Tag Archives: longread

Explain Cisco ETA to Me in a Way That Even My Neighbor Can Understand It

Cisco Encrypted Traffic Analytics (ETA) sounds just a little bit like magic the first time you hear about it. Cisco is basically proposing that when you turn on ETA, your network can (magically!) detect malicious traffic (ie, malware, trojans, ransomware, etc) inside encrypted flows. Further, Cisco proposes that ETA can differentiate legitimate encrypted traffic from malicious encrypted traffic.

Uhmm, how?

The immediate mental model that springs to mind is that of a web proxy that intercepts HTTP traffic. In order to intercept TLS-encrypted HTTPS traffic, there’s a complicated dance that has to happen around building a Certificate Authority, distributing the CA’s public certificate to every device that will connect through the proxy and then actually configuring the endpoints and/or network to push the HTTPS traffic to the proxy. This is often referred to as “man-in-the-middle” (MiTM) because the proxy actually breaks into the encrypted session between the client and the server. In the end, the proxy has access to the clear-text communication.

Is ETA using a similar method and breaking into the encrypted session?

In this article, I’m going to use an analogy to describe how ETA does what it does. Afterwards, you should feel more comfortable about how ETA works and not be worried about any magic taking place in your network. 🧙

Continue reading Explain Cisco ETA to Me in a Way That Even My Neighbor Can Understand It

3 Ways to Fail at Logging with Flask

For the benefit of readers who haven’t worked with Flask or don’t know what Flask is, it’s a so-called microframework for writing web-based applications in Python. Basically, the framework takes care of all the obvious tasks that are needed to run a web app. Things like talking HTTP to clients, routing incoming requests to the appropriate handler in the app, and formatting output to send back to the client in response to their request. When you use a framework like this, you as the developer can concentrate a lot more on the application logic and worry a lot less about hooking the app into the web.

As you may have guessed from the title of this post, one of the other tasks that Flask manages is logging within the application. For example, if you want to emit a log message when a user logs in or when they upload a new photo, Flask provides a simple interface to generate those log messages.

Flask has a large community of active users built around it and as a result, there’s tons of best practice information out there on scaling, talking to a database, and even whole tutorials on how to build full applications. But it’s been my experience that there is very little information devoted to the topic of logging. Granted logging isn’t very fun and does nothing to get your app to market quicker or increase user counts, but it is really important if you want to get any sort of feedback from the app about what it’s doing during normal operation or what exactly happened if something goes wrong.

In this post, I’ll look very briefly at how logging works in Flask and then examine three common methods used to record log files within Flask and how each of them can shoot you in the foot. I’ll close by offering some recommendations that should keep you on safe ground.

Continue reading 3 Ways to Fail at Logging with Flask

Lifting the Hood on Cisco Software Defined Access

If you’re an IT professional and you have at least a minimal awareness of what Cisco is doing in the market and you don’t live under a rock, you would’ve heard about the major launch that took place in June: “The network. Intuitive.” The anchor solution to this launch is Cisco’s Software Defined Access (SDA) in which the campus network becomes automated, highly secure, and highly scalable.

The launch of SDA is what’s called a “Tier 1” launch where Cisco’s corporate marketing muscle is fully exercised in order to generate as much attention and interest as possible. As a result, there’s a lot of good high-level material floating around right now around SDA. What I’m going to do in this post is lift the hood on the solution and explain what makes the SDA network fabric actually work.

Continue reading Lifting the Hood on Cisco Software Defined Access

Five Functional Facts About OSPF

It’s funny, in my experience, OSPF is the most widely used interior gateway protocol because it “just works” and it’s an IETF standard which means it inter-ops between different vendors and platforms. However, if you really start to look at how OSPF works, you realize it’s actually a highly complex protocol. So on the one hand you get a protocol that likely works across your whole environment, regardless of vendor/platform, but on the other you’re implementing a lot of complexity in your control plane which may not be intuitive to troubleshoot.

This post isn’t a judgement about OSPF or link-state protocols in general. Instead it will detail five functional aspects of OSPF in order to reveal–at least in part–how this protocol works, and indirectly, some of the complexity lying under the hood.

Continue reading Five Functional Facts About OSPF

Why I Enthusiastically Switched from Cacti to Zabbix for System Monitoring

Cacti is a “complete network graphing solution” according to their website. It has also been a thorn in my side for a long time.

See what I did there? Thorn… because it’s a cactus… never mind.

When Cacti is in a steady state–when I could get it to a steady state–it was good. Not great, because there was a lot of effort to get it into what I consider “steady state”, but good. The rest of the time… thorny.

There are five major things that have driven me up the wall. In no particular order: Continue reading Why I Enthusiastically Switched from Cacti to Zabbix for System Monitoring