The Corona Virus pandemic has had some very odd impacts to the usual technology conferences. We all know that a great number of events have moved from physical to virtual. From a presenter’s perspective has meant the opportunity to present to communities we would normally be less likely submit papers for. For example, the All India Oracle User Group Yatra conference is a significant event in the Oracle Ace/ Groundbreakers calendar – where I have had two papers accepted.
For me to present there, is a challenge as it requires that I lose a week of fee earning time (once you account for the travel). But since the event has gone virtual, I’ve been able to submit a paper, which has been selected …
In addition, the recently postponed Camp Cloud Native which has been lead from the US, has been rescheduled because of the events triggered by the death of George Floyd. As the event is virtual, it wasn’t difficult for the organizers to do the right thing.
With meetups going virtual participating in European events is a lot easier, for example contributing to Aces@Home Episode 3 …
Whilst presenting virtually is the current norm, we are still seeing calls for papers for physical events for October/November this year. It creates a bit of a dilemma. Will it be safe enough to travel? will my family feel comfortable with me travelling (even today we’re hearing news of a serious new outbreak in Beijing)?, will I have to isolate at either end of the journey? Difficult, because I don’t want to submit a paper, and then withdraw at the last minute if circumstances look less secure. Having been involved in user group conference planning, whilst last minute changes will always happen, they can be difficult to cover, so would prefer not to put people in that position.
Whilst I’m not an extrovert by nature, being physically present at a conference, has its plusses – the opportunity to network/meet other Aces to catchup.
So until the physical conference again, be online, be distant, and be safe.
Today was one of my sessions, whilst I only co-hosted, we got to hear a great presentation with a heart warming story which in this challenging times seems all the more appropriate. Christian McCabe (Steltix) and Filip Huysmans (Contribute) presented on how a multinational hackerthon spanning South Africa to Belgium was put together to only help children of Christel House (a charity who work to provide education to those who would not normally get access to it). Not only was the hackerthon engineered to given the students a chance to learn and experience software development in a pretty realistic context, it also provided the school with some software to help their everyday activities, in this case managing books in their library.
The hackerthon yielded a lot of successful outcomes (Steltix wrote about it here), but, what was really interesting is that whilst working with the school, children and interns (from both Steltix and Contribute) took a lot lessons away as well.
Fluentd is both an open source solution for making log management so much easier to work with, particularly for distributed / multi component solutions. But not only that it is supported by many log analytics tools, and central to several cloud vendors log management services.
The goal of the book is to explain how Fluentd can help us and to use the tool. We can’t cover every possible plugin, so we walk through the use of enough plugins and the way features interact you can extrapolate to other plugins.
A couple of years ago I got to discuss some of the design ideas behind API Platform Cloud Service. One of the points we discussed was how API Platform CS kept the configuration of APIs entirely within the platform, which meant some version management tasks couldn’t be applied like any other code. Whilst we’ve solved that problem (and you can see the various tools for this here API Platform CS tools). The argument made that your API policies are pretty important, if they get into the public domain then people can better understand to go about attacking your APIs and possibly infer more.
Move on a couple of years, Oracle’s 2nd generation cloud is established an maturing rapidly (OCI) and the organisational changes within Oracle mean PaaS was aligned to SaaS (Oracle Integration Cloud, Visual Builder CS as examples) or more cloud native IaaS. The gateway which had a strong foot in both camps eventually became aligned to IaaS (note that this doesn’t mean that the latest evolution of the API platform (Oracle Infrastructure API) will lose its cloud agnostic capabilities, as this is one of unique values of the solution, but over time the underpinnings can be expected to evolve).
Any service that has elements of infrastructure associated with it has been mandated to use Terraform as the foundation for definition and configuration. The Terraform mandate is good, we have some consistency across products with something that is becoming a defacto standard. However, by adopting the Terraform approach does mean all of our API configurations are held outside the product, raising the security risk of policy configuration is not hidden away, but conversely configuration management is a lot easier.
This has had me wondering for a long time, with the use of Terraform how do we mitigate the risks that API CS’s approach was trying to secure? But ultimately the fundamental question of security vs standardisation.
Any security expert will tell you the best security is layered, so if one layer is found to be vulnerable, then as long as the next layer is different then you’re not immediately compromised.
What this tells us is, we should look for ways to mitigate or create additional layers of security to protect the security of the API configuration. These principles probably need to extend to all Terraform files, after all it not only identifies security of not just OCI API, but also WAF, networks that are public and how they connect to private subnets (this isn’t an issue unique to Oracle, its equally true for AWS and Azure). Some mitigation actions worth considering:
Consider using a repository that can’t be accidentally exposed to the net – configuration errors is the OWASP Top 10. So let’s avoid the mistake if possible. If this isn’t an option, then consider how to mitigate, for example …
Strong restrictions on who can set or change visibility/access to the repo
Configure a simple regular check that looks to see if your repos have been accidentally made publicly visible. The more frequent the the check the smaller the potential exposure window
Make sure the Terraform configurations doesn’t contain any hard coded credentials, there are tools that can help spot this kind of error, so use them. Tools exist to allow for the scanning of such errors.
Think about access control to the repository. It is well known that a lot of security breaches start within an organisation.
Terraform supports the ability to segment up and inject configuration elements, using this will allow you to reuse configuration pieces, but could also be used to minimize the impact of a breach.
Of course he odds are you’re going to integrate the Terraform into a CI/CD pipeline at some stage, so make sure credentials into the Terraform repo are also secure, otherwise you’ve undone your previous security steps.
Minimize breach windows through credentials tokens and certificate hanging. If you use Let’s Encrypt (automated certificate issuing solution supported by the Linux Foundation). Then 90 day certificates isn’t new.
This may sound a touch paranoid, but as the joke goes….
Just because I’m paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me
Fundamental Security vs Standardisation?
As it goes the standardisation is actually a dimension of security. (This article illustrates the point and you can find many more). The premise is, what can be ensured as the most secure environment, one that is consistent using standards (defacto or formal) or one that is non standard and hard to understand?
We’ve been told because of current events in the US that this event is going to be rescheduled.
I am pleased to say that I will be talking about Fluentd at the Cloud Native eParty virtual conference on 2nd June 2020. I’ll be presenting at 4pm, and then hanging out on the conference slack channel to answer any more questions people might have.
I presented at an online Meetup on today (Thursday 16th April) with a shortened version of my API technology overview (A quick look at gRPC, GraphQL, REST APIs – Which way to go?). Aside from an early interruption to the event, the evening was an excellent series of speakers covering a number of API centric subjects.
The second part of a two part article about the sort of things an Ace Associate or anyone else in a Technology Advocacy programme such as the Ace & Groundbreakers could approach social media has been published.
You can check part 1 (http://www.oraworld.org/home/ – page 15) along with other articles in the 19th edition of OraWorld covering subjects as diverse as Open World, Apex and Spam (read and you’ll understand).
I’d like to thank my colleagues, particularly James Neate for the inspiration behind this article.
A few weeks ago Oracle announced a new tool for all Oracle cloud users including the Always Free tier. Cloud Shell provides a Linux (Oracle v7.7) environment to freely use ( (within your tenancy’s monthly limits) – no paying for VM or using your limited set of VMs (for free-tier users) or anything like that.
As you can see the Shell can be started using a new icon at the top right (highlighted). When you open the shell for the 1st time, it takes a few moments to instantiate – and you’ll see the message at the top of the console window (also highlighted). The window provides a number of controls which allows you to expand to full screen and back again etc.
The shell comes preconfigured with a number of tools, such as Terraform with the Oracle extensions, OCI CLI, Java and Git, so linking to Developer Cloud or GitHub for example to manage your scripts etc is easy (as long as you know you GIT CLI – cheat sheet here). The info for these can be seen in the following screenshots.
In addition to the capabilities illustrated, the Shell is set up with:
Python (2 and 3)
The benefit of all of this is that you can work from pretty much any device you like. It removes the need to manage and refresh security tokens locally to run scripts.
A few things to keep in mind whilst trying to use the Shell:
It is access controlled through IAM, so you can of course grant or block the use of the tool. Even with access to the shell, users will need to obviously have to have access to the other services to use the shell effectively.
The capacity of the home folder is limited to 5GB – more than enough for executing scripts and a few CLI based tools and plugins – but that will be all.
If the shell goes unused for 6 months then the tenancy admin will be warned, but if not used, then the storage will be released. You can, of course, re-activate the Shell features at a future date, but of course, it will be a blank canvas again.
For reasons of security access to the shell using SSH is blocked.
The shell makes for a great environment to manage and perform infrastructure development from and will be a dream for Linux hard code users. For those who like to be lazy with a visual IDE, there are ways around it (e.g. edit in GitHub) and sync. But power users will be more than happy with vim or vi.