Giving Cloudbric A Try, But I Still Love Cloudflare

Going to try Cloudbric here for a while to see how exactly it compares to Cloudflare

Longren.io will be unavailable for possibly up to 48 hours. As soon as I’ve published this post, I’ll be updating my nameservers to point to Cloudbric, almost feels like cheating on Cloudflare, they’ve been very good to me.

I’ve been using Cloudflare for quite a while, nearly since it became available to the public. I love them and all the services they provide, especially with a Pro (or Enterprise) account. Cloudflare costs money though (if you want certain added protections), and many smaller websites don’t use a lot of bandwidth and aren’t provided the protections they should receive with Cloudflare.

Cloudbric aims to solve that by providing all the features Cloudflare provides (from what I’ve been told at least) for free as long as your site doesn’t use more than 4GB of bandwidth per month. I only have a few Pro sites with Cloudflare (longren.io being one of them), but am trying to cut back on the number of online services I pay for monthly, so this makes sense on a financial level if nothing else.

I’d never heard of Cloudbric until they got in touch with me via direct message on Twitter and introduced me to their services. They appear to provide everything that Cloudflare’s Enterprise service provides, glad they saw one of my tweets praising Cloudflare and decided to get in touch.

Cloudbric has been around for a while (15 years or so I believe) and I talked to one of their reps quite a bit about how what they provide is better than Cloudflare (other than the usage based cost, of course).

Here’s what he said:

1. Unlike other website protection services including Cloudflare, Cloudbric provides full-coverage website protection. Even though Web Application Firewall (WAF) and DDoS Protection features are crucial for website protection, these options cost at least $200/month from Cloudflare. Cloudflare’s free plan does not protect web application layer 3, 4, and 7, which makes it pointless.

2. Our usage-based plan, rather than options plan, allows even free users to enjoy the most comprehensive security service. There are no charges for extra add-ons or features for more security. Users can enjoy all the features for FREE up to 4GB of traffic monthly.

Here’s a handy table from the Cloudbric website showing a feature comparison with similar providers like Cloudflare, Sitelock, and Incapsula.

FEATURES Cloudbric Incapsula SiteLock Cloudflare
Advanced DDoS Protection(Layer 3, 4, 7) FREE $299 /mo Enterprise $200 /mo
PCI-Certified Web Application Firewall(WAF) FREE $59 /mo $299 /mo $20 /mo
Global Content Delivery Network FREE $19 /mo $99 /mo $20 /mo
Web Opimization FREE $19 /mo $99 /mo $200 /mo
OWASP Core Rule Set FREE $59 /mo $99 /mo $20 /mo
Reputation-based Threat Protection FREE $59 /mo $299 /mo FREE
Board Spam Protection FREE $59 /mo X X
Block Visitors by IP or country FREE $59 /mo X FREE
Login Protection FREE $59 /mo X X
SSL Support FREE $19 /mo FREE FREE

Figured I’d try it out on this site as it gets the most traffic out of my personal sites, and if everything’s cool, I’ll eventually be moving all clients over to Cloudbric. Just wish they had a way to import existing DNS records, some of my domain names have at least 50 sub-domains.

Longren.io subscribers will get this post via email, but longren.io could be down for up to 48 hours while stuff updates. I’ll update this post or maybe write a new one after I’ve used Cloudbric for a few days. You should at least check them out, especially if you’re using Cloudflare for a site that doesn’t get enough traffic to make it worth paying for.

I really don’t want to leave Cloudflare, but if Cloudbric stacks up, I’m afraid I’ll have to.

Update: After updating nameservers for longren.io to Cloudbric, an SSL issue was found. I went back to Cloudflare immediately, and within about an hour Cloudbric’s engineering team had a solution worked out. It sounds like they’ll be rolling the fix out on Monday June 29. So until then, longren.io will be on Cloudflare. I’ll post info about the issue in detail after Cloudbric has officially announced it or made the fix active.

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Keybase.io: PGP For Beginners, With Invites

PGP for Beginners: A Simple Web Interface to PGP

Keybase.io is quite simple, basically a web interface and command line client that makes PGP more user-friendly. At the same time, it makes it easy to get someones public key, and know it’s the correct key.

Keybase.io allows you to encrypt, decrypt, sign, and verify messages to other keybase.io users. The Keybase.io homepage has an excellent description on the inner workings and how to make use of the command line client.

You can find me on Keybase.io at https://keybase.io/tlongren/.
keybase-tyler

I like how the purpose of the Keybase.io website, as opposed to the command line client, is described:

Keybase.io is also a Keybase client, however certain crypto actions (signing and decrypting) are limited to users who store client-encrypted copies of their private keys on the server, an optional feature we didn’t mention above.

On the website, all crypto is performed in JavaScript, in your browser. Some people have strong feelings about this, for good reason.

Keybase.io has it’s issues, though. Liz Denys makes very good points in her Refusing To Verify Myself post.

And back in March 2014, Evan Johnson discovered very serious vulnerability in Keybase.io. You can read more about it, along with examples and why it was so major, in his blog post.

There’s still serious debate that’s somewhat related to Evan’s discovery. An issue on GitHub is still open while the Keybase.io folks consider their options and best course of action.

Everything has it’s flaws, though. So for me, Keybase.io is an easy way for me to communicate securely with those I need to do so with. I’ll likely continue using it, but need more people I communicate with frequently to be members.

Invites

I do have invites for Keybase.io. I’ll only send them to people I know. If you’re a regular here, a client of mine, or old online friend, you qualify. Real world friends and family obviously qualify.

Just ask in the comments below.

SSH Private Key Authentication Tip

So easy to miss, but so important for SSH Private Key Authentication

I don’t allow password logins on any of my servers. Can only login via SSH key based authentication. No root login is allowed, and I specify every user that’s allowed to login via SSH, ie: me.

If you’re a regular here, you know I love DigitalOcean. They have a very nice tutorial on setting up SSH private key login, even walking you through creating SSH keys if you don’t already have one, and even adding that key to your DigitalOcean account.

None of that will be of interest to you if you already know how to generate SSH keys.

I’ll SSH into my new Droplet, only to be rejected. I immediately know why, because it’s happened so many times. It’s due to incorrect permissions on your Droplet, VPS, server, whatever.

For SSH private key authentication to work, the ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file and the ~/.ssh folder need specific permissions:

Run that, and then try logging in via SSH to your Droplet from your local machine. Should go this time.

If you still can’t login to your remote system, something else is likely wrong. If that’s the case, you’ll want to start at the top of the DigitalOcean post about setting up SSH private key authentication and just follow the steps.

After you’ve followed those steps, change permissions on the ~/.ssh/authorized_keys file again and on the ~/.ssh folder again. Like so from your terminal:

I’m curious…

Do you allow password logins over SSH?

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If you do allow password logins, I’d love to hear what scenario causes you to need to allow password logins. Let me know in the comments if you don’t mind.

Protecting Yourself When Using BitTorrent, And The New Put.io

Stop receiving copyright infringement notices from your ISP because of BitTorrent

I like BitTorrent a LOT. I’ve used it since it’s release around 2001 or 2002. Recently, however, it’s become more risky to download torrents from your home internet connection.

Disclaimer: I am absolutely not condoning downloading copyrighted material, of any kind. This is aimed at giving casual BitTorrent users some things to consider and nothing more

A number of my friends have received copyright infringement notices from their ISP’s for downloading a movie, music album, or any copyrighted material, for that matter. Most ISP’s will terminate your service if you continue to infringe.

When you download a torrent to your computer, and you aren’t using a VPN, your IP address will be reported to the BitTorrent tracker (that’s just how BitTorrent works). Various groups (including anti-piracy groups) can gather IP addresses of people downloading any given torrent, so having your ISP provided IP show up there could result with you receiving a copyright infringement notice.

That’s where having a VPN comes into play. If you’re connected to a VPN while downloading a torrent on your computer, the IP address of the VPN server will be reported to the BitTorrent tracker, instead of your ISP provided IP.

Skip Protection Options and Go Straight to Reading About the New Put.io Interface

Protection Methods

You have a few options that offer various levels of protection, depending on how much money you want to spend, or how paranoid you are. 🙂 Three pretty simple options are detailed below. These methods aren’t guaranteed to keep you safe, but should be sufficient for most “casual” pirates. You’re still at risk using these methods, please read the clarification on protection part at the end of this post.

Option 1. Use a VPS for a personal VPN (aka: Poor Mans VPN)

I’ve referred to this as a poor mans VPN in the past. Basically, get a VPS from a hosting company, like DigitalOcean (referral link). You can get a VPS from DigitalOcean for just $5/month.

Once you have the VPS, just follow the steps I outlined in my Poor Man’s VPN post and you’ll be all set.

Option 2. Get a Paid VPN

A good way to hide the IP provided by your ISP is to use a VPN. There are many paid VPN services available, like IPVanish and ExpressVPN. I know a few folks who use IPVanish and are very happy with the service.

Option 3. Use Put.io

I’ve been using Put.io for around a year now and will never go back to running a BitTorrent client on any of my machines. Put.io is a cloud-based BitTorrent client, plus much more.

Put.io was a no-brainer for me, as it’d free me of the need to download files directly to my computer. The unofficial Put.io Android app from Steven Schoen supports streaming to Chromecast, which sealed the deal for me.

That means I can stream videos straight from Put.io to my Chromecast, without the need to ever download them to my computer. I’ve often explained it to friends as a sort of personal Netflix.

Put.io also has a feature that will download your torrent immediately. If another Put.io user has already downloaded the torrent you’re downloading, the files will be copied to your account, so you never even connect to the BitTorrent tracker to download data. It’s pretty awesome.

Another benefit of Put.io is that it frees up your home internet connection bandwidth, all the downloading and seeding is done on the Put.io network. This means you’d no longer have to waste your bandwidth to seed the torrents you’ve downloaded. This is a major factor for some people, especially those who don’t have very fast upload speeds at home (like me).

There’s also a pretty active group of third-party developers who make various apps and extensions for Put.io. Steven Schoen is one such example. He’s been updating his Put.io Android client quite frequently, and recently implemented Google’s Material Design into the app. And it looks amazing.

I’m surprised that Put.io hasn’t tried to hire Steven Schoen to bring his app under the Put.io umbrella, making it an official Android client. Maybe the have, who knows.

A couple screenshots from the Put.io Android app are below.

So, which method should I use?

If you have a Chromecast and an Android device, I’d suggest using Put.io. It’s a nice all-in-one solution, and plans start at only $9.99 a month, which gets you 50GB of storage. I have yet to find a Put.io iOS client that has Chromecast support, however there are Put.io clients for iOS, just not with Chromecast support.

Even if you don’t have a Chromecast, or don’t have the ability to stream from a Put.io client to a Chromecast, you can still benefit from Put.io. After a torrent is finished downloading in Put.io, you can download the files from Put.io to your computer. Just like downloading a file from your Dropbox account using the Dropbox website.

If you want to download torrents to your computer using a more conventional BitTorrent client, like Transmission, I’d advise using a VPN. A paid VPN or the Poor Mans VPN setup will work.

Most paid VPN services have multiple VPN servers that you can connect to, so the IP being reported to the BitTorrent tracker can be changed pretty easily, just by connecting to a different VPN server. IPVanish has plans starting at $10/month and have hundreds of servers located around the world.

If you went the Poor Mans VPN route, changing your IP would be slightly more difficult because your VPS would likely have a static IP. But it’s still not your IP from your ISP. The BitTorrent tracker would see the IP address of your VPS instead of the IP provided by your ISP, giving you some level of protection. There’s still the possibility that a copyright holder could send a copyright infringement notice to your VPS host. Worst case there is you’d lose your VPS, which is far better than having your ISP terminate your internet service.

Just some things to take into consideration before you decide what the best solution is for you.

My Recommendation

Use Put.io.

Especially if you have an Android device and a Chromecast. Even if you don’t have a Chromecast or Android device to stream to the Chromecast, you can still download the files from Put.io to your computer.

Put.io is a bit more expensive than the other options, but is well worth it in my opinion. Put.io offers 4 plans:

  • 50GB of storage for $9.99 a month
  • 200GB of storage for $19.99 a month
  • 500GB for $29.99 a month
  • 1000GB for $49.99 a month

A Quick Poll

Do you use any method to obscure your IP from BitTorrent trakers?

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Now, On To The New Put.io

A couple months ago, Put.io released a new interface to their website, which also implements aspects of Google Material Design. The new interface is still being built and tested, but can be previewed at http://soon.put.io/.

Here’s a screenshot of the new Put.io interface (it’s the featured image for this post, too).
newputio

And here’s a screenshot of the old Put.io interface, which is still the default.
oldputio

The new interface is much easier to use than the old. It makes extensive use of AJAX, which makes for a much nicer user experience as far as not having to wait for a new page to load. It’s also much more visually appealing.

The new interface and the Put.io Android client from Steven Schoen look very similar to each other, providing a consistent look across the put.io website and the Android client. Not really important for functionality, but it’s nice to have a consistent look across the board for a specific service.

End

This post covered a lot of material and was written without much revising. If I’ve gotten something wrong, I’d really appreciate you letting me know.

If anyone knows of a Put.io client for iOS that supports Chromecast, please let me know! I’m an Android guy but my daughter has an iPad mini, and I’d love if she could cast from a Put.io client on her iPad to the Chromecast.

Comments are open if you have any questions or anything else to add.

Clarification on Protection

The protection methods listed aren’t full proof, something I thought was quite obvious. All methods listed can lead to your IP address being discovered, but they all add an additional step that law enforcement must do to find your IP. Some scenarios that would result in your IP address being discovered are covered below.

Scenario 1. A law enforcement agency could demand user information from a VPN provider, which would reveal your identity if the VPN provider complied. Same deal with the Poor Man’s VPN solution. Law enforcement could request information from your VPS host, and if your VPS host complied, your identity would be revealed.

Scenario 2. A Law Enforcement agency could demand user info from Put.io, which would also reveal your identity, provided Put.io complies with the request. Put.io says they respect the privacy of their users, but there’s still absolutely no way to prove that they wouldn’t hand over user information if it was requested. However, I tend to trust Put.io more than most companies, simply because they’re not based in the United States and the owner is a genuinely good guy.

In both scenarios listed above, your home IP would be revealed. But why not make law enforcement jump through some hoops to get your IP? Instead of just handing it to them like you do when downloading a torrent from a public tracker without using a VPN.

If you’re uploading new movies to public trackers or are downloading massive amounts (think terabytes a month) of copyrighted material, none of the protection options I’ve outlined will offer you enough protection. Those of you who would draw the attention of anti-piracy groups who would get law enforcement involved should be able to figure out better ways to protect your identity. And that’s not something I care to cover.

Passwds.io Source Available on GitHub

Now on GitHub

Took a bit longer than I wanted, but the source for passwds.io is up on GitHub now.

It’s extremely simple, using Twitter Bootstrap, straight PHP, jQuery, and the jQuery prettySocial plugin for the social buttons at the bottom of the site.

Passwords are generated using pwgen-php from Superwayne. pwgen-php was forked a couple years ago by Roderik van der Veer, which I was unaware of.

I’ll be updating to the somewhat newer pwgen-php library from Roderik at some point.

Basically, an AJAX request is sent to a PHP file, grabbing the requested passwords, and then the results are displayed.

Pretty simple. Let me know if you have suggestions or questions. Please be kind, I threw this together in about an hour one evening.