Some Random Idiot

embroidery, networks, programming, feelings

Ditch That AWS Build Host

In honor of the transnational strike on Amazon this week, here are instructions for moving your AWS unikernels to a cloud that used to claim it wasn’t evil. You might also be interested in establishing a picket line for your packets. This blog originally ran on Amazon EC2. Since early 2017, it’s been running on a different tech behemoth’s massive public cloud. The deployment process is considerably easier and faster on this alternative public cloud – I first saw it as a live demo given by Michael Bright and immediately knew I wanted to replace my AWS pipeline with it.

Whacking the Bitcoin Piñata

@yomimono or @hannesm surely know if people have tried crowbar on the BTC Piñata. –

tl;dr - yes, and it seems that ocaml-x509 is not trivially easy to trick.


The Bitcoin Piñata

In 2015 David Kaloper-Mersinjak and Hannes Mehnert released ocaml-tls, an implementation of TLS (formerly known as SSL) written fully in OCaml. A full writeup of the stack is available in their Usenix Security 2015 paper, and as a series of blog posts on To accompany the release they also deployed a fully-automated bug bounty for the security stack – the bitcoin piñata.

The piñata will establish TLS connections only with endpoints presenting a certificate signed by its own, undisclosed certificate authority, but allows an attacker to easily listen to the encrypted traffic. The piñata always sends the same plaintext in such a connection: the private key to a wallet containing approximately 10 bitcoin. If the attacker can decrypt the ciphertext, or trick the piñata into negotiating a TLS connection with another host and disclosing the key, the information (and therefore the money) is theirs.


Crowbar is a library for writing tests. It combines a property-based API (like QuickCheck) with a coverage-driven generator of test cases (like the fuzzer American Fuzzy Lop). Crowbar tries to find counterexamples to stated properties by prioritizing the generation of test cases which touch more code. It is very good at finding counterexamples.

Testing ocaml-x509

TLS connections are usually authenticated via X509 certificates. ocaml-tls uses ocaml-x509 for this purpose, which is written as a standalone library. There is a clear separation of concerns between ocaml-x509 and ocaml-tls, and a straightforward API for certificate operations in ocaml-x509; both features help tremendously in writing tests for certificate handling.

NAT your own packets

I’ve been talking about network address translation here for a while, including instructions on building your own NAT device with MirageOS. The library behind those posts, mirage-nat, went on to back talex5’s unikernel firewall for QubesOS, but was unreleased and essentially unmaintained between late 2015 and early 2017. At the March 2017 MirageOS hack retreat in Marrakesh, talex5 convinced me to do some much-needed maintenance on this library. After having let it age between March and October, I was persuaded to release a version with the hippest latest build system last week.

Fine, I'll Download It For You

I recently found myself needing to reset an iPhone 6 to its factory defaults. There is some useful stuff to have if you’re trying to do this:

  • the passcode for the phone
  • the AppleID with which the phone is associated
  • an iTunes installation
  • an Internet connection capable of downloading the iPhone software image in 15 minutes

It turns out the first two are optional given the last two, or at least a reasonable facsimile. If you don’t have the last one, you have to fake it. Here’s how I spent my first day of funemployment compensating for some Apple engineer failing to consider that it might be nice to download a file before you need to use it.