Convert a list of hostnames to a list of IP addresses

I had a client with a huge list of hostnames that they needed to convert to IP addresses so they could scan them. That’s common. I used to have a Windows batch file to convert a list of hostnames to a list of IP addresses, so I dug it out of my archives. This isn’t like a ping sweep; they knew the machine names but their tool needed IPs.

I used the file to resolve lists of machines so I could load them into a centralized logging or vulnerability management system. This client had the same need and nobody there had a similar tool. So I shared mine with them. And I present it here so I won’t lose it again, and if you need it, you can use it too.

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Catch up on Microsoft patching fast

Last week, Microsoft quietly released its convenience update pack for Windows 7, 8.1., and Server 2008R2. This is a great opportunity to catch up on Microsoft patching, as it incorporates all of Microsoft’s OS-level updates from the release of Service Pack 1 to April 2016.

Here’s how to use this to clear your corporation’s backlog of Microsoft patches. No, I haven’t seen your corporate network, but I’ll bet you have one.

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Compress system files doesn’t show up in Disk Cleanup

One of the new features of Windows 10 is better file compression, which was intended to help Windows fit better in low-resource devices like tablets. But it’s helpful on computers with SSDs too. But for whatever reason that option doesn’t show up on mine.

But you can still compress your system files even if the Disk Cleanup utility (which you can also launch from the Free up disk space by deleting unnecessary files control panel) doesn’t show the Compress system files option.

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Happy 20th birthday to Windows 95

It was on August 24, 1995 that Windows 95 was released, amidst much anticipation. It was the most widely anticipated Windows release of all time, and the runner up really isn’t close. The idea of people lining up for blocks for a Microsoft product sounds like a bit of a joke today, but in 1995 it happened.

I received a free copy of it because I worked at Best Buy in the summer of 1995 and I aced Microsoft’s test that demonstrated sufficient aptitude to sell it. A few weeks later I landed my first desktop support gig, ending my career in a blue shirt, which means I probably never actually talked anyone into buying a copy of it.

I got plenty of Win95 experience over the next couple of years though.

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Curing random errors when installing Office 2013

I got lots of random errors installing Office 2013 when I went to do it, including error code 112-4 and error code 0-4, and some other install errors mostly ending in 4 that aren’t documented on Microsoft’s web site. Although previously undocumented, these errors are fixable. Read more

And in a story that should surprise no one, Target’s attack was unsophisticated

I found a story today stating that the attackers who stole millions of credit cards from Target didn’t have to try very hard to hide. I wish I could say I was surprised.

My boss says it this way: Amateurs hit as hard as they can. Professionals hit as hard as they have to.

Why? Because if they only hit as hard as they have to, they can save the hard hit for another day. And it really boils down to simple economics. If I can buy off-the-shelf malware for $1,000 and use it to steal millions of dollars, then use the same malware again somewhere else and steal another few million, why not do that? The alternative is to buy a sophisticated attack that costs five or six figures. Then what happens? I use it, get my money, and then the victim can’t figure it out, so the victim calls in Mandiant. Mandiant discovers the zero-day attack, then tells the world about it. Mandiant looks good because they discovered something nobody else has ever seen before. The victim looks a lot better too, because they got mowed down by something that was unstoppable. But then the vendor moves heaven and earth to release an emergency out-of-band patch as quickly as possible, closing down a very brief window of opportunity to use it.

Cyber criminals may be crooked and unethical, but they aren’t stupid. And that’s why this is an uphill battle: A cheap attack can go up against defenses that cost an order of magnitude more, and still win. Read more

A meeting secret weapon: the potato

One of the security podcasts I listen to–I’m not sure which one, but this sure sounds like Liquid Matrix–gave some advice the other week about meetings: Bring a raw potato.

With any luck, you won’t need it. But if the meeting gets out of hand, whip out the raw potato and–hopefully you washed it first–eat it. Yes, just like an apple. Supposedly the meeting ends very quickly when you do this.

I was at a meeting about backups last week where I really needed this. We’re at a stalemate. I need some disk space and the ability to connect to it via NFS or SCP. My protagonist wants to come in through MySQL. He’s not coming in through MySQL, and we’re not reverse-engineering a product that costs more than my house. My stance is that we’ll use the product precisely the way it’s designed, so that next week when we need the vendor’s support, they don’t blame whatever problem we’re having on the backups. The product has the facility to back up and restore its data through one of those two protocols, and setting it up takes less time than a single meeting.

Too bad it was a conference call, where I’m not sure it would have the same effect. But the next time I get a meeting request about this when what I need is a destination IP address, account credentials, and a protocol, I’m bringing a potato.

Clean up after Windows Update

Thanks to a new tool that Microsoft pushed out in 2013, it’s very easy to clean up after Windows Update and free up a bunch of disk space.

In 2013, Microsoft released a new Disk Cleanup tool. Click your start button and type “Disk Cleanup” to launch it. If you see a new option called “Clean Up System files,” you got the update. If you don’t see it, visit this page (Internet Explorer-only, unfortunately) to grab it. Read more

The fix when Firefox won’t let you cancel a download

It’s frustrating when Firefox won’t let you cancel a download. It took me a while to find a solution, but I found one.

Here’s some background. I started downloading this monster file the other day, not realizing I didn’t have enough disk space to store the blasted thing. So I went to cancel it. The problem was, it wouldn’t completely cancel. It would keep trying to download until it filled up my disk, at which point other terrible things would happen. I couldn’t cancel the download, I couldn’t pause it, and I couldn’t delete it.

The solution, as it turns out, is to close Firefox. Next, go into your profile. To find it quickly in Windows, you can hit the Windows key + R, type %appdata% and hit OK, then navigate to Mozilla, then Firefox, then profiles. My profile was in a directory named wtkz7xzy.default. Yours will be similar. On a Mac or Linux box, your profile is probably in your home directory.

One you’re looking at your profile, locate the file called downloads.sqlite, and delete it. When you launch Firefox again, the list of downloads will be blank, and the download that wouldn’t go away will be among the casualties. And that will stop the endless loop like I had, or other bad Firefox behavior.

More tips

If Firefox has gotten a bit sluggish on you, I have a number of proven tips to speed up Firefox.

Remove ghost device drivers from Windows 7

If you want a way to remove ghost device drivers from Windows 7, or other recent versions of Windows, it just got easier.

What’s a ghost device driver? When you change or remove hardware from a Windows system, Windows keeps the old device driver lingering. You don’t see it in Device Manager, but the time Windows spends chasing ghosts increases boot time, in addition to consuming some memory, registry space, and disk space.

It’s not as much of a problem as it used to be, but if you want your system to run as quickly and smoothly as possible, you don’t want it wasting time managing hardware you’ll never use again. (Don’t worry–if you change your mind and plug the hardware back in, Windows will reload the driver.) Read more

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