Emails are still the alert type of choice for most network administrators, but they come with a major pitfall: They either rely on your local email server, the Internet connection, or worse: both.
So if you need to get notified when your email server or Internet connection are down – and most likely you will want to get notified – text messages (aka as SMS) are a convenient way out of this monitoring conundrum.
Email to SMS, or web-based SMS services can help in some situations, but you need a different kind of beast when the Internet connection is down.
This is where hardware solutions like the SMSEagle come in. The SMSEagle is essentially a cell phone with an Ethernet jack, a web server + API, allowing you to send text messages either through its web interface or API (preferred).
The SMSEagle and similar devices usually only require three things:
A valid SIM card
A physical location with coverage from your provider
An Ethernet connection to your network
With the SMSEagle in place, you no longer have to fear loss of Internet connectivity or mail server downtime – a text alert is just a few seconds away when combined with a monitoring solution like EventSentry. In fact, the SMSEagle is somewhat unique in that it actually offers its own basic network monitoring capabilities which can be used in addition to EventSentry – or to monitor the host running the EventSentry Heartbeat Monitor.
Since the SMSEagle features a web-based API, EventSentry can submit certain alerts, e.g. pertaining to Internet connectivity or the availability of a specific host and/or service, directly to the SMSEagle through its HTTP action, which will then send a SMS alert directly to your mobile device of choice.
The SMSEagle accepts mini SIM cards and works with the GSM/GPRS/EGPRS 900/1800/1900 MHz wave bands. For users in the U.S. this unfortunately means that the Verizon & Sprint customers will not be able to utilize this device. The setup of the device is straightforward: You first insert the SIM card, connect it to the Ethernet and power on the device. The device automatically assigns itself IP address 192.168.0.101 but can also retrieve its IP address via DHCP. More instructions & details are available in the manual.
Once you’ve setup the SMSEagle and verified that SMS messages can be sent and received, you can create an EventSentry HTTP action and point it to your SMSEagle device. The HTTP action includes a number of templates to quickly load all required fields for a specific HTTP API; simply select the SMSEagle from the drop-down and specify all the required fields such as host name and so forth. Use the test button to ensure the action is setup correctly.
Once the action is setup it can be referenced by one or more filters so that it is triggered under the right circumstances. Assuming that you are already monitoring a host outside your network (e.g. your ISPs DNS server, a public web site) to determine whether your Internet connection is available or not, you would want to look for EventSentry event 11000, which indicates when a host changes its availability status, such as:
Host ispdns (Internet) changed its PING status from OK to ERROR. The reason for the status change was: “100% packets lost”.
A filter setup for this event would look like something like this:
Here, we are looking for an application error generated by the Heartbeat Monitoring category of the EventSentry source. We’re also further restricting the filter to only alert us on status changes of the “ispdns” host when it goes off-line. Since the SMSEagle is listed as the action, this particular event (alert) will be sent to the SMSEagle action.
The insertion strings can be determined by either clicking on the “Lookup” button on the filter dialog, or by clicking on the “Preview” button when adding a content filter.
If you’re located in the Europe then the SMSEagle is a non-brainer, but it’s also a good option for US-based customers who work with a GSM-based cell provider like T-Mobile or AT&T. Otherwise, there are a few other devices out there who work similarly , and as long as they offer a HTTP-based API, integrating EventSentry with them should be easy.
A final note for users in the U.S.: The device comes with a European power connector (“Europlug”) which won’t work in the U.S., you will need to purchase a simple adapter either at your local electronics store (if such a thing exists) or online retailer. A voltage transformer is not necessary since the device operates from 100V to 240V.
I always enjoy visiting customer sites for training or consulting since I learn about their unique challenges and requirements, and how EventSentry can meet them.
During a recent visit an interesting question came up: How can I identify (certain) processes which run longer than a certain time period? It may sound like an odd requirement, but some software suites spawn worker processes which perform certain tasks which take a predictable amount of time, such as processing a document for example. If something goes wrong and one of the worker processes hangs, you’d want to know about it.
EventSentry does include a process monitoring feature which can ensure that a certain number of instances of processes are running, even taking their command line arguments into consideration; however it doesn’t evaluate the duration of process.
Even though you cannot do this out of the box (and given that most users don’t require this sort of thing we’re probably not going to add it), there is a pretty easy solution with a (VB)script and the application scheduler. As a reminder, the application scheduler is the standard way of extending EventSentry’s functionality.
Even though VB(Script) is not the most popular scripting language these days, we like to utilize it for a number of reasons:
* The interpreter (cscript.exe) is pre-installed on all versions of Windows
* It was developed on and for Windows, and can handle easy to moderate scripting pretty well
* It’s easy to read and customize, even by people who don’t write code on a regular basis
Of course you can utilize any scripting language with the application scheduler as long as the interpreter is installed. Now let’s see what this VBScript would look like (if you have ever used the Scriptomatic then the structure of this script may look familiar to you):
On Error Resume Next
Const wbemFlagReturnImmediately = &h10
Const wbemFlagForwardOnly = &h20
' Customize start
Const processName = "parser.exe"
Const maxAgeSeconds = 120
' Customize end
returnCode = 0
Set objWMIService = GetObject("winmgmts:\\localhost\root\CIMV2")
Set colItems = objWMIService.ExecQuery("SELECT * FROM Win32_Process WHERE Caption='" & processName & "'", "WQL", _
wbemFlagReturnImmediately + wbemFlagForwardOnly)
For Each objItem In colItems
secAge = DateDiff("s", WMIDateStringToDate(objItem.CreationDate), Now())
If secAge > maxAgeSeconds Then
WScript.Echo "Process " & objItem.Caption & " (" & objItem.ProcessId & ") has been running for " & secAge & " seconds, since " & WMIDateStringToDate(objItem.CreationDate)
returnCode = 1
WMIDateStringToDate = CDate(Mid(dtmDate, 5, 2) & "/" & _
Mid(dtmDate, 7, 2) & "/" & Left(dtmDate, 4) _
& " " & Mid (dtmDate, 9, 2) & ":" & Mid(dtmDate, 11, 2) & ":" & Mid(dtmDate,13, 2))
In a nutshell, the script uses WMI to retrieve all running processes and then subtracts the current timestamp from the process start time to determine the runtime (duration) of the process. If it exceeds the pre-configured threshold, the script will return 1 and subsequently log an error to event log.
To get started, first configure the process name and maximum duration in lines 7 & 8. Then, added the script as an embedded script (Tools -> Embedded Scripts) with a descriptive name. Remember to give the file the correct (.vbs) extension here.
Once the file is setup as an embedded script, you can reference it from the application scheduler or an action (although it wouldn’t make much sense to use this script as an action). Create a new system health package, or add the “Application Scheduler” object to an existing system health package. Make sure the package is assigned to the correct computer or group!
To finish, add a schedule to the newly created application scheduler object; in most cases you will want to use a “Recurring Schedule” which will run in regular intervals. On the main application scheduler dialog you will want to make sure that the “Log application return code > 0 to the event log as “Error” is checked. These types of events can then be forwarded to a recipient via email for example.
This script is a pure monitoring script, it won’t take any corrective action by itself. But the script could easily be modified to automatically terminate the process if it has been running for too long. For example, you could either terminate the process with the Terminate() method via WMI, or execute pskill (Sysinternals suite) from within the VBScript. The latter may be more reliable but will require that pskill is installed on all the machines running this script. A modified version of the script is shown below:
' using "Terminate()"
If secAge > maxAgeSeconds Then
WScript.Echo "Process " & objItem.Caption & " (" & objItem.ProcessId & ") has been running for " & secAge & " seconds, since " & WMIDateStringToDate(objItem.CreationDate) & ", and will be terminated"
returnCode = 1
' using pskill
If secAge > maxAgeSeconds Then
WScript.Echo "Process " & objItem.Caption & " (" & objItem.ProcessId & ") has been running for " & secAge & " seconds, since " & WMIDateStringToDate(objItem.CreationDate) & ", and will be terminated"
WshShell.Exec "PSKill " & objProcess.ProcessId
returnCode = 1
So there you have it, how to keep long-running processes in check. Since embedded scripts are integrated into the EventSentry configuration, there is no need to manage the script on the remote host.
A nice feature of EventSentry is that any email alert you will get will automatically include the output of the script – delivered straight into your inbox.
Trello is a simple yet powerful and innovative task management / collaboration platform for teams. With Trello, the developers have basically taken the familiar concept of traditional white boards where you add and remove tasks (by writing on them), and moved it to an easy-to-use online tool.
While Trello doesn’t attempt to replace the more complex project management and collaboration tools available (including its own FogBugz platform), it makes keeping track of small ToDo lists and tasks surprisingly simple, while still supporting advanced features such as due dates, attachments, assignments and more. Of course, Trello also includes a very capable mobile app for iOS and Android (I only tested the iOS version).
And best of all, it’s completely free if you stick with the basic (and for most people completely sufficient) functionality. But what does Trello have to do with EventSentry and cutting down on emails?
We’re always looking for innovative ways to make managing alerts easier and more productive, especially in larger teams. While email alerts certainly serve a purpose and can be quite useful, alerts dispatched via email suffer from a few disadvantages:
Emails sent to multiple recipients make it difficult for the recipient to know whether the alert has been acted upon or not
Alerts which have already been resolved by a team member still remain in your inbox
Emails often get lost amidst other emails and potentially critical alerts may get overlooked
How Trello Works
Trello is organized into boards, each of which can have one or more lists, each of which have multiple cards. Since Trello offers an API, you can use EventSentry’s HTTP action to submit events (alerts) directly to one (or more) Trello lists.
And this is where the fun starts. Once in Trello, alerts (now cards, or “alert cards”) can be acted upon in a variety of creative and useful ways. You can:
Receive alerts in your browser when a card is created
Move a card to a different list (e.g. “Resolved”, “Under Investigation”, …)
Assign one or more people to a card
Add comments to a card
Assign a due date to a card
Mark a card as important (you can even define your own color codes)
Receive periodic summary emails if you don’t visit the board
All of these features make managing alerts in teams with multiple SysAdmins much easier. When an alert comes in, anybody can act on it (e.g. add themselves) or assign it another team member. Any changes are immediately visible to all other team members in real-time (and we at NETIKUS love anything real-time).
Integrating EventSentry with Trello is a 3-step process:
Sign up for Trello, create a board and customize the associated lists
Get an API & access key & determine ID of your list
Setup HTTP action in EventSentry and create/modify rules
Signing up for Trello
To get started, navigate to http://www.trello.com and sign up with an email address. After you log in for the first time, you will automatically get the “Welcome Board” which will show you all the things you can do with Trello. Since we don’t want to use the default board, we click the big PLUS icon on the top right instead and select “New Board”.
Give the board a descriptive name, e.g. “EventSentry Alerts”. Once created, the board will contain three default lists. You can either leave the list names as they are, or customize them as shown in the screen shot below. I chose “Active”, “Working on” and “Resolved”.
Getting an API and access key
Now that you’ve signed up, the next logical step is to get the API key so that EventSentry can start submitting events to Trello. So while you are logged in, navigate to https://trello.com/1/appKey/generate and note down (aka copy & paste) the first value “Key”, a 32 character-long hexadecimal value. This is the “main” key for your user account, and will be used whenever you (or EventSentry) make an API request.
The API key doesn’t actually let us access data from the boards, for which we’ll need an access key. There are different types of access keys with customizable expiration dates available, but in this case we’ll just get a read/write key without an expiration date. Navigate to the following URL to get a universal read/write access key and substitute APIKEY with the key you obtained just before:
You will end up with a dialog similar to the one shown above, where you need to click the green “Allow” button. This will issue another hexadecimal key, this time 64 characters in length. Note this key down as well. Of course you can be less generous and issue keys which expire automatically, e.g. after 30 days. See the Trello docs for more details on the different “expiration” options available.
Getting the list ID
Our end goal is to submit cards to the “Active” list on our “EventSentry Alerts” board. In order to add a new card to this list however, we’ll need the list’s ID. Equipped with our main key and access key, we’re almost there. First, navigate to your “EventSentry Alerts” board in Trello (or whichever board you want to submit cards to) and note down the URL. For example, if the URL is https://trello.com/b/gePT9Wax/eventsentry-alerts, then you’ll want to extract the text between the /b/ and the board name, gePT9Wax in this case. Now, navigate to the URL below, and replace APIKEY with the API key, and ACCESSKEY with the access key:
What we are interested in is the list id of our “Active” list, 561e92617481e9a123aef3b00 in the example above. With the last missing piece of the puzzle in our hands, we’re now ready to setup a HTTP action in EventSentry.
Right-click the actions container or utilize the ribbon to create a new HTTP action. In the action dialog, specify the following URL, replacing LISTID with the list id we just obtained:
In addition to the URL, we’ll need to specify at least 4 form fields:
The key and token fields need to be replaced with your API key and access key, whereas the name and desc fields can be customized to suit your needs: what I have shown above is just an example which should work reasonably well in most cases. You can add or remove other event variables as you wish. The upcoming v3.1 will include Trello in the template list to make this a bit easier.
Once the action is configured, click the Test button to ensure that all IDs have been specified correctly. If the test succeeds, then you should see a new card in the “Active Alerts” list in the EventSentry Alerts board.
Of course an action alone will not forward any alerts to Trello, so you will need to make some changes to your filters and packages. You can either modify existing filters / event log packages and replace the email action with the new Trello HTTP action, or add the Trello action to existing event log packages / filters. Remember that actions can be defined on a package-level through the package properties as well which can help save time.
Managing Alert Cards
Once your first alert card arrives in the “Active” lists and is analyzed by a team member, a few actions can be taken:
You can add a team member to the card, essentially assigning the alert to them. You can add multiple team members as well
If the event is a false alert, it can be moved to a “False Alert” list, which would indicate that an exclusion filter should be setup in EventSentry
You can assign a due date, if the alert requires a resolution by a specific date
You can add a comment to the card
You can label the card (e.g. “Important”)
You can archive & delete the card
As you can see, despite its simplicity, Trello offers quite a few features to manage and collaborate. This ensures that alerts don’t disappear in an email inbox somewhere and instead are acted upon, while also allowing collaboration with comments, due dates and such.
Additional Tips & Tricks for Trello
In order to get alerted when a new alert card is created in the EventSentry Alert boards, you’ll need to subscribe to the board. This ensures that you will get a notification on your mobile phone, browser (when enabled http://blog.trello.com/how-to-use-trello-like-a-pro/) or email every time there is activity on a board. Activities include new cards being created, cards being moved to a different list, users being added to cards and so forth.
Note: You will not get a notification if the EventSentry Agent is submitting new cards while using your access key (only other users will see the alerts). This is because Trello assumes that you are creating the cards, and subsequently not notifying you about them.
One way to circumvent this restriction is to create a “service” account (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) and issue the access token under this user. Then, everybody will see the alerts.
But don’t stop there!
Of course you can use Trello for what it was originally designed to do as well – manage tasks. We’ve found it to be a great and easy way to handle ToDo lists for teams, resulting in more transparency and efficiency. Assigning a task is quick and easy, and team members can easily track progress with projects – without pesky emails floating around between team members.
Now you just have to get all your To-Do items actually done too. But at least I can now move my “Create Trello Blog Post” card into the “Done” list. And that feels good.
Every Windows server runs a seemingly ever increasing number of services which range from built-in services providing core Windows functionality (e.g. Print Spooler, Bitlocker, WMI) to 3rd party services added when installing 3rd party software (e.g. various software update services, MySQL) – all of which run in the context of a specific user account.
For example, Windows Server 2012 includes more than 300 services, about half of which are automatically running (this particular server has SQL Server installed as well):
That user account is either a built-in security principal of Windows (e.g. NetworkService), a user account specifically created for that service, or another user account from the server or domain.
Services should always run under a user account which has the least amount of privileges necessary to do its job. It’s common, and often tempting, to run a service an administrative account like “Administrator”. While this often the easiest way to “get it working”, it’s also the least secure.
When a service runs under the “Administrator” account – especially if it’s the domain Administrator account – the service has almost unrestricted access to all resources on the host or, in case of a domain admin, on the domain. This is not something a service usually needs nor you want. It also means that the service will stop working whenever the password of the Administrator account is changed (the service will continue to work until it is restarted).
Less is Better
Whenever possible, try to use one of the built-in security principals available in Windows to run a service under, or create a specific user account for the service. For example, if you have a file synchronization app which runs as a service, create a “ServiceFileSync” or similar account and configure the service to run under that account. Carefully examine the rights the service requires, and only assign those privileges to the user account which the service actually needs.
When creating the user account, give it a very strong & complex password. Users won’t have to log on with that user account, so the password can be complex and long. You can optionally check the “password does not expire” option if you feel that the password is sufficiently secure and you have a short password expiration policy on your domain which could interfere with the service starting after the password expired.
In domain environments I also recommend giving those user accounts (since you will most likely end up with more than one) either a common prefix or suffix (e.g. svc_mysql) and/or moving the accounts into a specific OU. This makes managing and distinguishing these accounts easier – especially in teams with more than one SysAdmin.
The quick way: Local Services grouped by User Account
To view all locally installed services grouped by the user account they are running under, download the EventSentry SysAdmin Tools and just run srvsec.exe. This will show you all locally running services, and group the output by the user account they are running under. Srvsec can also be pointed at a remote host, and can also change the passwords stored in services. Click here for more information on srvsec.
Srvsec is a great tool to quickly see what’s going on a single host, but to manage services on an entire domain effectively a more scalable solution is available: EventSentry + AutoAdministrator – the dynamic duo!
The right way: Making sense of ALL installed services
Even when passwords for service accounts are sufficiently strong, they should still be changed on a regular basis. But which services are installed where and are using which service account?
If this is your first time examining service accounts on your network, you should first identify which services run under which user accounts. EventSentry’s service monitoring feature combined with the web-based reporting really makes this a breeze. Assuming that you have a service monitoring system health package assigned to all of your servers, you can simply open the web reports and navigate to Status – Services and get a birds-eye view of all installed services.
In the Overview view, all installed services are grouped by common attributes, including startup type (automatic startup services vs manual startup services), current status, service name and, most importantly for this post, the service user account.
Click the “Show All” link to see all user accounts, or click on a specific user account (e.g. “LocalSystem”) to filter the list and only show services running under this specific user account. In most cases you will want to click on “Detailed” to see a list of all services with more detail.
In addition to filtering and viewing details, you can also click on the header of the
username (or any other) column to see a chart depicting all user accounts used by services from all monitored servers and workstations.
Any report viewed in the web reports can also be scheduled with a job, e.g. a list of all user accounts used by services could be emailed daily/weekly. Simply click the “Save as Report” link to create a report and setup a job.
The standard way to configure the user account and password used by a service is through the “Services” application in Windows. This works well for one or two servers, but not when you need to update the password for a service on multiple hosts.
This is where AutoAdministrator comes in: A free graphical tool which lets you do just that (and quite a bit more): Update the username and/or password of a service on multiple servers in a domain or work-group. Since AutoAdministrator is multi-threaded, even tasks affecting a large amount of hosts usually only take a few seconds.
To update the stored password of a service, open AutoAdministrator and select “Services” from the drop-down list on the top left.
Next, select the service you wish to update from the “Service key / display name” drop-down. If the service is not listed, simply specify the service key name in the service field. The key name is the internal name used by the service and can be obtained by double-clicking a service name in the “Services” MMC application in Windows.
Next, click on the “Set logon” tab and specify the new username and/or password. Of course you can also specify other service actions, such as restarting the service or changing the start-up type.
As the next step, select the hosts you wish to apply the selected changes to. You can select hosts from Active Directory, EventSentry, custom groups or work groups (Microsoft Windows Network).
Once the correct hosts are selected, click the “Start” button. The number of hosts which will be affected by any action is always shown on the bottom right of the application.
Over the past couple months, we’ve taken time to go through the various EventSentry SysAdmin Tools, one by one, and show you how they can benefit your environment in powerful ways. We’ve talked about the security tools, the networking tools, and the “check” monitoring utilities. As you know, the SysAdmin Tools offer a set of graphical and command-line utilities designed to help you with your daily administrative tasks. These tools are always being honed to provide simple yet powerful functionality.
This month, let’s take a look at the extremely beneficial file-system utilities: ADSList, CheckSum, DirMon, DirectorySize, FileReplace, PurgeTemp, and SuperDel. Here’s what they can do.
ADSList scans a folder structure to find any alternate data streams (aka “hidden” data streams). Alternate date streams are a feature of the NTFS file system in which you can hide payload (additional files) inside existing files. The jury is still out about whether malware uses these streams, but it’s always a good idea to make sure nobody has hidden something malicious in alternate data streams, because the Windows Explorer and directory listings don’t show them.
ADSList lists any alternate data streams that are associated with a file. When the tool finds an alternate data stream, it displays the name of the stream along with the regular file the stream is associated with. The output will also show a summary that lists the number of files analyzed, the number of files that have an alternate data stream associated with them, the number of alternate data streams that have been found, and the elapsed time.
The main purpose of ADSList is to give you a command-line utility that can be run/scheduled on a regular basis to reveal any hidden streams on a server or workstation. The /s option lets you include subdirectories.
CheckSum generates a one-way checksum (error detection scheme) of a file with a configurable algorithm and displays it onscreen. This capability is useful for ensuring the integrity of a file and making sure that it hasn’t been modified. CheckSum not only supports the SHA set of cryptographic hash functions (e.g., SHA256, SHA512), but also less secure hash functions (e.g., MD5).
To display and create a file’s checksum, simply supply the filename as the first argument. Keep in mind that generating checksums of large files (e.g., greater than 100Mb) can take a significant amount of time and CPU time.
The CheckSum utility is also included in EventSentry as an add-on to the File Monitoring feature, which can automatically generate SHA checksums and detect file modifications based on checksum changes.
Directory Monitor (DirMon) is a useful troubleshooting tool that monitors a directory (and optionally subdirectories) and displays all file changes in real-time. You simply run it on the command line, and it displays any file activity occurring on a given folder (or subfolder).
DirMon will show you when files are added, deleted, or modified. DirMon also lets you specifically include or exclude filters, so you can skip files that you aren’t interested in or show only files that you are interested in. The /I (/includefiles) option includes only files that match a wildcard filter, and the /e (/exclude) option does the opposite. The /s (/subdirectories) option includes subdirectories.
The DirectorySize (dirsize.exe) utility calculates the current size of a directory, including subdirectories, and displays it onscreen. The output shows the number of files and directories searched, and the total size in physical (actual size taken up on the disk) and logical (actual file size) bytes.
DirectorySize will process the current directory if you pass no command-line arguments.
PurgeTemp is a new and exciting tool that lets you purge files that are older than a certain number of days. The tool traverses the %TEMP% directory (or a manually specified directory) and deletes files that have not been modified in 120 days (by default). Because it scans the temp folder by default, you can incorporate PurgeTemp into a login script or run it with Task Scheduler to clean up temp files, for example. It’s a great way to keep users’ temp folders small.
You can customize and configure all of PurgeTemp’s parameters, including /t (time in days) and /p (path). When called without arguments, PurgeTemp simply shows the configured temp directory, the number of files in the directory, and their cumulative size.
SuperDelete (superdel.exe) essentially deletes all instances of a specific file. It parses a directory (including subdirectories) and deletes multiple occurrences of one file.
Suppose you have a thumbs.db file that Windows Explorer creates in every folder containing images, and you want to remove that from every folder on a drive. You can use SuperDelete for that purpose, using the <directory> variable to specify the directory to search (subdirectories are included), and the <fileToDelete> variable to find all occurrences of a file in the directory (wildcards are supported).
FileReplace is a command-line utility that parses a directory (including subdirectories) and replaces multiple occurrences of one template file with a template file of the same name.
Suppose you have 50 instances of various myfile.txt files scattered on your computer. You can quickly replace them all with a new myfile.txt file.
Another useful example is this: You have file C:\WebSite\Default\index.html and want to replace all other index.html files in the directory D:\WWW (including subdirectories) with C:\WebSite\Default\index.html. FileReplace lets you accomplish that with one command.
Streamline Your File System!
This is just another taste of the free, constantly evolving tools available in EventSentry SysAdmin Tools. Give them a try—they’re all free and will help you manage your IT infrastructure more effectively.
We’ve already talked about the security-focused and “check” monitoring utilities included in the freeware EventSentry SysAdmin Tools, part of the larger EventSentry network-management solution. The SysAdmin Tools offer a set of graphical and command-line utilities designed to help you with your daily administrative tasks. These tools are always being honed to provide simple yet powerful functionality.
Now let’s take a look at the extremely beneficial network monitoring utilities: Fping, Gethttp, IPMon+, Ntpclient, Pagesnpp, and WakeOnLan. Here’s what they can do.
Fast Ping (Fping)
NETIKUS.NET introduced Fast Ping (fping.exe) years ago as part of the NTToolkit. The tool was developed as a way to offer a faster way to ping remote hosts. Frankly, we were annoyed by the built-in Windows ping, which is far slower than its Linux and Apple OS X counterparts. That’s right, on non-Windows OSs pinging a remote host (especially one that is online) is a lightning-fast prospect—so why not on Windows? Fping solves the problem.
Fping also offers some fun options. For example, you can use the Solaris-style syntax, which shows you only whether a host is up or down. You can check a TCP port instead of doing an Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP)-based ping. You can play a sound on successful or failed ping—a more useful capability than you might think! You can also see silly comments, and you can save your presets—something you can’t do with any other ping utility.
The parameters of this command-line utility are straightforward: The required <host> variable identifies the host name or IP address to ping; the /brief (/b) parameter performs a quick ping and only indicates whether the host is up or down; the /count (/c) parameter determines the number of packets to send; the /defaultset (/w) parameter sets the current options as the default; the /comment (/u) parameter shows unhelpful comments when performing a brief ping; the /playok (/p) and /playfailure (/f) configure sounds; the /loop (/l) parameter pings indefinitely, allowing an abort with Control + C.
As part of the SysAdmin Tools, this utility is better than it’s ever been. In addition to those fun options, it is a fully customizable tool. You can control the number of packets, the packet size, sound, display mode, and the delay. You can even set your preferences and store them as the default. To check the TCP port, simply append a colon and the port number to the host name (e.g. fping www.eventsentry.com:80).
GetHTTP (gethttp.exe) is a simple command-line utility to download files from a website through the HTTP protocol. Mostly useful for scripts, it supports HTTPS and proxy servers and shows the progress of the download in the command-line window. If you’re familiar with Curl (curl.exe), you have an idea what Get HTTP does.
The parameters of this command-line utility are straightforward: The /usewininet parameter utilizes the Windows proxy engine; the /proxyport parameter determines the IP port of the proxy server; the /proxyhost parameter determines the host name or IP address of the proxy server; the /quiet (/q) parameter specifies quiet output; among others, include username and password authentication parameters.
An excellent troubleshooting utility, IPMon+ is a GUI tool that shows all TCP, UDP, ICMP, and ARP connection endpoints between the local computer (default) and remote hosts. It’s the graphical version of IPMon, offering functionality that isn’t available in the command-line version.
IPMon+ is terrific for troubleshooting network connections and revealing incoming and outgoing network traffic for those situations where you don’t need to see every packet detail. The tool monitors all network traffic on the specified interface and shows which hosts communicate with the local host, how much data is being transferred through the IP connection, the direction of traffic, and which UDP/TCP ports are used in the communication. If IPMon+ runs in promiscuous mode, traffic from non-local hosts is also displayed. IPMon+ and IPMon both require the free WinPcap.
A simple but essential tool, NTP Client (ntpclient.exe) checks the local time against an NTP server, and optionally updates the local time to match that of the server. NTP Client supports the Network Time Protocol (NTP) up to version 3 and takes network latency into consideration when setting the local time. (Note that NTP Client doesn’t run as a service, and as such will have to be called repeatedly if you want to keep the time of a computer synchronized.)
Network latency is taken into consideration when calculating the clock offset, providing precision down to milliseconds. The primary parameter of this command-line utility does all the work: The /set (/s) parameter sets the time according to the time retrieved from the NTP server.
PageSNPP (pagesnpp.exe) sends a message to a pager using the internet-based Simple Network Paging Protocol (SNPP). The tool has a message limit of 1500 characters, but you can check with your paging provider to determine the maximum supported message length for your plan and device (usually less than 500). PageSNPP returns an %ERRORLEVEL% of 0 when the message was sent successfully, and an %ERRORLEVEL% greater than 0 when the message could not be sent.
The primary parameters of this command-line utility do all the work: The <SNPP_HOST> variable identifies the host name or IP address of the SNPP host, the <SNPP_PORT> variable identifies the ICP port used, and the <MESSAGE> variable displays the message to send, enclosed in quotes. (The maximum is 2,048 characters.)
The WakeOnLAN (WOL) utility sends a “magic” packet to a remote network interface card (NIC), based on the MAC address. If the NIC supports the Wake On LAN feature (and the feature is enabled in the computer BIOS of the computer), the computer will power on automatically after receiving the packet. You can also send the magic packet to a router, if the router supports direct broadcasts.
The primary parameters of this command-line utility do all the work: The required <MAC Address> variable identifies the MAC address without delimiters, and the /IP Address (/ip) parameter identifies the IP address to send the packet to (usually a router) if the remote host is not in the local subnet.
More to Come!
This is just a taste of the free, constantly evolving tools available in EventSentry SysAdmin Tools. Give them a try—you won’t be able to stop with just one.
Last week, we talked about the security-focused utilities of the freeware EventSentry SysAdmin Tools, part of the larger EventSentry network-management solution. The SysAdmin Tools offer a set of graphical and command-line utilities designed to help you with your daily administrative tasks. These tools are constantly under development, always being honed to provide simple yet powerful functionality. Three of these tools are vital monitoring utilities: CheckDB, CheckTCP, and CheckURL. Here’s what they can do.
CheckDB verifies a database connection through the Open Database Connectivity (ODBC) interface. With this capability, you can not only verify that a database server is up and running, you can also check that a database is online. You can optionally run a SQL statement of your choice. CheckDB is particularly useful because it doesn’t merely verify that a database server is online (e.g. through a port check), it also verifies that a SQL statement was successful. That capability improves the usability of this tool because it verifies that the SQL server is accepting logins and is working correctly (at least as far as that statement is concerned). Also, this tool will work with any database that supplies ODBC drivers, so it will work with MySQL, MSSQL, and so on. You can schedule CheckDB from within EventSentry (“Application Scheduler”), and even time it. The scheduling capability is a bit advanced, and the setup requires a few steps, but after getting it up and running, you can easily schedule a statement and configure it to notify you if it takes more than two seconds, for example. The parameters of this command-line utility are straightforward: The <DSN/Connectionstring> parameter is the DSN or connection strong to connect to; the /q (or /query) parameter is the SQL query you can run upon successful connection; the /u (or /username) parameter is the DSN unsername to connect as; and the /p (or /password) parameter is the password for “username.” CheckDB can log output either to the console or to the event log, making it easy to receive alerts from the utility through EventSentry or any other log monitoring software. The /I (/logToLog) and /c (/logToConsole) parameters take care of this functionality.
CheckTCP is another command-line application, this one letting you quickly determine whether a TCP port on a host is open. Additionally, you can receive initial data sent from the remote host through an open TCP connection, such as when connecting to most SMTP hosts. CheckTCP exists because Windows doesn’t really offer a built-in way to check whether a TCP port is open. Yes, Nmap is a powerful utility, but you probably often just want to know whether a server that you rebooted is available for remote desktop login. For that, you can simply run “checktcp server123 3389.” It’s not fancy, but it accomplishes a vital task. If you use the /s switch, you can get only the first line of the response. For example, if you use it against a mail server, you would get this:
checktcp /s mymailserver 25
Data: 220 mx.somedomain.com Microsoft ESMTP MAIL Service ready at Fri, 25 Apr 2014 15:07:33 -0500
The parameters of this command-line utility are straightforward: The /s parameter, as mentioned, gets initial data from the remote port (for example, when connecting to an SMTP port); the <Port> parameter displays the TCP port to connect to; and <Hostname> identifies the IP address of hostname to connect to. Although you can use this utility to display any data sent by the remote host over the established connection, CheckTCP is not intended to be used as a port scanner.
CheckURL is the HTTP version of CheckDB, and it lets you detect changes in web pages (through checksums) and look for text inside web pages. With CheckURL you’ll know when a web page changes or when a particular string is or isn’t included in a page. You might use this tool to monitor your corporate pages (at least those which are static and don’t have dynamic content) and also development pages to ensure that they don’t return a HTTP error. This is beneficial because you can have CheckURL look for specific text on the pages. The checksum feature is cool, too, because it lets you know when a page changes. As with with CheckDB, you can schedule CheckURL from within EventSentry (“Application Scheduler”), and even time it. The scheduling capability is a bit advanced, and the setup requires a few steps, but after getting it up and running, you can easily schedule a statement and configure it to notify you if it takes more than two seconds, for example. At NETIKUS.NET, we monitor our online store that way. If the store takes more than three seconds to load, we get an alert. Like CheckDB, CheckURL can log output either to the console or to the event log, making it easy to receive alerts from the utility through EventSentry or any other log monitoring software. CheckURL supports SSL as well as proxy servers.
More to Come!
This is just a taste of the free, constantly evolving tools available in EventSentry SysAdmin Tools. Give them a try—you won’t be able to stop with just one.
Part of our larger EventSentry network-management solution, the freeware EventSentry SysAdmin Tools offer a set of graphical and command-line utilities designed to help you with your daily administrative tasks. These tools are constantly under development, always being honed to provide simple yet powerful functionality. Three of these tools are vital security utilities: Password Assistant, Service Secure, and Task Secure. Let’s take a look at what they offer.
Password Assistant Password Assistant is a simple yet powerful tool that lets you update the passwords of user accounts on multiple Windows machines. You simply enter the username, the old password, and the new password (with confirmation); after doing so, you can select the computer name(s) from a network neighborhood list (with a filter option) or choose the computer(s) from a text file. The update process can also be logged to a text file.
All the parameters of the command-line utility are provided in clear terms: The /u (or /username) parameter specifies the username whose password needs to be changes, the /pwold parameter takes that account’s old password, and the /pwnew parameter accepts the new password; there are also /n (or /network), /f (or /filepath), and /filter parameters for specifying computers, as mentioned above. The /ignore_rest parameter ignores the rest of the labeled arguments following this flag, and the /version parameter displays version information and exits.
A great sample use of Password Assistant is when you need to update the administrator passwords on all of the workstations in your environment. Password Assistant provides a one-stop interface—or a simple command-line utility—for making the task hassle-free.
Service Secure provides a simple command interface that displays all of your system’s services, grouped by service account. The tool also lets you easily reset service passwords by specifying username and password rather than having to manually configure those services through the Microsoft Management Console (MMC).
All the parameters of the command-line utility are provided in clear terms: The /p (or /password) parameter sets a password; the /c (or /changepwd) parameter changes a password; the /r (or /restart) parameter restarts the service after the password has been changed; the /u (or /username) parameter lists only those services running under a certain username; the /ignore_rest parameter ignores the rest of the labeled arguments following this flag; the /version parameter displays version information and exits.
Suppose service security has been compromised, and you need to quickly change the passwords of a user account used by a number of services. That task is no longer a logistical nightmare: You can now simply use ServiceSecure in a batch file and update all affected services in your entire network in a matter of moments.
Task Secure provides a simple command interface that displays all of your system’s scheduled tasks, grouped by task account. The tool also lets you easily manage the passwords stored in scheduled tasks on your network. Simply specify the username and password, and Task Secure will reset the password stored in all scheduled tasks (using the specified username) on the specified computer (local or remote).
All the parameters of the command-line utility are provided in clear terms: The /r (or /remote_host) parameter lists all the scheduled tasks on a given host; the /u (or /username) parameter lists only those scheduled tasks running under a certain username; the /p (or /password) parameter sets a password for every scheduled task configured for a certain user account; the /ignore_rest parameter ignores the rest of the labeled arguments following this flag; the /version parameter displays version information and exits.
Suppose you need to quickly change the passwords of all the scheduled tasks used by one user. You can now simply use Task Secure in a batch file and update all scheduled tasks in your entire network in a matter of moments.
More to Come! This is just a taste of the free, constantly evolving tools available in EventSentry SysAdmin Tools. Give them a try—you won’t be able to stop with just one.
Whether it’s a critical process running on a server or an application on your desktop – sometimes processes terminate and need to be restarted – immediately.
With EventSentry & EventSentry Light you can do just that: Automatically restart processes immediately after they terminate.
In the past, one drawback of EventSentry launching a process was the side effect that any process started by the EventSentry agent would run under the same account as the EventSentry agent itself (usually a privileged domain account or LocalSystem).
In this post I’ll discuss how you can work around that limitation in a secure manner using a scheduled task. When the critical process fails, instead of launching the process directly through a process action, EventSentry will trigger a scheduled task instead. Why? Because scheduled tasks allow you to configure under which user a task will run – and the user’s password is securely stored in Windows.
The recipe for accomplishing this feat is as follows:
Process Monitoring monitors the process
An event log filter looks for the “failed process” event and triggers a process action
The process action starts a scheduled task
Let’s look at this in detail. First, on the host where the critical but unstable task is running, you create a schedule task in the Windows “Task Scheduler”. Under General, give the task a descriptive name (“Start Super Important App”) and change the user under which the program should be running under. In most cases you will also want to make sure that you configure the task to run whether a user is logged on or not. Then, under “Actions”, add a new action “Start a program” which points to the executable that should be launched. After you click “OK” you will be prompted for the password for the user.
The next step is to setup process monitoring in EventSentry. Right-click “System Health” and create a new package and assign it to the computer(s) in question. Right-click the newly added package and select “Add – Processes”. Click the newly added object and add the name of the process which should be monitored. You can configure how many instances of the processes are required, and with which severity the event will be logged when the process is inactive.
Now we create a new “Process” action. Right-click the “Actions” container, select “Add” and enter a descriptive name (e.g. “Trigger Super Important App”). In the Filename field specify:
And for the Command Line Arguments enter:
/Run /TN “Start Super Important App”
This uses the built-in Microsoft utility schtasks.exe to run the task we created in our first step. At this point EventSentry will monitor the specified process and log an event if the process is inactive. And while we do have an action to trigger the scheduled task, we still need to tell EventSentry when to launch that action.
For the next step, right-click the “Event Logs” container, select “Add Package” and give that package a descriptive name. Then assign the package to the same host. Right-click the newly added package and add a filter by clicking “Add Filter”. In the filter dialog, add the “ Trigger Super Important App” action to the action list and configure the following fields:
Event Severity: Information
Event Log: Application
Event Source: EventSentry
Category: Process Monitoring
Event ID: 10401
Content Filter (wildcard): *critical_app.exe*
Important Notes: The event severity will need to match whichever severity you selected when adding the process monitoring object in the system health package. The content filter can also be configured to match insertion string #1, in which case the wildcards are not necessary.
And that’s all there’s to it, simply save the configuration when you are done. If the process is running on a remote host then don’t forget to push the configuration to that host.
We’re excited to announce EventSentry Mobile v1.3 for the iOS platform. The new version remains free, is optimized for iOS 7, sports a refreshed interface and also includes a brand-new feature for pinging hosts in real-time.
Since the new version of EventSentry Mobile was optimized for the new web reports in EventSentry v3.0, it will not work if you are running EventSentry v2.93 on your network.
The interface of the app remains largely the same, but integrates more seamlessly with the iOS 7 flat look. Icons on the network status dialog are now only shown when a host is at least in a warning state, and the icons on the heartbeat dialog have been changed to new flat icons.
Viewing computer details has been tweaked for hosts which are monitored via SNMP since there is currently less information available when compared with Windows hosts monitored by the EventSentry agent.
But since we didn’t feel that visual and internal changes were enough, we also added a new “Tools” section to the app which can:
Ping a host
Perform a DNS lookup
Provide GEO lookup data (when available)
The tools dialog has a single input field with one button where you can enter either an IP address or host name. After you enter the host name or IP address and click the target button, the web reports will ping the host, perform a DNS (reverse) lookup and try to obtain GEO information.
The ping and DNS lookup are performed from the web reports rather than from the phone directly, GEO data is pulled by the iOS device from http://freegeoip.net/. If the IP address is not private (e.g. 192.168.1.x) and coordinates are available then the location can be viewed on a map directly on the iOS device as shown below.
Reminder: If you are using EventSentry v2.93, iOS 7 and have automatic updates enabled on your iOS device, then EventSentry Mobile will stop working.
If you have an iPhone or iPad and haven’t already installed EventSentry Mobile then simply search for “EventSentry” in the App store or click here. Enjoy!