Automating Security List Rule reviews in Oracle Cloud Infrastructure

If you’re running workloads in Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) then it’s likely you’ll be familiar with Virtual Cloud Network (VCN) resources such as Subnets, Route Tables, Gateways etc. These software defined components allow you to build networks in OCI for you to deploy and run your workloads.

Oracle has documentation that explains VCN access and security features which include things like Security Rules, Security Zones, Local and Network Firewalls, and IAM policies. Security rules are made up of Security Lists and Network Security Groups (NSG’s) and are a foundational element of every VCN and Subnet that you create. They define what traffic is allowed in and out of your subnets and what hosts can talk to one another. When you create a subnet a Security List is automatically created with some default rules:

Default Security List Ingress Rules
Default Security List Egress Rules

When it comes to implementing network access controls, you can use Security Lists, Network Security Groups or both. They are virtual firewall features that control traffic at the packet level. I’ll be covering Network Security Group reviews in a later post as I want to focus on Security Lists, specifically how you can easily review and validate rules to ensure they align with your workload, organisational, security and compliance requirements.

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Managing multiple Let’s Encrypt certificates with Oracle Cloud Infrastructure

In my previous post I explained how you can use Let’s Encrypt and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) serverless functions to obtain a publicly signed SSL certificate, and automatically manage its renewal lifecycle. The solution works as expected; I have a Let’s Encrypt certificate for my website automatically renewing 30 days before expiry. If you haven’t read my previous post I’d recommend taking a look before following the setup outlined below as it covers how the solution works, and some prerequisites.

Having multiple workloads running in various OCI regions I started thinking about a more elegant way to provision certificates across multiple regions. Certificates stored in the certificate service are only available to resources in the same region and would have required a function to be deployed in each region, and for each SSL certificate required.

I’ve since updated the solution to address this requirement. It is now possible to provision certificates across multiple OCI regions using a single OCI Function application. I’ve also taken the opportunity to implement other features such as:

  • Loading a list of certificates you want to manage from a JSON file stored in Object Storage.
  • Adding support for wildcard SSL certificates.
  • Adding support for Subject Alternative Names (SAN) in addition to the CN name.
  • Adding support for the use of DNS zones and Vaults that reside in different regions to the OCI Function.

Adding support to specify which vault, and region to use for a given certificate ensures that workloads with strict cryptographic key material requirements can still benefit from this solution.

If you’ve already followed the instructions from my previous post, the solution will continue to work as described. The only limitation being that it’ll only work for a single certificate. By following the steps below you can easily upgrade to issuing multiple certificates. If you haven’t set anything up yet that’s also fine as I’ll be covering the full install again here.

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Let’s Encrypt serverless automation with Oracle Cloud Infrastructure

Let’s Encrypt made its debut back in late 2015. It is a free Certificate Authority provided by the Internet Security Research Group. The goal was to support the adoption of SSL / TLS to ensure the privacy of information sent over the public Internet. Let’s Encrypt is now serving over 2.5M certificates per day.

If you’re reading this it’s likely you’ve had to deal with SSL certificates before. It’s also likely some of you will have investigated an outage, only to find that an SSL certificate expired somewhere that no one knew about. Certificate discovery, management, and renewal can be time consuming and not much fun.

Cloud providers have made this job easier with the introduction of certificate services that are able to issue public Domain Validation (DV) certificates. Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) currently allows you to create private Certificate Authorities (CA’s), private Certificates, and private Certificate Authority bundles. Private certificate resources are used to secure communication across a private network, where certificates can be installed and trusted to enable secure communication.

But what about publicly signed certs for users connecting over the Internet? Using a private OCI certificate will result in a “certificate not trusted” error in your web browser; this is where Let’s Encrypt comes in. I’m going to show you how to run a completely automated serverless Let’s Encrypt solution in your OCI tenancy to install and automatically renew certificates that show as trusted in your web browser.

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Virus & Malware Scanning Object Storage in OCI

If you’re like me, then working in IT means you also assume Tech Support duties for friends, family, and those distant relatives that only seem to call when they’ve got a problem.

I just clicked on this link, and my computer is doing something weird. I think my PC has a virus, what do I do?

When it’s just a single computer, the answer is simple, contain and validate the rouge software is removed, install an AV solution, change their passwords, enable MFA, and provide some education on what to look out for next time.

But now imagine you’re an organisation building a new application, or are moving applications to the cloud. Are you simply performing a lift-and-shift or are you planning to make use of cloud native services? Where are you going to store your data, specifically user uploaded files? Object Storage was built specifically to solve the challenges of how to store unstructured data in the cloud.

However, there is a catch. If you were previously storing files on a server file system, then it’s likely you were also running an anti-virus / anti-malware solution to identify malicious files. With Object Storage the underlying file system is transparent, so you can’t install AV, yet many compliance requirements still state “Uploaded files must be scanned for viruses and malware”.

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OCI User Access Review Made Easy

I’m sure we can all agree, adopting a cloud strategy is awesome. The opportunities and benefits it affords are many. However cloud governance is an ongoing problem that plagues security, compliance, and management teams, which cloud vendors like Oracle are continually trying to solve.

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been asked, or heard at least once:

Who has access to what in our environment?

Any Security / Compliance Manager

The answer should be easy and simple. However the reality is likely lots of manual time & work, spreadsheets, and endless clicking in a cloud console. If you’re doing this manually then I agree, it’s time that you could be dedicating to more important tasks.

The challenge in trying to answer these questions:

  • What users exist and what groups do they belong to?
  • What does my OCI tenancy compartment structure look like?
  • What policies have users explicitly created?
  • What permissions do users have in my tenancy?
  • Are there any excessive / non-compliant policies & permissions in my tenancy?

is that these complex relationships can’t be easily represented and interpreted in a table-like format. In the OCI ecosystem:

  • users can be federated with an Identity Provider and can belong to one or many federated, or local IAM groups,
  • policies can be defined for “any-user” or for a group,
  • policies are inherited meaning they apply to all sub-compartments from which the policies are applied.

To make things easier I’ve created a solution using Oracle tools and services to simplify the auditing of OCI tenancies and user permissions called “Peek”.

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OCI Arcade Gets A Revamp

Over the past couple of years, we’ve posted about the OCI Arcade. You can find the original article (here) and the repository (here). As part of the revamp, many things have changed and as such we’ve spent a little bit of time to make it better. Check out some of these new additions.

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#FormulaAI Hack – In Review

(With more to come with the winners being announced)

On Friday 18 March 03:00 PST | 06:00 EST | 10:00 GMT | 15:30 IST | 21:00 AEDT, Hackmakers will announce the winners of the #FormulaAI Hackathon 2022. It will be an exciting moment to conclude the event. Stay tuned at https://www.formulaaihack.com/ to watch the public live stream.

It’s been an immense learning experience for many people (including myself). Here’s a snapshot of some of those learnings when I look back in review. Please note that the content below does not contain any spoilers about winners and solutions delivered.

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CI/CD working with EiPaaS Oracle Integration (OIC)

Everyone is aware of the continuous integration and continuous development relevance which is nowadays the mantra of DevOps practices.

Oracle Integration is obviously part of the end2end lifecycle development being involved for connecting legacy applications usually deployed on-premise and SaaS applications often provided by Oracle Cloud or hosted on other Cloud providers.

It doesn’t matter where the applications are, where the integration is; the continuous delivery of new integration processes and versions need to be included in a smart and automated tool able to reduce the gap between the different developer teams.

Developers, who have the ownership to build new services and IT Operators, who have the task of deploying new code versions to the different environments, need to converge on one single tool to simplify complex procedures that can be simply considered as two sides of the same coin.

The common need is to keep all environments aligned with the latest implementations, possibly having everything monitored and tracked to grant audit activities in terms of compliance; this is a must when the project is starting to become critical and relevant at the enterprise level.

Oracle Integration (OIC), as you know, includes Visual Builder Cloud Service which allows open-source standards-based integration to develop, collaborate on, and deploy applications within Oracle Cloud.

Just for this, it’s easy to use Visual Builder Studio, the built-in tool, that allows developers to manage the software life cycle automating the development.

Oracle VB Studio natively supports Oracle Integration artifacts, so we can leverage this one to easily promote our integration flows from an environment to another one moving for example our integration projects from development to test environment once you we completed the new implementation and of course ready to test it.

That’s the right path to be used for promoting projects from Test to Production or from Production to a DR environment, this one probably running on a different OCI Region.

Working with the current implementation you can:

  • Export integration flows
  • Import integration flows
  • Delete integration flows

As shown below in the picture, the options we have working with Oracle Visual Builder Studio and OIC

Herewith an example of pipeline that you can easily configure to automate the Export / Import procedure and defining in cascade all steps (“jobs”) to define the required actions, of course this one below just for demo purposes. This procedure will be later explained step-by-step just in case you want to reproduce this one for your own purposes

In order to export our assets from the development environment, for example, it’s enough to configure our source and target environments about the OIC instances

How to configure our OIC environments?

This is a straightforward operation working with VB Studio, as shown below:

We can create all connections we need to configure properly the tool

Once we have configured our instances, we need to build our “pipeline” so to automate the procedure when needed

Each pipeline can include all “jobs” we need (in the previous screenshot we have used two different jobs “select your OIC project” and “import OIC project”) so to build the right chain among the different available “jobs”

To create a job, select the Build link from the left panel of the Visual Builder studio and then we can create a new job

Each job has some options and parameters to be configured as below the screenshot shows:

Select the “Parameters” tab to configure the string parameter:

The “Default Value” is the value of the integration flow version on our OIC instance to be selected and moved to the new instance. Of course, this value can be changed when we run the build so to properly set the right integration flow version

Now it’s time to select the “Steps” tab to identify the OIC instance from where we want to export our integration flow

If needed, we can also include the asserter recording just flagging the box. In this case we are moving (exporting / importing) the integration flow named “ECHO” and working with its *.iar file once we have exported this one.

Now you can click the “After Build” tab to configure it as below described. The *.iar extension is the default extension of the integration flow when you decide to download it.

Click save and that’s all. Our first job is properly configured now.

To proceed we are now ready to configure the second job (“import OIC project”).

In this case, the first step to be accomplished is the configuration of the “Before Build” tab as below shown and adding a “Copy Artifacts” option

And now, as we did with the first job, we can properly configure the OIC instance target, in our sample, but in this case for the import action.

We can also check the box about the “activate integration” option so that our integration flow will be imported and started just to have this one ready to be invoked by applications

Also, in this case, we can now save our configuration.

Once these operations have been completed, we are ready to test our pipeline selecting the start button on the right side of the web page and below shown

If the execution of our “build” is properly configured, we can see the “green flag” of our jobs once we run it

Furthermore, we can drill down the execution to look at the log information just in case something wrong having also the chance to download the file including the log for further analysis or if we need to share this one with other people or applications.

From the Visual Builder Studio “Home page” we can also get information about statistics and previous executions so to track the activities managed on the different resources we have

This is for sure the best way to properly manage our environments and the best approach to have under control the lifecycle of our projects and their deployment.

For further information, look at the really interesting content already published here:

Oracle Blog

https://blogs.oracle.com/vbcs/post/cicd-for-oracle-integrations-with-visual-builder-studio

https://blogs.oracle.com/integration/post/cicd-implementation-for-oic

Oracle Documentation:

https://docs.oracle.com/en/cloud/paas/visual-builder/visualbuilder-manage-development-process/build-your-applications.html

#BuildWithAI 2021 Team Tribute

#BuildWithAI Hackathon 2021 comes at a different point in time. Last year it was a little of an unknown. This is the second year that this event has been run and there was more of an understanding about what to expect and who might be participating.

As like last time, it is a privilege to write this article as there has been significant effort to get to these outcomes. If all I do is to highlight those that have been generous with their time, knowledge and willingness to participate, then it is a service that I will do every time. Here is a recount of some of the teams that participated at the #BuildWithAI Hackathon 2021 (and who were the winners).

This is a tribute.

The one ask that I do have for those is to connect. Connect with the problem; connect with the team and make this tribute more than an article but a way to #BuildWithAI.

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#BuildWithAI 2021 – Another Step

Last weekend (from Friday 29th Oct to Tuesday 2nd Nov), was the #BuildWithAI Hackathon 2021 where participants, mentors, sponsors and organisers gathered together to solve real world challenges with AI. This event does not standalone. In a world full of change, this (from my perspective) started last year in the #BuildWithAI Hackathon 2020 and continued to build.

This article is about the event but the event itself is just “Another Step”.

Continue reading “#BuildWithAI 2021 – Another Step”
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