Random Bits Technology and Internet

Giving a new life to old phones

Nowadays, in some “developed” countries, it is very common for people to have a bunch of old phones stored somewhere in a drawer. Ten years have passed since smartphones became ubiquitous and those devices tend to become unusable very quickly, at least for their primary purpose. Either a small component breaks, the vendor stops providing updates, newer apps don’t support those older versions, etc.

The thing is, these phones are still powerful computers. It would be great if we could give them another life once they are no longer fit for regular day to day use or the owner just wants to try a shiny new device.

I never had many smartphones, mines tend to last many years, but I still have one or two lying around. Recently I started thinking of new uses for them, make them work instead of just gathering dust. A quick search on the internet tells me that many people already had the same idea (I’m quite late to the party) and have been working on cool things to do with these devices.

However, most of these articles just throw the idea at you, without telling you how to do it. Others assume that your device is relatively recent.

Of course the difficulty increases with the age of the phone, in my case the software that I will be able to run on a 10 year old Samsung Galaxy S will not be as easy to find as the software that I can run on another device with just one or two years.

Bellow is a list posts I found online with cool things you can do with your old phones. What sets this list apart from other results is that all the items aren’t just ideas, they contain step by step instructions of how to achieve the end result.

You don’t have to follow the provided instructions rigorously and you should introduce some variations that are more appropriate to your use case.

Have fun and reuse your old devices.

Python Software Development

Why you shouldn’t remove your package from PyPI

Nowadays most software developed using the Python language relies on external packages (dependencies) to get the job done. Correctly managing this “supply-chain” ends up being very important and having a big impact on the end product.

As a developer you should be cautious about the dependencies you include on your project, as I explained in a previous post, but you are always dependent on the job done by the maintainers of those packages.

As a public package owner/maintainer, you also have to be aware that the code you write, your decisions and your actions will have an impact on the projects that depend directly or indirectly on your package.

With this small introduction we arrive to the topic of this post, which is “What to do as a maintainer when you no longer want to support a given package?” or ” How to properly rename my package?”.

In both of these situations you might think “I will start by removing the package from PyPI”, I hope the next lines will convince you that this is the worst you can do, for two reasons:

  • You will break the code or the build systems of all projects that depend on the current or past versions of your package.
  • You will free the namespace for others to use and if your package is popular enough this might become a juicy target for any malicious actor.

TLDR: your will screw your “users”.

The left-pad incident, while it didn’t happen in the python ecosystem, is a well known example of the first point and shows what happens when a popular package gets removed from the public index.

Malicious actors usually register packages using names that are similar to other popular packages with the hope that a user will end up installing them by mistake, something that already has been found multiple times on PyPI. Now imagine if that package name suddenly becomes available and is already trusted by other projects.

What should you do it then?

Just don’t delete the package.

I admit that in some rare occasions it might be required, but most of the time the best thing to do is to leave it there (specially for open-source ones).

Adding a warning to the code and informing the users in the README file that the package is no longer maintained or safe to use is also a nice thing to do.

A good example of this process being done properly was the renaming of model-mommy to model-bakery, as a user it was painless. Here’s an overview of the steps they took:

  1. A new source code repository was created with the same contents. (This step is optional)
  2. After doing the required changes a new package was uploaded to PyPI.
  3. Deprecation warnings were added to the old code, mentioning the new package.
  4. The documentation was updated mentioning the new package and making it clear the old package will no longer be maintained.
  5. A new release of the old package was created, so the user could see the deprecation warnings.
  6. All further development was done on the new package.
  7. The old code repository was archived.

So here is what is shown every time the test suite of an affected project is executed:

/lib/python3.7/site-packages/model_mommy/ DeprecationWarning: Important: model_mommy is no longer maintained. Please use model_bakery instead:

In the end, even though I didn’t update right away, everything kept working and I was constantly reminded that I needed to make the change.

Random Bits Technology and Internet

Dynamic DNS using Cloudflare Workers

In this post I’ll try to describe a simple solution, that I came up with, to solve the issue of dynamically updating DNS records when the IP addresses of your machines/instances changes frequently.

While Dynamic DNS isn’t a new thing and many services/tools around the internet already provide solutions to this problem (for more than 2 decades), I had a few requirements that ruled out most of them:

  • I didn’t want to sign up to a new account in one of these external services.
  • I would prefer to use a domain name under my control.
  • I don’t trust the machine/instance that executes the update agent, so according to the principle of the least privilege, the client should only able to update one DNS record.

The first and second points rule out the usual DDNS service providers and the third point forbids me from using the Cloudflare API as is (like it is done in other blog posts), since the permissions we are allowed to setup for a new API token aren’t granular enough to only allow access to a single DNS record, at best I would’ve to give access to all records under that domain.

My solution to the problem at hand was to put a worker is front of the API, basically delegating half of the work to this “serverless function”. The flow is the following;

  • agent gets IP address and timestamp
  • agent signs the data using a previously known key
  • agent contacts the worker
  • worker verifies signature, IP address and timestamp
  • worker fetches DNS record info of a predefined subdomain
  • If the IP address is the same, nothing needs to be done
  • If the IP address is different, worker updates DNS record
  • worker notifies the agent of the outcome

Nothing too fancy or clever, right? But is works like a charm.

I’ve published my implementation on GitHub with a FOSS license, so anyone can modify and reuse. It doesn’t require any extra dependencies, it consists of only two files and you just need to drop them at the right locations and you’re ready to go. The repository can be found here and the contains the detailed steps to deploy it.

There are other small features that could be implemented, such as using the same worker with several agents that need to update different records, so only one of these “serverless functions” would be required. But these improvements will have wait for another time, for now I just needed something that worked well for this particular case and that could be easily deployed in a short time.



Some days ago while scrolling my mastodon‘s feed (for those who don’t know it is like Tweeter but instead of being a single website, the whole network is composed by many different entities that interact with each other), I found the following message:

To server admins:

It is a good practice to provide contact details, so others can contact you in case of security vulnerabilities or questions regarding your privacy policy.

One upcoming but already widespread format is the security.txt file at https://your-server/.well-known/security.txt.

See and

It caught my attention because my personal domain didn’t had one at the time. I’ve added it to other projects in the past, but do I need one for a personal domain?

After some thought, I couldn’t find any reason why I shouldn’t add one in this particular case. So as you might already have guessed, this post is about the steps I took to add it to my domain.

What is it?

A small text file, just like robots.txt, placed in a well known location, containing details about procedures, contacts and other key information required for security professionals to properly disclose their findings.

Or in other words: Contact details in a text file.

security.txt isn’t yet an official standard (still a draft) but it addresses a common issue that security researches encounter during their day to day activity: sometimes it’s harder to report a problem than it is to find it. I always remember the case of a Portuguese citizen, who spent ~5 months trying to contact someone that could fix some serious vulnerabilities in a governmental website.

Even though it isn’t an accepted standard yet, it’s already being used in the wild:

Need more examples? A small search finds it for you very quickly or you can also read here a small analysis of the current status on Alexa’s top 1000 websites.


So to help the cause I added one for this domain. It can be found at

Below are the steps I took:

  1. Go to and fill the required fields of the form present on that website.
  2. Fill the extra fields if they apply.
  3. Generate the text document.
  4. Sign the content using your PGP key
    gpg --clear-sign security.txt
  5. Publish the signed file on your domain under https://<domain>/.well-known/security.txt

As you can see, this is a very low effort task and it can generate very high returns, if it leads to a disclosure of a serious vulnerability that otherwise would have gone unreported.


Django Friday Tips: Feature Flags

This time, as you can deduce from the title, I will address the topic of how to use feature flags on Django websites and applications. This is an incredible functionality to have, specially if you need to continuously roll new code to production environments that might not be ready to be released.

But first what are Feature Flags? The Wikipedia tells us this:

A feature toggle (also feature switch, feature flag, …) is a technique in software development that attempts to provide an alternative to maintaining multiple branches in source code (known as feature branches), such that a software feature can be tested even before it is completed and ready for release. Feature toggle is used to hide, enable or disable the feature during runtime.


It seems a pretty clear explanation and it gives us a glimpse of the potential of having this capability in a given project. Exploring the concept a bit more it uncovers a nice set of possibilities and use cases, such as:

  • Canary Releases
  • Instant Rollbacks
  • AB Testing
  • Testing features with production data

To dive further into the concept I recommend starting by reading this article, that gives you a very detailed explanation of the overall idea.

In the rest of the post I will describe how this kind of functionality can easily be included in a standard Django application. Overtime many packages were built to solve this problem however most aren’t maintained anymore, so for this post I picked django-waffle given it’s one of the few that are still in active development.

As an example scenario lets image a company that provides a suite of online office tools and is currently in the process of introducing a new product while redoing the main website’s design. The team wants some trusted users and the developers to have access to the unfinished product in production and a small group of random users to view the new design.

With the above scenario in mind, we start by install the package and adding it to our project by following the instructions present on the official documentation.

Now picking the /products page that is supposed to displays the list of existing products, we can implement it this way:

from django.shortcuts import render

from waffle import flag_is_active

def products(request):
    if flag_is_active(request, "new-design"):
        return render(request, "new-design/product_list.html")
        return render(request, "product_list.html")
# templates/products.html
{% load waffle_tags %}

<!DOCTYPE html>
    <title>Available Products</title>
        <li><a href="/spreadsheets">Spreadsheet</a></li>
        <li><a href="/presentations">Presentation</a></li>
        <li><a href="/chat">Chat</a></li>
        <li><a href="/emails">Marketing emails</a></li>
        {% flag "document-manager" %}
            <li><a href="/documents"></a>Document manager</li>
        {% endflag %}

You can see above that 2 conditions are checked while processing a given request. These conditions are the flags, which are models on the database with certain criteria that will be evaluated against the provided request in order to determine if they are active or not.

Now on the database we can config the behavior of this code by editing the flag objects. Here are the two objects that I created (retrieved using the dumpdata command):

    "model": "waffle.flag",
    "pk": 1,
    "fields": {
      "name": "new-design",
      "everyone": null,
      "percent": "2.0",
      "testing": false,
      "superusers": false,
      "staff": false,
      "authenticated": false,
      "languages": "",
      "rollout": false,
      "note": "",
      "created": "2020-04-17T18:41:31Z",
      "modified": "2020-04-17T18:51:10.383Z",
      "groups": [],
      "users": []
    "model": "waffle.flag",
    "pk": 2,
    "fields": {
      "name": "document-manager",
      "everyone": null,
      "percent": null,
      "testing": false,
      "superusers": true,
      "staff": false,
      "authenticated": false,
      "languages": "",
      "rollout": false,
      "note": "",
      "created": "2020-04-17T18:43:27Z",
      "modified": "2020-04-17T19:02:31.762Z",
      "groups": [
        1,  # Dev Team
        2   # Beta Customers
      "users": []

So in this case new-design is available to 2% of the users and document-manager only for the Dev Team and Beta Customers user groups.

And for today this is it.

Software Development Technology and Internet

CSP headers using Cloudflare Workers

Last January I made a small post about setting up a “Content-Security-Policy” header for this blog. On that post I described the steps I took to reach a final result, that I thought was good enough given the “threats” this website faces.

This process usually isn’t hard If you develop the website’s software and have an high level of control over the development decisions, the end result ends up being a simple yet very strict policy. However if you do not have that degree of control over the code (and do not want to break the functionality) the policy can end up more complex and lax than you were initially hoping for. That’s what happened in my case, since I currently use a standard installation of WordPress for the blog.

The end result was a different security policy for different routes and sections (this part was not included on the blog post), that made the web-server configuration quite messy.

(With this intro, you might have already noticed that I’m just making excuses to redo the initial and working implementation, in order to test some sort of new technology)

Given the blog is behind the Cloudflare CDN and they introduced their “serverless” product called “Workers” a while ago, I decided that I could try to manage the policy dynamically on their servers.

Browser <--> CF Edge Server <--> Web Server <--> App

The above line describes the current setup, so instead of adding the CSP header on the “App” or the “Web Server” stages, the header is now added to the response on the last stage before reaching the browser. Let me describe how I’ve done it.

Cloudflare Workers

First a very small introduction to Workers, later you can find more detailed information on

So, first Cloudflare added the v8 engine to all edge servers that route the traffic of their clients, then more recently they started letting these users write small programs that can run on those servers inside the v8 sandbox.

The programs are built very similarly to how you would build a service worker (they use the same API), the main difference being where the code runs (browser vs edge server).

These “serverless” scripts can then be called directly through a specific endpoint provided by Cloudflare. In this case they should create and return a response to the requests.

Or you can instruct Cloudflare to execute them on specific routes of your website, this means that the worker can generate the response, execute any action before the request reaches your website or change the response that is returned.

This service is charged based on the number of requests handled by the “workers”.

The implementation

Going back to the original problem and based on the above description, we can dynamically introduce or modify the “Content-Security-Policy” for each request that goes through the worker which give us an high degree of flexibility.

So for my case a simple script like the one below, did the job just fine.

addEventListener('fetch', event => {

 * Forward the request and swap the response's CSP header
 * @param {Request} request
async function handleRequest(request) {
  let policy = "<your-custom-policy-here>"
  let originalResponse = await fetch(request)
  response = new Response(originalResponse.body, originalResponse)
  response.headers.set('Content-Security-Policy', policy)
  return response

The script just listens for the request, passes it to a handler function (lines 1-3), forwards to the origin server (line 12), grabs the response (line 13), replaced the CSP header with the defined policy (line 14) and then returns the response.

If I needed something more complex, like making slight changes to the policy depending on the User-Agent to make sure different browsers behave as expected given the different implementations or compatibility issues, it would also be easy. This is something that would be harder to achieve in the config file of a regular web server (nginx, apache, etc).

Enabling the worker

Now that the script is done and the worker deployed, in order to make it run on certain requests to my blog, I just had to go to the Cloudflare’s dashboard of my domain, click on the “workers” section and add the routes I want it to be executed:

cloudflare workers routes modal
Configuring the routes that will use the worker

The settings displayed on the above picture will run the worker on all requests to this blog, but is can be made more specific and I can even have multiple workers for different routes.

Some sort of conclusion

Despite the use-case described in this post being very simple, there is potential in this new “serverless” offering from Cloudflare. It definitely helped me solve the problem of having different policies for different sections of the website without much trouble.

In the future I might comeback to it, to explore other user-cases or implementation details.


Django Friday Tips: Testing emails

I haven’t written one of these supposedly weekly posts with small Django tips for a while, but at least I always post them on Fridays.

This time I gonna address how we can test emails with the tools that Django provides and more precisely how to check the attachments of those emails.

The testing behavior of emails is very well documented (Django’s documentation is one of the best I’ve seen) and can be found here.

Summing it up, if you want to test some business logic that sends an email, Django replaces the EMAIL_BACKEND setting with a testing backend during the execution of your test suite and makes the outbox available through django.core.mail.outbox.

But what about attachments? Since each item on the testing outbox is an instance of the EmailMessage class, it contains an attribute named “attachments” (surprise!) that is list of tuples with all the relevant information:

("<filename>", "<contents>", "<mime type>")

Here is an example:

from django.core.mail import EmailMessage

def some_function_that_sends_emails():
    msg = EmailMessage(
        subject="Example email",
        body="This is the content of the email",
    msg.attach("sometext.txt", "The content of the file", "text/plain")

from django.test import TestCase
from django.core import mail

from .utils import some_function_that_sends_emails

class ExampleEmailTest(TestCase):
    def test_example_function(self):

        self.assertEqual(len(mail.outbox), 1)

        email_message = mail.outbox[0]
        self.assertEqual(email_message.subject, "Example email")
        self.assertEqual(email_message.body, "This is the content of the email")
        self.assertEqual(len(email_message.attachments), 1)

        file_name, content, mimetype = email_message.attachments[0]
        self.assertEqual(file_name, "sometext.txt")
        self.assertEqual(content, "The content of the file")
        self.assertEqual(mimetype, "text/plain")

If you are using pytest-django the same can be achieved with the mailoutbox fixture:

import pytest

from .utils import some_function_that_sends_emails

def test_example_function(mailoutbox):

    assert len(mailoutbox) == 1

    email_message = mailoutbox[0]
    assert email_message.subject == "Example email"
    assert email_message.body == "This is the content of the email"
    assert len(email_message.attachments) == 1

    file_name, content, mimetype = email_message.attachments[0]
    assert file_name == "sometext.txt"
    assert content == "The content of the file"
    assert mimetype == "text/plain"

And this is it for today.

Technology and Internet

Setting up a Content-Security-Policy

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a small talk on the Madeira Tech Meetup about a set of HTTP headers that could help website owners protect their assets and their users. The slides are available here, just in case you want to take a look.

The content of the talk is basically a small review about what exists, what each header tries to achieve and how could you use it.

After the talk I remembered that I didn’t review the heades of this blog for quite sometime. So a quick visit to Mozilla Observatory, a tool that lets you have a quick look of some of the security configurations of your website, gave me an idea of what I needed to improve. This was the result:

The Content-Security-Header was missing

So what is a Content Security Policy? On the MDN documentation we can find the following description:

The HTTP Content-Security-Policy response header allows web site administrators to control resources the user agent is allowed to load for a given page.

Mozilla Developer Network

Summing up, in this header we describe with a certain level of detail the sources from where each type of content can be fetched in order to be allowed and included on a given page/app. The main goal of this type of policy is to mitigate Cross-Site Scripting attacks.

In order to start building a CSP for this blog a good approach, in my humble opinion, is to start with the more basic and restrictive policy and then proceed evaluating the need for exceptions and only add them when strictly necessary. So here is my first attempt:

default-src 'self'; object-src 'none'; report-uri

Lets interpret what it says:

  • default-src: This is the default value for all non-mentioned directives. self means “only things that come from this domain”.
  • object-src: No <object>, <embed> or <applet> here.
  • report-uri: All policy violations should be reported by the browser to this URL.

The idea was that all styles, scripts and images should be served by this domain, anything external should be blocked. This will also block inline scripts, styles and data images, which are considered unsafe. If for some reason I need to allow this on the blog I could use unsafe-inline, eval and data: on the directive’s definition but in my opinion they should be avoided.

Now a good way to find out how this policy will affect the website and to understand how it needs to be tuned (or the website changed) we can activate it using the “report only mode:

Content-Security-Policy-Report-Only: <policy>

This mode will generate some reports when you (and other users) navigate through the website, they will be printed on the browser’s console and sent to the defined report-uri, but the resources will be loaded anyway.

Here are some results:

CSP violations logs on the browser console
Example of the CSP violations on the browser console

As an example below is a raw report from one of those violations:

    "csp-report": {
        "blocked-uri": "inline",
        "document-uri": "",
        "original-policy": "default-src 'self'; object-src 'none'; report-uri",
        "violated-directive": "default-src"

After a while I found that:

  • The theme used on this blog used some data: fonts
  • Several inline scripts were being loaded
  • Many inline styles were also being used
  • I have some demos that load content from
  • I often share some videos from Youtube, so I need to allow iframes from that domain
  • Some older posts also embeded from other websites (such as soundcloud)

So for the blog to work fine with the CSP being enforced, I either had to include some exceptions or fix errors. After evaluating the attack surface and the work required to make the changes I ended up with the following policy:

Content-Security-Policy-Report-Only: default-src 'self'; script-src 'self' 'sha256-A+5+D7+YGeNGrYcTyNB4LNGYdWr35XshEdH/tqROujM=' 'sha256-2N2eS+4Cy0nFISF8T0QGez36fUJfaY+o6QBWxTUYiHc=' 'sha256-AJyUt7CSSRW+BeuiusXDXezlE1Wv2tkQgT5pCnpoL+w=' 'sha256-n3qH1zzzTNXXbWAKXOMmrBzjKgIQZ7G7UFh/pIixNEQ='; style-src 'self' 'sha256-MyyabzyHEWp8TS5S1nthEJ4uLnqD1s3X+OTsB8jcaas=' 'sha256-OyKg6OHgnmapAcgq002yGA58wB21FOR7EcTwPWSs54E='; font-src 'self' data:; img-src 'self'; frame-src 'self'; object-src 'none'; report-uri

A lot more complex than I initially expected it to be, but it’s one of the drawbacks of using a “pre-built” theme on a platform that I didn’t develop. I was able (in the available time) to fix some stuff but fixing everything would take a lot more work.

All those sha-256 hashes were added to only allow certain inline scripts and styles without allowing everything using unsafe-inline.

Perhaps in the future I will be able to change to a saner theme/platform, but for the time being this Content-Security-Policy will do the job.

I started enforcing it (by changing Content-Security-Policy-Report-Only to Content-Security-Policy) just before publishing this blog post, so if anything is broken please let me know.

I hope this post has been helpful to you and if you didn’t yet implement this header you should give it a try, it might take some effort (depending on the use case) but in the long run I believe it is totally worth it.

Random Bits

kinspect – quickly look into PGP public key details

Sometimes I just need to look into the details of a PGP key that is provided in its “armored” form by some website (not everyone is publishing their keys to the keyservers).

Normally I would have to import that key to my keyring or save it into a file and use gnupg to visualize it (as it is described in this Stack Overflow answers).

To avoid this hassle I just created a simple page with a text area where you can paste the public key and it will display some basic information about it. Perhaps an extension would be a better approach, but for now this works for me.

You can use it on:

In case you would like to contribute in order to improve it or extend the information displayed about the keys, the source code is available on Github using a Free Software license:

Technology and Internet

Firefox’s DoH, the good, the bad and the ugly

First of all, DoH stands for “DNS over HTTPS”.

So last week Mozilla announced that future versions of Firefox will use DoH by default, a decision that at first sight might seem innocuous or even good but thanks to some implementation details it ended up being very controversial.

The reaction that followed the announcement on many technology focused forums and communities was mostly negative (example 1, example 2 and example 3), pointing out many problems, mostly with the way it was implemented and with the default settings used by Mozilla.

One of the first outcomes was OpenBSD, a well known operating system, announcing that the version of Firefox distributed through its “package manager” will have this change disabled by default.

In this post I will try to summarize the core of whole controversy and list the pros and cons of it.

How does a DNS query work?

In a very brief and not 100% accurate way, when you try to visit a website such as, your computer first asks a DNS server (resolver) for the IP address of that website, this server address is usually defined on your system either manually (you set it up) or automatically (when you join a given WiFi network, for example, the network will tell you a server you can use).

That server address generally is set system wide and will be used by all apps. If the server knows the location of the website it will tell you the answer, otherwise it will try to find the location using one of 2 approaches (I will avoid any details here) and come back to you with the result.

You browser will then use this result to fetch the contents of the website. The bellow image describes this flow:

Diagram of a client making a DNS query to a local server.

This system is kind of distributed across many entities. Different people across the globe will contact different servers according to their settings and network/location.


The previously described flow already exists for decades and does not change with DoH, what changes is the way you contact the server in order to ask for the website location and the way this data is transmitted.

While the standard implementation uses UDP and the information travels in cleartext throughout the network (everybody can see it) with DoH this is done as an HTTP request that uses TCP with an encrypted connection, protecting you from malicious actors.

In the end this should be a good thing, but as we will see later on the post things will do south.

Current implementation

A great deal of the discussion this week was sparked by a blog post telling people to turn off Firefox’s DoH, the main complains resolve around not the DoH in itself but the way Mozilla decided to introduce it. Being opt-out and not opt-in, the browser ignoring system configuration and using the servers of a single company by default.

With the current implementation we end up with:

The good

The good part is the obvious reason for using DNS over HTTPS, all your websites queries are encrypted and protected while in transit on the network. It is the extra protection that has been needed for “DNS traffic” for a while.

The bad

The first bad part is that the browser will work differently from the rest of the apps which can cause confusion (why this URL work on the browser and not on my app?), the browser no longer will connect to the same server that was defined for the whole systems

Related to the above problem there is also special network configurations that will stop working such as internal DNS names, rules and filters that are often used on private networks and rely on the internal DNS servers. For these scenarios Mozilla described a series of checks and fallbacks (such as “canary domains”) to accommodate this situation, however they look like fragile hacks.

The ugly

The ugly part is that all DNS traffic from the browser will go to a single entity by default, no matter where you are or which network you are using, which raises privacy concerns and increases the centralization of the system. There is the option of manually setting up a different server however 99% of the users will rely on that single provider.


The overall the intention was good and having encrypted DNS resolution is something that has been required for a very long time but hasn’t become mainstream yet.

The core of the problem with Mozilla’s approach is making it “opt-out”, which means all users will now tell a single “Mozilla partner” the websites they visit by default, without being aware of it.

It will also create some problems to solutions that are deployed network wide and rely on setting certain DNS configurations, since Firefox will not respect them. We can also expect an increased centralization on a system that has been previously working the other way around.

Lets hope that in the future DoH and other encrypted alternatives become standardized so we can continue to use DNS as we always did and don’t have to manage it on every application.