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Please don’t daisy chain switches

There are many times that I would walk into a business to help troubleshoot a problem, to find that someone didn’t take the proper time to do something right, and instead took the easy way.  Usually this come in the form of switches (or even worse hubs) that are daisy chained together one after another…and sometimes, after another.
I understand, I made this mistake early in my career, pressured to  get lines in a new area of the office, but not given the money to do it properly.  There were even times, when I really did intend to come back to correct the problem only to get endlessly sidetracked and never get back to fix the temporary solution, hence making in permanent.
The problem is after time this problem can compound by either endlessly daisy chaining switches (either purposely or accidentally) and more likely than not, these new switches are not on UPS power, just plugged into a wall.  This is fine as long as there are no power outages or spikes.  I’ve run into the problem multiple times where a client is complaining about no connection to the network, only to find a switch in the way that needed to be power cycled to work again.
Rather than run the risk of having problem, I always suggest that you use stack-able switches and make sure they are powered by UPS.  If it’s done right the first time, the client or your company will have less problems in long run, and that’s the information you need to pass along to them.
In my early days, I wouldn’t even bother to make the objection to adding switches to make extra connections, but experience has taught me, this isn’t good.  They cause another level of failure and can cost additional money in trying to troubleshoot a connection issue or buy a new server when all you needed to do was remove an old switch that was hidden. (At one company, there was an old 10MB switch that was forgotten in the ceiling, of course they found out after spending a couple grand on a new server that wasn’t needed).  This is why it’s better to just do it once and correctly. It may take a little more time/month/both but in the long run it will make things run a lot smoother.

 

TASER® StrikeLight™

Q&A Monday: IIS 7.5 Error 401.3

Question:

I’m trying to test my ASP.Net website and I keep getting this error:
HTTP Error 401.3 – Unauthorized
You do not have permission to view this directory or page because of
the access control list (ACL) configuration or encryption settings for
this resource on the Web server.

I tested the site both from the IP address, as I have locally on that server to make sure it wasn’t something else.  I have the following users on the website application folder, with full read/write permissions:

  • NETWORK SERVICE, IIS_IUSRS, SYSTEM, Administrators, Helpdesk, PJordon (my account)

Is there something I am missing, to get me able to view the site?  Could I have set up something wrong?

Patrick Jordan
Penderyn, UK

 

Answer:

IIS7 created another user account which may be the cause of these problems, IUSR.  Check to make sure this user has read access to the folder and files you are trying to access.  You can do this by checking the security tab and seeing if this user in that list.  If not add them, and you should be on your way.

 

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If you have any questions that you want Jim to answer, from business servers to home computers, drop him a line at me@jimguckin.com, and he’ll try to answer your question. Check back every Monday for a new Question and Answer session, and during the rest of the week for his other technical insights.

Upgrade BackTrack 5 R1 to the new R2

If you are anything like me, you hate to wait for things and here’s a time you can get the information before the release.  BackTrack R2 will be released on March 1st 2012, but there are directions to make all the upgrades today, all you need to do is follow the directions below, and you’ll get the newest kernel, security updates and tools today.

Directions:

1. Update and upgrade your BackTrack  R1 installation.  Open Terminal and type :

 

apt-get update
apt-get dist-upgrade
apt-get install beef
reboot

Now we have the newest kernel installed as well as any last updates we have for the official R2 release. You need to reboot to have the 3.2.6 kernel kick in.

2. Now you can install all of the new tools featured in BackTrack 5 R2:

 

apt-get install pipal findmyhash metasploit joomscan hashcat-gui golismero easy-creds pyrit sqlsus vega libhijack tlssled hash-identifier wol-e dirb reaver wce sslyze magictree nipper-ng rec-studio hotpatch xspy arduino rebind horst watobo patator thc-ssl-dos redfang findmyhash killerbee goofile bt-audit bluelog extundelete se-toolkit casefile sucrack dpscan dnschef

 

3. Now we need to add the new security updates repository to /etc/apt/sources.list, and run another upgrade  In Terminal type.

echo “deb http://updates.repository.backtrack-linux.org revolution main microverse non-free testing” >> /etc/apt/sources.list

apt-get update
apt-get dist-upgrade

During this time around updating you’ll be asked what you want to do about the file revision updates. As it ask you what you want to do, just accept all the default settings, and when it asks about grub, keep the local file.

 

 

4. Now most people who use the BackTrack software like to keep services in the stopped position unless they are currently using them, so you’ll want to stop some of the newly installed services from auto-starting, in Terminal:

 

/etc/init.d/apache2 stop
/etc/init.d/cups stop
/etc/init.d/winbind stop

update-rc.d -f cups remove
update-rc.d -f apache2 remove
update-rc.d -f winbind remove

That’s it now you have the newest BackTrack kernel, software and security updates.  All this 6 days before the software is officially released on the site on March 1st.  Hope this was a help to you.
TASER® StrikeLight™

Q&A Monday: Windows 7 Hide Accounts from Welcome Menu

Question:

We are deploying Windows 7 machines to users that are not the domain, and I want to add some accounts for administration to the machine, but I only want the users to be give the option of seeing the one account they are going to use.  Is there any way to hide the other accounts?

 John Higgins
Oakland, CA

Answer:

*NOTE: To do this involves making changes to the registry, please make sure you know what you are doing, making an incorrect change could cause your computer to no longer work.  Also make a backup of the registry prior to making the change, just in case*

Open up RegEdit.exe

Browse to the following location:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\WindowsNT\CurrentVersion\Winlogon

In the left panel of Registry Editor, right click on Winlogon key and click New then Key.  This will allow you to create a new key under Winlogon, name this new key:  SpecialAccounts, then do the same steps to create another key under SpecialAccounts called: UserList and press Enter.

Now we finally move into the right panel of registry editor, in the blank area right clikc and create a DWORD(32bit) with the name of the user account you want to hide.  (i.e. if your username is Helpdesk, then you’ll name the DWORD Helpdesk)  Double click the newly created DWORD and make the value:

0 to hide

1 to show it again
Now, if you have a have a Windows XP machine that you need to do this with, the directions are a little different please see our other article: Q&A Monday: Hide Accounts from XP Welcome Screen

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If you have any questions that you want Jim to answer, from business servers to home computers, drop him a line at me@jimguckin.com, and he’ll try to answer your question. Check back every Monday for a new Question and Answer session, and during the rest of the week for his other technical insights.

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SysPrep a Windows 7 Upgraded Machine

When working in any kind of company, I love imaging computers.  When there is a problem with a machine you can quickly blow down the company image and get the computer or laptop back to the user as quickly as possible.  Recently when working on a Windows 7 image that I had inherited from a previous administrator I ran into an interesting error while trying to run SysPrep on that Windows 7 machine:

sysprep cannot run on a computer that has been upgraded from a previous version

After doing some background research, I found that the Windows 7 image on the server was an updated image, the original laptops came in with Windows Vista, and was upgraded to 7 before the image was created.  So I went online to see if there was anyway to do SysPrep with an upgraded Windows 7 install.  Most articles that I found, just gave you normal directions on doing a SysPrep and none answered this question.  So finally I was able to find the answer, it all lies within a single registry key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\system\setup

There was a key called “upgrade”, that once deleted lets you run SysPrep like normal.  Delete that key and you are good.

 

Q&A Monday: Enable and Disable Proxy via Scripts

Question:

I use my laptop both inside and outside of my company’s network.  It is a company issued laptop and when I am in the office, I am suppose to use their proxy server, when I am out on the road, I’m suppose to use the local connection, which does not have a proxy.  Currently I go into internet settings and enable or disable  the proxy server as needed, what I am looking for is a simpler way to this.  Please help me

Christopher  Sheppard
Northampton, PA

Answer:

While looking into the proxy settings in the Internet Options, I was able to trace it down to a couple of registry settings, but once set up you only need to make a single change to a key.  This key resides in the following place:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings in the ProxyEnable key.

If the key is equal to 1 the proxy setting is enabled (checked) and if it’s 0 the proxy is disabled (unchecked)

*NOTE: As with all registry changes, make sure you know what you are doing, and wrong changes can mess up your computer.  Also make sure you backup you registry prior to making any changes*

 

So to start making an easy to run script, you need to open notepad, and create a registy entry like so:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings]
“ProxyEnable”=dword:00000001

save the file as ProxyEnable.reg (the name doesn’t matter, but the .reg does matter), then open a new notepad and paste the following into it:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings]
“ProxyEnable”=dword:00000000

save the file as ProxyDisable.reg

Now, you can put these on your desktop and import the change, to go from Proxy to without, with only a single icon for each.  If you have another way to do this please let me know, but this is a simple and clean way of quickly switching without going into internet settings.

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If you have any questions that you want Jim to answer, from business servers to home computers, drop him a line at me@jimguckin.com, and he’ll try to answer your question. Check back every Monday for a new Question and Answer session, and during the rest of the week for his other technical insights.

 

Average Mailbox Size Using Exchange PowerShell

PowerShell is now becoming more and more prevalent in Microsoft’s Exchange and Server software.     This scripting language is becoming a must know for Administrators and knowing this scripting can help get all kinds of useful information.  When I was an administrator for an Exchange system, it helped me to monitor the mailbox(s) and databases for their size, so that I could make plans for the future.

The script below gathers mailbox information and pulls the information together and shows it in the PowerShell window.

 

<———–Start Script———–>

# Retrieve the list of mailboxes from the specified mailbox database
$listOfMailboxes = Get-MailboxDatabase "Mailbox Database 1081629644" | Get-Mailbox
# Initialize the counter variables that we'll use
$mailboxCount = 0
$mailboxTotalItemCount = 0
$mailboxTotalSize = 0
$mailboxAverageSize = 0
$mailboxAverageItemCount = 0
# Start a loop that will count stats from individual mailboxes
foreach ($individualMailbox in $listOfMailboxes)
    {
       # increment the mailbox count by 1
       $mailboxCount++
       # Get the name of the current mailbox so that we can...
       $individualMailboxName = $individualMailbox.Identity.DistinguishedName
       #... quickly and easily get stats from that mailbox
       $individualMailboxStats = Get-MailboxStatistics -Identity $individualMailbox
       # Get the size of the mailbox in MB and save it in a variable
       $individualMailboxSize = $individualMailboxStats.TotalItemSize.value.toMB()
       # Get the number of items in the mailbox and save it in a variable
       $individualMailboxItemCount = $individualMailboxStats.ItemCount
       # Add the size of this mailbox to a running total
       $mailboxTotalSize = $mailboxTotalSize + $individualMailboxSize
       # Add the number of items in this mailbox to a running total
       $mailboxTotalItemCount = $mailboxTotalItemCount + $individualMailboxItemCount
    }
# Calculate the average mailbox size
$mailboxAverageSize = $mailboxTotalSize / $mailboxCount
# Calculate the average number of items per mailbox
$mailboxAverageItemCount = $mailboxTotalItemCount / $mailboxCount
# Display the results to the user
Write-Host "Total Number of Mailboxes in database: $mailboxCount"
Write-Host "Total Size of Mailboxes:               $mailboxTotalSize MB"
Write-Host "Total Items in Mailboxes:              $mailboxTotalItemCount"
Write-Host "-------------------"
Write-Host "Average Mailbox Size:                  $mailboxAverageSize MB"
Write-Host "Average Items per Mailbox:             $mailboxAverageItemCount"
<-----------End Script----------->

If everything ran correctly and you don’t see any errors, you will see the below displayed.


Total Number of Mailboxes in database: 320
Total Size of Mailboxes:               412270 MB
Total Items in Mailboxes:              14757
-------------------
Average Mailbox Size:                  1288 MB
Average Items per Mailbox:             46.115625

 

We’re Back from Blackout

    First, I would like to apologize to anyone who found the blackout of this site inconvenient.  We blacked out our site in solidarity with 75,000+ sites who joined together, in the largest online protest  (to date), to try to let congress know to stop the SOPA and PIPA bills from passing.  These bills would kill the internet as we know it, and anyone with a real ear to the internet could tell you they wouldn’t solve the problem and people who wanted to, could have gotten around it.

Though the day of internet protest is over, this doesn’t mean our actions should be over as well.  As long as there are non-technical people in congress trying to regulate what they don’t understand (yea, I know they do it alot), these bills will always be a threat, and lurking in the shadows.

While I understand the concerns of the people pushing SOPA/PIPA to protect their intellectual property, there is no reason to destroy the internet in the process.  The internet has worked so well, because it is free and limiting it only hurts those who don’t know the ways around.  But you’re asking what you could do to help:

Here are a few easy things you can do:

  • Educate yourself about how SOPA and PIPA work, don’t just take anyone’s word for it.
  • Print and mail letters to your state’s senators and representatives, urging them not to support this. Physical mail is harder to ignore than email. It piles up. You can find representatives’ addresses here and senators’ addresses here. Remember that PIPA is a Senate bill and SOPA is a House of Representatives bill.
  • Call your senators and representatives on the phone and urge them not to support the bills. See above links for phone numbers or click here to get a quick list of representatives based on where you live.

Let your elected representatives know that censoring the Internet is something you do not and cannot support. Congressmen care about getting reelected. If everyone reading this plays their part, these bills will be killed.

Change IE Bookmarks Location

Recently in my job, I was looking for a way to keep as much data on the server as possible and making the Windows boxes hold as little data as possible in case of a crash.  While I already redirect the “My Documents” drive to the server (note only if you trust your users do this).  We as an office generally use Internet Explorer for browsing (with some exceptions), and wanted to change the locations of the Folder.

Well after some looking around, I found the keys that need to be modified.  This involves modifying the registry for the current user logged in.  As I always warn:  If you are editing your registry, it is recommended you know what you are doing, and you make a backup of the regisry in case anything goes wrong.

In the Registry, you’re looking at the following subkeys:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\ShellFolders

and

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\UserShellFolders

Look in the right pane for the Favorites value. Note the full path to the Favorites folder.  From those two keys, you just type where you want the files to go, and reboot the system and re-login as that user.

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Q&A Monday: IT Education

Question:

Jim,
For someone looking to segue into IT, what is the most direct educational route to take- tech school, university, or career diploma program? In general, what do you recommend for a good IT foundation?

Tony DiPaciner
Philadelphia, Pa

 

Answer:

Like most questions in IT, there is a lot of debate for the best route into the Information Technology field.  I personally went with a specialty school (which offered a diploma, but I went for a degree) and have been happy with the choice.  The tech school method I would consider one of the quickest paths into the Information Technology field.  You get the information you need, the hands on experience to help, and than quickly into the field.  The downside to these kind of diploma schools is that, they tend to quickly flood the market with IT professionals with the same credentials all competing for the same jobs.
If you are more inclined to go to a 4 year college, you are required to take courses outside of the technology field, but with the flooded market, some companies will weigh a Bachelors Degree heavier than anything below it.  This occurs even if the people have the same experience outside of that.  The downside to that, is after 4 years where the market will be at, and the diploma guy might have a 3 years of experience head start.
If you are looking to just add some skills (as everyone in IT should), then online courses are a great primer to what you already have.  All my skills in web design, come from me just designing websites and trying to copy what other sites were doing.  I would read tutorials, try it myself, and then try to change it for my site.  There were many days where I wanted to pull my hair out, but I eventually learned.  Every Information Technology professional should be continuing your education, if you stop then you risk loosing your edge completely.
So in conclusion, it’s not a simple answer, each choice has its own benefits and its own downsides.  I tend to lean towards a degree, since it does get you a heads up in the field (even if it is an unfair one), and would always recommend toying around on your own with either choice, and get some experience.

 

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If you have any questions that you want Jim to answer, from business servers to home computers, drop him a line at me@jimguckin.com, and he’ll try to answer your question. Check back every Monday for a new Question and Answer session, and during the rest of the week for his other technical insights.

ESET Cyber Security Pro for Mac - Save 25%
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