Nested Virtual PowerShell Desktop Environments on Windows 10 & Windows Server 2019 in Azure – Part 2

27 Nov 18 Part 3 is available here that details customizing 
an image and accessing it via other SSH clients with elevated
access.

In Part-1 of this series posted yesterday I showed that with Windows 10/Windows Server 2019 we can now have isolated virtual environments for PowerShell Desktop in Azure through containerization.

In this post I’ll show how I plan to leverage this capability from a mobility perspective. What we need to do first is enable elevated (privileged) access to our VM. My Client will be Azure Cloud Shell. My target/host is the Windows 10 1809 Virtual Machine I deployed in the last post.

Enabling SSH Key Based Privileged Authentication to our Windows 10 VM

To setup Key Based Access (over password access, which is required for elevated access) we need to configure the SSH Server and our Client.

SSH Server

On the Windows 10 Azure VM where we installed OpenSSH as per the first post here, we need to start the SSH-Agent. By default it is set to Disabled. Change the Startup Type, Start it and test it by adding the local user to the Agent. Using an elevated PowerShell session on the Azure Windows VM run;

Set-Service ssh-agent -startupType automatic
Start-Service ssh-agent
cd ~\
ssh-add .\.ssh\id_rsa

Add SSH Key to SSH-Agent on Server.PNG

SSH Client

As I’m using Azure Cloud Shell as my client, I started a Cloud Shell Session in my browser.

  • In Azure Cloud Shell generate a SSH Key using SSH-Keygen
    • Remember your passphrase as this will be required for accessing the Windows 10 Azure VM

Client SSH Keygen.PNG

  • Copy the key to the Windows 10 Azure VM
    • Run the command below (after changing it for your username and Windows VM IP Address) and provide your password to copy up the file
cd ~/
scp ./.ssh/id_rsa.pub username@Win10ServerIPAddress:C:\Users\userprofilename\.ssh\authorized_keys\

Copy Public Key from Client to Server.PNG

  • On the Server if C:\ProgramData\ssh\administrators_authorized_keys exists add your Public key that you copied into your home folder above into it. If C:\ProgramData\ssh\administrators_authorized_keys doesn’t exist then copy the authorized_keys file from your .ssh home directory (e.g c:\users\darrenjrobinson\.ssh ) to C:\ProgramData\ssh\administrators_authorized_keys
  • Edit the permission on the administrators_authorized_keys file.
    • Right-Click the file => Properties => Security => Advanced => Disable Inheritance => Choose “Convert inherited permissions into explicit permissions on this object” 
    • Remove Authenticated Users so that only System and Administrators remain as per the screen shot below. Then select Apply and then OK.

Administrators Authorized Keys.PNG

Testing SSH with Key Access

From our Azure Cloud Shell SSH to your Windows 10 Host;

ssh username@ipaddress

SSH Key Access.PNG

You will be prompted for the passphrase you gave when you generated the SSH key. Enter that and you will be authenticated using SSH to the Windows 10 VM.

SSH to Windows 10.PNG

Docker Access from Azure Cloud Shell in Browser

Now that we have Privileged Access to our Windows 10 VM, let’s try running a Windows 10 1809 Container and executing a PowerShell command to query the version of PowerShell available.

docker run -it mcr.microsoft.com/windows:1809 powershell $psversiontable

Run Docker.PNG

Wait a few seconds (maybe longer depending on the spec of your VM) and

PowerShell Desktop via Docker.PNG

Fantastic, we have a Container with PowerShell Desktop that we have accessed via Cloud Shell in a Browser.

Docker Access from Azure Cloud Shell in iOS Azure App

Using the Azure iOS App on my iPhone I started a Cloud Shell session and changed to my home directory cd ~\ where I had put a file named Connect-Win10.ps1 which contains

ssh username@ipaddressOfWin10Host

IMG-8441

I executed it and it prompted me for the passphrase for my SSH Key which I entered

IMG-8444

and I was then SSH’d into the Windows 10 VM.

IMG-8445

I did a dir d* and saw the DockerPS.cmd file I’d previously created. It contains the following command.

docker run -it mcr.microsoft.com/windows:1809 powershell $psversiontable

IMG-8446

Running that file

IMG-8447

starts the Docker Windows 1809 Container with the PowerShell command

IMG-8448

and I can see from my phone I’m have access to a PowerShell Desktop via Azure Cloud Shell and Docker from inside a Windows 10 VM based in Azure.

IMG-8449

Summary

This post has demonstrated that it is possible to get an elevated privileged session into a Windows 10 host using SSH, from which Docker Containers can be orchestrated and executed. By doing this from Azure Cloud Shell, it means that I can essentially login to a browser or app from anywhere in the world and access my Virtual PowerShell environments that in turn will allow world domination. Muwahahahah.

Got thoughts or feedback on this? Twitter || Blog

Nested Virtual PowerShell Desktop Environments on Windows 10 & Windows Server 2019 in Azure – Part 1

22 Nov 18 Part 2 is available here that details accessing
the Docker Image via Azure Cloud Shell / SSH
27 Nov 18 Part 3 is available here that details customizing
an image and accessing it via other SSH clients with 
elevated access.

PowerShell Desktop Virtual Environments

If you’ve been working with PowerShell for any length of time you know that through its flexibility there can come challenges when using disparate PowerShell Modules and often their version dependencies. This isn’t just a PowerShell thing; Python can also trip you up in a similar manner.

Python however has Virtual Environments (virtualenv) capabilities which provides functionality to create an environment that contains all the necessary binaries required for the packages/libraries that a Python project would need. I’ve found this this very useful and I’ve wondered why I couldn’t do the same for PowerShell Desktop (not Core). PowerShell Desktop, PowerShell Core?

PowerShell Desktop vs PowerShell Core

As of August 2016 there are two PowerShell versions;

  • PowerShell Desktop
    • PowerShell 5.1 that runs on Windows and on top of the full .NET Framework stack
  • PowerShell Core
    • PowerShell Core 6.x that is cross platform (Windows, MacOSX, Linux)
      • Doesn’t run on the full .NET Framework

If you are a Windows/Directory Services Admin the likelihood of many of the PowerShell Modules you use running on PowerShell Core are slim. That’s because a lot of the modules you use require the full .NET Framework. And that isn’t available in PowerShell Core.

A Virtual PowerShell Desktop Env? Why is this only possible now?

In July this year Microsoft started providing Windows Container Images for the Insider releases (over and above Nano and Core OS builds). This was great, but meant you needed to be on the Insider Builds and were restricted to environments on physical hardware or VM’s migrated to Azure as there wasn’t an Azure Marketplace OS Version (Windows 10 or Server 2019 Preview) that met the minimum host requirements for the Insider Container images.

We’ve had to wait until Build 1809 became available in the Azure Marketplace which it did at the end of last week (w/e 18 November 2018). The Windows Container Version History shows that there was no 1803 Windows Image. But that’s all bygones now, as 1809 is finally here.

PowerShell Desktop Virtual Environments through Nested Virtualization

The screenshot below on first glance just looks like any command window in a virtual machine. But look a little closer;

  • Remote Desktop Session to an Azure Windows 10 1809 Virtual Machine (host.region.cloudapp.azure.com)
  • Docker Run Windows 1809 PowerShell $psversiontable
    • PowerShell Desktop 5.1 via Docker inside a Virtual Machine in Azure
      • BOOM!!

PowerShell Desktop Virt Env Nested Virtualization.PNG

Ok, so that is a single Docker Container with a full Windows 10 1809 environment running inside a Windows 10 Virtual Machine. But that means we can also add more containers and have multiple isolated PowerShell environments. Something like ….

Nested Virtual PowerShell Desktop Env.png

Wait, what, how? – The Overview

The high-level process is;

  • Provision a Windows 10 Virtual Machine (Build 1809 or later).
    • I recommend to deploy it in Azure, but you could do it in other virtualization environments that support Nested Virtualization
    • NOTE: As I write this Windows Server 2019 Build 1809 hasn’t hit the Azure Marketplace. When it does, as it has a common code-base it should work exactly the same.
  • Enable the OpenSSH Feature (I’ll be using this a little in this post but more in a future post)
  • Enable the Containers and Hyper-V Features
  • Install and configure Docker
  • Pull the Windows Build 1809 Container Image

Windows 10 Build 1809 Virtual Machine

I’m not going to give step-by-step details for deploying a Windows VM in Azure. If you’re looking to setup Virtual PowerShell Desktop Environments with Docker you should be able to deploy a Windows VM. That said you need to choose a VM Size and Version that will support “Nested Virtualization”. The Azure RM Dv3 and Ev3 Series VM’s do. If you get an error similar to this when running a Docker Image then change your VM Series to Dv3. I went with;

  • The Azure Marketplace has a image for Windows 10 Build 1809. Search for Windows 10 Pro, Version 1809
    • In order to run this VM as pragmatic as practical I chose the following size and configuration for my VM initially
      • Standard D2_v3 (2 vCPUs, 8 GB memory)
      • HDD over SSD
      • Un-managed disks
    • Enable SSH and RDP in the NSG configuration
      • initially we’ll need RDP to connect to the workstation
      • moving forward we’ll be using SSH

OpenSSH Server

OpenSSH Client and Server has been available for Windows for a while. Build 1809 though has streamlined the install process considerably. The base install and setup is now just a couple of commands away. The commands below will install the latest version of OpenSSH Server via PowerShell;

# Find OpenSSH Server
$openSSH = Get-WindowsCapability -Online | Where-Object Name -like 'OpenSSH*'

# Install OpenSSH Server
$sshServer = $openSSH | Select-Object name | Where-Object {$_.name -like "OpenSSH.Server*"}
$sshServer

Add-WindowsCapability -Online -Name $sshServer.Name

which when executed via VSCode looks like;

Install OpenSSH Server on Windows 10.PNG

By default the SSH Server service is configured for Manual startup. To configure it for Automatic Startup use the Set-Service cmdlet.

# Set SSH Server for Auto Startup
Get-Service sshd
Set-service sshd -StartupType Automatic

ssh Server Startup Automatic.PNG

Finally we need to increase the ClientAliveInterval setting in the sshd_config configuration file located in the %programdata%\ssh directory. I’ve made mine 3600 seconds (1 hour).

sshd ClientAliveInterval.PNG

Windows Containers / Docker Dependencies

# Install Containers / Docker Dependencies
Enable-WindowsOptionalFeature -Online -FeatureName containers –All -NoRestart
Enable-WindowsOptionalFeature -Online -FeatureName Microsoft-Hyper-V –All
Restart the computer

Install Docker

Head on over to Docker and login (or create an account if you don’t already have one). Get Docker CE for Windows. I’m running 18.06.1-ce-win73.

Download and Install Docker.PNG

As we want a full Windows environment for PowerShell (not PowerShell Core on Linux) select “Use Windows containers” when installing Docker.

Use Windows Containers.PNG

At the end of the Docker install there is a reboot required.

Docker Install Complete.PNG

Get the Windows 1809 Base Container Image

We’re almost there. We need to get the recently released full Windows Image that will be the basis for our containers that will allow us to run full PowerShell environments. Don’t be confused by the Nano and Core images that have been available for quite some time. This is the FULL WINDOWS Build 1809 IMAGE.

As future Windows updates increment the version, the version you want to pull needs to be no greater than the host it is running on. Unlike the Insider Images the release versions follow the Release Number not the Build Number. Looking at the repository we can see that the image name is 1809 where-as its Build Number is 10.0.17763.134.

Docker Windows Image Registry.PNG

With the workstation restarted we SSH into it and pull the Windows 1809 Docker Image. I’ve given my Windows 10 VM a DNS name so I don’t need to figure out the IP Address each time I start it up. From a Windows command prompt to access your new VM (via IPAddress) use;

ssh username@IPAddressofWin10VM

Once we have a console on our Windows 10 VM we can pull the Windows 10 Docker Image.

docker pull mcr.microsoft.com/windows:1809

The image will be retrieved.

Pull Windows 1809 Base Image.PNG

After pulling the image it will be extracted. Depending on the spec of your VM this may take 10-20 minutes.

Extracting Windows Base Docker Image.PNG

After Extraction we have our base Container Image.

Completed Docker Image.PNG

In order to create a container from the command console via SSH we need to be elevated. I’ll cover that in the next post. So to validate we are able to create a container based on the full Windows 10 1809 image, RDP into the Windows 10 VM and open an elevated command prompt. Then type the command;

docker run -it mcr.microsoft.com/windows:1809 powershell $psversiontable

which will start a container using the Windows 10 1809 Image and run PowerShell with the command $PSVersionTable that will return the version of PowerShell.

PowerShell Desktop Virt Env Nested Virtualization

Summary

As you can see from the screenshot above, we have Nested Virtualization in an Azure Resource Manager Windows 10 Virtual Machine running a Docker Windows 10 1089 Container Image that allows us to run PowerShell Desktop 5.1. BOOM!!

That’s it for the first post, where I introduced the concept of Full Windows Docker Images supporting PowerShell Desktop in Azure. Stay tuned for the next post that starts putting this new functionality to good use.

Got thoughts or feedback on this? Twitter || Blog

Building a Teenager Notification Service using Azure IoT an Azure Function, Microsoft Flow, Mongoose OS and a Micro Controller

Introduction

This is the third and final post on my recent experiments integrating small micro controllers (ESP8266) running Mongoose OS integrated with Azure IoT Services.

In the first post in this series I detailed creating the Azure IoT Hub and registering a NodeMCU (ESP8266 based) micro controller with it. The post detailing that can be found here. Automating the creation of Azure IoT Hubs and the registration of IoT Devices with PowerShell and VS Code

In the second post I detailed communicating with the micro controller (IoT device) using MQTT and PowerShell. That post can be found here. Integrating Azure IoT Devices with MongooseOS MQTT and PowerShell

Now that we have end to end functionality it’s time to do something with it.

I have two teenagers who’ve been trained well to use headphones. Whilst this is great at not having to hear the popular teen bands of today, and numerous Facetime, Skype, Snapchat and similar communications it does come with the downside of them not hearing us when we require their attention and they are at the other end of the house. I figured to avoid the need to shout to get attention, a simple visual notification could be built to achieve the desired result. Different colours for different requests? Sure why not. This is that project, and the end device looks like this.

IoT Notifier using Neopixel
IoT Notifier using Neopixel

Overview

Quite simply the solution goes like this;

  • With the Microsoft Flow App on our phones we can select the Flow that will send a notification
2018-03-25 18.56.38 500px.png
Send IoT Notification Message
  • Choose the Notification intent which will drive the color displayed on the Teenager Notifier.
2018-03-25 18.56.54 500px
IoT Notifier Task Message
  • The IoT Device will then display the color in a revolving pattern as shown below.

The Architecture

The end to end architecture of the solution looks like this.

IoT Cloud to Device - NeoPixel - 640px
IoT Message Cloud to Device

Using the Microsoft Flow App on a mobile device gives a nice way of having a simple interface that can be used to trigger the notification. Microsoft Flow sends the desired message and details of the device to send it to, to an Azure Function that puts a message into an MQTT queue associated with the Mongoose OS driven Azure IoT Device (ESP8266 based NodeMCU micro controller) connected to an Azure IoT Hub. The Mongoose OS driven Azure IoT Device takes the message and displays the visual notification in the color associated with the notification type chosen in Microsoft Flow at the beginning of the process.

The benefits of this architecture are;

  • the majority of the orchestration happens in Azure, yet thanks to Azure IoT and MQTT no inbound connection is required where the IoT device resides. No port forwarding / inbound rules to configure on your home router. The micro controller is registered with our Azure IoT Hub and makes an outbound connection to subscribe to its MQTT topic. As soon as there is a message for the device it triggers its logic and does what we’ve configured
  • You can initiate a notification from anywhere in the world (most simply using the Flow mobile app as shown above)
  • And using Mongoose OS allows for the device to be managed remote via the Mongoose OS Dashboard. This means that if I want to add an additional notification (color) I can update Flow for a new option to select and update the configuration on the Notifier device to display the new color if it receives such a command.

Solution Prerequisites

This post builds on the previous two. As such the prerequisites are;

  • you have an Azure account and have set up an IoT Hub, and registered an IoT Device with it
  • your IoT device (micro controller) can run Mongoose OS on. I’m using a NodeMCU ESP8266 that I purchased from Amazon here.
  • the RGB LED Light Ring (generic Neopixel) I used I purchased from Amazon here.
  • 3D printer if you want to print an enclosure for the IoT device

With those sorted we can;

  • Install and configure my Mongoose OS Application. It includes all the necessary libraries and sample config to integrate with a Neopixel, Azure IoT, Mongoose Dashboard etc.
  • Create the Azure PowerShell Function App that will publish the MQTT message the IoT Device will consume
  • Create the Microsoft Flow that will kick off the notifications and give use a nice interface to send what we want
  • Build an enclosure for our IoT device

How to build this project

The order I’ve detailed the elements of the architecture here is how I’d recommend approaching this project. I’d also recommend working through the previous two blog posts linked at the beginning of this one as that will get you up to speed with Mongoose OS, Azure IoT Hub, Azure IoT Devices, MQTT etc.

Installing the AzureIoT-Neopixel-js Application

I’ve made the installation of my solution easy by creating a Mongoose OS Application. It includes all the libraries required and sample code for the functionality I detail in this post.

Clone it from Github here and put it into your .mos directory that should be in the root of your Windows profile directory. e.g C:\Users\Darren\.mos\apps-1.26 then from the MOS Configuration page select Projects, select AzureIoT-Neopixel-JS then select the Rebuild App spanner icon from the toolbar. When it completes select the Flash icon from the toolbar.  When your micro controller restarts select the Device Setup from the top menu bar and configure it for your WiFi network. Finally configure your device for Azure MQTT as per the details in my first post in this series (which will also require you to create an Azure IoT Hub if you don’t already have one and register your micro controller with it as an Azure IoT Device). You can then test sending a message to the device using PowerShell or Device Explorer as shown in post two in this series.

I have the Neopixel connected to D1 (GPIO 5) on the NodeMCU. If you use a different micro controller and a different GPIO then update the init.js configuration accordingly.

Creating the Azure Function App

Now that you have the micro controller configured and working with Azure IoT, lets abstract the sending of the MQTT messages into an Azure Function. We can’t send MQTT messages from Microsoft Flow, so I’ve created an Azure Function that uses the AzureIoT Powershell module to do that.

Note: You can send HTTP messages to an Azure IoT device but … 

Under current HTTPS guidelines, each device should poll for messages every 25 minutes or more. MQTT and AMQP support server push when receiving cloud-to-device messages.

….. that doesn’t suit my requirements 

I’m using the Managed Service Identity functionality to access the Azure Key Vault where credentials for the identity that can interact with my Azure IoT Hub is stored. To enable and use that (which I highly recommend) follow the instructions in my blog post here to configure MSI on an Azure Function App. If you don’t already have an Azure Key Vault then follow my blog post here to quickly set one up using PowerShell.

Azure PowerShell Function App

The Function App is an HTTP Trigger Based one using PowerShell. In order to interact with Azure IoT Hub and integrate with the IoT Device via Azure I’m using the same modules as in the previous posts. So they need to be located within the Function App.

Specifically they are;

  • AzureIoT v1.0.0.5
  • AzureRM v5.5.0
  • AzureRM.IotHub v3.1.0
  • AzureRM.profile v4.2.0

I’ve put them in a bin directory (which I created) under my Function App. Even though AzureRM.EventHub is shown below, it isn’t required for this project. I uploaded the modules from my development laptop (C:\Program Files\WindowsPowerShell\Modules) using WinSCP after configuring Deployment Credentials under Platform Features for my Azure Function App. Note the path relative to mine as you will need to update the Function App script to reflect this path so the modules can be loaded.

Azure Function PS Modules.PNG
Azure Function PS Modules

The configuration in WinSCP to upload to the Function App for me is

WinSCP Configuration
WinSCP Configuration

Edit the AzureRM.IotHub.psm1 file

The AzureRM.IotHub.psm1 will locate an older version of the AzureRM.IotHub PowerShell module from within Azure Functions. As we’ve uploaded the version we need, we need to comment out the following lines in AzureRM.IotHub.psm1 so that it doesn’t do a version check. See below the lines to remark out (put a # in front of the lines indicated below) that are near the start of the module. The AzureRM.IotHub.psm1 file can be edited via WinSCP & notepad.

#$module = Get-Module AzureRM.Profile
#if ($module -ne $null -and $module.Version.ToString().CompareTo("4.2.0") -lt 0)
#{
# Write-Error "This module requires AzureRM.Profile version 4.2.0. An earlier version of AzureRM.Profile is imported in the current PowerShell session. Please open a new session before importing this module. This error could indicate that multiple incompatible versions of the Azure PowerShell cmdlets are installed on your system. Please see https://aka.ms/azps-version-error for troubleshooting information." -ErrorAction Stop
#}
#elseif ($module -eq $null)
#{
# Import-Module AzureRM.Profile -MinimumVersion 4.2.0 -Scope Global
#}

HTTP Trigger Azure PowerShell Function App

Here is my Function App Script. You’ll need to update it for the location of your PowerShell Modules (I created a bin directory under my Function App D:\home\site\wwwroot\myFunctionApp\bin), your Key Vault details and the user account you will be using. The User account will need permissions to your Key Vault to retrieve the password (credential) for the account you will run the process as and to your Azure IoT Hub.

You can test the Function App from within the Azure Portal where you created the Function App as shown below. Update for the names of the IoT Hub, IoT Device and the Resource Group in your associated environment.

Testing Function App.PNG
Test Function App

Microsoft Flow Configuration

The Flow is very simple. A manual button and a resulting HTTP Post.

Microsoft Flow Config 1
Microsoft Flow Configuration

For the message I have configured a list. This is where you can choose the color of the notification.

Manual Trigger.PNG
Microsoft Flow Manual Trigger

The Action is an HTTP Post to the Azure Function URL. The body has the configuration for the IoTHub, IoTDevice, Resource Group Name, IoTKeyName and the Message selected from the manual button above. You will have the details for those settings from your initial testing via the Function App (or PowerShell).

The Azure Function URL you get from the top of the Azure Portal screen where you configure your Function App. Look for “Get Function URL”.

HTTP Post
Microsoft Flow HTTP Post

Testing

Now you have all the elements configured, install the Microsoft Flow App on your mobile if you don’t already have it for Apple iOS Appstore and Android Google Play Log in with the account you created the Flow as, select the Flow, the message and done. Depending on your internet connectivity you should see the notification in < 10 seconds displayed on the Notifier device.

Case 3D Printer Files

Lastly, we need to make it look all pretty and make the notification really pop. I’ve created a housing for the neopixel that sits on top of a little case for the NodeMCU.

As you can see from the final unit, I’ve printed the neopixel holder in a white PLA that allows the RGB LED light to be diffused nicely and display prominently even in brightly lit conditions.

Neopixel Enclosure
Neopixel Enclosure

I’ve printed the base that holds the micro controller in a different color. The top fits snugly through the hole in the micro controller case. The wires from the neopixel to connect it to the micro controller slide through the shaft of the top housing. It also has a backplate that attaches to the back of the enclosure that I secure with a little hot glue.

Here is a link to the Neopixel (WS2812) 16 RGB LED light holder I created on Thingiverse.

NodeMCU Enclosure.PNG
NodeMCU Enclosure

Depending on your micro controller you will also need an appropriately sized case for that. I’ve designed the neopixel light holder top assembly to sit on top of my micro controller case. Also available on Thingiverse here.

Summary

Using a combination of Azure IoT, Azure PaaS Services, Mongoose OS and a cheap micro controller with an RGB LED light ring we have a very versatile Internet of Things device. The application here is a simple visual notifier. A change of output device or even in conjunction with an input device could change the application, whilst still re-using all the elements of the solution that glues it all together (micro-controller, Mongoose OS, Azure IoT, Azure PaaS). Did you build one? Did you use this as inspiration to build something else? Let me know.

Is it you, or is it me? When Cloud Services aren’t always on. “Failed to load external resource” while authenticating to Azure

The weekend just gone (24-25 March 2018) I was nearing the end of a personal project I’d been building around Internet of Things devices integrating with Azure. There were a few ends that needed a little tidying up and I’d planned to knock those off on Saturday morning. I opened my laptop and in browser hit portal.azure.com and got redirected for authentication at which point I had a blank webpage as shown below.

Error Blank Window for signin after redirect

Figured it was a little weird, but jumped to PowerShell thinking I’d quickly use that to do what I needed.

Error Signing into AzureRM via PowerShell

Huh? That’s not good. I had Teams open so check to see if that was working. Switched Identity for a different Team and ..Error Signing into teams

Mmmm, same error as PowerShell. What the hell was going on. I still had sessions that I was successfully using on Friday open and functioning.

Going through my thought process I thought it would be best to check the Service Status on Azure. That showed all green. Maybe if I pinged Azure Support? So I did via Twitter.

Azure Support Twitter

They were prompt in replying. After more investigation on my end I was thinking the problem was on my end.

Azure Support Twitter Responses

So I started troubleshooting, removing cookies, restarting my browser, trying a different browser, changing the default browser and forcing a logout on all Azure accounts via https://login.microsoftonline.com/logout.srf  all to no success. Same error messages (or in the case of the web pages nothing).

What happens if I try to access the URL where the script is located that the authentication pages are trying to load? The output is below. That doesn’t look good. I was out of time by now with other more pressing appointments, so I went to the pub with friends.

AADCDN Cant Access.PNG

Fast forward to Sunday morning and I wanted to finish off my latest extra-curricular project.

Getting back to my laptop the page above was still the primary window, as I hadn’t restarted or anything. I’d just locked my laptop when I left on Saturday. What would happen if I reloaded that page? Woah, that looks better. Page loads. Bad query which is expected.

AADCDN working.PNG

Switch back to PowerShell and run Login-AzureRmAccount and what do you know it worked. Switch over to Teams and again switched my Identity (for another Team) and it worked. Hit portal.azure.com in my browser and what do you know, it worked too.

My Conclusion – Go to the pub and come back tomorrow

My laptop hadn’t had any relevant changes other than me deleting a few cookies. After which the issue was still present.

I left my laptop to its own devices for 20 hours and then all of a sudden everything is working. If this happens again and I can’t access https://secure.aadcdn.microsoft-online-p.com and I’m getting the “Failed to load external resource” when authenticating to Azure I’ll just go to the pub, and come back the next day and all should be good. And it isn’t me, it was you 🙂

 

Enabling and Scripting Azure Virtual Machine Just-In-Time Access

Last week (19 July 2017) one of Microsoft’s Azure Security Center’s latest features went from Private Preview to Public Preview. The feature is Azure Just in time Virtual Machine Access.

What is Just in time Virtual Machine access?

Essentially JIT VM Access is a wrapper for automating an Azure Network Security Group rule set for access to an Azure VM(s) for a temporal period on a set of network ports restricted to a source IP/Network.

Personally I’d done something a little similar earlier in the year by automating the update of an NSG inbound rule to allow RDP only for my current public IP Address. Details on that are here. But that is essentially now redundant.

Enabling Just in time VM Access

In the Azure Portal Select the Security Center icon.

In the central pane you will find an option to Enable Just in time VM Access. Select that link.

In the right hand pane you will then see a link for Try Just in time VM Access. Select that.

If you have not previously enabled the Security Center you will need to select a Pricing Tier. The Free Tier does not include the JIT VM Access, but you should get an option for a 60 day trial for the Standard Tier that does.

With everything enabled you can select Recommended to see a list of VM’s that JIT VM Access can be enabled for.

I’ve selected one of mine from the list and then selected Enable JIT on 1 VM.

In the Enable JIT VM Config you can add and remove ports as required. Also the maximum timeframe for the access. The Per-Request for source IP will enable the rule for the requester and their current IP.  Select Ok.

With the rule configured you can now Request access

When requesting access we can tailor the access based on what is in the rule. Select the ports we want from within the policy and IP Range or Current IP and reduce the timeframe if required. Then select Open Ports.

For the VM we can now see that JIT VM Access has been requested and is currently active.

Looking at the Network Security Group that is associated with the VM we can see the rules that JIT VM Access has put in place. We can also see that the rules are against my current IP Address.

Automating JIT VM Access Requests via PowerShell

Now that we have Just-in-time VM Access all configured for our VM, the reality is I just want to invoke the access request via PowerShell, start-up my VM (as they would normally be stopped unless in use) and utilise the resource.

The script below is a simplified version of the my previous script to automate NSG rules  detailed here. It assumes you enabled JIT VM Access as per the manual process above, and that your VM would normally be in an off state and you’re about to enable access, start it up and connect.

You will need to have the AzureRM and the new Azure-Security-Center PowerShell Modules. If you are running PowerShell 5.1 or later you can install them by un-remarking lines 3 and 5.

Update lines 13, 15 and 19 for your Resource Group name, Virtual Machine name and the link to your RDP file. Update line 21 for the number of hours to request access (in line with your policy).

Line 28 uses the new Invoke-ASCJITAccess cmdlet from the Azure-Security-Center Powershell module to request access. 

Summary

This simplifies the management of NSG Rules for access to VM’s and reduces the exposure of VM’s to brute force attacks. It also simplifies for me the access to a bunch of VM’s I only have running on an ad-hoc basis.

Looking into the Azure-Security-Center PowerShell module there are cmdlets to also manage the JIT Policies.

Automating Source IP Address updates on an Azure Network Security Group RDP Access Rule

Recently I’ve migrated a bunch of Virtual Box Virtual Machines to Azure as detailed here. These VM’s are in Resource Groups with a Network Security Group associated that restricts access to them for RDP based on a source TCPIP address. All good practice. However from a usability perspective, when I want to use these VM’s, I’m not always in the same location, and rarely on a connection with a static IP address.

This post details a simple little script that;

  • Has a couple of variables associated with a Resource Group, Network Security Group, Virtual Machine Name and an RDP Configuration File associated with the VM
  • Gets the public IP Address of the machine I’m running the script from
  • Prompts for Authentication to Azure, and retrieves the NSG associated with the Resource Group
  • Compares the Source IP Address in the ‘RDP’ Inbound Rule to my current IP Address. If they aren’t a match it updates the Source IP Address to be my current public IP Address
  • Starts the Virtual Machine configured at the start of the script
  • Launches Remote Desktop using the RDP Configuration file

The Script

Here’s the raw script. Update lines 2-8 for your environment and away you go. Simple but useful as is often the way.