April 5, 2016

The more you know, the less you say.

By Daniel

Pleased to report that Windows 10 hasn’t reduced the Surface Pro 3 to smoldering rubble. In fact, it’s quite a happy upgrade so far. The Verizon USB card seems much happier in 10 than it did in 8.1, and the applications all came over flawlessly so far, quite a feat considering it went all the way from NT6 to NT10. (That’s nerd sarcasm, by the way.)

I was mildly amused by being notified that I’d earned some money from Amazon Affiliates. That would be from my I Miss Grantland project, which runs ad-free and has a page where you can buy books on Amazon from writers featured on the site. The site has been up for about 3 months and has managed something like 104,000 hits. Out of those, about 132 hits were to said book page, representing about 7,000 clickable links. 88 clicks were made (a ~1.3% clickthrough rate) and 7 items were ordered, representing Amazon cutting me a check for almost four dollars. It’s seriously a good thing that the whole thing is automatic and able to run on my shared hosting account, so my only expense is the domain renewal.

It’s not hard to understand why so many sites are fucking littered with ads. All that said, I still run an ad-blocker. Not because I feel people shouldn’t get paid for creating content, but because the current system is a mess and more than a little insecure. E.g., malvertising. It’s one of the great unsolved puzzles of the Web. For a long time, Flash was the enabler of the worst offenders. Now it might be JavaScript. A simple, if regressive, solution would be to standardize on text-based ads, with the use of a 1px transparent image for basic tracking for per-impression based ads. Image-based ads are workable if the rotation logic is done on the ad provider’s side. That’s it. No javascript, no Flash, no HTML5, and certainly no fucking iframes.

In a good example of “be the change you want to see in the world,’ that’s exactly what I’m doing at I Miss Grantland. And it is paying peanuts. It would be all too easy to find out what ad company pays the most and carpet-bomb the readers, but karma’s a hell of a thing when you’re an IT guy fighting malvertising and ransomware. And honestly, even if the ad revenue increased 1000%…10 bucks a month? At the expense of being a vilified piece of the web that I fight against?

I make six figures. I’ll be alright without the ten bucks a month. Going full retard with the ads is not worth it.

I’ve been fighting with a PowerShell script at work, and it’s been very educational if also irritating. The idea, when it’s finished, is automated response to ransomware. There are some Word files on a share, they act as honeypots for ransomware. I check the CRC value every minute and compare it to what it was when it was created. If it changes, we’re under attack. The ransomware strains I’ve seen lately modify the owner of the file to be the infected user, possibly a programming bug or possibly due to some quirk of our environment. The program will note the new owner of the watched file, use Active Directory to get a list of PCs, and compile a list of PCs the user is logged in on, and then disables the NIC(s) of each such PC. And it’s so close to being complete. The pieces all work on their own, it’s just a matter of linking them together now.

Extending PowerShell beyond little one-liners with piped commands, into a proper program with functions, arrays, and variable scope makes me realize there’s probably almost nothing in Windows you can’t do with PowerShell, and it’s even extensible to a few non-Windows applications.

To you aspiring sysadmins, if you don’t know Linux, you’d damn well better learn PowerShell. Without one or the other you are going to get left behind sooner rather than later.