Simple Guide To Signing RPMs with FPM

I’ve been using the excellent fpm (Effing package manager!) tool for automatically generating rpms from source (for example, creating a custom compiled php-fpm binary and then wrapping it for install in an rpm for distribution from our own repository). FPM also creates .debs and other binaries as you need them.

To ensure we have a secure infrastructure we wanted to make sure that the rpms are correctly signed so that the gpg check can be completed on them when installed.

First, generate the gpg public/private key pair:

[cc]gpg –gen-key[/cc]

Fill out the required information. The entropy generation step may take a long time to complete.

Export a text version of the public key with this command, for later use in your repository:

[cc]gpg –export -a ‘Dave Drager’ > ~/RPM-GPG-KEY-reponame[/cc]

fpm docs state that you just need to add the –rpm-sign to your fpm command. However, this generated the following error for me:

[cc]error: You must set “%_gpg_name” in your macro file {:level=>:error}
Pass phrase check failed {:level=>:error}[/cc]

The reason for this is that it uses the settings located in your ~/.rpmmacros file. Find your key ID:

[cc]# gpg –list-keys
pub 2048R/94E8C1F6 2013-04-24
uid Dave Drager sub 2048R/94E8C1F6 2013-04-24[/cc]

In this sample, the KEY_ID would be “94E8C1F6″

[cc]%_signature gpg
%_gpg_path /path/to/.gnupg
%_gpg_name KEY_ID
%_gpgbin /usr/bin/gpg[/cc]

From here, the fpm command runs without issue.

[cc]# fpm -s dir -t rpm -n php-fpm-xda -v 5.2.23 -C /tmp/installdir -p php-fpm-xda_VERSION_ARCH.rpm -d openssl -d pcre -d bzip2 -d curl -d libjpeg -d libpng -d freetype -d gmp -d libmcrypt -d libmhash -d libxml2 –rpm-sign usr/bin usr/share/man/man1 usr/sbin etc usr/share/man/man8 usr/share/fpm usr/lib/build usr/include/php
Enter pass phrase:
Pass phrase is good. {:level=>:error}
Created rpm {:path=>”php-fpm-xda_5.2.23_x86_64.rpm”}[/cc]

This is an alias of the [cci]rpm –addsign[/cci] command.

Now let’s check the signature on this rpm.

[cc]# rpm –checksig php-fpm-xda_5.2.23_x86_64.rpm
php-fpm-xda_5.2.23_x86_64.rpm: RSA sha1 ((MD5) PGP) md5 NOT OK (MISSING KEYS: (MD5) PGP#94E8C1F6) [/cc]

Whoops, it doesn’t seem to be signed properly. Well, that is because the rpm system doesn’t know to trust this GPG key yet. Import with the following command:

[cc]rpm –import ~/RPM-GPG-KEY-reponame[/cc]

Note that this is the plain text file from before. Your RPM system knows to trust this key, and now if you verify the file:

[cc]# rpm –checksig php-fpm-xda_5.2.23_x86_64.rpm
php-fpm-xda_5.2.23_x86_64.rpm: rsa sha1 (md5) pgp md5 OK[/cc]

This RPM is now ready for use in a repo. In the .repo file, use the following to ensure it follows the correct signature:


All key names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Track TCP and UDP Connections With Zabbix

TCP UDP Sockets Zabbix

There is a very easy way to track opened TCP connections in Zabbix. Although it does not come built in to the Zabbix agent, it is simple enough to get. This method will allow you track the open number of TCP and UDP connections, as well as track TCP connections in TIME_WAIT.

TCP UDP Sockets Zabbix

Rather than using grep to count numbers in netstat, which can take an extraordinary amount of time on busy servers, I’ve used /proc/net/sockstat to get this data.

Add the following parameters to zabbix_agentd.conf:

UserParameter=sockstat.sockets,cat /proc/net/sockstat|grep sockets|cut -d' ' -f 3
UserParameter=sockstat.tcp.inuse,cat /proc/net/sockstat|grep TCP|cut -d' ' -f 3
UserParameter=sockstat.tcp.orphan,cat /proc/net/sockstat|grep TCP|cut -d' ' -f 5
UserParameter=sockstat.tcp.timewait,cat /proc/net/sockstat|grep TCP|cut -d' ' -f 7
UserParameter=sockstat.tcp.allocated,cat /proc/net/sockstat|grep TCP|cut -d' ' -f 9
UserParameter=sockstat.tcp.mem,cat /proc/net/sockstat|grep TCP|cut -d' ' -f 11
UserParameter=sockstat.udp.inuse,cat /proc/net/sockstat|grep UDP:|cut -d' ' -f 3
UserParameter=sockstat.udp.mem,cat /proc/net/sockstat|grep UDP:|cut -d' ' -f 5

Then you can either manually import these UserParameters into Zabbix, or use this template (if you’re using Zabbix 2.x).

Download the sockstat Zabbix template

It includes the items and a graph for the socket stats. Enjoy!

Using rsync on an Alternate SSH Port or with OpenSSH Keys

Best practices state that you should run ssh on an non-standard port. Unfortunately some programs use port 22 by default and it isn’t obvious what the switch is to change this port.

One of these programs is the eminently useful rsync. It states how to do this in the man file, but it is hidden and non-obvious. You simply add the option via the -e command to pass ssh options. -e is the shell rsync uses to connect to a remote host.

Using rsync on an alternate ssh port

[cc]rsync -avz -e “ssh -p $port” username@ip:/path/to/files/ /local/files/[/cc]

Using rsync with an openssh key

[cc]rsync -avz -e “ssh -i /path/to/private/key” username@ip:/path/to/files/ /local/files/[/cc]

Or with both an alternate port and openssh key:

[cc]rsync -avz -e “ssh -i /path/to/private/key -p $port” username@ip:/path/to/files/ /local/files/[/cc]

This can be used in a bash script if you set the $port variable or directly on the command line by using the set port instead of $port.

Here are some other useful pages regarding using rsync. If you don’t use rsync for remote file transfer – I highly recommend it. The transfer speed is much faster than scp over ssh.

Simple Sysadmin Trick: Using tcpdump To Sniff Web Server Traffic

Sometimes, you just have to look into the raw data to see what your web server is doing. The logs might not show you enough detail or you suspect something is going on which is just not shown in the log files. Or, as in my case, logging is turned off because of too much activity.

The excellent tcpdump utiliy comes to the rescue here. I recommend you get more familiar with the tcpdump man page. Here is the command you can use, in a nutshell:

tcpdump -nl -w - -i eth1 -c 500 port 80|strings

or alternatively with just tcpdump (Thanks Chris!):

tcpdump -nl -s 0 -A -i eth1 -c 500 port 80

Your command line will print out all traffic exiting your server from port 80, headers and all. Lets look at the options in more detail.

  • -n: Don’t convert addresses (i.e., host addresses, port numbers, etc.) to names.
  • -l: Make stdout line buffered. Useful if you want to see the data while capturing it.
  • -w: Write the raw packets to file rather than parsing and printing them out. (Sent to stdout)
  • -i: Interface you want to sniff on, usually eth0 or eth1, but depends on your system.
  • -c: Number of packets to capture
  • port: port 80, duh :)
  • -A: Print each packet (minus its link level header) in ASCII.
  • -s: size

Now, depending on your web server configuration, you will probably have gzipped content which comes out as garbled characters. To strip all that out, just pipe it through strings.

The output will look something like this:

GET /about/comment-page-1 HTTP/1.0
Accept: image/gif, image/jpeg, image/pjpeg, application/x-ms-application, application/, application/xaml+xml, application/x-ms-xbap, application/, application/, application/msword, application/x-shockwave-flash, */*
User-Agent: Mozilla/2.0 (compatible; MSIE 3.02; Windows CE; 240x320)
Cookie: comment_author_xxx=sakyjartory; comment_author_email_26e707905b5fd6e7139333eb1dab208f=olfaexxxx; comment_author_url_26e707905b5fd6e7139333eb1dab208xxx
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Wed, 03 Oct 2012 01:49:19 GMT
Server: Apache/2
X-Powered-By: PHP/5.2.17
Vary: Accept-Encoding,User-Agent
Connection: close
Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8

About This Site | Quitting Soda

Let me know if you have any suggestions for improving this simple command line program for sniffing your web server traffic! Netcat is an essential tool that every linux administrator should get to know better.

How We Defeated a Proxy Jacker (Google Web Spam Syndrome)

A few months ago, we had an interesting issue with another website stealing our content in an unusual way. Essentially they ran a proxy service on a similar domain (a instead of .com) and then replicated our site, replacing our ads with their own. They also ran our content through a content replacement algorithm, removing certain pieces of text and also replacing our own domain with theirs. It is fairly easy to do.

We had a few concerns about this. Firstly, we were worried that unsuspecting users would enter their login information on this site. Also, they actually were showing up in Google search engine results, which both hurts our brand, ranking and perception by users (this site loaded much slower than ours obviously).

First Attempt To Stop The Proxy Spammers: IP Blocking

Determined to put a stop to it, the first method we tried was blocking their crawler IPs. However, they owned enough IPs in enough ranges that it was simply a cat and mouse game. We would block them, and then a day later they would be back up. After a few weeks of this it didn’t seem to be a viable long-term solution for blocking these spammers.

Next, We Used Their Mirroring Of Our Content Against Them

Next I thought I would use the fact that they were modifying our page content and disable their site that way.

I created a box in html/css which would trigger via JavaScript only when loading from their domain. But, you wouldn’t think it would be that easy would you? They replace our domain with theirs, modifying any mention of their own domain. So I used a quick hash function to create a unique identifier from the loaded domain and then matched against that.

Also, figuring they would just take out the HTML box I created, I also found it useful to display a hex-encoded version of it. You can encode text to the hex-escaped version for Javascript with the following command line:

[cc lang=”bash”]echo -n “some text” | od -A n -t x1 |sed ‘s/ /\\x/g'[/cc]

The final Javascript I started loading on our site (and therefore their site) is below:

[cc lang=”javascript”][/cc]

After thoroughly testing and then putting up the code, we launched it live. It was very satisfying knowing that end-users were getting the warning message when visiting their site, and the actually reported their experience back to us. After about 12 hours, they figured out our play out and turned off their proxy. Success!

Not quite. The next morning I woke up to see their site back up. Looking into their code, they had removed the JS completely. I changed our code, embedded it in a JS file, and used other creative means to get it back up – but in the end they were just able to disable the Javascript entirely and defeat this attack. It was just another cat-and-mouse game.

We also tried DMCA/Abuse Contacts

We also tried to send notices to their hosting company to get them to take down the site. They were hosted in Argentina, so DMCA is not applicable. Their abuse contacts were non-responsive.

Originally we thought we could go after their domain registration since it violated our trademark – but this is a long and involved process involving lots of paperwork and time, and for another $10 they could just register another domain name. We didn’t think this was a viable option.

Going to the Source: Google

Google is involved in this scam in a number of ways. First, they were indexing and serving his site in their search results. Secondly the scammers were replacing our ads with their own Google AdSense ads, which I am sure is a ToS violation.

While we were attempting to defeat their site from a technical perspective, we also began looking at Google to see what we could do from there.

Google has a process for submitting DMCA requests. The issue in this case is that they make you submit one batch at a time, and with millions of pages on our site and indexed in Google, it just doesn’t make sense to list out urls line by line. It worked to remove those submitted results from search engine results, but it was like cutting grass with scissors. Finally, I attempted to contact Matt Cutts via Twitter:

Thanks. So much for that venue. I know @mattcutts is the public face of Web Spam at Google so I’m sure that he gets lots of @’s with dumb questions, but we were already way beyond this.

Finally, What Worked

Members of our site had a few personal contacts at Google both in an AdSense representative and otherwise. One of our contacts with Google was able to bring this issue up with the right people and they finally took the offending domain out of the SERPs permanently. We also reported their AdSense account – but we don’t know what happened with that. Without them showing up in SERPs, it was a moot point because they won’t be getting many visitors any more.

The Problem With Google

Google has become so large that it is almost impossible to get a situation like this taken care of without knowing someone who works for them. They have many automated systems in place, but scammers will continue to utilize loopholes for their own profit. Google enables this type of scam, yet they also profit from it.

I wish Google would have some sort of Ombudsman or review system set up so that someone like us, who is having our content ripped off by others using Google’s own tools (and with Google taking a percentage of profit from these people), has a way to efficiently deal with them without resorting to personal contacts. We spent much time on this, time that could have been put to better use.

Or maybe personal contacts are the only real way to deal with a situation like this?

Anyway – I am welcoming comments and any other ideas for dealing with these Proxy Hijackers and how to keep them offline. I’m curious how widespread this type of incident is, we know of only one other site that was having the same issue from the same scammer.

After all, they can always get another domain for $10.

Evaluating FTP Servers: ProFTPd vs PureFTPd vs vsftpd

Usually, I will try to push clients towards using SCP (via a client such as WinSCP), however inevitably there are clients who do not understand this new method of accessing their files securely online, and who for one reason or another insist on using FTP for their online file access. As they say – the customer is always right?

Anyway, there are currently 3 mainstream FTP servers available via the yum command on CentOS 6.x. PureFTPd, ProFTPd and vsftpd. So which FTP server is the best? I will summarize the servers below, or skip to the summary.


ProFTPd is a modular FTP server which has been around for a long time. The large control panels (cPanel, DirectAdmin) all support ProFTPd and have for years.

The most feature rich of the bunch is certainly ProFTPd. There are a ton of plugins available for it, and the creator of it modeled its configuration architecture much like Apache’s – it is also using the GPL for licensing.

Configuration of ProFTPd is fairly straight forward, and example configuration files abound at a quick search of Google.

ProFTPd is available on a wide variety of system architectures and operating systems.

ProFTPd Security

Of the bunch, ProFTPd has the most CVE vulnerabilities listed. The high number is most likely an indicator of ProFTPd’s widespread use which makes it a target of hackers.

ProFTPd CVE Entries: 40
Shodan ProFTPd entries: 127


PureFTPd‘s mantra is ‘Security First.’ This is evident in the low number of CVE entries (see below).

Licensed under the BSD license, PureFTPd is also available on a wide-range of operating systems (but not Windows).

Configuration of PureFTPd is simple, with a no-configuration file option. Although not as widely used as ProFTPd, PureFTPd has many configuration examples listed online.

PureFTPd Security

PureFTPd’s “Security First” mantra puts it at the lead in the security department with the fewest security vulnerabilities.

PureFTPd CVE Entries: 4
Shodan Pure-FTPd Entries: 12


vsftpd is another GPL-licensed FTP server, which stands for “Very Security FTP daemon.” It is a lighweight FTP server built with security in mind.

Its lightweight nature allows it to scale very efficiently, and many large sites (,, currently utilize vsftpd as their FTP server of choice.

vsftpd Security

vsftpd has a lower number of vulnerabilities listed in CVE than ProFTPd but more than PureFTPd. This could be because, since its name implies it is a secure FTP service, or because it is so widely used on large sites – that it is under more scrutiny than the others.

vsftpd CVE Entries: 12
Shodan vsftpd entries: 41

Summary & FTP Server Recommendations


Considering the evaluations above, any server would work in a situation, however generally speaking:

  • If you want a server with the most flexible configuration options and external modules: ProFTPd
  • If you have just a few users and want a simple, secure FTP server: PureFTPd
  • If you want to run a FTP server at scale with many users: vsftpd

Of course, everyone’s requirements are different so make sure you evaluate the options according to your own needs.

Disagree with my assessment? Let me know why!

Simple Disk Benchmarking in Linux Using ‘dd’

A great way to do a real-world disk test on your linux system is with a program called dd.

dd stands for data description and is used for copying data sources.

A simple command to do real-world disk write test in linux is:

dd bs=1M count=512 if=/dev/zero of=test conv=fdatasync

This creates a file named ‘test’ with all zeroes in it. The flag conv=fdatasync tells dd to sync the write to disk before it exits. Without this flag, dd will perform the write but some of it will remain in memory, not giving you an accurate picture of the true write performance of the disk.

A sample of the run is below, with a simple SATA disk:

[14:11][root@server:~]$ dd bs=1M count=512 if=/dev/zero of=test conv=fdatasync
512+0 records in
512+0 records out
536870912 bytes (537 MB) copied, 5.19611 s, 103 MB/s

Now, there is a major caveat for using dd for disk benchmarking. The first is that it only tests filesystem access. Depending on your filesystem (I’m looking at your ZFS) the file write may itself just load into memory for writing later down the road. The same with a RAID controller on the system.

A much more accurate way of performing a disk benchmark is to use tools specifically geared towards this task. It will write much more data over a longer period of time. Bonnie++ is a particularly useful tool for this purpose.

Now don’t forget to remove that test file.