In this blog post an update on the things we’ve been working on the last few months; Migrations to Ceph platform completed, important security updates Joomla!, DDoS attacks and the impact on our platform, the Free Expression Film night and the public beta release of Let’s Encrypt. Happy holidays!
Important Joomla! security updates
An important and general rule is: always keep your software up to date! More and more vulnerabilities are found every day and the consequences can be tricky; more spam or even worse, malware or viruses, things you don’t want on your computer. At this moment several high risks vulnerabilities have been found in certain versions of Joomla!. It’s highly recommended to check the version you are using and upgrade to a newer version.
We wrote about our new and sturdy platform in summer. In the meantime all the data has been migrated to this Ceph block storage / SSD platform and it’s performing like a charm. After thoroughly planning the whole process our system engineering team was able to migrate around 120 TB of data with minimum impact on the platform and customers. In the coming period some fine-tuning and optimization will be done on our platform; at night several websites will be a bit slower, but this is temporarily and over in no-time.
DDoS and DoS attacks
For an internet service provider, dealing with DDoS and DoS attacks is a common practice. DDoS stands for ‘distributed denial of service’ attack, DoS for ‘denial of service’ attack. At Greenhost we host several websites of human rights organizations, which are unfortunately often a target of DDoS or DoS attacks. Lately, a liberal news organization from the Middle East has been under frequent DDoS fire. The aim of such an attack is to make the entire website unavailable for visitors. Apparently, and not surprisingly, a lot of people don’t appreciate honest and reliable news. But how does a DDoS attack work? And what impact can it have on a network? There are various types of attacks; an innocent attack is usually quickly mitigated. It often involves a website which goes briefly offline due to the large amount of data requests. But nowadays the ‘de facto’ standard is that DDoS are carried out by botnets, which often consists of millions of computers of unsuspecting users hacked computers. If all those devices simultaneously send a request to a particular website, it will go offline in no-time. DDoS attacks can broadly be divided into three types: ‘Volume Based Attacks’ Magnitude is measured in bits per second (Bps). ‘Protocol Attacks’ This form of attack is measured in Packets per second. ‘Application Layer Attacks’ Magnitude is measured in Requests per second. The most destructive and difficult to dissolve attacks are called ‘DNS flood attacks’, ‘NTP / amplicifation attacks’ and ‘layer 7′ attacks’, which are part of the ‘application layer attacks’ group. We did not yet suffer from these destructive types of attacks, but also the smaller attacks take a lot of manpower and time to divert. We are very capable of dealing with these attacks, and have detection software in place which automatically blocks suspected IP addresses, but as said, it is still time-consuming and not something we like to wake up for in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, in many cases it is not just the targeted website that suffers; also websites of our other customers can experience slowness or, in a worse case scenario, even downtime. Therefore we are continually working on improving our methods for preventing and mitigating attacks. An interesting fact for the true geeks among us; last year there was an attack of about 400 gigabit per second, the biggest DDoS attack ever. Such attacks can’t be solved by us, but fortunately, they are not very common yet. However, the likelihood of these types of attacks is increasingly growing, so we keep a keen eye on the attacks and monitor and analyse all attacks that take place. Currently we are implementing additional tools to expand our mitigation capabilities. On Wikipedia you can read extensively about the various types of attacks and mitigation strategies.
The public beta is out in the wild! It’s time for the Web to take a big step forward in terms of security and privacy. HTTPS needs to become the default. Let’s Encrypt was built to enable that by making it as easy as possible to get and manage SSL-certificates. We are working on a plan to implement the certificates on our network. We will let you know as soon as we have more news on this.
On December 1st the first Free Expression film night took place, an evening we organized together with Free Press Unlimited. The documentary ‘Silenced’ by James Spione was on the program and we concluded the screening with a panel debate on whistle blowing. James Spione was present during the screening and took part in the panel, together with Thomas Andrews Drake, a former NSA executive and whistle blower, Otto Volgenant, a renowed lawyer who works on a lot of whistle blower cases and Sacha van Geffen, CEO of Greenhost. The session was moderated by Menso Heus of Free Press Unlimited. After the evening several visitors told us that they never knew how difficult the lives of whistle blowers are and how unfair they are treated by governments. More Free Expression film and debate nights will take place in the new year, keep an eye on our website!