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Saturday, January 28, 2017

My Attempt to Protect from Ransomware


About a year ago, a local newspaper published an article regarding Ransomware.  It was the first time I had heard of this scam and intrusion.  It alarmed me!  The business was able to restore their data because they had daily off-site backups; most victims weren't as fortunate.

With that in mind, I decided it was high-time to get my backups in order and methodical.

This will be a series of postings detailing what I've done, and what I'm going to do regarding this.

First Steps


Except for a single laptop, all of my various systems are Ubuntu or Raspbian; all a derivitive of linux. So, naturally, my backup plan was going to involve 'tar', 'gzip'.  The backups were going to be on USB Hard Drive devices.

I have a lot of data, as well as a lot of programs that I want to retain permanent access to, and not lose to Ransomware.  

After a lot of research, I decided I was going to implement:
  • Daily Backups.  These would occur on Sunday Morning 00:30, through Friday morning 00:30.  These would be differential in nature, meaning the backup would be for any file that had changed since the last Weekly Backup on Saturday. 
  • Weekly Backups.  These would be a full backup of the system.
  • Monthly Backups.  Same criteria as Weekly Backups - full backup of the system.
  • Image Backups: Entails bringing the system down and rebooting into FileZilla, then producing two (2) images: one of the root file system '/', and the other of home '/home'.  Performed monthly, this is an important step, as it lets me also have the ability to restore my 'virtualbox' system, which has a Windows instance on it.  Using images, I'm able to restore to a new hard drive or partition and Windows doesn't complain - it doesn't see the new hard drive or restore as being different, so it runs correctly.  This is the only way I've found to do this without Windows refusing to run.
  • Backups of Backups
    • Since I still have vulnerabilities associated with times the filesystems are either mounted or can be mounted if root password is obtained, the above backups can still be destroyed by someone malicious.  In order to prevent this, I have a separate BackupsOfBackups Raspberry Pi that is not connected to any network, that has it's own 5TB USB hard drive attached to it.  Once a week, I manually disconnect the USB connection from my Weekly and Monthly backups, and manually connect  them to my BackupsOfBackups Raspberry Pi, where I do a copy to the backup filesystem on that BackupsOfBackups Raspberry Pi.  I do not run any software that is located on any of the primary backup filesystems; only software that I installed on the Raspberry Pi.  I do not connect this BackupsOfBackups Raspberry Pi to the internet, even to get updates - it stays as it was when I created it.  I only use Raspbian OS as distributed from the Raspberry organization.  By doing this in this way, I see no way for a malicious person to destroy the filesystem located on the BackupsOfBackups Raspberry Pi.
  • Criteria:
    •  Backups would utilize 'tar' and 'gzip', as well as 'exclusion files' for tar.  For instance, I excluded the '/tmp' directory.
    • Each backup type (e.g., Daily) were to be kept on their own USB hard drives.  This means at least four (4) separate USB hard drives are dedicated to this approach.  This is a personal choice; your choice could be to go to a single USB hard drive instead.
    • USB hard drives would be unmounted and mains unplugged in the morning and reattached in the evening in order to shorten the window for direct attack; this however would not alleviate an attack that managed to place executables onto my system that was stored to run any time a partition was mounted.
    • An automated backup script would be created to run each morning at 00:30.  This would mount the necessary hard drive partition, then perform the correct backup based on the day and date (end of month) for the system.
  • Notes
    • All filesystems are owned by root, and permissions set to 400, with directories set to 500.  This doesn't protect if someone has root password!
    • The hard drives would be unmounted except when needed for the backup, and also disconnected from mains electrical, in order to preclude someone malicious that had somehow gained root access to mount those filesystems.  I have a multi-strip that has individual switches on it for each outlet that is very useful for this mains isolation.
    • The backups are automated in a 'bash' shell script that detects the day (when to do Daily vs Weekly) and the date (month end).  It also mounts the appropriate partition at the start, and unmounts it at the end, and makes status log entries into /var/log/Backup log-files.
    • If the mount fails, then the backup is aborted and an error created, as my '/' filesystem isn't large enough to store the backup.
    • The 'bash' shell script is run via root's cron, every day at 00:30.
    • An email is sent to me showing pass/fail.


I sometimes have forgotten to manually turn on the mains switch to the USB hard drive associated with that morning's backup, resulting in the backup aborting.  I also have a larger than desired window of opportunity for someone to get into my system, as I typically turn on the mains switch for the drive around 9:00 PM, then back off around 6:00 AM (unless the backup is still running!).  I am in the process of installing a relay board (for mains isolation) that will be controlled by a Raspberry Pi 3.  This will utilize node.js to receive API commands from the main system backup 'bash' shell script, instructing the Raspberry Pi to turn on the appropriate mains switch relay at the start, then back off at the completion/abor and unmount completing.

I have purchased the relay board, and the Raspberry Pi, so am now in the process of creating a driver board in order to limit the current the Raspberry Pi was going to have to sink.  Looking at software CAD programs that will produce a perfboard (or similar) drawing output.

I'll create a new blog entry on the development of the driver board and the node.js software running on the Rapberry Pi, once I get this worked out.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Security System - Local Alarm From Kit

As part of my Security System, I wanted to place an audible alarm near whatever sensor I'm using.

My sensors are going to be networked, feeding information to the main security control.  Currently I'm using a NodeMCU which makes use of a ESP8266's WiFi network capabilities.  This also means I can send a request, from the main security control, to turn on the alarm remotely, should I desire to do so, as its under the control of the ESP8266 device.

In this post, I'm not showing any type of sensor.  However, in most cases, I'll be using a PIR or a ultrasonic sensor to set the ESP8266 in alarm output for pin 5, and then enabling the local sensor alarm sound.  So, I'm just showing the alarm device and ESP8266 here.

Because the ESP8266 is a 3.3 vdc device, it can only supply 3.3 vdc and a limited amount of current; this wasn't enough to directly drive the audible alarm, so I've added a switching transistor to supply the switching current.

Scroll down for circuit description, construction, and construction photos.

In this post, I'm showing the use of a cheap commercial Window and Door Open/Closed Sensor Alarm, that I picked up for $1.00 at a local Dollar Store.  It contains a circuit board with:

  • square wave generator
  • battery holder
  • transformer
  • on/off switch
  • piezo electric speaker
  • 3 1.5 vdc batteries

I'm not making use of the magnetic switch in this post.  Instead, I'm making use of the audible piezo alarm (hereafter referred to as ALARM), when enabled by the NodeMCU device.

Circuit Description
In this design (software in a later post), the NodeMCU is driving pin 5 high to 3.3 VDC.  The output of this pin is connected to a 6.8K resistor, then to the base of a 2N3904 NPN transistor, which is biased as a switch.

The negative battery post of the ALARM has been separated from the ALARM circuit board, with the transistor inserted between the negative battery post and the circuit board, with the ALARM circuit board connected to the transistor's collector, and the negative terminal connected to the circuit common ground.

When a high value (3.3vdc) is applied to the base of the transistor, it turns on, basically connecting the circuit board through the transistor to ground - the ALARM sounds.

When a negative value (0vdc) is applied to the base of the transistor, it turns off, stopping current flowing from the collector to the emitter, so that the circuit is open, and no ALARM sounds.

Any 3.3vdc supply can be applied to the base to turn the transistor on - you don't have to use a NodeMCU.

If other voltages are used, such as a 5vdc from an Arduino, then you should resize the base resistor.

The 2N3904 has a beta of around 200 (varies somewhat), and is limited to 200ma and 625mwatts.

I wanted to restrict the current through the transistor to 100ma.

For 100ma at 3.3vdc and beta of 200, this equates to:
CollectorCurrent (Ic) = BaseCurrent(Ib) x Beta(200)
Ic = Ib x Beta
Ib = Ic / Beta
Ib = 100ma / 200
Ib = .5ma

Base Resistor (Br) = Vdc/ma
Br = 3.3/.5ma
Br = 6.6Kohm

While I'm showing 3.3 vdc above, a closer approximation would be 3.3 - .7 = 2.6 vdc, which includes the voltage drop across the base-emitter, which would yield about 76 ma instead of the 100 ma.  However, that's good enough for this circuit, and the 6.8K is close enough, and it sound loud enough for a local alert for me; the main security controller will driving the loud stuff.

The battery voltage of 4.5 (3x1.5)vdc is flowing from the ALARM's batteries, and is being switched via the transistor's base of 3.3vdc.

This ALARM can be used in any device with a small voltage to switch the transistor on and off, by making adjustments to the base resistor.  I've put one, with a much larger value resistor into a box, so I can use it as a beeper for simple circuit tests and continuity tests; the higher value resistor limits the sound!


Construction Pictures:

The device I bought for $1.00 at the local Dollar Store

The contents of the device: 3 1.5vdc batteries, a magnet, and the sensor/alarm/battery case.

Remove the battery cover, then remove the screw I'm pointing at in order to get into the back of the case.

After you've opened the case, this what it will look like.

Two board types in stock!  Both work the same for our purposes!  We are only using the red wire where it connects to the negative battery terminal post.

Newer Device Circuit Board - pointing at black blob.
While building the circuit, I realized there were two (2) versions of the device, both bought at the same time from the same Dollar Store.  This is the newer device, showing a 'black blob' where the square wave generator is located.

Older Device Circuit Board - pointing at discrete components.
This works the same as the newer board.

Unsolder the red wire from this junction - it is the negative battery post.  Leave the other end of the red wire still connected to the circuit board.  We will be inserting the transistor between this negative battery post and the red wire, so the transistor, in acting like a switch; allowing current to flow back to the negative battery post when transistor enabled, and no current when transistor disabled.

Connect a green wire to the negative batter post you just removed the red wire from above.  This will be connected to our circuit common.

Next we are going to connect a yellow wire to the red wire that was removed from the negative battery post previously.  So, solder it in already!  Our transistor will be going between this yellow wire and green wire.

This is how the circuit will function.  The green wire is connected to ground, the yellow wire is connected to the collector of the 2N3904 NPN transistor.  The emitter is connected to ground.  The base is connected to a 6.8K resistor, and then to the output pin 5 of the NodeMCU device, which will switch 0 - 3.3vdc.

There isn't anywhere in the ALARM case for the two new wires to pass, so I used my soldering iron to melt a small hole in the case, then put the wires in, and closed up the case.

Testing!  A simple test of just the wiring changes!
Before transistor and software are added to the circuit!

I've inserted the batteries (polarity as indicated in the battery compartment bottom), and made sure to slide the switch to 'On' position - it won't sound if you don't turn it on!

With everything on, and the two wires not connected, the ALARM should not be making an alarm sound.

With everything on, and shorting the yellow and green wires together, the ALARM should be making an alarm sound!

Circuit schematic.

Using the NodeMCU with software I created, testing.  High output from NodeMCU pin 5 (also showing on blue LED on NodeMCU) causes ALARM to sound alarm.

Using the NodeMCU with software I created, testing.  Low output from NodeMCU pin 5 (also showing no LED on NodeMCU) causes ALARM to not sound alarm.

I'll upload the software in a later, separate post.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Home Security/Automation System - New Design!

Design Update  (February 17, 2016)
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Well, if you've been following this blog from the start, then you know that I've had a lot of hurdles to overcome!

My background in programming, while extensive (beginning in 1977) and including many programming languages, did not have any real front-end presentation layer activities.  So, with no front end stuff, then no HTML, no Javascript, no Nodejs, no Express, no Jade.....just a lot of "no's!".

Since I had a lot of Java background, that was my first approach.  But it was just too heavy for my target hardware - a Beaglebone Black.  Also, I was tired of programming in it!  Since I was now retired, I decided I wanted something more efficient than Java, both from a programming standpoint, as well as a system load standpoint (Beaglebone remember!).

My search led me to Python.  I considered Scalia and Ruby, but Python looked good to me, and was something I could easily use on future code for around the house.  So, I started planning on Python.  But I ran into a problem on the front end presentation layer - not much better than what I was used to in Java!   But I kept going...see my posts on Kivy on this blog.

Life intervened, and I had to stop the project for a while.  But I kept occasionally researching, and somewhere came across nodejs.  This really peaked my interest.

I dug into nodejs (note: this is the new, correct spelling for this product; after their recent merger, then changed the name from node to nodejs).  I really liked what I saw.  That, along with the ability to push data to a HTML5 browser (I refused to do polling) meant I could move off of Kivy etc. bandwagon, and move to a browser, which would simplify a lot of things, particularly with respect to system monitoring while away from home via the internet.

So, I started leaning Nodejs, which begat getting a firmer knowledge in Javascript.  Then backtracking to HTML, then CSS - none of which I needed in my professional life before; well, OK, I did some stuff, but barely anything.  Then came Jade, and document databases, and Nedb.  Then somewhere Express.  I stayed away from CSS, Express, Jade for a while, because I was concerned about the Beaglebone being able to host all of this, but it turned out not to be a problem.

So, if you were like me, experienced programmer, but needing web based knowledge, then I was suggest the following learning path, in this order:

  1. HTML
  2. CSS
  3. Javascript
  4. Nodejs
  5. Express
  6. Jade

So, my redesign!

  • Uses the Beaglebone Black.  I'm going to also develop on the Raspberry PI 2; will update with that info.
  • Hosts a web server via Nodejs
  • Uses the Google Chrome browser.  Others may work, but I'm not testing or programming to those other platforms.
  • Provides dynamic web page security updates.
  • Displays current weather information while no security work or events taking place.

Since the base display is weather displays, and I needed somewhere to start, I first programmed the weather display system.  The design for this is:

  • Runs on Beaglebone
  • Hosts a web server via Nodejs
  • Uses the Google Chrome browser.
  • Provides dynamic web page weather updates.
  • Obtains live data from for my local, every 5 minutes.
  • Obtains static radar jpg images from and wunderground.
  • Displays a digital clock, data from the Beaglebone pushed to web page.  If the network drops, the Beaglebone freezes, the server freezes, the browser freezes - then the seconds no longer update.  In the future, the time will also change color, and maybe an alarm is generated.
  • Will switch to security mode on work or event.
The weather system is functional.  I'm currently refactoring the code and adding a few new features.

When those updates are complete, I will publish.


Nodejs: Passing values from Express to jade to javascript!

Passing values from Express to Jade to Javascript

Note: jade version 1.11.0
Today's date: 2/17/16
Note: assumes you are somewhat familiar with the technologies mentioned (nodejs, jade, express, javascript, html)

I've been hard at work on my security system, but came across an issue that took several hours to resolve.  I'm a very experienced programmer (C, C##, Java, Python, assembly, Fortran, Basic, etc), but almost all of that development has been done on back-end stuff; not much GUI front end stuff, no HTML stuff.  So, I'm somewhat weak on the front-end stuff; just now leaning nodejs, jade, express, javascript, html!

The security system I'm designing and building requires a lot of front-end stuff; it's showing the status via sms text messages and the browser.  This means the architecture is going to make use of:

  • Nodejs (note this is now the correct spelling for this product)
  • Jade (used with Nodejs)
  • Express (used with Nodejs)
  • Javascript
  • HTML

Instead of having an image of the current security system on display in the browser all of the time, I decided to have the current weather shown, along with the current time.  Weather in the Southeastern US can be quite volatile, so I have kept a radar image up on an old laptop in our living room for years, so weather is important to me to keep aware of.

The idea is the weather will be shown until either I select to view/work on the security system, or a security event occurs, in which cases the browser will display the appropriate security screen.  As part of the weather, I'm getting current weather information from the API.  For items such as radar images, I'm looping through some current jpg files that are offered from and

Now - the problem I was encountering.

In looping through the various web pages, I have to have a delay between pages in seconds.  I want this value to be passed in at the time the application is started, for the default value.  Later, I intend to add a change that will let me interactively change the delay time.

The current architecture, using Nodejs and Express, renders a loopingPages.jade file.  I'm passing the the DELAY value obtained at startup via process.env.DELAY in app.js, where it stores the value, before rendering the looping pages.  So, the DELAY value is passed from the startup command line to the app.js (the server), then to the jade rendered page via:

     app.get('/loopingPages', function(req, res) {
          res.render('loopingPages', {delay:DELAY}

The jade file loopingPages.jade includes a script file.  So, to be clear, the value that is originating from app.js server (using Express), needs to be passed to the rendering jade file loopingPages.jade, and this file includes a javascript file loopingPages.js, where the DELAY is actually used.

Well, I couldn't get it to work.  I could get the DELAY value from the environment variable passed at startup using the 'process.env.DELAY' term, but I could not get it to propagate properly.

After a lot of searching on the internet, I was unable to find an example that matched the one I needed, and most were old.  Seems this was an exercise in futility and esoteric programming!

But, I finally got it to work!

Below is a simplified version, which I was able to get to work.  It assumes you have created a fresh nodejs Express architecture for using this, which creates the proper directory structure and contents that I'll add to.  All directory locations are relative to your base directory for the application where app.js is located.

1. Modify routes/index.js to add name:'Banjo'
        res.render('index', {title: 'Express', name: 'Banjo' });

2. Modify views/index.jade to add p My name is index.jade #{name}
It should look like this:
     h1= title
     p Welcome to index.jade #{title}
     p My name is index.jade #{name}

The #{name} will show the name value passed from the app.js on the web page.  The #{title} was already available from the initial build.

3. At the bottom of index.jade (above), add the following inline script and script src:
          var theName = "#{name}"
          var theTitle = "#{title}"
          console.log("name passed in to index.jade is " + theName)
          console.log("title passed in to index.jade is " + theTitle)

Note the new file indexInclude.js which you will create next.

4.  Using your programming editor, create the file
It should have the following content:
     console.log("This is from indexInclude.js");
     console.log("+++++++++++FINAL: IF Banjo SHOWS THEN SUCCESS!+++++++");
     console.log("indexInclude.js theName is " + theName);

5. Run the app.js server
6. Open your browser to your localhost:port needed for nodejs
7. Confirm you see 'Banjo' printed on the page
8. Right-click on the page, then do 'inspect element' or similar for your browser.
9. Select 'console' tab
10. The console.log item should show text that includes the above (step 4) Banjo.

I hope this has helped you!


Saturday, September 19, 2015

Python and Kivy: out of here!

Home Security System
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Date: 9/19/15

A while back I started a Home Security project.  After examining several different approaches, I settled on Beaglebone Black for the hardware, programming with Python and presentation using Kivy.

After much work on Kivy, and continuing issues with the Linux Angstrom that was on the Beaglebone, I came to the conclusion that it just wasn't ready for prime time, and I suspended my project waiting for the technology to catch up.  This was easy to do, as I always have more to do on my plate than time to do it!

Recently, I decided it was time to take another look at this project.  I purchased a new Rev C Beaglebone Black, then started working with it.  This was a major improvement, as this version also moved from Linux Angstrom to Debian.  I was unwilling to try and work with Angstrom again, so the move to Debain was great news.

I became convinced that the pyvenv development environment would work best, but that entailed moving to Debian release 8 or 8.1 instead of the current 7x version, and Python 3.4.  So I quickly got well acquainted downloading and installing various test releases of Debian 8.1 for the Beagle.

Once the OS and Python versions issue was resolved, I set up the project on GitHub, and started moving forward, with the first task to set up do to builds on the Beaglebone while using pycharm as the IDE on my host Ubuntu system.  I mounted a host directory onto the Beagle using sshfs, so that code changes I made within pycharm would be directly available for code running on the Beagle via the shared directory.  I would edit in the IDE on my host, then use a terminal session that was logged into the Beagle to run and test the code.   This worked really well, and all my source code was maintained on my host and pushed to github as well.

With those issues resolved, I began to look into the presentation layer.  I really was concerned about trying to use Kivy after all the disappointment from a while back.  Looking at the emails from the Kivy group - there were still a lot of issues.

All of my previous work in IT had primarily been devoted to development on the back end, with very little work on front end presentations.  However, I had come across some articles regarding html5 and it's ability to work with websockets, so I wanted to take this opportunity to do a little deep dive into html5 to see how that might better fit my presentation layer problem.

The first thing was to take a look at the Beagle's onboard webserver.  I had not really taken a look at that in the past, but now with all presentation options on the table, I did take a look.

Wow!  What an insight that was!  A little bit of nodejs code, and batta-bing, I was serving up simple web pages!  And there was a direct ability to push data from the Beagle to the presentation via a web page.  This really looked like the approach I had been seeking: a user has a web page up (a security monitor), the Beagle first supplies the current state of all sensor elements, then pushes any updates (sensor state change) to be displayed on the web page without the user having to refresh the web page.

This was it!  While I was happy to drop Kivy, it also looked like the easiest approach would be to move totally away from Python and over to JavaScript as well!  That was a shock!  This also meant I no longer needed pycharm; I no longer needed the sshfs (well, it may be a little early yet to decide that), I no longer needed pyvenv, so I no longer needed Python 3.4, and that meant I no longer needed Debian 8.1 either.......holly cow!  The last weeks worth of changes to the OS, pyvenv, pycharm, Python - all now relegated to the trash heap!

I'm going to take a look at Debian, nodejs, and JavaScript to see if there's any benefits to staying with Debian 8.1 (which at this time is in 'test' mode; prelease), but I'm hoping it's not needed, so I can stay with the standard deployment.

So: this project has abandoned Python and Kivy!!!

Moving to JavaScript and Nodejs!!!

I will be documenting the development of the Beagle project, utilizing JavaScript, nodejs and bonescript here.  Stay tuned for updates!

I will be placing my detailed notes on setting up a development environment for the Beagle for Python here on this blog at a later date, as they may be of use to someone doing Python development for use on a Beagle for their project.