A poor man’s https, using ssh to secure web traffic
Sometimes you get a web-hosting environment that only serves non-ssl (http) content. If you need to do any type of management through tools like phpMyAdmin, then you can see the problem with this. All it would take is someone on your network or on the Internet to sniff the traffic and retrieve your username and password, then they too can do a bit of “management” on your site.
If you also have secure shell (SSH) access, then there is a way to manage your site securely by using SSH’s venerable port forwarding (SOCKS). The trick is to tell your management tools to only listen or respond to connections coming in over SSH instead of normal traffic.
SSH as a socks proxy
Recently there was a need to visit a US based website to verify some personal information. Apparently there are ‘rules’ about who is geographical allowed to get access to the site which means that a citizen of said country cannot access the site from outside of the US.
I will not get into the absurdity of such security mandates, instead we will go around the problem and get our information that bureaucracy tried to prevent.
The general idea is to use a proxy inside the US that will allow us to hop over the geographical firewall. I do not trust open proxies by default because of their ability to sniff traffic. I do however have access to a secure shell (SSH) in the US that I can use.
Better password security through length
As comically seen on xkcd, a password’s length is more important than its complexity. What we should take away from the comic is that short but hard to remember passwords are easiest to crack while long and easy to remember passwords are harder to crack.
Try for yourself with my online password cracking calculator.
As an example, we will compare two passwords: “Tr0ub4dor&3” and “correct horse battery staple”. We will assume that a brute-force machine that can theoretically do 200,000,000 guesses per second, which is more pessimistic than a machine with four ATI HD 5970s at 22,400,000 guesses per second. It would take such a machine about 242,243,228 days to guess “Tr0ub4dor&3”. It would take the latter password 9.62×10^41 days to guess.