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Ultimate Backups | TechSNAP 26

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We’ll tell you about AT&T leaving Android open to a hack so easy, my two year old son could pull it off. Plus FireFox goes to battle with McAfee and is Bank of America Under attack?

Then – We delve into backups, from the fundamentals to the very best tools!

All that and more, in this week’s TechSNAP!

Direct Download Links:

HD Video | Large Video | Mobile Video | WebM | MP3 Audio | OGG Audio | YouTube

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Show Notes:

Security hole in AT&T Samsung Galaxy S II

  • Bug allows someone to bypass the security lockout screen, accessing the phone without the password
  • The flaw does not exist on the Sprint version of the Samsung Galaxy S , or the Epic Touch 4G
  • By pressing the lock button to wake the phone, and you will be prompted with the unlock screen. Allow the phone to go back to sleep, and immediately tap the lock button again, and you will have access to the phone
  • This feature is likely designed for the situation where you are waiting for some interaction on the phone and it falls asleep, if you press a button to wake it within a few seconds, it doesn’t prompt you to reunlock the phone. This is a useful feature, however, it should be predicated on the fact that you just recently unlocked the phone (don’t make me unlock the phone twice within 90 seconds, or something similar)
  • The flaw only effects phones that have been unlocked once since boot
  • Since the flaw only effects the AT&T version of the phone, it would seem it is based on software added to the phone by AT&T, which appears to cache your response to the unlock screen, and use it to bypass the screen when you re-wake the phone immediately after it goes to sleep.
  • Another example of the vendors messing with the core google product.
  • Users with Microsoft Exchange security policies don’t seem to be affected
  • Users can adjust the settings on their phone by accessing: Settings ->Location and Security->Screen unlock settings->Timeout and setting the value to Immediately, disabling the ‘feature’ that presents the vulnerablity.

Firefox advises users to disable McAfee Plugin

  • Firefox says the McAfee ScanScript plugin causes Stability and Security problems
  • The problem only seems to effect the new Firefox 7, it is likely caused by a compatibility problem with versions of ScanScript designed for older versions of Firefox
  • Firefox has started generating popup warnings to users using versions of McAfee older than 14.4.0 due to an incredibly high volume of crash reports
  • McAfee says it is working with Firefox to solve the issue for the next version of the software
  • McAfee is very popular in corporate environments and is often enforced with a Active Directory Group Policy that makes it nearly impossible for the end user to disable the virus scanner

Bank of America – Unexplained Outages – Is it an attack?

  • The Bank of America website has been degraded, slow, returning errors or down for more than 6 days
  • Bank of America (BofA) said its Web and mobile services have not been hit by hacking or denial-of-service attacks, however they would not disclose what has been causing the online problems.
  • Quote: “I just want to be really clear. Every indication [is that] recent performance issues have not been the result of hacking, malware or denial of service,” said BofA spokeswoman Tara Burke. “We’ve had some intermittent or sporadic slowness. We don’t break out the root cause.”
  • The problems began Friday morning, a day after BofA announced it would charge a $5 monthly fee for account holders using their debit cards
  • Additional Coverage


Continuing our Home Server Segment – This week we are covering backups.
Before we cover some of the solutions, we should look at some of the concepts and obstacles to creating proper backups. There are a number of different ways to back things up, but the most popular involves using multiple ‘levels’ of backup.

  • Full backup

  • This is a backup of every file (or a specific subset, or without specific exclusions) on a system.

  • This is the base of higher level backups, and is also known as a level 0 backup

  • Full backups are the biggest and take the slowest

  • Differential Backup

  • A differential backup is one that includes every file that has changed since the last full backup was started (this is important).

  • >It is very important the higher level backups always be based on the START time of the lower level backup, rather than the last modified, or finish time. During the last backup, if the file changed after it was backed up, but before that backup completed, we want to be sure to include it in the next backup

  • Differential backups require only the most recent full backup to restore

  • Incremental Backup

  • An incremental backup consists of every file that has changed since the start of the last backup of any level

  • Incremental backups are the smallest and fastest

  • Incremental backups can take the longest to restore, and can require access to each of the previous differential backups since last full backup, and that most recent full backup

  • Incremental backups offer the trade off, they take less time and less storage, however they slow the recovery process.

  • Incremental backups, due to their smaller size, make it easier to have ‘point of time’ backups of files, rather than just the most recent.

  • Some backup systems do away with the name designations, and allow even more granularity

  • A level 0 backup is a full backup

  • A level 1 is everything that has changed since the level 0

  • A level n is everything that has changed since the last level n–1 or higher

  • Systems such as the unix ‘dump’ utility, allow up level 9 backups

  • Some backup systems, such as Bacula, support ‘synthetic full backups’

  • A synthetic backup is when you use a full backup, plus more recent differential and incremental backups to create a new, more recent full backup.

  • This can be especially advantageous in remote and off site backup systems, where transferring the full data set over the network can be very slow and costly.

  • rsync

  • Not actually a backup tool, it just creates and synchronizes a copy of the files

  • Copies only the changes to the files, so is faster

  • snapshots

  • A point in time copy of the files in a filesystem (supported by LVM, UFS, ZFS, etc)

  • A good place to take a backup from, resolves issues with open files

  • bacula

  • Designed to backup a large number of machines

  • Quite a bit of setup (Directory, Storage Daemon, SQL Database, File Daemons (Clients))

  • Cross platform

  • Powerful deduplication system, and ‘base backups’

  • Support for Windows Volume Shadow Copy (snapshots of open files)

  • flexbackup

  • simple perl script that creates archives (tar, cpio, etc) with optional compression (gzip, bzip2, etc).

  • Uses the ‘find’ command to create multi-level backups based on modified date

  • backupmypc

  • rsync based

  • Supports FTP, SCP, RCP, & SMB for Windows

  • s very smart about how it handles portable devices that miss backups.

  • It’s magic is it’s de-dupe hard-link mojo that saves tons of space

  • Bit of a nerd project to get going, but is bullet proof once its in

  • TarSnap – BSD Encrypted Cloud Backup

  • Mondo Rescue – GPL disaster recovery solution

  • CrashPlan – Online Backup Software, Disaster Recovery

  • Allan’s article about backups

Round Up:

Jupiter Broadcasting stats

  1. Firefox 42.66%
  2. Chrome 29.73%
  3. Internet Explorer 14.43%

Backups & Server Hardware | TechSNAP 6

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Every six hours the NSA collects as much data that exists in the entire lib of congress and we have a few practical notes on how a system like that could even function.

We follow up on Dropbox, and what looks like the FTC is getting involved with their recent snafus.

Plus we answer a big batch of your emails, and our backup tips for home, small business, and the enterprise!

Please send in more questions so we can continue doing the Q&A section every week!

Direct Download Links:

HD Video | Large Video | Mobile Video | MP3 Audio | OGG Audio | YouTube

Subscribe via RSS and iTunes:

Show Notes:

Topic: NSA collects data on a massive scale

NSA Gathers 4x the Amount of Info than the Library of Congress, Daily

  • NSA gathers data at an incredible rate, equivalent to the entire content of the US Library of Congress every 6 hours.
  • The Library of congress contains nearly 150,000,000 catalogued entries.
  • The Library of congress ‘American Memory’ site contains tens of petabytes of public domain images and audio/video recordings.
  • The NSA has the ability to apply for patents under a gag-order, if and only if another entity tries to patent the same process, do the NSA patents become public. NSA patents never expire.
  • – the NSA patented the geo-location by pinging a series of routers technique we discussed a few weeks ago during the iPhone GPS story.

Topic: new US Internet censorship bill, the ‘PROTECT IP’ Act

Revised ‘Net censorship bill requires search engines to block sites, too

  • Law is in part about attacking foreign sites that US law enforcement currently cannot target
  • Proposes to require search engines to remove results for sites as the request of not only the government, but also of rights holders. Have we not seen enough false positives and trolling via the DMCA?
  • rights holders would not have to seek government assistance to have sites censored, but could seek court orders directly against payment processors and advertising networks (but not ISPs or search engines)
  • actively encourages search engines and other sites to take action without any sort of court order
  • Act will protect ad networks and payment processors from being sued by the customers they spurn if they “voluntarily cease doing business with infringing websites, outside of any court ordered action”. The definition of infringing is left up to the rights holder.

Book recommendation: The Master Switch (Audio Book / Audible Sign up)

Topic: Lieing about security for a competitive edge

  • A complaint has been filed with the Federal Trade Commission claiming that Dropbox engaged in Deceptive Trade Practices by claiming to securely store your data when they in fact do not store it according to industry best practices.
  • It is the belief of the complainant that the security claims made by dropbox gave them a competitive advantage over other services, specifically, users might have chosen a more secure service if they were aware of the problems with dropbox
  • At issue is a specific claim from the dropbox website that has since been retracted when it was discovered that it was false. “All files stored on Dropbox servers are encrypted (AES-256) an are inaccessible without your account password.”
  • Because Dropbox uses only a single AES-256 key, rather than a separate one for each user, employees and others at Dropbox may access your files at any time without your password. The Dropbox page has been updated to reflect the fact that Dropbox will turn over your files if requested by law enforcement or possibly other parties.

Topic: Q&A

Q: (akito) What do data centers use for fire suppression now that Halon is frowned upon?
A: Some data centers still use Halon, however most have switched to using ‘clean agents’ such as FM-200 that are designed to remove the ‘heat’ from a fire. Unlike other agents, FM-200 does not leave an oily residue or otherwise degrade your equipment. Some systems use CO2 to displace the oxygen in the space and suppress the fire that way. Also 3M has developed a non-conductive fluid that can be used in place of Halon without damaging equipment.

War Story: No means none, not even a little bit

(Allan) Interesting story from when I worked at Ontario Power Generation. There was a problem with one of the CRAC (Computer Room Air Conditioner) units in the on-site data center, and a refrigeration technician was dispatched. Before we let him into the server room we specifically told him that he must come to us before he started any kind of soldering or welding, as it would set off the fire suppression system, which thankfully no longer flooded the room with Halon, but still triggered an emergency shutdown of all electrical systems in the entire IT wing of the North Admin building. Basically, when a fire is detected by the system, the klaxon sounds and you have 30 seconds to silence the alarm before it is escalated, at which time the power is cut and Halon (if it had not been disabled) would be deployed. I was down the hall from the server room in one of the test labs, working on the windows NT4 to Win2000 migration. Out of nowhere, the fire alarm goes off; At first I was startled, then it clicked, the repairman had forgotten to warn us that he was going to begin soldering. I took off at a dead run towards the alarm panel, as I got closer I heard the alarm tone change, I only had 10 seconds left before the power to every server would be cut and the UPS system would be bypassed. We’d spend hours cleaning up the mess, and explaining what went wrong. Thankfully, I reached the panel in time, and jammed the big red silence button, saving the day.

Q: (DreamsVoid) I would like to backup my linux and windows computers to my linux server using rsync. How should I set this up
A: rsync has many advantages, specifically the way it can compute the delta between files and significantly reduce the amount of data that has to be transferred during a backup. However, rsync is not a good backup solution because it only creates a copy of the file, not a true backup. In a true backup system, you retain multiple versions of each file from different dates. Say for example a file is corrupted, if you do not notice this right away, during the next rsync, the ‘backup’ copy of the file will be replaced with the corrupted one, and you will have no recourse. If all of your computers are on a LAN, you don’t have any real worries about the amount of bandwidth you are using transferring the files, and a proper backup solution is best.

rsync for windows:
BackupPC – open source backup to disk:
Bacula – high end open source network backup system:

Q: (Nean) What are the differences between a server and a normal desktop computer?
A: Generally they are not all that different, but some servers have additional features and capabilities that are not necessary in a regular desktop. Typically, higher end servers have redundant power supplies, either because they need to draw more power than a single power supply can provide, but also to be able to continue operating in the event that one of the power supplies dies. Servers, and some high end desktops also have redundant disks, taking advantage of various RAID configurations to allow the server to continue operating even if one or more disks stop functioning. Servers typically have dedicated RAID controllers that support more exotic forms of RAID than your typical on-board controller found it high end desktops. Servers also tend to have remote management cards that allow an administrator to access the bios and even manipulate the keyboard/mouse remotely, instead of having to be local to the machine.


Written by chris

May 23rd, 2011 at 2:20 am