Now I know we don’t have any of these optimizing devices between me and the web server. I don’t have time to show the results here, but to summarize, it looks rather completely different from the trace above. The ACK packets come back in about 100 ms or so. There is no delay of three seconds. The cipher proposals are responded to in a timely fashion. There is no redirect.

Their Side of the Story
We did get to hear back from the vendor who supports the LAN/WAN. They said they were running WCCP and diverting traffic to a proxy server. This was the correct behaviour before we hooked our infrastructure to this site, but is no longer. They realized this was probably a bad thing and took corrective action to turn off WCCP for destinations in the internal network 10.0.0.0/8.

Conclusion
Shutting off WCCP, which diverted web site requests to an old proxy server, fixed the problem.

Case closed.

Unsolved Mysteries
I wish we could tie all the loose ends neatly up, but there are too many players involved. We’ll never really know why the problem was intermittent, for instance. Or why some secure web sites could be accessed without any issue whatsoever throughout this ordeal.

WCCP, Web cache Communication Protocol, is a Cisco-developed routing protocol to transparently intercept traffic destined for web servers. More information can be found on it in wikipedia.

It bothers me that after the SSL session was initiated the dump showed the source, unencrypted, of the HTML redirect packet. Why wasn’t that encrypted? Perhaps the WCCP-invoked proxy server was desperately trying to help the PC recover from an unrecoverable situation and manufactured that HTTP-EQUIV REFRESH… to try to force the PC to choose a web site that might work. The fact that it was sent unencrypted over a channel that should have been encrypted was probably even the death bell that triggered the browser to think this makes no sense at all and is even a violation of security, I’m getting out of here.

Categories
Admin Apache IT Operational Excellence Linux Security Web Site Technologies

Apache Tips in Light of Security Problems

Intro
I am far from an expert in Apache. But I have a good knowledge of general best practices which I apply when running Apache web server. None of my tips are particularly insightful – they all can be found elsewhere, but this will be a single place to help find them all together.

To Compile or Not
As of this writing the current version is 2.2.21. The version supplied with the current version of SLES, SLES 11, is 2.2.10. To find the version run httpd -v

I think that’s fairly typical for them to be so many version behind. I recommend compiling your own version. But pay attention to security advisories and check every quarter to see what the latest release is. You’ll have to keep up with it on your own or you’ll actually be in worse shape than if you used the vendor version and applied patches regularly.

What You’ll Need to Know for the Range DOS Vulnerability
When you get the source you might try a simple ./configure, followed by a make and finally make install. And it would all seem to work. You can fetch the home page with a curl localhost. Then you remember about that recent Range header denial of service vulnerability described here. If you test for whether you support the Range header you’ll see that you do. I like to test for this as follows:

$ curl -H "Range: bytes=1-2" localhost

If before you saw something like

<html><body><h1>It works!</h1>

now it becomes

ht

i.e., it grabbed bytes one and two from <html>…

Now there are options and opinions about what to do about this. I think turning off Range header support is the best option. But if you try that you will fail. Why? Because you did not compile in the mod_headers module. To turn off Range headers add these lines to the global part of your configuration:

RequestHeader unset Range
RequestHeader unset Request-Range

To see what modules you have available in your apache binary you do

/usr/local/apache2/bin/httpd -l

which should look like the following if you have taken all the defaults:

Compiled in modules:
  core.c
  mod_authn_file.c
  mod_authn_default.c
  mod_authz_host.c
  mod_authz_groupfile.c
  mod_authz_user.c
  mod_authz_default.c
  mod_auth_basic.c
  mod_include.c
  mod_filter.c
  mod_log_config.c
  mod_env.c
  mod_setenvif.c
  mod_version.c
  prefork.c
  http_core.c
  mod_mime.c
  mod_status.c
  mod_autoindex.c
  mod_asis.c
  mod_cgi.c
  mod_negotiation.c
  mod_dir.c
  mod_actions.c
  mod_userdir.c
  mod_alias.c
  mod_so.c

Notice there is no mod_headers.c which means there is no mod_headers module. And in fact when you restart your apache web server you are likely to see this error:

Syntax error on line 360 of /usr/local/apache2/conf/httpd.conf:
Invalid command 'RequestHeader', perhaps misspelled or defined by a module not included in the server configuration

So you need to compile in mod_headers. Begin by cleaning your slate by running make clean in your source directory; then run configure as follows:

./configure –enable-headers –enable-rewrite

I’ve thrown in the –enable-rewrite qualifier because I like to be able to use mod_rewrite. It is not actually used for the security problems being discussed in this article.

Side note for those using the system-provided apache2 package on SLES
As an alternative to compiling yourself, you may be using an apache package. I have only tested this for SLES (so it would probably be the same for openSUSE). There you can edit the /etc/sysconfig/apache2 file and add additional modules to load. In particular the line

APACHE_MODULES="actions alias auth_basic authn_file authz_host authz_groupfile authz_default authz_user authn_dbm autoindex
 cgi dir env expires include log_config mime negotiation setenvif ssl suexec userdir php5 reqtimeout"

can be changed to

APACHE_MODULES="actions alias auth_basic authn_file authz_host authz_groupfile authz_default authz_user authn_dbm autoindex
 cgi dir env expires include log_config mime negotiation setenvif ssl suexec userdir php5 reqtimeout headers"

Back to compiling. Note that ./configure -help gives you some idea of all the options available, but it doesn’t exactly link the options to the precise module names, though it gives you a good idea via the description.

Then run make followed by make install as before. You should be good to go!

A Built-in Contradiction
You may have successfully suppressed use of range-headers, but on my web server, I noticed a contradictory HTTP Response header was still being issued after all that:

Accept-Ranges:

I use a simple

curl -i localhost

to look at the HTTP Response headers. The contradiction is that your server is not accepting ranges while it’s sending out the message that it is!

So turn that off to be consistent. This is what I did.

# need the following line to not send Accept-Ranges header
Header unset Accept-Ranges
#

Don’t Give Away the Keys
Don’t reveal too much about your server version such as OS and patch level of your web server. I suppose it is OK to reveal your web server type and its major version. Here is what I did:

# don't reveal too much about the server version - just web server and major version
# see http://www.ducea.com/2006/06/15/apache-tips-tricks-hide-apache-software-version/
ServerTokens Major

After all these changes curl -i localhost output looks as follows:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Fri, 04 Nov 2011 20:39:02 GMT
Server: Apache/2
Last-Modified: Fri, 14 Oct 2011 15:37:41 GMT
ETag: "12005-a-4af4409a09b40"
Content-Length: 10
Content-Type: text/html

See? I’ve gotten rid of the Accept-Ranges and provide only sketchy information about the server.

I put these security-related measures into a single file I include from the global configuration file httpd.conf into a file I call security.conf. To put it all toegther, at this point my security.conf looks like this:

# 11/2011
# prevent DOS attack.  
# See http://mail-archives.apache.org/mod_mbox/httpd-announce/201108.mbox/%3C20110824161640.122D387DD@minotaur.apache.org%3E - JH 8/31/11
# a good explanation of how to test it: 
# http://devcentral.f5.com/weblogs/macvittie/archive/2011/08/26/f5-friday-zero-day-apache-exploit-zero-problem.aspx
# looks like we do have this vulnerability, 
# trying curl -i -H 'Range:bytes=1-5' http://bsm2.com/index.html
# note that I had to compile with ./configure --enable-headers to be able to use these directives
RequestHeader unset Range
RequestHeader unset Request-Range
#
# need the following line to not send Accept-Ranges header
Header unset Accept-Ranges
#
# don't reveal too much about the server version - just web server and major version
# see http://www.ducea.com/2006/06/15/apache-tips-tricks-hide-apache-software-version/
ServerTokens Major

SSL (added December, 2014)
Search engines are encouraging web site operators to switch to using SSL for the obvious added security. If you’re going to use SSL you’ll also need to do that responsibly or you could get a false sense of security. I document it in my post on working with cipher settings.

Disable folder browsing/directory listing
I recently got caught out on this rookie mistake: Web Directories listing vulnerability. The solution is simple. In side your main HTDOCS section of configuration you may have a line that looks like:

Options Indexes FollowSymLinks ExecCGI

Get rid of that Indexes – that’s what permits folder browsing, So this is better:

Options FollowSymLinks ExecCGI

Turn off php version listing, December 2016 update
Oops. I read about how the 47% of the top million web sites have security issues. One bases for the judgment is to see what version of PHP is running based on the headers. So i checked my https server, and, oops:

$ curl ‐s ‐i ‐k https://drjohnstechtalk.com/blog/|head ‐22

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Fri, 16 Dec 2016 20:00:09 GMT
Server: Apache/2
Strict-Transport-Security: max-age=15811200; includeSubDomains; preload
Vary: Cookie,Accept-Encoding
X-Powered-By: PHP/5.4.43
X-Pingback: https://drjohnstechtalk.com/blog/xmlrpc.php
Last-Modified: Fri, 16 Dec 2016 20:00:10 GMT
Transfer-Encoding: chunked
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8
 
<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="en-US">
<head>
...

So there is was, hanging out for all to see, PHP version 5.4.43. I’d rather not publicly admit that. So I turned it off by adding the following to my php.ini file and re-starting apache:

expose_php = off

After this my HTTP response headers show only this:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Fri, 16 Dec 2016 20:00:55 GMT
Server: Apache/2
Strict-Transport-Security: max-age=15811200; includeSubDomains; preload
Vary: Cookie,Accept-Encoding
X-Pingback: https://drjohnstechtalk.com/blog/xmlrpc.php
Last-Modified: Fri, 16 Dec 2016 20:00:57 GMT
Transfer-Encoding: chunked
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8

I must have overlooked this when I compiled my own apache v 2.4 and used it to run my principal web server over https.

June 2017 update
PCI compliance will ding you for lack of an X-Frame-Options header. So for a simple web site like mine I can always safely send one out by adding this to my apache.conf file (or whichever apache conf file you deem most appropriate. I have a special security file in conf.d where I actually put it):

# don't permit framing from other sources, DrJ 6/16/17
# https://www.simonholywell.com/post/2013/04/three-things-i-set-on-new-servers/
Header always append X-Frame-Options SAMEORIGIN

PCI compliance will also ding you if TRACE method is enabled. In that security file of my configuration I disable it thusly:

TraceEnable Off

Test both those things in one fell swoop
$ curl ‐X TRACE ‐i ‐k https://drjohnstechtalk.com/

HTTP/1.1 405 Method Not Allowed
Date: Fri, 16 Jun 2017 18:20:24 GMT
Server: Apache/2
X-Frame-Options: SAMEORIGIN
Strict-Transport-Security: max-age=15811200; includeSubDomains; preload
Allow:
Content-Length: 295
Content-Type: text/html; charset=iso-8859-1
 
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//IETF//DTD HTML 2.0//EN">
<html><head>
<title>405 Method Not Allowed</title>
</head><body>
<h1>Method Not Allowed</h1>
<p>The requested method TRACE is not allowed for the URL /.</p>
<hr>
<address>Apache/2 Server at drjohnstechtalk.com Port 443</address>
</body></html>

See? X-Frame-Options header now comes out with desired value. TRACE method was disallowed. All good.

Conclusion
Make sure you are taking some precautions against known security problems in Apache2. For information on running multiple web server instances under SLES see my next post Running Multiple Web Server Instances under SLES.

References and related
Remember, for handling the apache SSL hardening go here.
Compiling apache 2.4
drjohnstechtalk is now an HTTPS site!
TRACE method sounds useful for debugging, but I guess there are exploits so it needs to be disabled. Wikipedia documents it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypertext_Transfer_Protocol#Request_methods. Don’t forget that curl -v also shows you your request headers!

Categories
Admin IT Operational Excellence Web Site Technologies

Virtual Server not Working in F5 BigIP

OK. This posting is only directly applicable to the small number of people who run BigIP load balancers. And of that set, only a certaIn subset will likely ever have this situation. Nevertheless, it’s useful to document it. There are lessons in it for the rest of us, it shows the creative problem-solving process used in IT, or rather the creative process that should be used.

So I had a virtual server associated with a certain pool and it was operating fine for years. Then something changes. We want to associate a new name with this virtual server, but test it first, all while keeping the old name working. Well, this is a secured site by which I mean it is running https rather than http. There’s nothing intrinsic in the web site itself that ties it to a particular name. If this were a run-of-the-mill non-secure site you would solve this problem with DNS. Set up an alias and you’re good to go. But secured sites are a wee bit trickier. They present a certificate after all. And the certificate has just one name, at least ours does. Guess I can address multi-name certificates known as Subject Alternative Name CERTs in a separate post. And that name is the original DNS name. What to do? Simple. As any BigIP admin would tell you you create a new virtual server and associate it with a new IP and a new SSL profile containing the new certificate you just bought but the old pool. In DNS assign this new IP to your new DNS name. That’s all pretty straightforward

Having done all that, I blithely tested with lynx (iI’s an old curses-based browser which runs on old Unix systems. The main point is to not test with a complex browser where like Internet Explorer where you are never 100% sure if the problem lies with the browser. If I had it, I would test with curl, but it’s not on that system.). And…it hangs.

Now I’ll admit a lot of stupid things I did (which is typical of any good debugging session of an IT professional – some self-created red herrings accompany any decent sleuthing) and I ratchet up the debugging a notch. Check the web server logs. I see no log of my lynx accesses. Dig a little deeper still. Fire up a trace. Here’s a little time-saver. BigIP does have a tcpdump program, but it is a little stunted. Typically you have multiple interfaces on a BigIP. In this case I felt it pertinent to know if packets were getting to the BigIP from lynx, and then again, if those packets were leaving the BigIP and going to the web server. So the tip is that whereas a “normal” tcpdump might allow you to use the switch -i any to listen on all interfaces, that doesn’t work on BigIP. Use -i 0.0 instead. And of course restrict it somehow so that your own shell session’s packets won’t be picked up by the trace, or else you could be in for a nasty surprise of exponentially increasing traffic (a devastating situation perhaps worthy of its own blog entry!). In this case I added an expression port 443. So I have:

tcpdump -i 0.0 port 443

And, somewhat to my surprise (You should always have a hypothesis, even if it’s just a gut feeling: will this little test work, or not. Why?) not only were packets going from lynx to BigIp and then again to the web server, I could even see returned packets back from the web server to BigIp to lynx. But it was not a lot of packets. A SYN, SYN-ACK and maybe a single data packet and that’s about it. It should have been more chatty.

The more tests you can think of, the better, especially ones that emphasize the marginal differences between the thing that works and the one that doesn’t. One test along those lines: take this same virtual server and associate it with a different pool. I did that, and that test worked!

Next, I tried to access the web server using curl on the BigIP itself. I could, but not at first. First I used the local web server URL http://web_server_ip:443/. It hung my curl command, just like using lynx on the other server. Hmm. I then looked on the web server again. I notice that it has a certificate installed. Ah. So it’s actually running https. So try curl from BigIP again, but this time with the -k switch (insecure, meaning don’t verify the certificate issuer) and a url beginning with https rather than http. Bingo. It comes back with the home page. Now we’re getting somewhere.

Finally I look more closely at the virtual server setup for the old name, the one that works. I see that the server profile is SSL. It basically means that the traffic is encrypted when it hits the BigIP, and the server CERT is associated with the external name. The BigIP decrypts the traffic, then re-encrypts it before sending it along to the web server. The CERT for the second leg is a self-signed CERT and is never seen by users.

I had forgotten to set up my new test virtual server with the server SSL profile, so the second leg of traffic was not being re-encyrpted by the BigIP, even though the web server was only willing to engage in SSL communication with the BigIP. Once I updated the server profile, it all worked fine! Of course after getting the expected results from lynx I went to my desktop browser, just like a regular user, and successfully tested it there as well. You want to make sure your final tests are a realistic approximation of what the user will be doing. If that’s not all possible under your own control, bring in a user for testing.

Liked this article? Here’s another of my IT operational excellence articles that has a somewhat wider applicability.

Categories
Web Site Technologies

Changing The Font in WordPress TwentyTen Theme

I still think WordPress is a mess!  But it’s better than what I cuold do on my own, so I’m sticking with it for now.  The simplest things quickly devolve into an exercise for a jaded IT veteran.  Don’t even get me started on replacing the header image while using an Ubuntu server which conveniently does not come with php5-gd.

Here is something I actually manmaged to do without hours of effort.  Replacing the font style in my posts.  Everyone knows that sans-serif fonts are more readable, look more professional and are more compact.  Not sure why the twenyten theme does not use it for the body of the posts.  What I found, without being a CSS master, is that if you change line 118 of style.css to

        font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;

It works to change the font of all your posts.

Before the change that line reads like this:

That was it for me!  Not bad, eh?

For a more sophisticated treatment, you should consider doing all your customizations in a child theme. It can’t be hard because I just managed to do it! It looks to be a more elegant and robust approach, which appeals to me, because you leave all the files in the parent theme alone, and only override the files which actually need to be changed. Read about it in http://codex.wordpress.org/Child_Themes.

Categories
Web Site Technologies

WordPress Templates are a Nightmare

Like a typical opensource effort, WordPress is a mixed bag. It’s wonderful for scripters like me to get so much access to the source. But the documentation and concepts are opaque, and this is coming from a seasoned IT veteran. Could they have possibly made it more complicated?

I hope to help you cut through the inscrutable explanations on such pages as http://codex.wordpress.org/Template_Tags and cut to the chase for knowing how to change what matters, whether or not, like me, you really understand what the heck they’re talking about.

Say you want to modify something in the appearance of your posts.  That’s what I wanted.  Once I learned the “easy way” to install plugins (see http://drjohnstechtalk.com/blog/2011/06/security-considerations-for-wordpress-plugins-and-upgrades/), I wanted to get a plugin to count the millions of expected visitors, ha, ha!

Now more comfortable with plugins, I actually installed WP-PostViews using my SmartPhone.  Cool, right?  Except that I found installation is one thing, configuring it to actually do something another.  Fortunately, I do have a PhD in a technical field, so I refused to be daunted.

I wanted to display the view count above or below each post.  From the exceedingly poor documentation available on WP-PostViews, I gathered that I needed to insert this php code:

<?php if(function_exists('the_views')) { the_views(); } ?>

into one or more of my template files to display the view count.  The (incorrect) PostViews documentation said just put it into index.php, inside the section

<?php while ( have_posts() ) : the_post(); ?>

Great.  That simply doesn’t exist in my index.php in my theme (twentyten).

So now we’re looking at all these files in that directory, wp-content/themes/twentyten, to figure out which may be the right one:

404.php         comments.php   loop-attachment.php  page.php            tag.php
archive.php     footer.php     loop-page.php        search.php
attachment.php  functions.php  loop.php             sidebar-footer.php
author.php      header.php     loop-single.php      sidebar.php
category.php    index.php      onecolumn-page.php   single.php

As I promised I’ll cut through all the bluster about themes, templates, hierarchies and other WordPress nonsense.  My degree is in experimental physics.  I experiment.  By experimentation and some tiny understanding of their concepts I can now say you need to change these two files:

loop.php
loop-single.php

That’s it.  I just saved you three hours of useless research.

Update
I see they try to make it easier for you by allowing you to edit the template files from within the admin GUI, including some function documentation. It still leaves a lot to be desired.

To be continued…

Categories
Web Site Technologies

Security Considerations for WordPress Plugins and Upgrades

The following comments apply to WordPress v 3.1.3 and may not apply to earlier versions, with which I have no familiarity.

WordPress has an interesting idea for doing upgrades and downloading plugins. It took some getting used to until I learned to embrace it. I needed to understand the security considerations. Now I have a much better handle on it and feel comfortable with it.

First thing after installing WordPress, Murphy’s law you know, I was presented with an important security upgrade the very next day. I did the upgrade the hard way, doing all the file manipulation by hand. Copying files here and there, etc. I run the web server with a different user than the owner of the HTML documents to make things more secure. So I naively figured there was no way WordPress’s offer of automatically updating my installation would be possible in my case. After all all it could do was to run with the permissions of the web server, which as I say doesn’t have permissions to write to the relevant parts of the filesystem, right?

Then I learned that my colleagues on the Newton Robotics Team were managing to do it under the same conditions, so it piqued my curiosity. The next plugin I wished to install, WP-Syntax, offered me the same possibility of automatically installing it from the WordPress Admin GUI. It suggested that all I needed was to enter FTP credentials or use FTP/SSL. It did not explain how those credentials were going to be used, and I feared that they would be shared with another site.  Let’s think about this (this is how an IT person thinks).  There are two main possibilties. 1) The FTP client is initiated from an external site, probably where the repository where the plugin is housed, e.g., wordpress.org.  It was my gut feeling that was the case.  2) that the FTP client is on my local server where I run WordPress.  But, huh, what’s the point of that?

Turns out that 2) is what’s happening.  But then what is the point and how does it work?  By reverse engineering and reasoning, it must work as follows.  WordPress must download the plugin from the distribution site, perhaps through HTTP or FTP.  Perhaps it uses the FTP proxy feature where an intermediate can have an FTP connection to twp FTP servers and transfer files between them.  To expand it and put it into the local WordPress plugins directory, where the web server doesn’t have permissions to write, it definitely has to use FTP, but you gave it the credentials of the account that does have permissions to write to the plugins directory!  Clever, huh?  Of course this presupposes something.  Maybe if I read the WordPress requirements I would see that running an FTP server is strongly recommended. But I didn’t so this is another lesson learned through the school of hard knocks!  You see,  Ubuntu server and I think most linux distributions do not even bother to give you an FTP server.  Without a local FTP server WordPress cannot pull off its trick.  I’m not sure why they cannot use sftp, which is pretty universal these days.  In Ubuntu, you have the FTP client, but not the server.

I tried to run ftpd on my server to see what I would get.  It was missing and several packages which provide it were mentioned.  I chose inetutils-ftpd:  sudo apt-get install inetutils-ftpd.  I quickly learn that it relies on inetd, which I see I am not even running.  But it also has the option to run as a daemon: ftpd -D, which I chose to do (it won’t start after reboot without more jiggering, but I can start it by hand as I don’t need it often).

But how do I test my new FTP server?  Will it really work when WordPress tries to use it?  

Feb 2012 Update
I am now comfortable with directing WordPress to do my upgrade. I got tired of it bugging me about the 3.3.1 release so I relented and upgraded to it. I learned how to backup my database first, which is when I saw it was dominated by all the spam and scams I have been receiving. So I went back to the dashboard, got rid of 600 spam comments and re-ran the database mysqldump. The database dump file reduced in size from 10 MB to 3 MB! So it was 70% spam. Great people out there, huh? But I digress. I temporarily enabled my FTP daemon as described above and all went fine.

Then I enabled simple captcha challenge for POSTers. For now simple math seems to be flummoxing the auto-scam submitters! Next day my instance died. No idea why…

Categories
Apache Web Site Technologies

WordPress, Apache2, Permalinks and mod_rewrite under Ubuntu

Installing WordPress is pretty straightforward and needs no further clarification here.  But getting Permalinks to work – well that is a different story.  That is not well documented. Permalinks are those nice-looking URLs you can optionally create for your blog postings in WordPress.  I myself like this style: WPROOT/YYYY/MM/nice-title/.

When you try to activate that you’ll see it wants to put a .htaccess file in your blog top-level directory, which you may not have permission to write to from your admin account.  I do not because I feel that is a more secure way to run the server – as a user who cannot write to the HTML directories.  Fortunately, it generates the desired contents of the .htaccess file, which is characteristically inscrutable like most things in Apache server (I’m not a big fan of Apache).  So it will look something like this (bear in mind my WordPress blog was put in the /blog directory).

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /blog/
RewriteRule ^index\.php$ - [L]
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteRule . /blog/index.php [L]
</IfModule>

The main point is that it relies on the mod_rewrite module in apache2, which probably won’t work for you under a straight-up Ubuntu LAMP installation for two reasons.  And if you dig around you’ll quickly latch onto one or the other reason, but not both.

You need to activate mod_rewrite.

You need to enable mod_rewrite in your conf file.

To activate mod_rewrite run

sudo a2enmod rewrite

(of course I’m assuming you have root access).  This stands for, more-or-less, Apache2 enable module rewrite.  Note what it does, it creates symlinks from the /etc/apache2/mods-enabled directory for each module which has been enabled.  By default, mod_rewrite is NOT enabled in Ubuntu server 10.10, for some reason.

In your Apache configuration file (yours may be /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/000-default or another file in that directory) you’ll probably have this statement in your Directory section that pertains to your WordPress document root:

AllowOverride none

You will need to change it to

AllowOverride All

For instance, for me with my WordPress blog root at /var/www/blog, my Apache configuration file now looks like this:

<VirtualHost *:80>
...
        <Directory /var/www/blog>
                AllowOverride All
        </Directory>
...

Restart Apache, make sure those .htaccess lines are in your blog’s main directory, and you should be good to go.