GSoC 2015 Mentor Summit wrap-up

The security guard attending the door (before)

The security guard attending the door (before)

I participated at the GSoC mentor summit as part of Openwall’s team during this year’s iteration. The summit took place 6-8 Nov in California, Mountain View at Google and it offers a chance for all GSoC participant orgs to meet up, exchange ideas and contacts, swag, drinks and chocolate and even PGP keys. It is also a good opportunity to talk with the Google peeps assigned with GSoC and suggest new ideas, resolve issues or congratulate their efforts.

Here are a dozen or so ideas that I walked off with from the summit, no particular order:

  1. GSoC is a lot of work, especially from just a handful of people involved with logistics/admin and likely another handful with development of the Melange suite. Be conscious of your non-critical communications and requests of Carol and company, less is better.
  2. Melange, the software behind GSoC platform is Open Source. How about applying the bad blood in regards to it on the source directly? If you’re a student, I think you can apply to Melange org. https://code.google.com/p/soc/
  3. The program is here to stay. If anything, it will get bigger and with more money involved. Congrats to Google and shame on all the other big leechers who don’t seed anything back. This has side effects, more people know about it now and spam applications are an issue. Some orgs had dozens if hundreds of spam applications from India this year and most were targeted at the initial 500$ stipend. The only mitigation to this is increased attention to details from mentors and more careful evaluation of students before the program kicks off. If in doubt don’t accept. You’ll waste your and Carol’s time and Google’s bucks and deny another potentially more successful opportunity to another org, student. Yes, many orgs don’t get into GSoC.
  4. The student conflict resolution process, with the IRC meeting and all, is a pain for both Google and orgs, for many reasons such as time zones, speed at which it happens, lack of useful feedback. Automation and improvements to that process were discussed. An interesting proposal was the possibility to see if a student has already been accepted to another org right from Melange before you accept it to yours.
  5. Mid-term student turn over issues like dropping off the radar, throughput drops significantly, loss of interest somewhere half way, reveals commitment to another engagement not agreed upon beforehand, are all very valid reasons for FAILING. Also keep in mind that many (all) students lie before, during and after the program, either malign or benign in nature. If you have doubts, notice lack of interest, respect and time, give one strike, maybe two, then FAIL. GSoC is not a benefactor program doing charity.
  6. Another interesting discussion was the possibility of extending the community bonding period by moving the org application deadline to early as December and thus start with the student application, review and bonding early in the year and have a couple of months at hand for the student to introduce himself, get started on the project, show interest or reveal the opposite. I personally like this suggestion, since it could provide a much wider ground for careful evaluation and acceptance of students, despite increasing the commitment required from mentors and orgs.
  7. Keeping students involved after the program is an issue for all orgs. I think the previous point might help in weeding out students that are only interested in a summer gig, they do some work during the dead months of summer vacation, get paid and wash hands quickly after, very similar to an internship. I think GSoC aims a bit higher than this, but keeping students interested after the program’s end is really hard, it’s usually up to the student and his overlook for the Open Source community and the org he ends up with.
  8. At least 1 member from a total of 119 orgs participated this year, thus a couple hundred heads. Security projects weren’t that many, apart from Openwall, Nmap, The Honeynet Project, that I noticed. I got a chance to meet people from Nmap that I acquainted way back in GSoC 2011 while I was student with Nmap, a nice surprise for me. The orgs roster was diverse, ranging from Wikimedia, gcc, llvm, git to R, Python and *BSDs to CERN, Bioinformatics and Genome research. Very few people had previous knowledge of Openwall, John the Ripper or Nmap, imagine the raised eyebrows when you tell about John the Ripper. Once I’ve learned that lesson, I started using “Password security testing suite” and “Security for Open Systems” to introduce my self and Openwall (mentioning bcrypt efforts yielded a bit). No shame here, such is the state of the industry and by inference the Open Source segment (which is full of hackers), lots of code, systems, technologies, communities and people involved, but little to no attention given to security, a mere afterthought given the scale, economy and speed of the tech and info industry in its entirety. I take it as a reminder though, the minute you step outside the security bubble you find out that the community is not that wide or evenly spread, popular or interesting to much of the IT industry and audience.  I guess that’s why Openwall, Nmap are here in the first place, to at least attempt a swing at the current state of affairs and challenge the modus vivendi. Too much leeway here, I should expand this in a separate post.
  9. Google was really efficient in taking care of any needs for this 2 day summit(food, shelter, directions, transportation). This was an “unconference” where most of the talks were held by participating orgs and only a couple by Carol and the company. I even met some people from Nmap I acquainted with back in 2011 while I was a student contributor. The atmosphere was relaxed, casual, no rush between events, at least for the first day. On the second the majority of attendees had to rush to the Airport by evening and I think that subtracted from the experience and casual atmosphere for the first day. Maybe one extra day would have helped.
  10. It would have been really interesting and a pleasure to have some talks by Google employees, from different departments, on how they use Open Source for good or bad, what works and what doesn’t. This would have provided some badly needed perspective and real world use case scenarios that expand outlook and even possibly motivate the OSS geeks working for the most part in solitude.
  11. Google “owns” Mountain View so badly. Wherever you look there’s Google territory. You won’t see police cars patrolling the city but you will see Google Security black SUVs strolling all over the city.

This is it for now. I’ll follow up with a separate post to jot down some random thoughts regarding Silicon Valley and San Francisco.

 

Bruce, after the event

Bruce, after the event

Bruce, after the event (close up)

Bruce, after the event (close up)

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Johnny 2.0 (reloaded)

johnny

Johnny, the GUI interface for the popular John the Ripper password cracker has received quite some love this past summer in an orchestrated effort to pick it up and drag it beyond the stale 1.0 branch.

Johnny who

Johnny is the cross-platform Open Source GUI frontend for the infamous password security testing suite John the Ripper. It was originally proposed and designed by your’s truly in 2011 as a POC, then version 1.0 basic implementation was achieved by Aleksey Cherepanov as part of GSoC 2012. Nothing much else happened beyond the 1.1 fix release.

Johnny’s original aim is to automate and simplify the password testing/cracking routine across all major desktops with the help of the tremendously versatile and robust John the Ripper suite, as well as add extra functionality on top of it, specific to the desktop and GUI paradigms in contrast to the command line, like improved hash and password handling, multiple attacks and session management, easily define and test complex attack rules, visual feedback and statistics, all of it by building on the immense capabilities and features already offered by both JtR core/proper as well as jumbo flavors.

Johnny 2.0 reloaded

Fast forward to 2015, I finally got some spare time to turn my attention towards Johnny again in order to further the stated goal for Johnny in the previous paragraph. So I devised a fresh plan for developing Johnny further and reconsolidate the original mission. The development plan has turned into reality with the acceptance of Mathieu Laprise as a student coder for Openwall (the org behind JtR and many other cool projects) as part of this year’s GSoC iteration. The tasks in the roadmap were split between me and Mathieu and with help from my co-mentor Aleksey Cherepanov we proceeded to the actual work involved in rebooting Johnny.

Now that the summer has concluded, it’s time to draw a summary of the achievements:

  • Cross platform issues fixed across all latest versions of supported Operating Systems and desktops
  • The UI has been significantly revamped for improved usability, robustness and consistency and looks across latest desktop paradigms
  • Full translation and I18N support added (only French for now, contribute translations to your own language on github)
  • Attack session history and persistence, easier to define new attacks
  • Greater coverage of JtR core and jumbo functionality (fork, jumbo attack modes, hash format detection)
  • Improved input and output options (2john format conversion support, export to CSV)
  • Smarter Passwords table (ability to show hash format, filter, sort, include/exclude from attack)
  • You can now test passwords manually via the Guess button

Overall Johnny is faster, more robust, better looking and much more equipped and forward looking (code and internals wise) than the previous incarnation and resulted in a significant code/ui refactoring of the original codebase (maybe 80% rewrite). All of the goodness described above and more was delivered to users in three releases starting with a major version bump to 2.0 to reinstate the fresh reboot and outlook for the project. The latest release is v2.2 and is considered to be stable and feature packed enough to be called the official GUI for John the Ripper. There are binary packages for Windows and OS X and detailed source build instructions for the other platforms on the wiki page for Johnny, thus I urge you to give it a spin and leave feedback here, on Github (where the project is hosted and tracked) or on the john-users mailing list. As always, contribution of any kind is very appreciated.

Acknowledgementsgsoc2015-300x270

 

Thanks to Mathieu Laprise for his important and dedicated contribution to Johnny as a student coder for GSoC 2015 and we hope to hear back from him from time to time. Big thanks to the entire john-dev community and Aleksey Cherepanov. Also an extended appreciation goes to Google for their continued dedication to support Open Source and contribute big bucks in the process.

 

 

Johnny on Ubuntu

Johnny on Ubuntu

Johnny on Gnome 3

Johnny on Gnome 3

Johnny on OS X Yosemite

Johnny on OS X Yosemite

 

http://www.openwall.info/wiki/john/johnny

https://github.com/shinnok/johnny

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I was accepted part of Google Summer of Code 2011 to hack on the popular Nmap Security Scanner to bring it to new horizons and make it more solid then ever(Hollywood behold). In case you missed it, Google Summer of Code, has been running since 2005 and its aim is to bring students close to Open Source and get them to contribute and integrate into Open Source communities of their choosing and, well, make some $$$ while at it. In other words, students are paid for the duration of the summer(3 months) to hack away on Open Source projects. The aim is to help students acquire real world programming experience as an alternative to internships and to contribute to the magnificent Open Source ecosystem, on which Google built its strengths, tools and services. This 2011 GSoC iteration, Google has put up close to 6 million dollars in funding amounting to 1116 accepted students distributed amongst 175 FLOSS projects and organizations. I wish to thank the Nmap team for choosing me amongst many other fine student applications and to Google for making this possible(and paying me), the first giant to recognize the strengths of Open Source and doing something about it, thus setting a trend, a trend that many new giants, including Facebook, are religiously following(Microsoft is the only stubborn giant here, suffering already, from fighting against the current). You can find more on GSoC here.

Kick-ass!

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