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May 17, 2006

HTTPS Basic Auth RSS feeds for system monitoring

Most applications log messages out to a log file somewhere on a server but they are a pain to look at. You could setup log4j to append messages via email, but to me it seems unreliable. Also, you have to decide who is going to get these emails and they can be quite invasive if you don't always need to read them all.

RSS has been a great step forward in opting into information on the web rather than emails. So, why not do the same for system messages.

My particular use case involves some data from our Web Sign On system and these messages are quite sensitive so it is no good just publishing a public RSS feed.

My solution looks something like this:

1) I have a listener class within SSO that monitors activity and logs it in the usual way.
2) I have another listener that receives messages from the logging listener that looks for unusual activity, such as repeated login failures or lots of requests for the same IP address. When it finds something unusual, it puts an entry into the feed that will be displayed to the admin user. This is done with the Rome Atom/RSS java utilities project. This is a great open source project that allows you to easily create/read feeds in all different formats.

SyndEntry entry;
SyndContent description;
entry = new SyndEntryImpl();
entry.setTitle("Warning for user " + user);
entry.setPublishedDate(new Date());
entry.setUri("" + entry.getPublishedDate().getTime());
description = new SyndContentImpl();
description.setType("text/plain");
description.setValue(logMessage + "<br><br>" + authFailures);

entry.setDescription(description);

getMessages().add(entry);

These SyndEntry's are generic enough to be turned into any kind of feed, be it Atom, RSS 2.0 or RSS 1.0.

3) I then have a controller that pulls all of those messages and puts them in a feed for that admin user view view:

SyndFeed feed = new SyndFeedImpl();

feed.setTitle("SSO brute force warning log");
feed.setLink("http://www.warwick.ac.uk/");
feed.setDescription("This feed shows warnings when users repeatedly fail to login");

feed.setEntries(getMessages());
feed.setFeedType("rss_2.0");

response.setContentType("application/xml; charset=UTF-8");
SyndFeedOutput output = new SyndFeedOutput();
output.output(feed, response.getWriter());

4) This page is protected by our SSOClientFilter. This will allow HTTP Basic Auth, but only over SSL. As I don't trust Bloglines or anyone with my username and password, I just need to put the address into Thunderbird or a similar RSS reader like this:
https://websignon.warwick.ac.uk/myadminfeed.rss?forcebasic=true
The "forcebasic=true" on the end tells the SSOClientFilter to use Basic Auth rather than redirecting to our SSO login screen as it would usually if it was requested by me in the browser. When Thunderbird tries to read the feed, it is prompted for authentication and so prompts me the user in Thunderbird for my username and password and sends those securely to the feed.

5) Hey presto, we have an authenticated RSS system log:

  <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?> 
 <rss xmlns:taxo="http://purl.org/rss/1.0/modules/taxonomy/"
xmlns:rdf="http://www.w3.org/1999/02/22-rdf-syntax-ns#"
xmlns:dc="http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/" version="2.0">
 <channel>
  <title>SSO brute force warning log</title> 
  <link>https://websignon.warwick.ac.uk/</link> 
  <description>This feed shows warnings when users repeatedly fail to login</description> 
 <item>
  <title>Warning for user cusyac</title> 
  <description>The last 3 login attempts for user cusyac were failures. Check wsos_auth.log
Tue May 16 17:37:47 BST 2006|Auth failed|cusyac|Username/password not found|137.205.x.x<br>
 Tue May 16 17:36:38 BST 2006|Auth failed|cusyac|Username/password not found|137.205.x.x<br>
Tue May 16 17:34:37 BST 2006|Auth failed|cusyac|Username/password not found|137.205.x.x<br></description> 
  <pubDate>Tue, 16 May 2006 16:42:58 GMT</pubDate> 
  <guid isPermaLink="false">1147797778580</guid> 
  <dc:date>2006-05-16T16:42:58Z</dc:date> 
  </item>
  </channel>
  </rss>

November 17, 2005

Know what people are saying about you

Writing about Trying to get a response from Blinkx from Contemplating the Frame

Following my discovery that Blinkx were being slightly misleading about their deal to show Warwick content, it shows the importance of knowing what people are saying about you or your organisation on the web.

I know we all occasionally do a little vanity search for our name on Google, but ideally you'd have new results sent to you when they happen.

You can sign up for Google Alerts and get emails, or use RSS to monitor Google News

Do you know what people are saying about you online?


November 15, 2005

Warwick media on blinkx?

Follow-up to Google news feeds about Warwick from Kieran's blog

Following my subscription to all mentions of ‘warwick university’ on Google News, I came across this…

blinkx Brings World Leaders, Top Economists and Best-Selling Authors Into Your Living Room With Searchable Speeches From Cambridge and the Ivy League=

Top tier universities from around the world are making content from the arts and humanities, as well as social, biomedical, and physical science
disciplines, available through the partnership. Beyond Cambridge and
Princeton, lectures from institutions including UC Berkeley, Harvard,
Middlebury College, Columbia University, Washington State University, the
University of Glasgow, University College London, the University of Warwick
and the University of York will now be searchable through http://www.blinkx.tv.

If you do a little search on Blinkx and you do indeed find some Warwick videos, but they all seem to be from Warwick TV, the student society. Now, I’m not saying this is not good content (in fact some is great), but it is not quite what you were lead to believe you’d find after reading the press release. I wonder how many other of the universities in that list are actually publishing academic content?


Google news feeds about Warwick

If you want to know what the rest of the world is saying about Warwick, you can do a little search on Google News for "warwick university" and it'll come back with a surprising number of references to Warwick. However, you don't want to do this every day so you can subscribe to a result via the RSS feeds:

RSS feed for 'warwick university' Google News search

I keep an eye on this out of curiosity to see what our press concious researchers and students might be getting up to.


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