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Home Server on a Laptop

Posted on April 1st, 2011 by Victoria Pal in Tech

Home projectI often feel guilty about my home server endeavors. My home projects usually take place in the spare bedroom, involving a lot of old hardware. Old hardware has one nasty property - it consumes a lot of energy.

This simple fact holds me back on some test and projects I would like to try. I put much effort to save energy and wasting it again with pre-2000 hardware doesn't feel right.  Good thing and old laptops exist. You can buy an old laptop on the cheap and do tons of things with it. You can get one with a faulty screen. You won't need it much anyway and you will save some money.


How to use HTTPrint

Posted on March 30th, 2011 by Victoria Pal in Tech

HttPrint is a web server fingerprinting tool by Net Square. It reveals all the details about a web server, and it makes a pretty decent conclusion what the web server used. Identification is based on the implementation differences in the HTTP protocol.



Custom Error Pages

Posted on March 22nd, 2011 by Victoria Pal in Tech

Custom 404 error pageAs you most probably know, each year we have several seasonal report periods during which we monitor the leaders in the retailing industry to see if their online performance matches their reputation. This year is no different and last month we published the results for this Valentine’s day online retailer monitoring.

One of the interesting cases that caught our attention is the site of Victoria's Secret. While at first glance their uptime does not strike the user with a 100% uptime percentage, the downtime recorded for their transaction happened regularly (every 2 days), always around 5 am and lasted usually for about 15 minutes. Since 5 a.m. is clearly not the busiest shopping time of the day, it was most likely a regular, scheduled site maintenance. However, this was not indicated either in their error message or elsewhere on their site. Instead, next to the picture of the stunningly beautiful Alessandra Ambrosio stood the awkward downtime excuse "We're sorry, our site is temporarily unavailable." .


Server Masking - First Line of Defense

Posted on March 15th, 2011 by Victoria Pal in Tech
Protect your serverThere are various ways to protect a web server. Web servers often become victims of DDoS attacks and it is not uncommon for exploits to be used to gain access or break a web server. Protection comes in different forms and levels, the costs vary, but sometimes there are simple solutions. This one you can implement today. You can mask your server. When looked up, the server can say anything. I mean it, anything. It is probably a good practice to not make up something like “WSP Unbreakable Server 1.3.5”, but to instead choose one from the existing web server platforms.

There are two ways to go about this. You can make your server identify as a completely different server or just to say it is an older version of the server you run. When you choose to make your Lighttpd server identify as Apache, you take a great portion of amateur attacks and direct them in a completely wrong direction. On the other hand, if you decide to simply identify as an older version, 3rd parties who try anything funny will probably try to exploit your server with outdated tactics. It can still be useful. What actually works best is to change the name and version of the server. This should take care of at least some malevolent eyes.

Server mask
Many sites use this. Torrent trackers are one good example. Most of these sites do not use Apache as trackers usually go for Lighttpd or Nginx. From the example above you can see that the web server powering the site is Apache 1.3.29. This is actually quite old now. The latest stable release is Apache 2.2.17.

There is actually a bit more to it than just masking your server’s name. If you are running a Windows server (secure enough, but it can use some tweaks), there is a commercial software solution. It takes care of more than just server name change. It’s called ServerMask. Like with most commercial software there is a free trial for you to try. A great solution for Apache is Mod_Security.


Cheap NAS Server

Posted on March 10th, 2011 by Victoria Pal in Tech
NAS servers are a great way to store information a network. They work great for office and home use. NAS devices provide many benefits. Small offices can use them for work collaboration and file sharing in general. Decent NAS devices can hold up several hard drives and operate in different modes. You can install multiple hard drives and enjoy the full capacity, or you can install them to work in RAID 1 and even RAID 5. In this way you will have a copy of your data to one or more hard drives. When one goes down, the others continue to work and no data is lost. That is extremely useful to small office environments, web & graphic design agencies and small business in general. 

Home NAS serverEnthusiasts running a NAS server at home, usually have them for multimedia purposes. They truly are a great way to share information on a home network. Home use is generally more concerned with space, rather than backup and security. A decent Netgear device currently costs just a little under 250$. It is a good finish to your home network, but then again do you really need one?

If you want to try out some basic NAS experience before you go for the expensive solution, you can try NAS adapters. You can currently find cheap ones on Amazon for around 45-60$. You can connect it to your network and plug in a large USB stick or USB HDD. If you have an external drive lying around, try it out. If you are about to buy one, you can get 1TB of external storage for about 70-80$. Setting up Network Attached Storage can cost you half of what you will pay and the storage space is the same. If scalability is not a problem for you, you will get your very own 1TB of network storage for around 120$.