Monthly Archives: October 2014

Cool Network Tools – Kiwi SyslogGen

There is a great network tool I’ve been using for years, from Kiwi (part of SolarWinds), called SyslogGen. I simply love this tool…it’s flexible and powerful, yet easy to use and learn. Basically it’s a tool used to send test syslog messages to a log server so you can verify proper operation of logging and alerting. I used it today at work…

I’m in the middle of troubleshooting an issue at one of my remote sites. I have a fiber Internet circuit feeding the site, and I’m seeing very intermittent short outages (about 2 each day), lasting approximately 90 seconds. During the outage, both the Internet and my VTI (Virtual Tunnel Interface) drops. I’m working with the carrier, but it’s slow going, as I have to prove to them there is actually a problem.

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Targeted Phishing – Educate Your Users…Today!

If you read some of my security postings lately, especially this one, then you should already be signed up to receive CERT notifications. (If not, WHY?) You would have received a US-CERT alert about a “Phishing Campaign Linked with ‘Dyre’ Banking Malware”. Have you read it? AND acted on it? (Here is the US-CERT Alert if you have not read it.)

The most important action item is to educate your users. Yes, you have firewalls and antivirus configured, and perhaps a URL filtering service. And that’s good. But the best defense against phishing is an educated user community. You should be sending out an email on a regular basis, perhaps quarterly, educating your users on what phishing is, and how to recognize it. (It would make more impact if this email came from your CIO or IS-VP.) AND, make sure and let them know that banks and other institutions will never be asking for sensitive data via emails. You should include a sample phishing email (with attachments and embedded links removed, of course).

How to get a sample phishing email? Well, if you have trained your users properly, they will be sending them to you on a regular basis. If they forward these emails to you with a note such as “Received this today…it looks fishy, so I just deleted it, but wanted to let you know”, then you have done well in your training!! Otherwise, just check the inbox of your upper management and finance personnel. Believe me, they are getting them on a regular basis, because they are being targeted. Hackers and Scammers (otherwise known as “Slimy Scum-Bags”) are not emailing the whole world anymore…instead, they are sending their mucky-muck to the people that have the access and power. And this strategy is working. Make sure and educate these users….frequently!

Let me repeat:  The BEST defense against phishing is an educated user community!

Make it so. (In my best Captain Picard voice.)

Time for Another Set of Eyes

It happens to us all at some time or another. You’ve been working all morning at a remote site several hours away, and you’re making substantial changes on the network infrastructure. As you are finishing up, you realize you can get to the Internet, but you can’t FTP to the Internet. After going over the config several times, it’s time to bring in another set of eyes. And so my phone rings.

This ended up being rather simple. We have PBR (Policy Based Routing) in effect for normal web traffic (ports 80 and 443), and a default route for all other Internet destined traffic (such as FTP). I checked the routing table and found this…

show ip route

show ip route

As you can see, gateway of last resort is not set. So for any Internet bound traffic that is not port 80 or 443, the router does not know where to go. My co-worker checked and found that he had mis-typed the entry for the default next-hop path. Once he fixed it, everything worked as it should.

Another example was earlier this summer…I was having some stability issues with one of my VTI (Virtual Tunnel Interface) sites, and was not able to nail down the cause. My co-worker looked over the related configs, and found that I had forgot to set a particular filter on the perimeter firewall. That fixed it.

So if you find yourself staring at a configuration, unable to find the problem, call a fellow co-worker and get a fresh set of eyes on the problem. Two heads are better than one!

Using Google for Better Website Searching

Here is a tip that really helps when searching the Internet…

When you are visiting a website and use that website’s Search  function, you may not always get the desired results. It happens a lot, let me tell you. A great example is Cisco’s website. They have a search function in the upper right corner of their webpage, but when using it, you tend to get a lot of marketing materials or other documents unrelated to what you are searching for. It drives me crazy sometimes. Here is a better way to handle this…

Let’s say you are wanting to research configuring port channels on a Cisco switch. You could search on Cisco’s website for “switch portchannels” and see what you get. (Go ahead and try it.) Next, go to Google and search for “switch portchannels”. That last search option tells Google to limit the search to just Try it and compare the two searches. Yes, this is a simple example, but let me tell you this technique works great. I use it frequently, and not just for Cisco, but for any search that I need targeted to a particular site.

So remember the “site:” parameter when using Google…it will give you better and quicker results.

If you are interested in other Google tips and tricks, check out their related webpage.

iPhone 6 Plus – Just Too Large, Right?

As you know from a couple of previous posts (Part 1 here, and Part 2 here), I’m trying to decide between the two new iPhone 6 smartphones. Both are incredible examples of engineering and design, typical of Apple, and like their previous models, they just work. Everyday. With no hassles or complications. When you depend on your smartphone for work-related communications (voice and messaging), you need a reliable phone. And if it’s engineered the way Apple does, so much the better.

My current iPhone is two years old, and it’s time to upgrade. I’ve been leaning towards the iPhone 6, as I just think the Plus will be a bit too big.

But then…I made a big mistake. I stopped by the Apple store this evening, and played with both a 6 and a 6 Plus. WOW…the Plus is stunning. The screen size seems just right, lots of real-estate to surf the web, read documents (which I have a ton of), and watch videos. Amazing clarity. Light weight, thin, and so well engineered.

I’m hooked. I’m getting a 6 Plus. Here is a picture of the 6 Plus I was playing with at the Apple store…

Getting my Geek on

Getting my Geek on

Yes, the picture does not do it justice…but I’m a geek, and I have to post a picture.

I’ll order the phone through my work next week. No telling how long it will take to arrive. But I am a patient geek.

Geek Stuff – Google Search Metrics by Language

I’m a geek and I’m always on the lookout for things that are interesting and technically “cool”. I ran across this recently….it’s one of the ways that Google is presenting information in a different and visually eye-catching manner, what Google is calling “geographic data visualization”. Take a look at Google Search by Language….it plots out Google search volume by language around the globe. VERY cool stuff!

Google also makes the code available for anyone to plot out whatever they want. Go to Google’s Chromeexperiments to see other visualization examples.


The OSI Seven Layer Model – Why Learn It?

The number one reason I started this blog was to provide help and encouragement to new and prospective Network Engineers. Most of the time, I’ll be passing on experiences that I have in the field of networking. However, as I have time, I also want to post articles that I hope will take your understanding of networks up to the next level. I will include practical examples and exercises you can do at home which will give you a better understanding of networks, and I hope will make you a better Network Engineer. Today is my first post of this type. Please let me know if this is helpful (or not). Here goes…

The OSI Seven Layer Model. (I can you see wincing!!) Why bother, right? Most people I know learned just enough about the OSI model to answer the questions on some written test, and most likely have not given it a thought since. It’s just a bunch of theory, and doesn’t really help in the real world. Well, if that’s what you think, then you are missing a powerful tool in understanding networks AND in troubleshooting them. The best network engineers know the OSI model. And you can too.

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Dealing With Carriers — Good Experience with TWtelecom

So, if you’ve been following any of my recent experiences with an unnamed carrier, you know how difficult it can be dealing with them. (You can read those posts here…Part 1 and Part 2.) However, there are good carriers out there, and TWtelecom is one of them. Sure, no carrier is perfect, but I’ve been dealing with TWtelecom for over 6 months now and they are a pleasure to work with. I actually look forward to calling their Support Center, and that says a lot! Take today for an example…

I have three district offices that use TWtelecom for their WAN connectivity (via IPsec tunnels), and all three offices took a quick hit this morning for about 5 minutes. Let me tell you, when you start getting a bunch of text messages all showing various offices going down, it REALLY gets your attention! I grabbed my WAN document (you do have all your WAN circuits documented, right??), and quickly realized that all three locations had TWtelecom as their carrier. So that tells me it’s not a core router issue, and that no more sites should be going down.

BTW…what’s the next thing I did? No, not call TWtelecom. I walked over to the Help Desk area and let them know what happened and which sites were down, and to expect a bunch of calls.

And one more thing I realized…knowing TWtelecom, my sites should be coming back up rather quickly. An outage like this usually means an upstream device or circuit took a hit, and most times they will recover quickly (unless a backhoe was involved). As I was starting to call TWtelecom, the circuits all came back up. (Whew!)

I still called TWtelecom…they needed to know what happened, and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t the start of a recurring issue. And like always, it was wonderful chatting with them…their support personnel are very polite, know what they are talking about, and are quickly able to route tickets to the appropriate department. Within 15 minutes I received a call back confirming they saw the outage, and that it was due to a local LEC issue with one of their aggregate fiber circuits.  And now, about 3 hours later, things are still stable.

I wish all carriers were as pleasant to work with as TWtelecom. (And no, I was not paid to endorse TWtelecom. Unfortunately.)

A Great Day with My Motorcycle

Sometimes I love California, and sometimes I don’t. You’ve got crazy politics out here, earthquakes, fires, and a drought. All at the same time. But on days like today, I am reminded why living in CA is awesome…THE WEATHER!!

It’s in the low 90’s, clear blue skies, a light breeze…a perfect day to ride the bike to work. I’m not able to ride my bike to work often, as I have a fair amount of field work which requires equipment and tools. But today I could…and did! It was a great ride to work and out to lunch for a quick bite.


My personal stress reducer

Remember…in the midst of a busy life (work, family, stress), take time to enjoy the day. See the beauty of God’s Creation…it is all around you!

Have a great weekend!!