Administration

Remote Command Execution with SaltStack

A few weeks back I wrote an article Getting started with SaltStack; that article covered Configuration and Package Automation with Saltstack. In Today’s article I am going to cover SaltStack’s Remote Execution abilities, a feature that I feel Saltstack has implemented better than other automation tools. Running a command in a State If you remember from the previous article SaltStack’s states are permanent configurations. Adding a command in a Salt state is used when you want to have a command that is run after provisioning a server, run every time Salt manages the state of the system or run when certain conditions are true.

Getting started with SaltStack by example: Automatically Installing nginx

Systems Administration is changing, with the huge scale of internet company deployments and the popularity of cloud computing. Server deployments are often scaling faster than the systems administration teams supporting them. In order to meet the demand those teams are finding themselves changing the ways they have traditionally managed servers. One of those changes is automation, where once a sysadmin would need to spend time installing packages by hand (via apt or yum) and modifying configuration files.

SSH: Disable Host Checking for Scripts & Automation

In the world of Cloud Servers and Virtual Machines scripting and automation are top priority for any sysadmin. Recently while I was creating a script that logged into another server via SSH to run arbitrary commands, I ran into a brick wall. $ ssh 192.168.0.169 The authenticity of host ‘192.168.0.169 (192.168.0.169)’ can’t be established. ECDSA key fingerprint is 74:39:3b:09:43:57:ea:fb:12:18:45:0e:c6:55:bf:58. Are you sure you want to continue connecting (yes/no)? To anyone who has used SSH long enough the above message should look familiar.

Adding and Modifying Users and Groups in Linux

Adding and Modifying Users and Groups is a core systems administration task. The act of adding a user and group is fairly easy however there are some tricks that help make the long-term management of users easier. Tips for easier management Keep user attributes consistent amongst all systems A common mistake sysadmins make when building a new environment is they will allow uid’s, gid’s, home directories and other user attributes to be mis-matched from system to system.

Securely backing up your files with rdiff-backup and sudo

Backups are important, whether you are backing up your databases or your wedding pictures. The loss of data can ruin your day. While there is a huge list of backup software to choose from; some good, some not so good. One of the tools that I have used for years is rdiff-backup. rdiff-backup is a rsync delta based backup tool that both stores a full mirror and incremental changes. It determines changes based on the rsync method of creating small delta files, which allows for rdiff-backup to restore files to any point in time (within the specified retention period).

10 nmap Commands Every Sysadmin Should Know

Recently I was compiling a list of Linux commands that every sysadmin should know. One of the first commands that came to mind was nmap. nmap is a powerful network scanner used to identify systems and services. nmap was originally developed with network security in mind, it is a tool that was designed to find vulnerabilities within a network. nmap is more than just a simple port scanner though, you can use nmap to find specific versions of services, certain OS types, or even find that pesky printer someone put on your network without telling you.

Mitigating DoS Attacks with a null (or Blackhole) Route on Linux

In a world where the Anonymous group is petitioning the US Government to make DDoS attacks a legal means of protest; For internet facing systems the threat of Denial of Service attacks are very real. The cold harsh reality of DoS attacks are that there is no way to stop them. While there are services out there that are designed to take the brunt of the attack for you these costs a significant amount of money (update: CloudFlare seems pretty decent).

iptables: Linux firewall rules for a basic Web Server

For today’s article I am going to explain how to create a basic firewall allow and deny filter list using the iptables package. We will be focused on creating a filtering rule-set for a basic everyday Linux web server running Web, FTP, SSH, MySQL, and DNS services. Before we begin lets get an understanding of iptables and firewall filtering in general. What is iptables? iptables is a package and kernel module for Linux that uses the netfilter hooks within the Linux kernel to provide filtering, network address translation, and packet mangling.

When Zombies Invade Linux: What are Zombie Processes and What to do about them

Zombies don’t just appear in scary movies anymore, sometimes they also appear on your Linux systems; but don’t fret they are mostly harmless. What is a Zombie Process? Before we get started I wanted to first cover what exactly a Zombie process is. Linux and Unix both have the ability for a process to create a sub process otherwise known as a “Child Process”. Once a process creates a new sub process the first process then becomes a “Parent Process” as it has spawned a child process during its execution.

ACL: Using Access Control Lists on Linux

Access Control Lists aka ACL’s are one of those obscure Linux tools that isn’t used every day; and if you find yourself using ACL’s every day than you probably have a very complicated Linux environment. A few years ago I had an engineer tell me “Any thing you want to solve with ACL’s can be solved with standard unix permissions” and while he may have just been justifying why he didn’t know ACL’s very well.