Sextortion – Blackmail and You

Sextortion – Blackmail and You

One of my favorite malware scanners, MalwareBytes has published a really good article on “Sextortion and You”.

TLDR; If you get an email claiming they have xxx pics of you via your webcam or other media, they probably don’t. They may send you photos that you have made publicly available on Facebook or some other social media. They may also have some confidential information on you like an old password. More than likely some service you have used in the past was compromised and old data is available on the dark web.

Don’t fall for the blackmail scam!

Testing SNI Enabled Servers with cURL

Tech on the Brain

Curl is the “go to” tool for many application delivery engineers. The ability to easily send test payloads and see HTTP response headers quickly and easily makes this tool indispensable when troubleshooting or learning application delivery controllers. 

When testing something like host headers on apache web servers, one often will include an HTTP host header with something like:

curl -H "Content-Type: application/json" -H "X-Auth: abc1234567890" -H "Host:"

While the host header has long been an important piece of the equation, it is not sufficient for testing SNI enabled servers.

Server Name Indication (SNI), as you probably know, allows us to stretch the IPv4 space even further by allowing a site with a single IP address to serve up a number distinct and separate SSL certificates. In days of old, one would need a distinct IP address for each SSL certificated site or use Subject Alternate Names with a single IP address. From a hosting providers point of view, the latter option was unappealing as a provider might host two competitors and they would be served from the same SSL certificate. So while SAN does have some good use cases, it is often unsuitable depending on the business case involved and some other drawbacks that I will not get into here.

So SNI is rapidly becoming the defacto standard for implementing multiple SSL certificated sites using a minimal number of IPv4 addresses. We need a way to test them.

Case in point. I was troubleshooting health checks failing from a Microsoft ADFS front end system recently. 

curl --header 'Host:'

The behavior from the server was to fail on the SSL handshake. Hmmmm. Strange. However, on the Windows device, when modifying the local hosts file and pointing to and trying this in a web browser, the site worked!

This is SNI in action. In this particular case, the ADFS site was not set up to serve a default certificate in the case that an SNI request was not presented. This meant that when a request came in with an invalid or missing SNI request, there was no default certificate to present to the client and we essentially had a web server that had no certificate bound to the service. As a result, any attempt at an SSL handshake would fail after the CLIENT HELLO.

So, we have seen that using the HOST header does not satisfy the SNI requirement. Not to fear, curl does have a solution for this. There is an option that is used if you want to test a host without the need to modify your DNS or host file.

--resolve [DOMAIN]:[PORT]:[IP]

The resolve option adds some interesting flexibility to our CURL testing.

  • You don’t need to edit your hosts file to resolve and use the domain name in your curl tests
  • You can use an alternate port for your HTTP request without putting the port in the URL
  • You can use the FQDN rather than just an IP address in your URL (Hint: SNI)

Let’s see how this changes our testing of the ADFS server:

curl --header 'Host:'
  curl: (35) OpenSSL SSL_connect: SSL_ERROR_SYSCALL in connection to

Here, we see the server basically tell us “there is no SSL certificate paired to the SNI name of ‘’ “. Again, SNI is ignoring the host header, because the host header only gets sent as part of the HTTP call AFTER the SSL session has been established. Therefore, the host header is useless for SNI as during the SSL handshake, the server needs to determine WHICH ssl certificate to use to set up the session.

Instead, SNI is using the FQDN presented in the URL. This is a client behavior and is inserted into the SSL CLIENT HELLO payload as seen in the following screen shot from a Wireshark capture that I did of a curl request to my site.


When making a curl request without an FQDN in the URL, the SNI extension is not sent as part of the CLIENT HELLO.

So, if the FQDN to the SNI enabled site resolves to a public IP address and one needs to test that site with curl from within the environment using the local IP address, one would need to edit the local hosts file to point that FQDN to the local IP address rather than let DNS resolve the FQDN to the public IP address. This can cause some problems with other parts of the application or a user might not have the needed permissions to edit the local host file.

Let’s see how the –resolve option changes this for us.

curl -k -I --resolve
HTTP/1.1 404 Not Found
Content-Length: 315
Content-Type: text/html; charset=us-ascii
Server: Microsoft-HTTPAPI/2.0
Date: Sun, 26 Aug 2018 21:19:24 GMT
Connection: close

Ah! This is a much different response than “OpenSSL SSL_connect: SSL_ERROR_SYSCALL”. The presence of an HTTP 404 response indicates that the SSL session was properly setup and that the HTTP request was sent through the SSL tunnel and an HTTP response was received from the SNI enabled web site.

So, add this handy curl option to your toolbox

--resolve fqdn:port:ipaddress

Because if you have not yet come across an SNI enabled server that you need to troubleshoot, rest assured, you will in the future!





FAA Certified Drone Pilot!

FAA Certified Drone Pilot!
Woodlawn Lake, San Antonio Texas by Aaron Hackney

Getting my FAA Part 107 certification (commonly called a “drone license” Ya, it’s not a license…) so that I can shoot video and stills and have my images and footage used commercially has been something on my radar for quite sometime! The requirements for becoming a pilot are listed here on the FAA website and can be a little daunting if you have never taken a federal certification exam.

In their podcast, Griffin Hammond mentioned that he found the folks over at to have a good video training series. Since Griffin and Nick (also fellow ISU alumni) have not steered me wrong yet, I decided to give it a whirl (pun intended). I burned through the training very fast and I was impressed with remotepilot101’s instructor Jason Schappert’s teaching style and “straight to the point” methodologies. I would highly encourage anyone who is looking to certify in a short amount of time to sign up with him and tell them that I sent you. A side benefit is that the tuition is good for refresher sessions for when you have to re-certify 24 months after receiving your certificate.

How I went about studying for this was very similar to how I prepare for my professional certification exams in the Cyber Security and IT world. I followed the coursework to it’s completion and then tested my readiness using practice exams. When I missed a question on my practice exams, I would research the topic to ensure I understood the intent of the question forwards and backwards. This methodology has always been surefire for me in my career world and in my amateur radio FCC exams (K9HQ, Amateur Extra).

I walked into the exam very prepared and scored a 93%. And to be sure, my score was not due to my memorizing any of the test. Almost every concept on the exam was well covered in Jason’s video sessions. 

I am now awaiting my FAA issued temporary certificate so that I can now take advantage of the new privileges available to me, like not being held to the “Notify the airport and air traffic control tower prior to flying within 5 miles of an airport” rule.

Most importantly, I feel like i walked away from the study course better equipped to fly in a SAFE manner that will not put any other aircraft at risk or cause any unnecessary dangers to others.


Troubleshooting Tricks for Orbi Networks

Tech on the Brain

I love a good troubleshooting challenge. But damn, this one had me stumped until I could pull back the covers of my Orbi system to discover the root cause.


I have a vmWare ESXi hypervisor in my home lab. The ESXi system is trunked up to a Ubiquiti router that is handling inter-vlan routing and has my Orbi base station set as the default gateway. 

Home Network

Read more

Firepower FlexConfig – A Practical Example

Tech on the Brain

Managing Your Firepower Appliance

If you are running a Firepower NGFW appliance from Cisco, you have two options to manage the device:

  • Firepower Device Manager (FDM) – An on-box GUI and set of APIs to directly control a Firepower appliance.
  • Firepower Management Center (FMC) – A management station used to control a collection of Firepower appliances and collect, correlate, and report on events generated by the Firepower appliance.

(At least today) These two options to manage your Firepower appliance are mutually exclusive; you can use one or the other. This article is focused on using the FlexConfig feature in FDM. Read more

The 5 People You Will Meet on Facebook and Why I Left

Bye Felicia!

Why did I leave Facebook? Who cares. I know. But I thought I would try and write this out more as a self-help therapy than anything else. The idea of leaving Facebook has been percolating in my brain for well over a year. The seed of this thought came to me when watching the TEDx talk by Dr. Cal Newport, but it has taken me a while to follow through with the idea and even longer to formulate my thoughts on WHY I left. Read more