Automated VMware Harbor Registry Deployment With GitLab, Terraform And Ansible

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I have involved with a project which needed an automated VMware Harbor registry deployment with GitLab automation, Terraform and Ansible. I thought to writeup for those who are interested with some similar automation work. Actually, this was a sub part of the full project and, I only focus on the VMware Harbor registry deployment in […]

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Some Thoughts About the Critical Citrix ADC/Gateway Vulnerability (CVE-2019-19781), (Tue, Dec 31st)

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[we will have a special webcast about this topic at 1 PM ET today. See ]

About two weeks ago, on December 17th, Citrix released a workaround for a critical vulnerability in its Application Delivery Controller (ADC) and Gateway products [1]. These are products that Citrix acquired from NetScaler in 2005, and the NetScaler name is still commonly used.

    Last week, on December 23rd, Positive Technologies released a blog post with additional information, emphasizing the impact of the vulnerability [2]. This blog post affirmed that the vulnerability is critical and needs to be addressed quickly. CVE-2019-19781 is used to track this vulnerability.

    Due to the urgency of this problem, and holidays affecting about 70% of the globe these two weeks, we will have a special webcast to discuss this vulnerability.

    Luckily, there is no public “Proof of Concept (PoC)” exploit available yet, and we have not detected any exploitation of the vulnerability yet. You may have a bit more time to apply the workaround published by Citrix. During a quick review of the Citrix ADC code this week, we found several weaknesses and were able to exploit them to at least upload files to the system. This did not require any special tools or advanced skills. A determined individual should be able to find a full exploit in about a week. The code, as well as the system configuration, showed several obvious weaknesses. This is unlikely the last time you will have to patch these devices. 

    According to Citrix’s advisory, exploitation of the vulnerability does not require authentication and allows arbitrary code execution. The affected products can be deployed in a large number of configurations, and not all configurations may be vulnerable. But neither Citrix nor Positive Technologies provide any guidance to identify vulnerable configurations. Most likely, configurations that expose the Citrix web interface to outside users are vulnerable. This would affect the use of Citrix Gateway as an SSLVPN. Still, it could very well be used in other scenarios, for example, if Citrix ADC is used to restrict access to internal APIs or web applications.

    The best “hint” as to the nature of the flaw is the workaround Citrix published [3]:

add responder policy ctx267027 "HTTP.REQ.URL.DECODE_USING_TEXT_MODE.CONTAINS("/vpns/") && (!CLIENT.SSLVPN.IS_SSLVPN || HTTP.REQ.URL.DECODE_USING_TEXT_MODE.CONTAINS("/../"))" respondwith403

The rule first checks if the URL contains the string “/vpns/.” Next, it checks if the user is either not connected to the SSLVPN, or if the URLs include the string “/../”. The “decode_using_text_mode” overwrites the default URL encoding. This likely indicates that the ‘/’ and ‘.’ characters can not be URL encoded to make the exploit work. It is important to note that the “/vpns/” string alone is blocked in the URL. You should not include the “/../” string if you translate this signature to other security devices.

    Citrix notes that this policy may block some valid requests as well. The “/vpns/scripts/” directory, for example, is used to serve browser plugins. Access to this directory is blocked by the suggested policy. If you are using the Citrix ADC in front of other web applications, any URLs that contain “/vpns/” are part of the patch are blocked.

    The last part (“/../”) is typical for a directory traversal vulnerability. Directory traversal vulnerabilities come in many shapes and severities. Attackers typically use them to gain access to restricted resources, and the impact depends a lot on what resources are accessible.

A simple example (and this is NOT necessarily how it works here): A web application restricting access to the “/admin” URL can be fooled into providing access to unauthenticated users as long as they use a URL like “/somethingelse/../admin.” The URL no longer starts with “/admin,” and a web application is vulnerable if it does not parse URLs correctly. Directory traversal issues can also happen if the application executed files on the system. For example, the developer creates a “tools” directory with various scripts the user is allowed to run. The application then uses code like:


An attacker could now supply a script like “../usr/bin/bash” to execute additional commands. This command injection vulnerability does take advantage of directory traversal.

Typically, simple “blacklists” like the one Citrix implemented here are not ideal. An attacker may be able to find alternative paths to the vulnerable script, or the attacker uses a different encoding technique to bypass the rule. At this point, we do not know enough about this vulnerability to discern if the rule is sufficient or not. Citrix has not announced any plans for an actual patch. Based on our review of the code, a patch will likely reveal sufficient details about the vulnerability to make it trivial to find an exploit. The policy was likely designed to block the exploit while revealing as little as possible about the vulnerability.

After applying the recommended policy, any attacks should be logged in the Apache access and error log. For example:

/var/log/httpaccess.log - - [30/Dec/2019:21:05:43 +0000] "GET [EXPLOITURL] HTTP/1.1" 403 639 "-" "[USERAGENT]" "Time: 439 microsecs"

[Mon Dec 30 21:06:33.317132 2019] [core:error] [pid 2499] [client] AH00037: Symbolic link not allowed or link target not accessible: {file attempted to access}, referer: {referrer header (if any)}

What should you do?

  1. Apply Citrix’s workaround as soon as possible (today!)
  2. Monitor your systems for any exploit attempts. A quick “grep” for requests that contain “vpns” and “..” should tell you if there are any.
  3. Consider additional steps, for example, if you have additional security devices ahead of Citrix ADC.
  4. Monitor any abnormal activities from the Citrix ADC and Gateway, particularly from those devices towards the internal network hosts.

Even if you do not use Citrix, take a moment to check up on your other perimeter devices to make sure they are up to date. Last year has seen several critical vulnerabilities in similar devices. For example, there are still plenty of unpatched Fortinet devices out there that suffer from a path traversal vulnerability. Exploit code is readily available and has been used in the wild. The Fortinet vulnerability isn’t a “remote code execution” vulnerability, but can easily be used to retrieve privileged account credentials from the system.


Johannes B. Ullrich, Ph.D. , Dean of Research, SANS Technology Institute

(c) SANS Internet Storm Center. Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

VCAP6.5-DCV Design – Objective 2.4 Build manageability requirements into a vSphere 6.x logical design

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This seems to be my last blog post for 2019 and it covers covers objective 2.4 (Build manageability requirements into a vSphere 6.x logical design) of the VCAP6.5-DCV Design exam. It is based on the VMware Certified Advanced Professional 6.5 in Data Center Virtualization Design (3V0-624) Exam Preparation Guide (last update August 2017). The necessary […]

NSX-T Installation Series: Step 7 – Create Uplink Profile

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Reading Time: 3 minutes The previous step, discussed the “Transport Zones” (its types and limitations), N-VDS and step-by-step instructions to create vLan and Overlay Transport Zones. This blog is the “Step 7” of the “NSX-T Installation series”, where we will discuss “what is an Uplink Profile”, Compute Host’s networking design, Uplink Profile for Edge

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Celebrating AWS Community Leaders at re:Invent 2019

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Even though cloud computing is a global phenomenon, location still matters when it comes to community. For example, customers regularly tell me that they are impressed by the scale, enthusiasm, and geographic reach of the AWS User Group Community. We are deeply appreciative of the work that our user group and community leaders do.

Each year, leaders of local communities travel to re:Invent in order to attend a series of events designed to meet their unique needs. They attend an orientation session, learn about We Power Tech (“Building a future of tech that is diverse, inclusive and accessible”), watch the keynotes, and participate in training sessions as part of a half-day AWS Community Leader workshop. After re:Invent wraps up, they return to their homes and use their new knowledge and skills to do an even better job of creating and sharing technical content and of nurturing their communities.

Community Leadership Grants
In order to make it possible for more community leaders to attend and benefit from re:Invent, we launched a grant program in 2018. The grants covered registration, housing, and flights and were awarded to technologists from emerging markets and underrepresented communities.

Several of the recipients went on to become AWS Heroes, and we decided to expand the program for 2019. We chose 17 recipients from 14 countries across 5 continents, with an eye toward recognizing those who are working to build inclusive AWS communities. Additionally, We Power Tech launched a separate Grant Program with Project Alloy to help support underrepresented technologists in the first five years of their careers to attend re:Invent by covering conference registration, hotel, and airfare. In total, there were 102 grantees from 16 countries.

The following attendees received Community Leadership Grants and were able to attend re:Invent:

Ahmed Samir – Riyadh, KSA (LinkedIn, Twitter) – Ahmed is a co-organizer of the AWS Riyadh User Group. He is well known for his social media accounts in which he translates all AWS announcements to Arabic.

Veronique Robitaille – Valencia, Spain (LinkedIn, Twitter) – Veronique is an SA certified cloud consultant in Valencia, Spain. She is the co organizer of the AWS User Group in Valencia, and also translates AWS content into Spanish.

Dzenana Dzevlan – Mostar, Bosnia (LinkedIn) – Dzenana is an electrical engineering masters student at the University of Sarajevo, and a co-organizer of the AWS User Group in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Magdalena Zawada – Warsaw, Poland (LinkedIn) – Magdalena is a cloud consultant and co-organizer of the AWS User Group Poland.

Hiromi Ito – Osaka, Japan (Twitter) – Hiromi runs IT communities for women in Japan and elsewhere in Asia, and also contributes to JAWS-UG in Kansai. She is the founder of the Asian Woman’s Association Meetup in Singapore.

Lena Taupier – Columbus, Ohio, USA (LinkedIn) – Lena co-organizes the Columbus AWS Meetup, was on the organizing team for the 2018 and 2019 Midwest / Chicago AWS Community Days, and delivered a lightning talk on “Building Diverse User Communities” at re:Invent.

Victor Perez – Panama City, Panama (LinkedIn) – Victor founded the AWS Panama User Group after deciding that he wanted to make AWS Cloud the new normal for the country. He also created the AWS User Group Caracas.

Hiro Nishimura – New York, USA (LinkedIn, Twitter) – Hiro is an educator at heart. She founded AWS Newbies to teach beginners about AWS, and worked with LinkedIn to create video courses to introduce cloud computing to non-engineers.

Sridevi Murugayen –  Chennai, India (LinkedIn) – Sridevi is a core leader of AWS Community Day Chennai. She managed a diversity session at the Community Day, and is a regular presenter and participant in the AWS Chennai User Group.

Sukanya Mandal – Mumbai, India (LinkedIn) – Sukanya leads the PyData community in Mumbai, and also contributes to the AWS User Group there. She talked about “ML for IoT at the Edge” at the AWS Developer Lounge in the re:Invent 2019 Expo Hall.

Seohyun Yoon – Seoul, Korea (LinkedIn) – Seohyun is a founding member of the student division of the AWS Korea Usergroup (AUSG), one of the youngest active AWS advocates in Korea, and served as a judge for the re:Invent 2019 Non-Profit Hackathon for Good. Check out her hands-on AWS lab guides!

Farah Clara Shinta Rachmady – Jakarta, Indonesia (LinkedIn, Twitter) – Farah nurtures AWS Indonesia and other technical communities in Indonesia, and also organizes large-scale events & community days.

Sandy Rodríguez – Mexico City, Mexico (LinkedIn) – Sandy co-organized the AWS Mexico City User Group and focuses on making events great for attendees. She delivered a 20-minute session in the AWS Village Theater at re:Invent 2019. Her work is critical to the growth of the AWS community in Mexico.

Vanessa Alves dos Santos – São Paulo, Brazil (LinkedIn) – Vanessa is a powerful AWS advocate within her community. She helped to plan AWS Community Days Brazil and the AWS User Group in São Paulo.

The following attendees were chosen for grants, but were not able to attend due to issues with travel visas:

Ayeni Oluwakemi – Lagos, Nigeria (LinkedIn, Twitter) – Ayeni is the founder of the AWS User Group in Lagos, Nigeria. She is the organizer of AWSome Day in Nigeria, and writes for the Cloud Guru Blog.

Ewere Diagboya – Lagos, Nigeria (LinkedIn, Twitter) – Ewere is one of our most active advocates in Nigeria. He is very active in the DevOps and Cloud Computing community as educator, and also organizes the DevOps Nigeria Meetup.

Minh Ha – Hanoi, Vietnam – Minh grows the AWS User Group Vietnam by organizing in-person meetups and online events. She co-organized AWS Community Day 2018, runs hackathons, and co-organized SheCodes Vietnam.



Ansible, Windows and PowerShell: the Basics – Part 11, Local Groups

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In Part 11 of this series we’ll continue our journey with Ansible, Windows and PowerShell and look at how to handle local Windows groups. This can prove to be a useful method to configure local group membership with both local and domain user accounts if perhaps you don’t want to or are not able to … Continue reading Ansible, Windows and PowerShell: the Basics – Part 11, Local Groups

VMware + Pivotal: Combining the Skills, People and Leadership to Deliver Modern Apps to the Enterprise

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By Ray O’Farrell, executive vice president and general manager, Modern Application Platforms Business Unit, VMware Happy New Year! As we enter the 2020 decade, I am very pleased to announce that VMware has completed the Pivotal acquisition, and I want to officially welcome Pivotal to VMware. (Read the close press release here). Global enterprises understand

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Eventful Year for vSphere: Top Blog Posts of 2019

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(To mark the end of the year we are posting every day through January 1 with lighter vSphere and VMware topics. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do. See them all via the “2019 Wrap Up” tag!) We’re in the home stretch, with mere hours until the end of the decade. To

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NSX-T Installation Series: Step 6 – Create Transport Zones

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Reading Time: 3 minutes The previous step, showed step-by-step instructions on how to create “IP Pools” that are going to be used for “Tunnel Endpoints” later in the series. This blog is the “Step 6” of the “NSX-T Installation series”, where we will discuss “Transport Zones” (its types and limitations), N-VDS and step-by-step instructions

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