Securing Your Linux System

As daunting as securing your Linux system might seem, one thing to remember is that every extra step makes a difference. It’s almost always better to make a modest stride than let uncertainty keep you from starting.

Fortunately, there are a few basic techniques that greatly benefit users at all levels, and knowing how to securely wipe your hard drive in Linux is one of them. Because I adopted Linux primarily with security in mind, this is one of the first things I learned. Once you have absorbed this lesson, you will be able to part with your hard drives safely.

As you might have deduced, the usual way of deleting doesn’t always cut it. The most often-used processes for deleting files — clicking “delete” in the operating system or using the “rm” command — are not secure.

When you use one of these methods, all your hard drive does is mark the area where the deleted file used to be as available for new data to be written there. In other words, the original state of the bits (1s and 0s) of the deleted file are left intact, and forensic tools can recover the files.

This might seem like a bad idea, but it makes sense. Hard drives are designed to optimize hardware integrity, not security. Your hard drive would wear out very quickly if it reset the bits of a deleted file to all 0s every time you deleted a file.

Another process devised with hard drive lifespan in mind is “wear leveling,” a firmware routine that saves each new file in a random location on the drive. This prevents your drive from wearing out data cells, as those near the beginning of the drive would suffer the most wear if it saved data sequentially. However, this means it is unlikely that you ever would naturally overwrite a file just through long-term use of the drive.

So, what does it mean to “securely wipe” a hard drive?

Moving Raw Bits

Secure deletion involves using a program to overwrite the hard drive manually with all 0s (or random data). This useless data overwrites the entire drive, including every bit of every saved and deleted file. It even overwrites the operating system, leaving nothing for a malicious actor to exploit.

Since the command line is usually the simplest way of going about manual operations like this, I will go over this method. The best utility for this is the “dd” command.

The “dd” commamd can be used for many things besides secure deleting, like making exact backups or installing Linux distributions to USB flash drives, but what makes it so versatile is that whereas commands like “mv” and “cp” move around files as file objects, “dd” moves data around as a stream of raw bits. Essentially, while “mv” and “cp” see files, “dd” only sees bits.

What “dd” does is very simple: It takes an input and sends it to an output. Your Linux system has a stream of 0s it can read located at /dev/zero. This is not a normal file — it’s an endless stream of 0s represented as a file.

This will be our input for a wipe operation, for the purpose of this tutorial. The output will be the device to be overwritten. We will not be overwriting an actual running system, as 1) you probably wouldn’t want to; and 2) it actually wouldn’t work, because your system would overwrite the part of the system responsible for performing the overwrite before the overwrite was complete.

Securely erasing external storage devices, like USB flash drives and external hard drives is pretty straightforward, but for wiping your computer’s onboard hard drive, there are some extra steps involved.

The Live-Boot Option

If you can’t use a running system to wipe an onboard drive, how do you perform the operation? The answer is live-booting. Many Linux distributions, including those not explicitly specialized for the purpose, can be loaded and run on a computer from a connected USB drive instead of its onboard drive. When booted this way, the computer’s onboard drive is not accessed at all, since the system’s data is read entirely from the USB drive.

Since you likely installed your system from a bootable USB drive, it is best to use that. To live-boot, we have to change the place where the computer checks to find an operating system to run by entering the BIOS menu.

The BIOS is the firmware code that is loaded before any part of any OS is run, and by hitting the right key at boot time, we can access its menu. This key is different on different computers. It’s usually one of the “F” keys, but it might be something else, so it might take a few tries to figure it out, but the first screen that displays should indicate where to look.

Once you find it, insert the live-boot USB, reboot the computer directly into the BIOS menu, and select the option to change the boot order. You should then see a list of storage devices, including the inserted USB. Select this and the live system should come up.

Locating the Right Address

Before we do any deleting, we have to figure out which address our system assigns to the drive to be deleted (i.e., the target drive). To do that, we will use the “lsblk” command, for “list block devices.” It returns information about attached block devices, which are essentially hard drive-type devices.

Before running the command, take note of the target drive’s storage size, and detach all devices connected to your computer EXCEPT the drive storing the system you are live-booting from. Then, run “lsblk” with no arguments or options.

$ lsblk

The only device that should appear is your onboard hard drive and the live-booted USB. You will notice that “lsblk” returns a name (under “NAME”) beginning with “sd” and then a letter, with branching lines to the same name appended with a number. The name the branches originate from is the name of the “file” serving as the address of the drive in the /dev directory, a special directory that represents devices as files so the system can interact with them.

You should see an entry with the size of the USB drive hosting the live-boot system and a path under “MOUNTPOINT”, and (only) one other entry with the size of your target drive with no mount point listed. This second entry gives you the address for the output of “dd”. For instance, if your target drive corresponds to the name “sdb”, then that means /dev/sdb is the address.

However, to identify the address of an external drive you want to delete, run “lsblk” once with no device attached, check the (single) entry against your onboard drive’s size and make a note of its address, connect your target drive, run “lsblk” again, and check that its size corresponds to that of one of the entries in the output.

The output of the second “lsblk” command should now return two entries instead of one, and one of them should match target’s size. If your system is configured to automatically access inserted drives, you should see a path including “/media” under “MOUNTPOINT”, but otherwise the target drive should list nothing in that column.

As these addresses correspond to hard drives, it is important to be EXTREMELY careful to give the right one, because otherwise you will delete the wrong drive. As I noted earlier, if you accidentally give the address of your running system as the output, the command will immediately start writing zeros until you stop it (by hitting “Ctrl-c”) or your system crashes, resulting in irrecoverable data loss either way.

For example, since the letters are assigned alphabetically starting (usually) with the running system, if a single connected external drive is the target, it probably will be addressed as /dev/sdb. But, again, check this carefully, because it may be different for you.

Foiling Identity Thieves

Now we’re ready to delete. All we do is invoke “dd,” give /dev/zero as the input, and give our target (for this example, /dev/sdb) as the output. “dd” is an old command from the time before Linux, so it has a somewhat odd syntax. Instead of options prepended with dashes (“-“), it uses “if=” for “input file” and “of=” for “output file.” Our command, then, looks like this.

$ dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/sdb

Depending on how big the target drive is, and how fast your processor is, this could take a while. With a powerful processor wiping a 16-GB flash drive, this could take as little as 10 minutes. For an average processor writing over a 1-TB drive, though, it could take a whole day. You can do other things with your computer (though not with that terminal), but they probably will be slower, as this is a comparatively processor-intensive task.

Though this is probably not something you’ll do often, knowing how definitely will serve you well in the rare instances when need to. Identity theft from forensically analyzing discarded drives happens all the time, and this simple procedure will go a long way toward defending against it.

The Differences between Native Advertising and Sponsored Listing

Native advertising and sponsored listing are two terms that you may have come across recently, especially if your company is involved in any form of paid advertising.
But unless you have been paying close attention to how online advertising has evolved over the last couple of years, you may have missed the distinction between the two. (There’s no shame in that; even AOL and Yahoo are playing catch up.)
To get you up to speed on the differences between native advertising and sponsored listings, we offer you a concise explanation that you can just as easily adapt for the next stakeholders meeting or impromptu networking.

Native Advertising

The simplest way to explain native advertising is that it is paid media that takes on the feel and function of the site where it exists, almost always a publisher or platform like Facebook, The Wall Street Journal or Mashable, for example.
Now, because not all sites are the same, how one site integrates native ads may be completely different from another site.
Case in point: Facebook native ads are placed in the newsfeed, whereas Google’s native real estate is within search results – although ads are placed along the top and sidebar.

Native Facebook Advertising – Google Sponsored Listing

Native ads in Facebook newsfeed and Google search results.

The reason: it flows more naturally with the rest of the content. Rather than disrupting the user experience, native advertising caters to it.
Native advertising is about how the content looks rather than what it does.

Sponsored Listing

Sponsored listings, on the other hand, are paid ads that are prominently featured on websites in order to drive traffic to specific landing pages.
In many cases, the website that hosts the sponsored listing will place it naturally within existing, non-paid, content so that it mimics the qualities of the site.
If you noticed, we said that the content takes on the characteristics of the website…remind you of anything?
That’s right; sponsored listings can also be a form of native advertising.
The sponsored listing is more about what the content does rather than how it looks, although it can be considered native if the ad is placed accordingly. Have any questions  write to us

Email Migration Options

In organizations’ ongoing quest to become highly mobile enterprises, it’s become clear that Good – BlackBerry’s enterprise mobility platform – just isn’t good enough. As BlackBerry transitions customers from Good for Enterprise to Good Work, customers may want to rethink their options for mobile productivity solutions.

While Good Work is considered a highly secure email app, users have criticized Good Work for poor email and calendar syncing and for being a resource hog, among other drawbacks. The Good suite also raises questions around reinvesting in BlackBerry, which recently announced it was exiting the handset business. In today’s consumerized world, users have a stronger influence on technology choices and no business can afford to tie itself to resource-heavy, high-risk solutions that users dislike.

With email and collaboration apps especially, user satisfaction hinges heavily on ease of use to accomplish desirable tasks. Mobile moments are usually no more than a minute long and users want to take care of their tasks with a few quick actions or finger swipes – for example, scheduling a meeting or flagging an email in the “to-do” folder. The desire to stay on top of their inbox and quickly manage incoming messages applies to all types of email users – regardless of whether they are a piler, filer, or purger.

Of course, ease of use can’t come at the expense of enterprise-grade security. Productivity apps require end-to-end protection of data at rest and in transit through advanced encryption. Likewise, data leakage protection and the ability to protect personal privacy are critical qualities of any email and collaboration investment.

Today’s popular offerings also include flexible deployment capabilities– e.g., cloud, on-premise or hybrid availability. Cloud-based platforms in particular not only improve operational efficiency for IT but also enable seamless and secure interactions with other enterprise-approved SaaS solutions such as content repositories (e.g., Box or Drive), further increasing the value and usability of email and collaboration tools.

Bottom line: There’s no reason to settle for Good when great options are readily available.

cloud clarity: right cloud, right data at right time

Should software application development professionals be tasked with finding out where, when, how, why and on what cloud form factor their applications should exist upon at any one single given moment in time?

Do cloud architects, engineers and supporting service operations (and, indeed, DevOps) staff have enough holistic system knowledge to be able to know where to draw down and spin up the appropriate instances of cloud to be able to position applications best, for their optimal performance from both a cost and computing point of view.

This is the pain point that cloud infrastructure control software company Cirba is putting its analytics know-how to (in the shape of its cloud migration & cost analysis capabilities). We can help you understand better. Feel free to contact us.

Capture the Enterprise Digital Transformation Opportunity with Cisco Powered Cloud Managed SD-WAN Service

Cisco recently announced the availability of a new Cisco Powered services designation entitled Cisco Powered Cloud Managed SD-WAN (software-defined wide area networking) under a new Cisco Powered services category named Cloud Managed DNA Services. This new category of services will enable our Cloud and Managed Services Program (CMSP) partners to make their way into the new cloud-based managed delivery model. The newest service, Cisco Powered Cloud Managed SD-WAN, allows providers the ability to offer the same DNA (Digital Network Architecture) outcomes with the convenience and value of managed services, combined with the power of cloud orchestration.

By 2018, there will be a ten-fold increase in enterprises replacing WAN routing with SD-WAN-based path forwarding. Through the Cloud and Managed Services Program and Cisco Powered services portfolio expansion, Cisco is helping partners capture this growing market opportunity. If you are a provider offering Cisco Powered Cloud, Managed, or Cloud & Managed services to your customers or thinking of becoming a CMSP partner, this offer will help you leverage your Cisco orchestration platform – a key control point as you adopt future DNA services.

Cisco Powered Cloud Managed SD-WAN

Cisco Powered Cloud Managed SD-WAN is a suite of services delivered and managed from service providers’ cloud by using Cisco SD-WAN and service orchestration technologies.

  • Cisco SD-WAN supports intelligent path control, application optimization, visibility and control, secure inter-branch communication and secure direct internet access services.
  • All services are orchestrated by Cisco Network Service Orchestrator (NSO) or Virtual Managed Service (VMS) platform in a large scale, multi-tenant and automated manner.

Provider benefits:

  • Enables you to bring up new branches in minutes, simplifies management and troubleshooting to reduce operational cost.
  • Helps automate service creation, service ordering and dramatically reduce operational costs
  • Expand market reach into SD-WAN and security business

Cisco DNA Differentiation:

  • Complete solution. Cisco has a complete solution including WAN, WiFi, Security, Application Performance, and Optimization enabling full digitization for the enterprise branch
  • #1 Vendor. Cisco holds the #1 spot for SDN/NFV Software Vendors [1]
  • Proven and trusted. Customers trust Cisco for their mission critical WAN

We constantly strive to help our partners offer a rich portfolio of Cisco Powered services that meet your customers’ current business needs, aligned with Cisco’s strategy. Our channel partners are key to our success. With the newly launched Cisco Powered Cloud Managed SD-WAN service, you can differentiate yourself and take on next generation orchestration challenges.

Visit our website to learn more about the new Cisco Powered service and the partner benefits or send your questions to info@snehasoft.com. Please share your feedback, thoughts on the new category and the new Cisco Powered service in the comments section

New Cisco Video Product Short – RV320 and RV325 with Web Filtering

As we get closer to the end of 2016, we thought it would be fun to highlight a new medium for you that we have been working on. We are lucky to have an incredible group of interns at the University of Santa Cruz, led by Gabriel Rulon.

We have come out with our first Product Video Short. It is not a full Video Datasheet, it is a short, 60-90 second Video designed to provide a quick glimpse on our products. We will be doing more of these next year for all of lines of products. Need More information Please Contact US we will be happy to assist you on your requirement

Why Designers Should Use Agile Sprint Planning

Many creatives such as graphic designers, photographers, and product designers live in a world of chaos. On any given hour of any given day, someone in the organization will email, chat, or stop by their desk to make a last minute design request. Could you create this quick poster for our recruiting event tomorrow? Can you squeeze in a design for a new confirmation modal in our the app? Can you create a quick summary video from our offsite yesterday so I can share it with the team tomorrow?

Accompanying the ever-constant stream of requests is a lack of clear priorities. This forces the designer to make emotionally-driven prioritization decisions multiple times per day. Should I prioritize based on who asked me? In that case, does the CMO win because of rank or does the nicest person win? Should I prioritize based on urgency? Is that based on a real or imaginary deadline or perhaps just the sound of urgency in their voice?

Without clear priorities, aligned across stakeholders, everyone loses. Some of the work gets done quickly while other work slows to a crawl–eroding stakeholder trust. Even more concerning is that the chaos starts to negatively impact the quality of the design work. This couldn’t be more true in the world of product design where ad-hoc designs lacking customer research and testing will not only reduce usability of the product but will frequently cause engineering rework down the road.

The end result of this vicious cycle is an exhausted designer, who feels on the one hand like a hero for smiling and saying “yes” to a request and on the other hand feels like an unappreciated short-order cook who just can’t keep up. Get in Touch With us for More Information

Measuring Developer Productivity

Almost as long as I have been working to make the lives of software engineers better, people have been asking me how to measure developer productivity. How do we tell where there are productivity problems? How do we know if a team is doing worse or better over time? How does a manager explain to senior managers how productive the developers are? And so on and so on.

In general, I tended to focus on focus on code simplicity first, and put a lower priority on measuring every single thing that developers do. Almost all software problems can be traced back to some failure to apply software engineering principles and practices. So even without measurements, if you simply get good software engineering practices applied across a company, most productivity problems and development issues disappear.

Now, that said, there is tremendous value in measuring things. It helps you pinpoint areas of difficulty, allows you to reward those whose productivity improves, justifies spending more time on developer productivity work where that is necessary, and has many other advantages.

But programming is not like other professions. You can’t measure it like you would measure some manufacturing process, where you could just count the number of correctly-made items rolling off the assembly line. We help you in measuring Contact us to know more

How to Choose Best Keywords

1.    KEYWORDS: Do I know what keyword or keyword phrase my blog post is targeting?

Keywords are the words and/or phrases you think people will use in search engines to find information related to specific topics. SEO, or search engine optimization, is the practice of tailoring your content to the search engines. Every post you write should target a keyword or keyword phrase that is most relevant to your post. To find the best keyword choice for your post:

  • Use Google’s keyword tool. This will tell you your keyword’s average monthly search volume, its competitiveness, and will even suggest related keywords and their relevance.

2.    TITLE: Is mine to the point, captivating and optimized?

An effective title is one that is optimized under SEO best practices, which means it is easily discernible by search engines and is actually compelling to readers.

On average, only 20% of viewers read beyond a headline, meaning the success of your entire post is highly dependent on the success of your title—so make yours stand out. Optimize it!

Aim for a succinct, descriptive title that is SEO-friendly. This will invite more readership than a lengthy one without any flavor or purpose.

  • Include your main keyword phrase in the title.
  • Dress it up with attractive adjectives and adverbs, and instill a sense of curiosity.
  • And keep in mind that readers like “how-tos,” lists and easily scannable benefit statements.
  • Keep it under 55 characters (or have a more succinct “SEO” Title on hand if you use a WordPress plugin like Yoast which allows you to specify an SEO Title separate from your main page title)

For example, if your blog post is all about the keyword phrase “content marketing strategies,” you might try titles like:

  • How To Generate the Most Brilliant Content Marketing Strategies EVER
  • 10 Tips for Surefire Content Marketing Strategies
  • Make Your Business Big Money with These Content Marketing Strategies
  • Are You Missing These Proven Content Marketing Strategies?

At the end of the day, write down a few potential titles, share them with your coworkers or friends and see what sort of reactions you get. But don’t stop there — make it a habit to A/B test different types of headlines against each other. This will bring your headline expertise beyond gut reactions of insiders and will give you data-proven headline types that resonate with your exact audience. Eventually this will become easier, and you’ll be able to identify effective titles earlier, and with more authority.

3.    URL: Is mine optimized?

Your URL, or permalink, is found directly below the title box in WordPress. This simply denotes what terms will be included your post’s URL. If you do not alter this, WordPress will usually automatically insert every word from your title, which is not ideal.

  • For the most SEO-friendly URLs, you want to keep it between 50-80 characters, and it should include your target keyword phrase.

4.    BODY COPY: Is mine effectively formatted and optimized?

A blog post with tons of information to share is good, but fully SEO optimized blog post with well-formatted, search-engine-friendly content is WAY better—and your audience will appreciate it WAY more.

First, strategically make your body copy organized and easy to read by including:

  • A “Read More” tag. Use this to truncate and control how much of your entry is visible from your blog’s home and archive pages. To insert, press Alt+Shift+T at the desired point.
  • Shorter paragraphs. These help the reader cruise through your content.
  • Breakups and emphases. Use bullets, numbered lists, block quotes, italics and bold fonts to cut up chunky text or to emphasize a particularly important point.
  • Action-item in the closing statements. This call-to-action is something that asks your readers a question, tells them where to go for more information and/or invites them to engage with you on social media or through integrated commenting. Whatever the case, your CTA is designed to affirm that this post was for YOU, my dear audience.

Second, achieve SEO success within your body copy by including:

  • Your target keyword phrase. Use this at least once in the title, meta description, URL, and pretty early on in the body copy, preferably the first paragraph. But if it sounds unnatural, don’t force it—write for your audience first, Google second.
Always write for your audience first, Google second.
  • H2 and H3 tags. These are essentially sub-headlines throughout your blog post. They not only break up content and entice further reading, but they allow search engines spiders to easily crawl and rank your post. Therefore, H2s and H3s are great places to use your keyword phrase, if they make sense there. Learn more about headings on Yoast’s SEO blog.
  • Internal and external links. A good post will link to other useful, related content sources. These links can help expound on ideas without need for on-page explanations and they allow search bots to re-crawl your old posts. Internal linking within your own sites send signals to search engines as to which pages on your site are the best resources, so linking back to your own service pages is a best practice. As for external links, linking out to sites with good domain authority is an SEO optimization best practice and a good way to organically build relationships within your industry and earn links back. Try for a minimum of 2–3 linking opportunities per post, if possible and be sure your external links open in a new window. Be sure to also monitor your external links periodically to make sure you’re not linking to posts that pop up 404 errors (unless they’re awesome 404s like this one).

Remember that most of your readers—like Google—will just scan your post, so be as accommodating as possible with how you present your information. Make it scannable and think about creative visuals wherever possible. Do it right, and they’ll likely keep coming back for more!

5.    META DESCRIPTION: Is mine illustrative of my post?

Your meta description is the snippet of text that will appear beneath your title in search engine results. As such, it’s important that you work your main keyword phrase into this (which Google will show in bold text) and maintain an enticing tone that will attract and encourage clicks from searchers looking for the best article that comes up from their query.

  • To help make this step easier, try using an all-in-one SEO optimization plug-in like the aforementioned WordPress SEO by Yoast. Plugins like this are a great way to ensure that you touch upon ALL of the SEO optimization checklist bases—and even some extras beyond those mentioned in this article.

6.      FEATURE IMAGE: Do I have one, and is it formatted correctly?

People like imagery, and simply put, posts with pictures get more clicks.* But for the most mileage, you should do the following with your feature images:

  • Resize your media to fit the width of your post space.
  • Rename the filename and set the title, ALT text and caption to include your main keyword phrase to ensure search engines can instantly recognize the value.
  • Make sure you add a description of the image in the description field to optimize your image for visually impaired visitors.

*Note: be careful that the images you use are either yours personally, or otherwise free of copyright. Click here to learn more about the importance of using legal media.

7.    CATEGORIES & TAGS: Have I selected the proper ones?

Categories denote a post’s broad grouping within your blog, while tags are used to further describe the post and topic.

  • Make sure you select the category or categories most related to your post. Pay special attention to how your category selection affects your URL. In some cases, selecting one category (the most relevant) is preferable to selecting multiple. It largely depends on your particular site’s content strategy.
  • Add the most appropriate tags. Although meta tags no longer do much for SEO, smart tag usage on your site can be helpful to your readers.

8.    AUTHORSHIP: Did I set myself as the author of this post?

If more than one user accesses your blog to create posts, you likely have an “author box” plug-in established.

  • Don’t forget to set the appropriate authorship for the post—give credit where credit’s due!

9.    PREVIEW: Have I done a once-over of my post?

This is a foolproof way to ensure that you see your post the same way everyone else is going to see it live. Using preview helps you recognize errors you may not have seen from the back end. After everything else is set on your WordPress post:

  • Take a 5-minute break to stretch out and rest your eyes and mind, then come back to your desk, hit preview, and see if you’re satisfied enough to share this with the world.

As a blogger, you’ve spent so much time collecting, organizing and crafting compelling content with a lot to be excited about, so you want to make sure you’ve done all you can to disseminate it the right way.

Before you get ahead of yourself, wondering, “Who’s going to read my masterpiece? Who’s going to share it? Who’s going to turn into a client because of it?” be sure to pump the brakes, and first ask yourself, “Have I done everything in my power to give my blog post the attention it deserves?”

Use these nine SEO checklist items to make sure you’re publishing successful blog posts on WordPress like an expert—every time. Or, if you need some extra assistance, we’d love to hear from you in the comments section below. We’re also always here on Twitter, and you want to learn more our digital marketing program, which include SEO optimization packages, let’s talk marketing!

 

How Punctuation Influences Your Writing Voice

How Punctuation Influences Your Writing Voice

Yeah, yeah.

But who really cares about punctuation?!?

Writing is hard enough. You must think about writing proper sentences, choosing the right words, and avoiding spelling mistakes. Who has time to worry about commas and full stops?

Isn’t worrying about commas and semi-colons for grammar freaks and pedantic teachers? For poets and writers with too much time to ponder away?

I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.
~ Oscar Wilde

In the past years, I’ve come to understand that I’ve been wrong about punctuation. These humble marks in our writing matter more than I thought.

Punctuation changes your voice. We can sound more excitable. Or authoritative. Or empathetic. We can build suspense. Make readers stop, or get them to rush ahead to the next paragraph …

Want to know how?

The most powerful punctuation mark

The full stop is the most powerful punctuation mark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s an easy mistake to make.

Many writers think the exclamation mark adds power to their voice. But that’s untrue. The real power comes from full stops. Wanna Know More Contact us