A better, safer admin user for AWS

If you use AWS, you probably have a root user and one or more administrator users. If you are following best practice you have secured all logins with MFA, and you rarely if ever use the root user. Instead, you log in as one of the administrator users. The problem with that is that as long as you are logged in, you can do anything – including make disastrous mistakes. Wouldn’t it be nice to have all the power of an administrator at your fingertips, but only when you actually need it?

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Two-factor authentication – do it now.

The online world has become too dangerous for us to keep protecting ourselves with no more than a username and a password. Especially when most of us choose stupidly simple passwords. Even if you choose a good one – upper and lower case, special characters, letters and numbers – you now need such a long one that no human can remember it. Tools like LastPass are great, but only if you also use ridiculously long passwords. Pretty much the best protection you can give yourself is a simple thing called two factor authentication. It’s simple, it’s free, and it’s very effective.

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The cure for darkness is light. Not more darkness.

The matter of data centre security was raised recently on a network mailing list I subscribe to. Someone was wondering if data centres checked incoming equipment for “bad stuff” – explosives and what-not.

The reaction from some was “don’t talk about that, we don’t want to give people ideas”. What a muddle-headed response!

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Good error messages

I recall our little team getting into trouble many moons ago. We were writing a creditor system, and one of the requirements was for comments to be attachable to individual invoice lines. In COBOL every data structure has to be predefined. One of us thought that surely, surely, 400 comment lines would be enough for any one invoice line. This turned out not to be the case. Continue reading