Goals, Reading, and Projects

This year I want to use this website for a couple of specific things:

  1. To use as a weekly writing platform.
  2. To generate some passive income.
  3. To use a portfolio of projects I have worked on.

In order for me to see some real progress on these goals I’m working on narrowing down how I focus my time. Speaking of time, I now have the most time available that I’ve had in the past five years as I’m done with school for time time being. I’ve been taking this month to develop a plan for how to use my time this year.

One of my goals this year is to 12 different 30 day challenges. Currently, I’m doing a 30 day meditation challenge. I’ve missed a few days, but I pick up where I missed a day and am 9 days into this challenge. 

I’ve also taken the month to make some lifestyle changes. I think the most important one’s being getting off of social media platforms. I still have one Twitter account for cyber security purposes, but I don’t use it to engage in politics or anything else that’s a waste of my time.

For my goal of becoming proficient in the cyber security field, I’m practicing the challenge boxes on HackTheBox. Each box I work on, I’m working on doing a write up. I’ll probably make that a separate and dedicated category on here.

I’m also working my way through a Python Fundamentals course  at Udemy. The goal of working through this is two-fold. 1 being a means to learn the language and 2 as a way to build a web scraper dashboard that constantly checks the health of services like Slack, Office365, Adobe, etc.

On the non-tech side of things, I am working my way through two books at the moment. I’m listening to the audiobook version of War and Peace narrated by Neville Jason and am reading through The Count of Monte Cristo. 

That’s it for now. I’ll be back next week!

Experimenting With A Web Scraper

I’ve been curious about building a web scraper for some time now and I decided to look into building one for alerting me on new jobs for companies I am interested in.

For the uninitiated (Including myself in that category.) here’s a brief explanation of a web scraper:

Per the good people of Techopedia, webscraping is defined as “Web scraping is a term for various methods used to collect information from across the Internet. Generally, this is done with software that simulates human Web surfing to collect specified bits of information from different websites. Those who use web scraping programs may be looking to collect certain data to sell to other users, or to to use for promotional purposes on a website.” – https://www.techopedia.com/definition/5212/web-scraping.

Here’s the guide I am going off of for this – https://realpython.com/beautiful-soup-web-scraper-python/

I’m planning on building a scraper that will look for two particular items for me. A Hobie kayak and a stand up paddle board. I don’t know the specific models at the moment. Once I’ve got the models dialed in, I’ll use the scraper to target sites like Craig’s List, REI, Ebay, Amazon, etc to look for the specific models. 

This is my current project. I’ll post more on it as time permits.


Some Basic Tips On Personal Cyber Security

Salutations All, this post came about as a quick post I sent to my church leaders and staff on how to practice good online cyber security. It’s by no means, an exhaustive list, but it is a good starting point.

Use two factor authentication on everything.

Two factor authentication is essentially a process by which you enter your password for a given website and are then required to enter a unique code to be sent your email, phone text message, or via an authentication application.

I suggest using an authentication app or using text message as opposed to email; because if your email is compromised, having the additional layer of security is defeated.

I personally use Google’s authenticator app – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.apps.authenticator2&hl=en_US

Use a password manager. I use 1password – https://1password.com/ What I love about it is that it:

Provides 3 layers of security i.e. when you sign up for it, you get a unique key assigned to your account and are required to make a master password to access your vault. Additionally, you can turn on two factor authentication such that you have to either get a text message sent with a unique key or use a key generator like Google’s Authenticator Application.

When storing your credentials for websites you use i.e. Amazon, your bank, etc 1pass will give you the option to randomly generate a password.

There’s also a browser plugin for 1pass, which allows for you to be prompted to auto fill login information on websites you use. There are some other good features i.e. 1pass will tell you if you should change your password on a given site if that site is known to be compromised. It will also tell you if you’re using the same password on multiple accounts.

Why you should use 1pass or a similar product:

If you use the same password for all your logins and the bad guy(s) get that password, they’ll be trying your login info on all that they can.

You only have to remember one password, that being the one for 1pass.

You can give up bad password habits like writing your password down and leaving it under your keyboard, on your monitor, etc.

If you do use 1pass, make sure to enable two factor authentication.

Secure Email:

This one just came to mind when thinking of communicating to overseas missionaries, pastors, etc. Depending on the country, having unsecured and un-encrypted email information can be used against those whom the government deems a problem. Most notably China. I don’t know for certain what all email providers are allowed to be used in China, that being said, I use and recommend ProtonMail – https://protonmail.com/ – for the purpose of sending secure emails.

Automating User/Mailbox Creation via PowerShell

PowerShell is a tremendously powerful scripting language that I’ve grown to appreciate particularly for the purpose of automating boring and or tedious functions. In this case I’ll be referring to using PowerShell for the purpose of automating Active Directory user account creations along with their associated mailbox.

Quick caveat, on this script, I can’t claim credit for the sole creation of it as others built it and contributed to it. However, I have modified it for purposes more germane to my environment.

This type of scripting has at least two benefits:

  1. It helps limit the h factor i.e. mistakes made by the tech
  2. It speeds up the process of creation significantly, thus freeing up resources for more  valuable      work.
So without further ado, here’s the script –

<# Modified by Josh McMullin on 12/30/19 This script adds a new user to AD as well the following attributes: Automatically derives the username based on the first, last & middle initial (first 7 characters of last name + first character of first name unless already in AD and then does the first 6 characters of first name + first character of first name + middle initial) Address information including street, PO Box, City, State, Zip E-mail address Phone Changes the UPN, Proxy Addresses #>

# Note the data boxes pop up behind PowerShell ISE for some reason. # Working on fixing where the pop up box outputs to # Note this version of the script creates the username as first initial and last name

if (!([Security.Principal.WindowsPrincipal][Security.Principal.WindowsIdentity]::GetCurrent()).IsInRole([Security.Principal.WindowsBuiltInRole] “Administrator”)) { Start-Process powershell.exe “-NoProfile -ExecutionPolicy Bypass -File `”$PSCommandPath`”” -Verb RunAs; exit }

$opt = (Get-Host).PrivateData $opt.WarningBackgroundColor = “red” $opt.WarningForegroundColor = “white” $opt.ErrorBackgroundColor = “green” $opt.ErrorForegroundColor = “white”

Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned -Force -Scope CurrentUser Write-Host “Enter your domain admin credentials.” -ForegroundColor red $UserCredential = Get-Credential

# Connect to Office 365 Write-Host “Enter Office 365 admin credentials.” -ForegroundColor red try { Get-MsolDomain -ErrorAction Stop > $null } catch { $credential = Get-Credential if ($cred -eq $null) {$cred = Get-Credential $credential} Write-Output “Connecting to Office 365…” Connect-MsolService -Credential $cred Set-ExecutionPolicy ‘RemoteSigned’ -Scope Process -Confirm:$false Set-ExecutionPolicy ‘RemoteSigned’ -Scope CurrentUser -Confirm:$false $Session = New-PSSession -ConfigurationName Microsoft.Exchange -ConnectionUri https://outlook.office365.com/powershell-liveid -Credential $Credential -Authentication Basic -AllowRedirection Import-PSSession $Session -AllowClobber -DisableNameChecking }

# Enter Unique Employee Values [System.Reflection.Assembly]::LoadWithPartialName(“Microsoft.VisualBasic”) #$StreetAddress = [Microsoft.VisualBasic.Interaction]::InputBox(“Enter Address”) $City = [Microsoft.VisualBasic.Interaction]::InputBox(“Enter City”) $State = [Microsoft.VisualBasic.Interaction]::InputBox(“Enter State”) $PostCode = [Microsoft.VisualBasic.Interaction]::InputBox(“Enter Zip”) $Country = “US” $Company = [Microsoft.VisualBasic.Interaction]::InputBox(“Enter Company Name”) $DNSRoot = [Microsoft.VisualBasic.Interaction]::InputBox(“Enter Domain” , “It needs to match their Office365 email domain”)

$unique = $false While($unique -eq $false){ # Acquiring name data [System.Reflection.Assembly]::LoadWithPartialName(“Microsoft.VisualBasic”) $GivenName = [Microsoft.VisualBasic.Interaction]::InputBox(“Enter new users first name”, “New User Tool – First Name”, “First”) $Initial = [Microsoft.VisualBasic.Interaction]::InputBox(“Enter new users Middle Initial”, “New User Tool – Middle Initail”, “Middle Initial”) $SurName = [Microsoft.VisualBasic.Interaction]::InputBox(“Enter new users last name”, “New User Tool – Last Name”, “Last”)

#Process that derives the username from the Given, Initial & Surname $SAMAccountName = $GivenName.Substring(0,1) + $Surname.Substring(0,[System.Math]::Min(20, $Surname.Length)) Write-Verbose “$samaccountname” -Verbose

If((Get-ADUser -Filter “samaccountname -eq ‘$samaccountname'” -ea Silentlycontinue)){ Write-Warning “user $samaccountname already exists, please choose a different name” } Else { Write-Verbose “$samaccountname does not exist.” -Verbose $unique = $true } }

# Converts the samaccountname to lower case $SAMAccountLower = $SAMAccountName.ToLower()

#Creates the display name $DisplayName = $GivenName + ” ” + $Surname

#Acquires more data #$EmpID = [Microsoft.VisualBasic.Interaction]::InputBox(“Enter new users Employee ID”, “New User Tool – Employee ID”, “1234”) $Title = [Microsoft.VisualBasic.Interaction]::InputBox(“Enter new users Title”, “New User Tool – Title”, “Clerk I”) $Office = [Microsoft.VisualBasic.Interaction]::InputBox(“Enter new users workplace, Cottonwood or Field Staff”, “New User Tool – Office”, “Cottonwood”) $Department = [Microsoft.VisualBasic.Interaction]::InputBox(“Enter new users Department”, “New User Tool – Department”, “Department”) $Phone = [Microsoft.VisualBasic.Interaction]::InputBox(“Enter new users phone. 507-423-6262 for main office, mobile # for field staff”, “New User Tool – Phone”, “555-555-1212”) Write-Host “Select the employee’s manager” -ForegroundColor red $Manager = Get-ADUser -Filter {enabled -eq $true} | Select-Object SamAccountName | Out-GridView -PassThru

# Process that creates email address $Mail = $SAMAccountLower.ToLower() + “@” + $DNSRoot

# Process that creates other field data that needs to filled in for Exchange Online & Signatures $ProxyAddress1 = “SMTP:” + $Mail $UserPrincipalName = $Mail $Description = $Department + ” – ” + $title

# Setting OU that Account will Reside in # Suggest using search filter in pop-up “ou=user” to return user ou’s Write-Host “Select the employee’s OU. Suggest using search filter in pop-up ou=user to return user ou’s” -ForegroundColor red $SelectOU = Get-ADOrganizationalUnit -Filter * | Select-Object -Property DistinguishedName | Out-GridView -PassThru | Select-Object -ExpandProperty DistinguishedName Get-ADUser -filter {samAccountName -eq $SamAccountLower} | Move-ADObject -TargetPath $SelectOU

# set default password $defpassword = (ConvertTo-SecureString “SomePassword” -AsPlainText -force)

#This portion displays a summary of all the data that the user has entered [System.Windows.Forms.MessageBox]::show(“Verify the following is correct: The new user $DisplayName will be created with the following attributes: Full Name: $GivenName $Initial $Surname $Creds Username: $SAMAccountLower Department/Title: $Description Office Location: $Office Phone: $Phone Email Address is: $Mail Manager is: $Manager OU is: $SelectOU OK will continue and add the above information to the Active Directory OK to Continue.” , “AD New User”, 1)

$splat = @{ Path = $SelectOU SamAccountName = $SamAccountLower GivenName = $GivenName Initial = $Initial Surname = $Surname Name = $DisplayName DisplayName = $DisplayName EmailAddress = $Mail UserPrincipalName = $Mail Title = $title Description = $Description Enabled = $true ChangePasswordAtLogon = $true PasswordNeverExpires = $false AccountPassword = $defpassword #EmployeeID = $EmpID OfficePhone = $Phone Office = $Office Department = $Department Manager = $Manager #StreetAddress = $StreetAddress City = $City State = $State PostalCode = $PostCode Company = $Company OtherAttributes = @{proxyAddresses = ($ProxyAddress1)} }

New-ADUser @splat -Verbose Set-ADUser $SAMAccountLower Set-ADUser $SAMAccountLower -add @{Co = $Country}

# Sync to Azure $session = New-PSSession -cn “your domain controller” -Credential $UserCredential Invoke-Command -ComputerName “your domain controller” -ScriptBlock { Import-Module adsync Start-ADSyncSyncCycle -PolicyType Delta }

# Pause script for 5 minutes Start-Sleep -Seconds 300

# Get available license options # License user’s mailbox $User = Get-MsolUser -All -UnlicensedUsersOnly | Out-GridView -Title ‘Select a user’ -OutputMode Single | Select-Object -ExpandProperty UserPrincipalName $OfficeLicenses = Get-MsolAccountSku | Out-GridView -Title ‘Select a license plan’ -OutputMode Single | Select-Object -ExpandProperty AccountSkuId Set-MsolUser -UserPrincipalName $User -UsageLocation US Set-MsolUserLicense -UserPrincipalName $User -AddLicenses $OfficeLicenses

# Sync to Azure Again $session = New-PSSession -cn “your domain controller” -Credential $UserCredential Invoke-Command -ComputerName “your domain controller” -ScriptBlock { Import-Module adsync Start-ADSyncSyncCycle -PolicyType Delta }