Exposing Yourself on the Interwebs – Baby Steps

I have begun a little experiement. Over the past year, I have written quite a bit of code related to networking. I have prototyped a lot of different things, and actually used some of it in a production environment. I have written http parser, websocket implementation, xml parser, and myriad wrappers for standard libraries.

So, now the experiment. I want to expose a few web services, running from my home, running on nothing but code that I have written (except for core OS code). How hard could it be?

Yesterday, I packaged up a bit of TINN and put it on my desktop machine to run a very simple http static content server. It’s a Windows box, and of course I could simply run IIS, but that’s a bit of a cheat. So, I started the service:

tinn main.lua

And that’s that. According to my intentions, the only content that should be served up is stuff that’s sitting within the ‘./wwwroot’ directory relative to where I started the service running. This is essentially the server that I outlined previously.

I am an average internet consumer when it comes to home network setup. I have an ASUS router that’s pretty fast and decent with its various security holes and strengths. At home I am sitting behind it’s “firewall” protection. But, I do want to expose myself, so what do I do?

Well, I must change the configuration on the router. First of all, I need to get a DNS entry that will point a certain URL to my router. Luckily, the ASUS router has a dynamic DNS service built right in. So, I choose a name (I’ll show that later), and simply select a button, and “Apply”. OK. Now my router is accessible on a well known url/ip: chosenname.asuscomm.com I confirm this by typing that into my we browser, and sure enough, I can connect to my browser over the internet. I am prompted for the admin password, and I’m in!

So, the first scary thought is, I hope I chose a password that is relatively strong. I hope I didn’t use the default ‘password’, like so many people do.

Alright. Now I know my router, and thus my network in general, can be accessed through a well known public url. The next thing I need to do is set a static IP address for my web server machine. This isn’t strictly necessary, but as I’m about to enable port forwarding, it will just be easier to use a static IP within my home domain. I set it up as: The HP printer is 1, the Synology box is 2, and everything else gets random numbers.

Next is port forwarding. What I want is to have the web server machine, which is listening on port 8080, receive any traffice coming from the well known url headed to port 8080. I want the following URL to land on this machine and be handled by the web server code that’s running:


So, I set that configuration in the router, and press ‘Apply’…

Back to my browser, type in that URL and voila! It works!

Now I take a pause at this point and ask myself a few questions. First of all, am I really confident enough in my programming skills to expose myself to the wide open internet like this? Second, I ask myself if my brother, or mother could have worked their way through a similar exercise?

Having gotten this far, I’m feeling fairly confident, so I let it run overnight to see what happens. Mind you, I’m not accessing it myself at night, but I wanted to see what would happen just having my router and server hanging out there on the internet.

I cam back in the morning, and checked the console output to see what happened, if anything. What I saw was this:


Hah! It happened twice, then never more. Well, that HNAP1 trick is a particular vulnerability to home routers which are configured by default to do automatic configuration stuff. D-Link routers, in particular, are vulnerable to an attack whereby they can be compromised through a well scripted Soap exchange, starting from here.

I’ve turned off that particular feature of my router, so, I think I luckily dodged that particular bullet.

The funny thing is though, I didn’t advertise my url, and I didn’t tell anyone that there would be an http server hanging out on port 8080. This happened within 8 hours of my service going live. So, it tells you what a teaming pool hackedness the internet truly is.

The other thing I have learned thus far is that I need a nice logging module. I just so happen to be printing out the URL of each request that comes in, but I should like to have the IP address of the requester, and some more interesting information that you typically find in web logs. So, I’ll have to add that module.

Having started down this path, I have another desire as well. My desktop machine is way too loud, and consumes too much power to be an always on web server. So, I’ve ordered the parts to build a nice Shuttle PC which will serve this purpose. It’s a decent enough machine. 256Gb SSD, i7, onboard video. I don’t need it to be a gaming rig, nor an HTPC, nor serve any other purpose. It just needs to run whatever web services I come up with, and it must run Windows. This goes towards the purpose built argument I made about the Surface 2. A machine specific to a specific job, without concern for any other purpose it might have. You could argue that I should just purchase a router that has a built in web server, or just use the Synology box, which will do this just fine. But, my criteria is that I want to write code, tinker about, and it must run Windows.

And so it begins. I’ve got the basic server up and running, and I’m already popular enough to be attacked. Now I am confident to add some features and content over time to make it more interesting.

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