Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Some New Tools

Filed under: Career Archive,Certification,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun Work,Geek Work,Linux,MicroSoft,Novell,The Dark Side,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:58 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.
–Abraham Maslow

So, I’ve been doing a lot of strange things at work the past couple of weeks. And, by strange I mean working around problems like trying to get things done without spending money. That always seems to lead me through some interesting back doors and into areas that I’ve not been before.

First, I was asked to do some browser forensics. Basically, it was supposed that a particular employee, no myself, was spending a little too much tiem on the web. I was tasked with finding how much time and where they were going. Simple enough, right? Well, I had to do it on the “down low” and without sitting at their computer. Enter, Webhistorian, by Mandiant. This utility let me grab history files and arrange them into a nice, easy-to-read report that told me where, when and how long my intended target was spending time on the web. That combined with a drive mapped to the administrative share on his computer showed… That he was actually relatively innocent. Yeah, he went to some sports websites, but only first thing in the morning and at lunchtime. Nothing worth firing him over, at any rate.

Next, there was a more, um, general security question. And, okay, it wasn’t actually at work, but it’s good to know for work. A friend thought her computer might have been inadvertantly used in the comission of a crime by a “guest” and asked me to check it out. I can’t go into details because of pending legal action, but I decided to let her take it to the proper authorities first, in case I were to mess up any evidence. Once they’re satisfied, however, I’ll take a look at it. And, thanks to another blog I read, I’ll be using something called Helix.
I have read the aforementioned blog, A Day In The Life Of An Information Security Officer, for, well, years, actually. Mostly, it’s just an interesting diversion, but sometimes, I get good ideas from the posts and case files. This time, the new tool came from the comment section. Helix was suggested by another faithful reader. It’s a bootable, “live cd” Linux distribution. It’s also free, which is one of my main criteria for the tools I use.

I also had to clone a giant Windows XP disk this week. I tried a number of utilities, including Symantec’s Ghost, but it was another Linux distro that saved me. This time, I used Knoppix. Also a bootable, “live cd” distro which is available free from the Internet. I found the command by accident while searching for something else, but I also discovered there are other ways to clone a cd via Knoppix. My Google search turned up several HowTo documents. There was one on Knoppix.net’s forums, another on Linux.com and a third on Just Linux. I used the third method first, which turned out to not work so well at all. Something to do with XP and how finicky it is about hardware and booting, I suspect. So, I finally moved on to the appropriately named NTFSClone. I still had problems making it bootable, but I attribute that to the old disk running Windows XP. I hate XP. Truly. Still, I managed to have some good fun with all the different attempts. I enjoy a good intellectual challenge!

These days no one can afford to be just a “Windows Admin” or just a “Novell Admin” or, even just a “Unix admin”. We have to use the right tools to get the job done, whatever that looks like.
I’m the man behind the curtain who makes the great and powerful Oz go. If I want to outwit the flying monkeys that the Wicked Witch of the West sends after me, I’d better have a whole lot of tools in my toolbox besides my magic ruby hammer.
Even though I’m Linux certified, I don’t work with it enough for my taste, so I’ve finally gotten off my lazy butt and installed Open SuSE on two old laptops I have at the house. Again, it’s free and so were the laptops. One is an old Dell that came from an old job. The other is a Compaq that a friend gave me because he knew I’d get more use out of it than anyone who he might donate it to for the tax write-off. Either that, or I’ve become a charity. Hey, it could happen!
In any case, I’m working on expanding my toolbox, one piece at a time. And, now, you can take advantage of my tinkering to expand your own digital toolbox. Have fun with the new toys!

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