Category: Telephony

A Firsthand Look at Disaster Recovery: Tethering and IAX with Asterisk

One of the exciting challenges of building a swimming pool is knowing that it’s just a matter of time until your Internet connection dies. As you might imagine, swimming pools are major construction and involve a lot of digging. And digging usually means some oops moments when cables get cut. In our case, we had watched the folks digging the trenches for all of the pool plumbing to be sure they didn’t accidentally whack one of three coax cables coming into our house. And, when it came time to cover up the trenches, we pointed out the orange cables to the Bobcat driver knowing we were finally home free. Not so fast! Two minutes later, Mario had driven the Bobcat right over the primary Internet cable leaving the shredded remains sticking up through the dirt. Oops. Sorry. Shit happens!

Looking on the positive side, we chuckled, “What a perfect opportunity to test our backup Asterisk® system!” Our backup system is pretty clever if we do say so. It relies upon a Verizon WiFi HotSpot running on our Galaxy smartphone and a duplicate of our Asterisk-based PBX in a Flash™ server running as a virtual machine under VirtualBox on an iMac desktop. The entire setup takes less than a minute to activate. Well, that was the plan anyway.

It turns out that Verizon does SIP a little differently with a SIP ALG in the path so Asterisk couldn’t register with all but one of our dozen SIP providers. Congratulations, CallCentric! The workaround is to enable STUN. That is now possible with Asterisk 11. Short of that, you’re left with CallCentric. Unfortunately for us, we don’t do much SIP trunking with CallCentric, and none of our primary DIDs are connected through them. Our attention span also was too short to tackle STUN in the middle of this crisis. But there’s good news. Verizon doesn’t mess with IAX network traffic at all. And a couple of our primary DIDs are registered with VoIP.ms using IAX trunks. Restoring the IAX trunks to full functionality took less than a minute. That is step one of a three-step process. You need inbound trunks, phones, and outbound trunks to get your redundant VoIP server back in business.

Getting phones to function on what is now a purely WiFi network (through the Verizon HotSpot) can be problematic unless you’ve done your homework and sprinkled a few WiFi-capable SIP phones around your home or office. In our case, we still have Grandstream’s GXP2200 Android phones scattered everywhere so it was just a matter of plugging in the WiFI adapters and rebooting. The newer GXV3240 would work just as well.1

All that remained was enabling several trunks for outbound calls. Since VoIP.ms IAX trunks support both incoming and outgoing calls, we were home free. And, with Google Voice trunks, it was simply a matter of jumping through Google’s security hoops to reenable the connections on a new IP address.

Lessons Learned. Here’s a quick checklist for those of you that think about disaster recovery for your home or for clients and businesses. Nothing beats some advance planning. If money is no object, then WiFi tethering from a smartphone with one of the major providers whose service works well in your home or office environment is the way to go. 4G is a must!

In our case, money was an object so we had the foresight to acquire a Verizon SIM card from eBay that included an unlimited data plan. With this setup, it costs only $1 a day extra to add WiFi tethering, and you can turn it off and on as often as you like without any additional fees or surcharges. There also are no additional charges for using boatloads of data! We’re actually writing this column with a tethered connection from a hotel in Washington (results above). To give you some idea of why an unlimited data plan is important, our home operation burned through 4 gigs of data in less than 24 hours once we activated WiFi tethering. Of course, there were people doing things other than making phones calls, but tethering enables 5 connections to function just about like the cable modem service you originally had in place. So expect the data usage to be substantial. Everybody likes 24/7 Internet service.

Loss of phone calls through a PBX is more of an annoyance than a crisis these days because almost everyone also has a smartphone. Even so, the SIP gotcha with Verizon Wireless was a surprise because we hadn’t really tested our super-duper emergency system in advance. That wasn’t too smart obviously. The old adage applies. Do as we say, not as we do. Unplug your cable modem or DSL connection and actually test your backup system before D-Day arrives.

On the VoIP provider end, now is the time to set up an account with a provider that offers both SIP and IAX connectivity. Step 2 is to actually configure an IAX trunk (as a subaccount to use VoIP.ms parlance) and test it. IAX trunks actually have fewer headaches with NAT, but there are only a handful of providers that still provide the service. Find one now and make certain that your primary DIDs will roll over to the IAX trunk in case of an outage. I’m always reminded that we have Mark Spencer to thank for IAX. It was his brainchild. Thank you, Mark! With VoIP.ms, you also can spoof your CallerID so that calls will still appear to originate from your primary Asterisk PBX.

Keep in mind that a VirtualBox-based Asterisk virtual machine and a Desktop computer both need an IP address and will have to be started on WLAN0 rather than ETH0. Remember, your wired connection is now dead.

You’re also going to want to acquire at least a couple of WiFi-capable SIP phones that can be connected with your Asterisk server using your WiFi HotSpot. Also make certain that you have a preconfigured IPtables firewall on your backup system. Remember, your hardware-based firewall connected to your cable modem won’t provide any protection once you switch to HotSpot operation. Lucky for you, Incredible PBX™ servers come preconfigured with a locked-down IPtables firewall and a WhiteList. Just add the new IP addresses of your server and phones, and you’re secure on the public Internet.

Finally, let’s do the HotSpot connection math. You’ll need an IP address for your desktop computer running VirtualBox. You’ll need a second IP address for the Asterisk virtual machine. Then you’ll need an IP address for every WiFi-enabled SIP phone. If the maximum number of connections is five on your HotSpot, that means you’ve got the necessary capacity for at most 3 WiFi SIP phones assuming you don’t enable a WiFi printer and if nobody else wants to use a computer during the outage. The other option is to add an inexpensive travel router with bridge mode to your mix of 5 devices. We always keep one handy for extended trips. A properly configured travel router provides an additional WiFi network with some extra WiFi connections. Good luck!



Security Alerts. Serious SSL and FreePBX security vulnerabilities have been discovered AND patched during the past week. If you have not patched your server and Asterisk, FreePBX, Apache, and/or WebMin are exposed to the public Internet, you have a serious problem on your hands. See this thread for details on the FreePBX vulnerability. And see this thread for the steps necessary to patch SSL in Asterisk, Apache, and Webmin. While Incredible PBX servers were automatically patched for the FreePBX vulnerability, the SSL issues require manual patching and an Asterisk upgrade. A script for upgrading Asterisk 11 servers is included in the message thread linked above. ALWAYS run your VoIP server behind a firewall with no Internet port exposure to Asterisk, FreePBX, SSH, or the Apache and Webmin web servers! And, if you think all of this security stuff is just a silly waste of your time, then read about the latest lucky recipient of a $166,000 phone bill.

Originally published: Monday, October 20, 2014



Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for PBX in a Flash users. You now can get an almost half-price DID from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you’re seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. And, when you use our special link to sign up, the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects get a few shekels down the road while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity’s DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For PBX in a Flash users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls for just $3.99 a month. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. Do not use this link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage and any balance is fully refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. Some of our links refer users to Amazon or other service providers when we find their prices are competitive for the recommended products. Nerd Vittles receives a small referral fee from these providers to help cover the costs of our blog. We never recommend particular products solely to generate commissions. However, when pricing is comparable or availability is favorable, we support these providers because they support us. []

The Disappointing iPhone 6: Eight Generations of iOS and Bluetooth Still Sucks

Our technology reviews are a little different than the dozens of reviews you’ve probably already seen that read more like Apple press releases. First of all, we typically buy products to actually use. And second, we base our smartphone evaluations on real-world requirements rather than best case scenarios that you’re unlikely to ever experience in the real world.

So we begin our review of the iPhone 6 with the simple question: “Can it make calls?” Funny as this sounds, it’s been a huge problem with previous iPhone models if you planned to use a reasonably priced provider such as StraightTalk instead of one of America’s “Big Four.” To Apple’s credit, they finally got it right in the AT&T model of the iPhone 6. StraightTalk works out of the box, something Android mastered years ago. You still cannot manually configure the cellphone provider specs, but at least it now works.

We’re not going to spend a lot of time on Apple’s continuing push to lock users into the Apple universe. Suffice it to say, the lock in marches on with each new release. To some it’s a good thing. To others, it’s not. If you’re going to fork over $1,0001 for an iPhone 6 in order to use StraightTalk for $45 a month, then you’re probably committed to and comfortable with Apple’s ways of doing things. We’re pretty much an observer of the iPhone cosmos except to assure that our VoIP products still work reliably on the platform. On the other hand, our teenager and all of her teenage friends have iPhones, period. Just the mention of Android conjures up visions of nerds hanging from trees to hear them tell it. In other words, lock in is a good thing in their view. All of their apps work exactly the same on every person’s smartphone. All of their emojis are compatible for texting. And messaging is pure Apple with no worries whether SMS and MMS work or not. By the way, messaging is still a mess if you switch between Apple and Android with your SIM card without first disabling iMessage on the iPhone. It’s almost as if Apple likes it this way. :wink:

Did we mention that the iPhone 6 is gorgeous? Hands down, it is the best looking smartphone ever. We won’t get into whether it bends or not. Ours didn’t, and we carry it in our pocket like every other guy on the planet. Not sure I’d do it if I rode on a tractor all day but in typical everyday use, it holds it’s own.

We were especially curious about the camera given the numerous reviews documenting that the iPhone 6 is not the megapixel wonder you’ve come to expect with Android phones. We’ve typically been able to take much better real-world photos using Samsung’s Galaxy S4. So we’re including two marsh photos taken with a Galaxy S4 as well as iPhone 5c and iPhone 6 portrait shots to let you judge the quality for yourself. Keep in mind that all four of the images below are screen captures rather than the actual photographs. We came away from the experiment very impressed that the newer iPhones can hold their own against the Android devices with far better technical specs. While it’s still a bit of a knuckle drill to export a photo from your photo stream to iPhoto to email to a download to your desktop, it’s at least intuitive. Bottom Line: We no longer worry about photo quality when we don’t have an Android phone along for a trip.

With the camera testing behind us, that left us with two burning questions: how’s the WiFI and how’s the Bluetooth connectivity with cars?

Not to beat a dead horse, but WiFi typically hasn’t been Apple’s strong suit unless you happen to be using their access points. That seems to be resolved with iOS 8. 5G WiFi connectivity worked great with download and upload speeds matching the limits of our broadband service. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that Bluetooth is still a mess after years and years of problem reports. If anything, iOS 8 is a step backwards judging from the reports on Apple’s own support forum. Our results with one of the latest General Motors vehicles were terrible. While the iPhone 6 could be paired with the vehicle, nothing worked afterwards. No calls, no Pandora, nothing! When every $100 Android smartphone can pair with almost any vehicle and work, we get back to our initial question: “Can it make calls?” Unfortunately, unless you want to step back in time and hold your shiny, new iPhone 6 next to your ear, the answer is a resounding NO. And, yes, we jumped through all of the Apple hoops attempting to resolve the Bluetooth problems even though nobody should ever have to endure that! For $1,000, one would expect all of the basics on a smartphone to function correctly just as you expect your brakes and windshield wipers to work when you buy a new car. The fact that Apple has dropped the ball on Bluetooth for years is yet another reason we won’t be switching from Android anytime soon. In fact, the Bluetooth problem is a deal breaker for us so we’re returning the phone.

Finally, a word to the Apple fanboys. Don’t post comments. We won’t publish them. We are not Apple haters. Quite the contrary, we have more Apple hardware under our roof than any other brand. What Apple has done in the educational arena and to foster the image of technical support as a good thing is legendary. But you can’t drop the ball on the basics and expect people that depend upon technology to be impressed. Drop everything that deals with the shiny new watch for a few days and fix Bluetooth. It’s that important!

Originally published: Monday, October 13, 2014



Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for PBX in a Flash users. You now can get an almost half-price DID from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you’re seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. And, when you use our special link to sign up, the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects get a few shekels down the road while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity’s DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For PBX in a Flash users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls for just $3.99 a month. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. Do not use this link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage and any balance is fully refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. Actually, the sales price for the 128GB iPhone 6 with AppleCare+ and sales tax came to a whopping $1,028.59 []

Zero Day Vulnerability Protection and More: Introducing Cover Your Asterisk


It’s been a difficult couple of weeks for the Linux® and Asterisk® communities with the back-to-back disclosures of the BASH Shellshock bug and then the FreePBX® Asterisk Recording Interface (ARI) bug a few days later. Both of these vulnerabilities have been circulating in the wild for years. We won’t repeat Wikipedia’s Zero Day Attack analysis other than to note that what makes these particular bugs so scary is not only the fact that both went undetected and unpatched for years but also that the attack vectors for both bugs were so simple. Anyone with a web server exposed to the Internet that was running any flavor of Linux or any Asterisk server with the FreePBX GUI was fair game for a seriously compromised server.

For those with shared servers in a hosted environment running under cPanel, your web platform typically runs with the equivalent of root privileges which means that any web intrusion inherits the same server privileges that you as the administrator had. This is similar to the way FreePBX runs with Asterisk. The same user account used for web access controls all of the Asterisk assets on your server. While it’s convenient, it’s also dangerous whenever there’s a web vulnerability because the entire Asterisk platform has exposure.

We always chuckle when one of the anonymous forum trolls launches a tirade claiming that these alerts are nothing more than Monday morning quarterbacking disguised as Chicken Little. What’s more amazing is that anyone would take the comments of an anonymous poster seriously especially on a matter involving server security. It’s one thing to label folks as alarmists for suggesting that the sky is falling when it isn’t. It’s quite another to launch these anonymous personal attacks even when there is documented evidence that the Internet sky was indeed caving in. Kinda reminds us of the global warming naysayers when the polar ice caps are melting beneath their feet.

According to the naysayers, we’re all doomed when it comes to cyberterrorism so why fight it. Here’s why. While reacting to security vulnerabilities has always been a defensive game of cat and mouse, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t proactively do what you can to patch serious security holes in your servers. The alternative is to give cybercriminals a blank check to launch bots from your server that generate spam or participate in large-scale zombie attacks on our most trusted resources whether they’re DNS root servers, utility infrastructure and our electric grid, banking assets, and even national security resources. So let’s circle back and address what you can do to assure that you’re part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

The Way It Is: Do I Need a Public Web Server with Asterisk?

For purposes of this discussion, our focus today is Asterisk server security. And the number one thing you can do to insulate your server from these vulnerabilities is to make certain that your web server is not exposed to Internet access by the general public. Neither Asterisk nor FreePBX requires public web server access to manage your server. In fact, neither Asterisk nor FreePBX requires any public access to your server to properly perform all required telecommunications functions. And the second paragraph above explains why this is especially dangerous with servers running both Asterisk and FreePBX.

So why do people still publicly expose their web servers and UDP ports 5060 and 10000-20000 to the Internet? As much as we hate to say it, it’s because it’s always been done that way. It’s also because there are a handful of SIP providers that still require UDP 5060 access to make and receive calls. Most do not! And even for those that do require UDP 5060 access, their requirements can be satisfied with a properly configured firewall that supports whitelisting of “safe” IP addresses for limited access. Incredible PBX comes preconfigured with a locked down WhiteList. The same can be added to PBX in a Flash by installing Travelin’ Man 3. We hope the other aggregations will follow suit. It’s long overdue.

Public web server access often is because there are more than a few (lazy) VoIP providers that install systems in a way that makes it easy for them to manage remote sites. Of course, a VPN would provide secure access to the same resources but that’s a little more work on the deployment end. With NeoRouter VPN, it’s a 5-minute job!

There also are companies with remote users or traveling salesmen that claim their servers must be open to the Internet to keep the company running. First, it’s hard to imagine a company whose salespeople don’t have cellphones that require no link to home base. Second, there are numerous solutions for safe connectivity with a home office: VPNs, FQDNs with dynamic DNS support, Port Knocker, and Travelin’ Man 4 to name just a few of the ones we previously have recommended. With the exception of the lazy VoIP installer, you will note that none of the above scenarios ever require web access to a VoIP server. So the rationale for public exposure of an Asterisk web server is all but non-existent.

The bottom line is that, if your server is not and has never been accessible from the Internet by typing its IP address into a public web browser and assuming your root password has not been compromised, then the BASH and ARI vulnerabilities are purely an academic discussion from your vantage point. Should you apply the patches anyway? Absolutely. Will your server be compromised if you don’t? Probably not… at least not from these two vulnerabilities.

Life Is Good: Why Do I Need ‘Cover Your Asterisk’

That brings us to our topic for today. Having said all of the above, how do you really know if your server has been compromised by some zero day attack vector that none of us yet know about? After all, there are tens of thousands of applications installed on a typical Linux server. And a zero day vulnerability could be hiding almost anywhere.

First, a few words about what Cover Your Asterisk is not. This application won’t detect previously compromised servers! Wearing a condom the day after your wild night on the town isn’t all that helpful. If your server has been running as a public web server for the last 5 years, then our best advice is to start with a fresh install to a new, secured server. Then manually copy the settings (not the files!) from your old server to the new platform. Now you’re ready to protect your server.

Second, more than a few words about the VoIP environment in which we find ourselves. If you’re running any of the so-called Asterisk aggregations including PBX in a Flash, Incredible PBX, AsteriskNOW, FreePBX Distro, or Elastix, then your server includes some flavor of the FreePBX GUI, a web-based application to manage and configure Asterisk. As part of the FreePBX GUI setup, you give FreePBX 2.11 and beyond an expansive set of privileges on your server. These include read, write, and delete access to all of your web assets, all of your VoIP-related MySQL database assets, and all of your Asterisk assets. You also grant FreePBX rights to inventory and monitor critical pieces of information about your server so that you can be informed about pertinent FreePBX updates. We don’t see this as a bad thing. But, even with the incredibly talented FreePBX development team, this application design can be dangerous for a number of reasons not the least of which is the events of the past week. Consider for a moment a scenario in which a disgruntled employee or a web vulnerability allows somebody to modify a critical Asterisk configuration file such as manager.conf which controls access to the Asterisk Manager Interface, or to adjust MySQL’s admin.ampusers table which controls web access to the FreePBX GUI, or even to insert a malicious module into FreePBX which “looks and feels” like part of FreePBX. When you don’t know what you’re looking for, detecting subtle changes can be extremely difficult even for the most talented people in the business. For everyone else, it’s next to impossible. This is especially true when the changes aren’t noticeable in the standard day-to-day operation of your server. That was what led us to conclude that an additional detection mechanism was essential to highlight hidden changes made to any of the critical components that make up the Asterisk platform. Thus was born Cover Your Asterisk.

The Elastix folks apparently weren’t comfortable with this arrangement and forked FreePBX years ago and moved to a self-managed environment. The drawback has been their pace of releasing updates and patches, and that apparently applies to the unaddressed ARI bug as well.

The remaining aggregations all function as we’ve described. Before we delve into Cover Your Asterisk, here’s a little known tip. On the output side, FreePBX is basically a code-generator for Asterisk. Once you’ve configured your server using the FreePBX GUI, there is no Asterisk-FreePBX linkage of which we’re aware that requires your web server to remain operational. That turns out to be a good thing. What this means is you can shut down Apache and still have a fully functional Asterisk server with all of the functionality of your FreePBX-designed configuration. Given the times in which we live, that may not be such a bad idea.

An Overview of Cover Your Asterisk

So what does Cover Your Asterisk do? What we’ve sought to do with this GPL2 application is to take a snapshot of your most valuable Asterisk and FreePBX assets and then create checksums of all the individual components. This includes the /etc/asterisk, /var/www/html/admin, and /var/lib/asterisk/agi-bin directories as well as the Asterisk DB and MySQL’s asterisk database. Periodically, you then run another script which compares your current setup to the previous snapshot and identifies the changes for further examination. Once you are satisfied that any reported changes are legitimate, you then take a new snapshot of your server and periodically check it to make certain no unexpected modifications have crept into your system. A duplicate of these production assets is always maintained in a separate directory structure (/etc/asterisk.snapshot) accessible only by root. It can easily be converted into a gzipped tarball: tar -cvzf cya.tar.gz /etc/asterisk.snapshot. Then simply store the tarball off site for a rainy day emergency… when the sky falls once again.

Because this application was designed for production servers, its testing and scope have been limited to the Asterisk 11 and FreePBX 2.11 platform. For our installed base, that translates into PIAF-Green with FreePBX 2.11 and all flavors of Incredible PBX 11 running atop CentOS, Scientific Linux, Ubuntu 14, Debian, and Raspbian platforms on both Intel and ARM hardware including the Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone Black, CuBox, and PogoPlug.

Installation and Operation of Cover Your Asterisk

Log into your Asterisk 11 server as root and issue the following commands to install the Cover Your Asterisk software:

cd /root
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/cover-your-Asterisk.tar.gz
tar zxvf cover-your-Asterisk.tar.gz
rm -f cover-your-Asterisk.tar.gz

To take the original snapshot of your server, run: /root/protect-your-ASSets.sh

To check your current setup against the snapshot, run: /root/check-your-ASSets.sh

To compare a file with its snapshot, run: diff /dirpath/filename /etc/asterisk.snapshot/dirpath/filename

To restore a snapshot file to your current Asterisk configuration, run these commands:

cp -p /etc/asterisk.snapshot/etc/asterisk/filename /etc/asterisk/filename
amportal restart

For Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone Black users, change the MySQL root password in both scripts:

sed -i 's|passw0rd|raspberry|' /root/protect-your-ASSets.sh
sed -i 's|passw0rd|raspberry|' /root/check-your-ASSets.sh

Finally, let us close with several recommendations. First, before making changes to your server with FreePBX, always run check-your-ASSets.sh, correct any detected problems, and then run protect-your-ASSets.sh to create a new snapshot of your server. After making any changes with the FreePBX GUI, run check-your-ASSets.sh again to verify that the changes you sought to make were, in fact, the changes that actually were made to your server. Then finish up by taking a new snapshot. These scripts take less than 30 seconds to run on a typical server so this is not a cumbersome process.

Before you restore any snapshot file or if you are puzzled by any changes you see listed after running check-your-ASSets.sh, we strongly recommend that you first seek advice from the gurus on the PIAF Forum. They can help you identify the severity of the problem, if any, and recommend an appropriate course of action for correction of the problem.

Finally, a cautionary note. Cover Your Asterisk is still a project in development. This means there will be changes/improvements as the coming weeks go by. One wrinkle with updates is your previous snapshots will have to be checked before you update. And then the newest protect-your-ASSets.sh script will need to be run following the update. To keep track of future releases and what’s included, visit this development thread on the PIAF Forum. Enjoy!

Originally published: Monday, October 6, 2014



Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for PBX in a Flash users. You now can get an almost half-price DID from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you’re seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. And, when you use our special link to sign up, the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects get a few shekels down the road while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity’s DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For PBX in a Flash users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls for just $3.99 a month. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. Do not use this link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage and any balance is fully refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

Hold On to Your Wallet: Another Huge VoIP Phone Bill May Be Lurking


We interrupt our regularly scheduled content to bring you an urgent security alert. A couple days ago, a FreePBX® user reported unusual call activity. He traced the calls to a System Admin Dashboard module that was linked back to an IP address in the Netherlands. When the problem was reported, the FreePBX Community Manager quite accurately noted that it wasn’t FreePBX code. When a second user reported the exact same exploit, alarm bells apparently went off.

Further digging by the FreePBX Dev Team found that the legacy ARI module (once again) had been compromised, this time with a Remote Code Execution and Privilege Escalation exploit. Previous security vulnerabilities in this module led the PBX in a Flash developers many years ago to abandon the FreePBX security model in favor of Apache security so that we could totally block ARI access unless the user had administrator privileges. We want to stress that this wasn’t the fault of any of the current FreePBX developers. Instead, our move to Apache security was based upon our realization that this old legacy code was difficult to maintain because none of the original developers were still around. To their credit, the FreePBX developers have introduced a new User Control Panel with the strongest recommendation that the older ARI module be abandoned. Unfortunately, it still exists on all but the very latest FreePBX 12 systems including FreePBX 12 systems which were upgraded from a previous release. In addition, FreePBX 12 now provides checksum protection for all registered modules which will go a long way toward eliminating attacks such as this. So what can you do to protect your servers and your wallet today? For openers, upgrade your FreePBX fw_ari module NOW and clean the malicious module off your server:

rm -rf AMPWEBROOT/admin/modules/admindashboard
amportal a ma upgrade fw_ari

If you encounter an error that FreePBX cannot connect to the Asterisk Manager, do the following from the Linux CLI:

sed -i 's|localhost|127.0.0.1|' /etc/freepbx.conf
amportal restart
amportal a r

Protecting Your Server from Remote VoIP Attacks

Let’s approach the long-term solution on several levels starting with vulnerability exposure. If you can access TCP ports 22 (SSH) and 80 (HTTP) and TCP/UDP port 5060 (SIP) of any of your Asterisk® and FreePBX-based servers anonymously from the Internet, you’re either nuts or rich.

We’ve cautioned against this for nearly a decade and yet even some developers still configure Asterisk and FreePBX-based servers with port 80 Internet exposure. Why? We can only assume it’s because it makes their job of accessing and maintaining these systems easy. Don’t do it! There still are numerous ways to gain access to the FreePBX GUI on any server. Here’s our short list…

Safest. Put your server behind a hardware-based firewall with no Internet port exposure. Then use a VPN to access the FreePBX GUI. In a perfect world, you can run a VPN on all of your VoIP phones so that you have end-to-end protection for your server and all of your users.

Safer. If a hardware-based firewall isn’t possible, use the Linux IPtables firewall and lock down all the ports on your server, especially TCP ports 22 and 80 and TCP/UDP port 5060. Then create a WhiteList of IP addresses that need access privileges. It’s worth stressing that Fail2Ban is completely worthless when it comes to security vulnerabilities such as the ARI RCE flaw because the bad guys walk right in without even being challenged for a password.

Safe. If you need remote access from various remote locations and these sites have dynamic IP addresses, then deploy the Port Knocker technology in addition to locking down your server with the IPtables firewall. This lets you gain temporary access to your server without providing a blank check (literally) to everybody on the Internet. There’s a reason it’s called the World Wide Web and not the Good Guys Web!

Worse. Exposing TCP port 5060 and UDP port 5060 to public Internet access is dangerous. Some providers unfortunately still require direct access to 5060 to make VoIP calls with SIP. TIP: Switch to a provider that allows SIP registrations so that you don’t have to expose port 5060 directly to the Internet EVER!

Worser. Pardon our grammar, but exposing TCP port 22 to public Internet access is a bad idea. At the very least, change the SSH port so that typical port scanners don’t discover your open SSH port. SSH has been compromised in the past. It probably will happen again, or it may have already happened and we just don’t (yet) know about it. Fail2Ban helps with SSH attacks, but it’s not infallible particularly when high performance servers are used in the attacks. Fail2Ban has to scan your logs and, before it can do that, it has to have a sufficient time slice to accomplish the scan, something that may never happen with an attack launched from a platform such as Amazon EC2.

Worst. Never expose TCP port 80 to public Internet access. If you do, then you obviously haven’t had the pleasure of trying to maintain a public web server. TIP: Unless you are a web expert or sleep with one, don’t do it EVER! Earlier this week BASH provided a revolving door to your Internet assets using simple web requests. Earlier this year, OpenSSL was compromised. There will be another vulnerability because it’s the easiest attack target. So it’s just a matter of time until your server is compromised unless you deploy an effective firewall that blocks public access to port 80.

Server Design Still Matters

For our own PBX in a Flash and Incredible PBX users, you can sleep well tonight. Today’s vulnerability is mostly academic for you. PBX in a Flash blocks all access to ARI without the maint password. Incredible PBX blocks all access to ARI through its IPtables WhiteList. It’s still a good idea to apply the FreePBX update just to be double-safe. And Incredible PBX users will have the patch applied the next time they log into their server as root. For everyone else using FreePBX, keep reading.

With our Incredible PBX open source project, we provide state-of-the-art security methodology. While it is not infallible, all of the code is freely available for any and all VoIP developers to review, improve, and deploy. We would encourage our fellow VoIP developers to do so. There were reasons in the past for not deploying Apache security. After all, it lacks the flexibility of the FreePBX security model, and Apache also can be compromised. But we can’t think of any reason today for not deploying a hardened, preconfigured IPtables firewall AND a functional WhiteList as an integral component in every VoIP server install. This is especially important for any product deployed with the FreePBX GUI. Our Travelin’ Man 3 WhiteList implementation has been available for more than 2½ years! While there are downsides to any sort of push technology, we also believe the Incredible PBX (opt-in) update service is worth a careful look. It has been a godsend for us. With every new login, the server checks for important updates and processes them unless the administrator chooses not to use the service.

Keep in mind that FreePBX masquerading as the asterisk user has complete read/write privileges to virtually every Asterisk and web asset on your server. Any compromise is extremely dangerous because the asterisk user on these platforms has such expansive privileges. We recently encountered a trojan authorization lurking inside the permissions list of Asterisk’s manager.conf table. The matter is still under investigation so we can’t reveal much more other than to note that the entry was harmless on the few affected Incredible PBX servers because of the hardened IPtables WhiteList which is a key component of every Incredible PBX server. Had this happened on a server with no firewall protection, the intruder would have had complete access to the Asterisk AMI which pretty much gives the intruder a blank check to Asterisk… using your checkbook. The silver lining was the Incredible PBX update utility which provided a quick way to remove the vulnerability.

The FreePBX Dev Team’s efforts to design and deploy a checksum-based system for FreePBX 12 modules is certainly a step in the right direction. We think more safeguards are warranted. We already are exploring new ways to provide alerts when critical Asterisk or FreePBX resources are modified on PBX in a Flash and Incredible PBX servers. Something akin to the Mac’s admin authorization requirement before critical Asterisk or FreePBX changes are made would be ideal, but we have some other ideas as well. Stay tuned!

Originally published: Wednesday, October 1, 2014



Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for PBX in a Flash users. You now can get an almost half-price DID from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you’re seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. And, when you use our special link to sign up, the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects get a few shekels down the road while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity’s DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For PBX in a Flash users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls for just $3.99 a month. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. Do not use this link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage and any balance is fully refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

The 5-Minute PBX: A Fresh Look at Oracle’s VirtualBox with Incredible PBX

Today we’re paying another visit to our favorite virtual machine platform and introducing four new VoIP images that let you compare features and performance of Asterisk® 11 running atop Ubuntu® 14 or Scientific Linux™ 6.5 with FreePBX® 2.11 or the just-released version 12 release candidate. Think of Incredible PBX™ as the VoIP glue stick that assembles all the necessary VoIP components and holds them together seamlessly. As with all Incredible PBX builds, you also get the full complement of goodies including dozens of text-to-speech apps, voice dialing, SMS messaging, fax support, reminders and wakeup calls, and SECURITY! The difference with the VirtualBox® platform is you get a turnkey install of everything on any desktop computer in less than 5 minutes! That includes Windows PCs, Macs, Linux desktops, and even Solaris machines.

Is VirtualBox merely a sandbox for experimentation? Absolutely not. With any of the beefier desktop computers available today, running Incredible PBX as a 24/7 VirtualBox image is every bit as feature rich with stellar performance that’s equivalent to using dedicated hardware. And there are some added advantages. Obviously, deploying a turnkey VoIP platform in under 5 minutes is a major plus. But, unlike using a dedicated Linux platform, you also get the ability to take snapshots of your system and do full backups in minutes instead of the hours required to bring down dedicated hardware, load a different backup application using a different operating system, perform a backup, and then reboot your VoIP server. And your backups won’t just run on the one server on which the backup was performed. You can restore the backup to any other computer that can run VirtualBox. For any of you that came from a network management background, you know what a big deal that really is. And there’s one more bonus. With Incredible Backup and Restore, you can move your image to dedicated hardware running the same operating system with Asterisk 11 and the same version of FreePBX in minutes.

Need to deploy VoIP servers at dozens of sites around the globe? Not a problem with VirtualBox. Just send a preconfigured VirtualBox image to each site and install VirtualBox on a local desktop computer. In 5 minutes, you have a functional VoIP server including interconnectivity to all of your other VoIP servers with a virtual private network already in place to provide secure VoIP connectivity between all of your sites.

Are there security compromises using the VirtualBox platform? Not at all. Incredible PBX still comes preconfigured with the Linux IPtables firewall that is locked down to a whitelist of local area networks, preferred providers, and your own IP addresses. You can expand the whitelist using the add-ip and add-fqdn scripts or use PortKnocker and Travelin’ Man 4 tools to let remote users gain instant access.

Why four different Incredible PBX images? Glad you asked. Ubuntu and Scientific Linux are a bit like French and Spanish. They’re both languages for communicating, but many of the words are different. Some prefer one or the other so now you have a choice. As for the FreePBX options, let us put in a plug for the FreePBX 12 release candidate. The FreePBX Dev Team has invested thousands of hours in this new software. It shows! Please take it for a spin and give the developers some feedback. To move to Asterisk 12 and 13, you’re going to need FreePBX 12 so you might as well start getting used to it. While there are many similarities in the user interface, the under-the-covers work that the FreePBX team has invested in this new product is nothing short of amazing. There’s very little of the FreePBX 2.11 code that hasn’t been either cleaned up or completely rewritten. We think you’ll like it so give it a try. Those that need a production environment probably should stick with FreePBX 2.11 for the time being. The new Virtual Box images also give you an opportunity to compare performance between the two operating systems and the two FreePBX versions. This isn’t 1999. Take advantage of the opportunity. It only takes a few minutes to spin up a new virtual machine and go for a test drive.

Getting Started. For today, we’ll provide a refresher course on loading VirtualBox and one of the Incredible PBX virtual images. Then we want to spend a little time explaining the secret sauce that goes into building these images so that you can do it yourself either to migrate to a different network or to deploy at multiple sites. When we’re finished, you’ll know everything we’ve learned about deploying VirtualBox machines and, unlike Grandma, we won’t leave an important ingredient out of the recipe just to be sure you never forget how good Grandma’s cookies really were. So let’s get started.

Installing Oracle VM VirtualBox

Oracle’s virtual machine platform inherited from Sun is amazing. It’s not only free, but it’s pure GPL2 code. VirtualBox gives you a virtual machine platform that runs on top of any desktop operating system. In terms of limitations, we haven’t found any. We even tested this on an Atom-based Windows 7 machine with 2GB of RAM, and it worked without a hiccup. So step #1 today is to download one or more of the VirtualBox installers from VirtualBox.org or Oracle.com. Our recommendation is to put all of the 100MB installers on a 4GB thumb drive.1 Then you’ll have everything in one place whenever and wherever you happen to need it. Once you’ve downloaded the software, simply install it onto your favorite desktop machine. Accept all of the default settings, and you’ll be good to go. For more details, here’s a link to the Oracle VM VirtualBox User Manual.

Downloading the Incredible PBX Virtual Machines

A word of warning on the front end. Incredible PBX images featuring Asterisk 11 for VirtualBox are huge! The two Ubuntu images for FreePBX 2.11 and 12 are 1.5GB. The two Scientific Linux 6.5 images for FreePBX 2.11 and 12 are 2.3GB. We’ve added SourceForge hotlinks. So simply click on the desired images and download them to your desktop. Then go to lunch.

Importing & Configuring Incredible PBX Virtual Machines in VirtualBox

You only perform the import step one time. Once imported into VirtualBox, Incredible PBX is ready to use. There’s no further installation required, just like an OpenVZ template… only better. Double-click on the .ova file you downloaded to begin the procedure and load it into VirtualBox. When prompted, be sure to check the Reinitialize the Mac address of all network cards box and then click the Import button. Once the import is finished, you’ll see a new Incredible PBX virtual machine in your VM List on the VirtualBox Manager Window. We need to make a couple of one-time adjustments to the Incredible PBX VM configuration to account for differences in sound and network cards on different host machines.

Click on the Incredible PBX Virtual Machine in the VM List. Then click Settings -> Audio and check the Enable Audio option and choose your sound card. Save your setup by clicking the OK button. Next click Settings -> Network. For Adapter 1, check the Enable Network Adapter option. From the Attached to pull-down menu, choose Bridged Adapter. Then select your network card from the Name list. Then click OK. Finally, click Settings -> System, uncheck Hardware clock in UTC time, and click OK. That’s all the configuration that is necessary for your Incredible PBX Virtual Machine. The rest is automagic.

Running Incredible PBX Virtual Machines in VirtualBox

Once you’ve imported and configured the Incredible PBX Virtual Machine, you’re ready to go. Highlight IncrediblePBX Virtual Machine in the VM List on the VirtualBox Manager Window and click the Start button. The boot procedure with your chosen operating system will begin just as if you had installed Incredible PBX on a standalone machine. You’ll see a couple of dialogue boxes pop up that explain the keystrokes to move back and forth between your host operating system desktop and your virtual machine. Remember, you still have full access to your desktop computer. Incredible PBX is merely running as a task in a VirtualBox window. Always gracefully halt Incredible PBX just as you would on a dedicated computer.

Here’s what you need to know. To work in the Incredible PBX Virtual Machine, just left-click your mouse while it is positioned inside the VM window. To return to your host operating system desktop, press the right Option key on Windows machines or the left Command key on any Mac. For other operating systems, read the dialogue boxes for instructions on moving around. To access the Linux CLI, login as root with the default password: password. To access FreePBX with a browser, point to the IP address of your virtual machine and login as admin with admin password set below. For the security of your server, we recommend that you log in to the Linux CLI at least once a week so that Incredible PBX updates get applied to your server regularly. This is critically important if you care about your phone bill.

When logging in for the first time, Incredible PBX will go through some setup steps and then reboot. Login again to complete the setup. status will always provide a snapshot of your system. To shut down Incredible PBX gracefully, click in the VM window with your mouse, log in as root, and type: halt. Be sure to complete the following setup steps from the Linux CLI:

  • Change your root password: passwd
  • Set your FreePBX admin password: /root/admin-pw-change
  • Set your correct time zone: /root/timezone-setup
  • Add WhiteList entries to firewall if needed: /root/add-ip or /root/add-fqdn
  • Store PortKnocker credentials in a safe place: cat /root/knock.FAQ
  • Enable SAMBA if desired: /root/samba-enable.sh
  • Enable Incredible Fax support if desired: (script in /root)
  • Login to your NeoRouter VPN server if desired: /root/nrclientcmd

Preparing Incredible PBX Virtual Machines for Migration

As the Linux operating systems have become more turnkey, one of the shortcuts that has been implemented on both the RedHat and Debian/Ubuntu platforms is storage of your network setup so that the server reboots more quickly. While that’s fine for rebooting on the same server, it’s a real problem if you attempt to move your setup to different hardware or a new network because eth0 will not load. That means no IP address! Here are two ways to assure that things will actually work after the move. Both assume that you will have a DHCP server at the new location just as you did at your existing site.

The Easy Way. If you have console access after the VM image is restored on the new platform (which means you don’t need a network IP address for the server in order to log in as root), then the easy way to prepare any of the Incredible PBX machines for relocation is to issue the following commands before you halt the system and make a VirtualBox backup:

touch /etc/update_hostconfig
touch /etc/update_serverconfig

Once you have halted the server, edit both the sound card and network card settings and disable both of them in VirtualBox Manager. Then choose File -> Export Appliance from the VirtualBox title bar and create a .ova backup image on your desktop. You now have an image that is similar to the Incredible PBX image that you originally downloaded, except it has all of your data and settings. All you have to do is repeat the install drill above at the new location using the .ova image you created and log in with whatever your current root password happens to be. You’ll get a two-pass automatic setup just as you did when you began today’s adventure.

The only drawback to this procedure is the fact that the extension 701 and default DISA passwords will be initialized when you first boot from your .ova image at the other location. Aside from that, you’ll have a clean platform with new SSH and DUNDI credentials as well as mostly sanitized log files.

The Hard Way. The other alternative is to manually prepare your existing system for migration before you shut it down. The primary reason for doing this would be to assure that you can log in with an SSH client at the other end as soon as the server is booted. The steps differ a bit depending upon whether you’re on the Ubuntu or Scientific Linux platform. But on both platforms you need to enter the IP address from which you will log in at the new site unless it is on one of the private LAN subnets that already is whitelisted in IPtables. Just issue the command /root/add-ip and choose 0 option to enable all services for the new IP address. Then…

On the Ubuntu platform, issue the following commands:

touch /etc/update_hostconfig
touch /etc/update_serverconfig
rm -f /var/lib/dhcp/*
rm -f /etc/udev/rules.d/70*
halt

On the Scientific Linux platform, issue the following commands:

touch /etc/update_hostconfig
touch /etc/update_serverconfig
rm -f /var/lib/dhcpd/*
rm -f /var/lib/dhclient/*
rm -f /etc/udev/rules.d/70*
halt

Once you have halted the server, edit both the sound card and network card settings and disable both of them in VirtualBox Manager. Then choose File -> Export Appliance from the VirtualBox title bar and create a .ova backup image on your desktop. Now you’re an expert. Enjoy!

Originally published: Monday, September 22, 2014


Support Issues. With any application as sophisticated as this one, you’re bound to have questions. Blog comments are a terrible place to handle support issues although we welcome general comments about our articles and software. If you have particular support issues, we encourage you to get actively involved in the PBX in a Flash Forums. It’s the best Asterisk tech support site in the business, and it’s all free! Please have a look and post your support questions there. Our forum is extremely friendly and is supported by literally hundreds of Asterisk gurus.



Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for PBX in a Flash users. You now can get an almost half-price DID from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you’re seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. And, when you use our special link to sign up, the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects get a few shekels down the road while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity’s DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For PBX in a Flash users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls for just $3.99 a month. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. Do not use this link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage and any balance is fully refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. Many of our purchase links refer users to Amazon when we find their prices are competitive for the recommended products. Nerd Vittles receives a small referral fee from Amazon to help cover the costs of our blog. We never recommend particular products solely to generate Amazon commissions. However, when pricing is comparable or availability is favorable, we support Amazon because Amazon supports us. []

VoIP Hardware Deal of the Year: Meet the $20 Pogoplug 4 with Incredible PBX

This week’s project is not for mere mortals. It’s for techies that also happen to be cheapskates frugal. You may recall the Pogoplug from yesteryear. Well, the Pogoplug 4 still is around and can be yours for under $20 with free 2-day shipping if you’re an Amazon Prime member. But the clock is ticking on these bad boys. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.1

UPDATE: There’s more good news. Now the cost with the Pogoplug Backup & Sharing model is just $10.95! For our purposes, the main difference is one less USB port, but it still has one which is all you need for wireless networking.

So we took the dare and decided to see whether the Pogoplug 4 could actually run Asterisk 11® and FreePBX® 2.11 and Incredible PBX™. And guess what? It may not be pretty, but it works. If you happen to have a Google Voice number and a kid away at school or a grandma in a distant city with an Internet connection or if you have a vacation home or rental property that needs phone service (but not often), then this $20 project may be for you. Configure the device, add a cheap SIP phone, and presto! You’ve got free calling in the U.S. and Canada with your very own phone number for as long as you have Internet service and Google chooses to keep paying your phone bill. :wink:

Don’t take our word for it. Call our Pogoplug for a quick IVR demo compliments of Allison:

  1. Call by Name (just say “American Airlines” to try it out)
  2. Conference Call (enter 1234# to join the conference)
  3. Wolfram Alpha (try this: “What planes are overhead?”)
  4. Lenny (the Telemarketers’ Worst Nightmare)
  5. Yahoo News Headlines
  6. Weather Forecasts (say a city and state or country)
  7. Today in History
  8. Ring the House Phones (sends you back to Lenny)

Our tip of the hat this week goes to Qui Hong without whom none of this would have been possible. His tutorial on transforming the Pogoplug 4 into a Debian server is a true masterpiece. And his blog is where we begin our adventure once you have the correct Pogoplug 4 in hand: POGO-V4-A3-01. Our link has the correct one, but double-check the Model Number just to be sure.

Converting the Pogoplug 4 into a Debian Platform

Once you have your Pogoplug, you’ll need to scurry over to Qui Hong’s blog and carefully work through his tutorial to convert your Pogoplug into a Debian server. As we’ve said many times before, if you can follow a cookie recipe and end up with edible cookies, then you can do this. Just be very careful of typos. One bad keystroke can turn your Pogoplug into a burnt cookie. Then it becomes a $40 project. :-)

Installing Incredible PBX 11.12.0 on the Pogoplug 4

Once your Pogoplug has been Debianized, there are five simple steps to get Incredible PBX up and running on your Pogoplug 4:

  1. Purchase a storage device
  2. Download Incredible PBX image
  3. Untar the image on your desktop
  4. Burn the image to an SD card
  5. Insert the SD card in the Pogoplug and boot

Choosing a Storage Platform. The first step is to purchase a suitable SD card. We recommend at least a 16GB Class 10 card from Transcend, SanDisk, or Kingston. All of them are about $10 on Amazon and many include free 2-day shipping for Prime customers.

Downloading Incredible PBX for Pogoplug. From your favorite desktop computer, download the latest build of Incredible PBX from SourceForge. Depending upon your network connection and the SourceForge mirror, it can take awhile. It’s a whopping 1.5GB image!

Untarring Incredible PBX for Pogoplug. Depending upon your desktop platform, untarring incrediblepbx.4.pogoplug.D7.latest.tar.gz is as simple as double-clicking on it in the Downloads folder (on a Mac). On the Windows platform, here are 3 utilities that will do the job. On a Linux desktop, open a Terminal window and…

tar zxvf incrediblepbx.4.pogoplug.D7.latest.tar.gz

Burning the Incredible PBX image to SD card. Once you’ve untarred the file, you’ll find two scripts that make burning the image to an SD card simple if you’re on a Mac or Linux desktop. On a Windows machine, it’s a little more complicated. Most SD cards come preformatted with a DOS partition so your Windows machine should recognize the SD card when it’s inserted. If not, format the card using a utility such as SD Card Formatter. Next, you’ll need Win32 Disk Imager to burn pogoplug.img to your card. Once the image has been transferred, gracefully unmount the card from your desktop.

Booting Incredible PBX on the Pogoplug. Insert the SD card (electronics side down) into your Pogoplug 4. Then apply power to the device after connecting an Ethernet cable to a network with Internet connectivity that can also hand out DHCP addresses. Visit your router to decipher the IP address assigned to the Pogoplug and reserve the IP address so that it doesn’t suddenly change down the road. Log into Incredible PBX as root with pogoplug as your password. Your SSH credentials, Asterisk DUNDI secrets, logs, and network connection options will be initialized. When prompted, press Enter to reboot your server. With some SD cards, you may find yourself waiting an eternity for the promised reboot. After seeing the “rebooting” message, count to ten. If your server still hasn’t rebooted, remove and reapply power. This quirk goes away after the first reboot.

After the reboot, log in again as root with password: pogoplug. Your firewall setup will be initialized to lock down your whitelist to your server’s public and private IP addresses AND the IP address of the machine from which you’re logging in. All of your FreePBX passwords will be randomized as well. The whole process only takes a few seconds.

When the second pass configuration is complete, you will be greeted by a welcoming message. STOP and read it. It has loads of important information about your server’s configuration and your next steps. Press ENTER to review status:

The Next 10 Steps. Before you do anything else, complete the following steps. It only takes a minute to secure and properly configure your server:

  1. Change your root password: passwd
  2. Change your FreePBX admin password: /root/admin-pw-change
  3. Set your correct time zone: /root/timezone-setup
  4. Expand partition to match SD card size: /root/resize-partition
  5. Add any desired IP addresses to WhiteList: /root/add-ip
  6. Decipher the randomized password for extension 701. It’s in the data field:
    mysql -uroot -ppassw0rd -e "select * from asterisk.sip where id=701 and keyword='secret'"
    
  7. Decipher the randomized voicemail password for extension 701. It’s the first entry:
    cat /etc/asterisk/voicemail.conf | grep 701 | cut -f 3 -d " "
    
  8. Enable Windows Networking, if desired: /root/samba-enable.sh
  9. Configure PPTP Network, if desired: cat /root/pptp-faq
  10. Check status to be sure everything is working: status

A Few Important Tips. Every operating system and service provider has their quirks. Ask Bill Gates! Debian and especially Comcast are no different. Fortunately, with Debian, it’s a very short list.

1. Use the following commands (only!) to shutdown and restart your server: halt and reboot. These commands are reworked in Incredible PBX to gracefully shutdown important services so that files don’t get damaged. Please use them!

2. If you ever want to move your server to a different network, complete these steps before you leave your existing network. First, using add-ip or add-fqdn, add the new WhiteList addresses for your new location using Option 0 (all privileges). Otherwise, you won’t be able to access your server once you move. Then issue the commands below. This will trigger a new Phase I update (outlined above) on the default network (eth0) using DHCP the next time you boot your Pogoplug.

touch /etc/update_hostconfig
halt

3. You really do need email connectivity to get the most out of Incredible PBX. It’s the way you receive important notifications from FreePBX, and it’s also how voicemail messages are delivered. From the Linux CLI, test your server to be sure you can send emails reliably:

echo "test" | mail -s testmessage yourname@gmail.com

After checking your spam folder, if you really didn’t get the email, it may be that your service provider is blocking downstream SMTP traffic. You can use your provider’s SMTP server as a smarthost to send out mail with Exim4. Just run the following program to reconfigure the Exim mail server: dpkg-reconfigure exim4-config. Choose the SmartHost option and enter your provider’s SMTP address, e.g. smtp.comcast.net or smtp.knology.net. Exim will restart.

4. If you’d like to activate ODBC support for Asterisk including our ODBC sample applications including Speed Dial, here are the steps. Log into your server as root and issue the following commands:

cd /root
wget http://incrediblepbx.com/odbc-pogoplug.tar.gz
tar zxvf odbc-pogoplug.tar.gz
rm odbc-pogoplug.tar.gz
./mysql-sample
./mysql-odbc
./odbc-gen.sh

Now you can try things out by dialing 222 from a phone connected to your server. When prompted for the employee number, enter 12345. Or dial 223 and, when prompted for the AsteriDex Dial Code, enter 263 (the first 3 letters of the American Airlines entry).

5. Want a list of your completed calls without using FreePBX? It’s easy:

mysql -uroot -ppassw0rd -e "SELECT SUBSTRING(calldate,6,11) AS calldate,clid,src,dst,duration from asteriskcdrdb.cdr WHERE disposition='ANSWERED' ORDER BY calldate DESC"

6. There may be situations in which it is desirable to use wireless networking instead of a wired connection with your Pogoplug. For under $10, you now can add WiFi. Here’s our post on the PIAF Forum to show you how.

Managing FreePBX with Incredible Backup and Restore

Unlike other releases of Incredible PBX, the backup and restore tools can be helpful on the Pogoplug platform. Even though Asterisk runs smoothly, calls sound great, and performance is pretty amazing, the FreePBX GUI is usable but a bit sluggish on the Pogoplug platform. If the performance bothers you, there’s a workaround. Create an Incredible Backup image of your Pogoplug, restore that image on a more normal Ubuntu 14 platform with ample RAM, and then make your FreePBX changes there using the FreePBX GUI. When you’re finished, make a backup of the changes, and then restore that backup to your Pogoplug. It sounds more complicated than it actually is. In essence, you’ll be transforming FreePBX into an Asterisk code generator. In fact, once a backup is restored, you can shut down your web server, and almost everything will still work. We were able to perform the entire procedure including updating all of the FreePBX modules and adding a Google Voice trunk in about 15 minutes using a snapshot of an Incredible PBX for Ubuntu 14 droplet we previously had created. Here are the actual steps to perform the first time:

1. Take an image snapshot of your server with Incredible Backup: /root/incrediblebackup

HINT: No need to do it initially. One is included: /backup/DU-2014.09.07.19.46-A11.12.0-F2.11-I11.12.0.tar.gz

2. Create a 512MB Droplet on Digital Ocean using Ubuntu 14 and Incredible PBX for Ubuntu. Follow the Nerd Vittles tutorial which also has a signup link to assist our projects. Coupon code: ALLSSD10 gets you a $10 credit this month. Once you’re up and running, you may want to take a snapshot so that you can quickly recreate droplets while also avoiding hourly charges for the one you’ve previously built (whether running or not!). Digital Ocean 512MB droplets cost less than a penny an hour so this is not a big ticket item. When you finish with the droplet, just destroy it (once you’ve made a snapshot!). Then the money meter stops. First time build takes about 30 minutes.

3. After creating /backup folder on DO droplet, copy your backup image from step #1 to this folder.

4. Restore the image: /root/incrediblerestore /backup/DU-somefilename.tar.gz

5. Open FreePBX on DO with a browser and log in as admin with your admin password.

6. Make all the changes desired using the tutorial below. Reload FreePBX (red bar) when prompted before exiting!

7. Make a DO backup of your new setup: /root/incrediblebackup

8. Copy the DO backup file to /backup on your Pogoplug.

9. Restore the DO backup: /root/incrediblerestore /backup/DU-somefilename.tar.gz

10. Log out and back into your Pogoplug as root.

Getting Started with VoIP and FreePBX

To access FreePBX, just point to the IP address of the server. The main control panel looks like this:

As configured, the default user account for FreePBX administration is admin. The password is whatever you set in the initial setup above. If you ever forget it, you can reset it easily: /root/admin-pw-change.

For those new to Asterisk and FreePBX, here’s a brief primer on what needs to happen before you can make and receive calls. If you have an existing Google Voice account, lucky you. This gets you a phone number for your PBX so people can call you. And it provides a vehicle to place free calls to plain old telephones in the U.S. and Canada so long as Google continues to provide the free service.

If you don’t have a Google Voice account or a shiny new smartphone, then you will need to purchase a SIP trunk from one of the numerous vendors around the world. Our favorite (because they provide terrific service at a modest price AND provide financial support to the Nerd Vittles, PBX in a Flash, and Incredible PBX projects) is Vitelity. Their special rates and a link for a discount are included at the end of today’s article.

Unlike POTS phone service from Ma Bell, the SIP World is a little different. First, you don’t need to put all your eggs in one basket. A trunk that gets you a phone number for incoming calls need not be with the same vendor that provides a trunk to place outbound calls. In fact, you may want multiple trunks for outbound calls just to have some redundancy. A list of our favorites in the U.S. and Canada is available on the PIAF Forum. Of course, there also are providers that offer all-you-can-eat calling plans. Two of our favorites are Vestalink and Future-Nine.

You’ll also need a softphone or SIP phone to actually place and receive calls. YATE makes a free softphone for PCs, Macs, and Linux machines so download your favorite and install it on your desktop.

Phones connect to extensions in FreePBX to work with Incredible PBX. Extensions talk to trunks (like Google Voice) to make and receive calls. FreePBX uses outbound routes to direct outgoing calls from extensions to trunks, and FreePBX uses inbound routes to route incoming calls from trunks to extensions to make your phones ring. In a nutshell, that’s how a PBX works.

There are lots of bells and whistles that you can explore down the road including voicemail, conferencing, IVRs, autoattendants, paging, intercoms, CallerID lookups, announcements, DISA, call parking and pickup, queues, ring groups, and on and on. And then there’s all of the Incredible PBX applications which are covered separately in this Nerd Vittles article. Once you’re comfortable with one server, you or your company will want some more. This Nerd Vittles article will walk you through interconnecting them into a seamless mesh network so that you can call from one office to another transparently. Yes, those articles were written for the Raspberry Pi. But the beauty of Incredible PBX is that it runs (almost) identically on every server platform.

Here’s our 7-Step Checklist to Getting Started with FreePBX:

1. Setting Up Google Voice. If you want free calling in the U.S. and Canada, then you’ll need an existing Google Voice account that includes the Google Chat feature. You’ll need one dedicated to Incredible PBX, or it won’t work. Log out after setting up the new Google Voice account! Also note that Google Voice may cease to function at any time after May 15, 2014. You can read all about it here.

  • Log into existing Google Voice account
  • Enable Google Chat as Phone Destination
  • Configure Google Voice Calls Settings:
    • Call ScreeningOFF
    • Call PresentationOFF
    • Caller ID (In)Display Caller’s Number
    • Caller ID (Out)Don’t Change Anything
    • Do Not DisturbOFF
    • Call Options (Enable Recording)OFF
    • Global Spam FilteringON

  • Place test call in and out using GMail Call Phone
  • Log out of your Google Voice account

If this fails, then Google may have blocked your IP address. Here’s how to unblock it.

2. Activating a Google Voice Trunk. To create a Trunk in FreePBX to handle calls to and from Google Voice, you’ll need three pieces of information from the Google Voice account you set up above: the 10-digit Google Voice phone number, your Google Voice account name, and your Google Voice password. Choose Connectivity -> Google Voice (Motif) from the FreePBX GUI. The following form will appear:

Fill in the blanks with your information and check only the top 2 boxes. If your Google Voice account name ends in @gmail.com, leave that out. Otherwise, include the full email address. Then click Submit Changes and Apply Config.

To activate a Google Voice trunk, you must restart Asterisk on the Pogoplug platform: amportal restart.

3. Setting a Destination for Incoming Calls. Now that you’ve created your Google Voice Trunk, we need to tell FreePBX how to process inbound calls when someone dials your Google Voice number. There are any number of choices. You could simply ring an extension. Or you could ring multiple extensions by first creating a Ring Group which is just a list of extension numbers. Or you could direct incoming calls to an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system. By default, Incredible PBX is configured to route all incoming calls to extension 701. You can change the setting whenever you like by choosing Connectivity -> Inbound Routes -> Default. In the Set Destination section of the form, change the target destination from the pull-down lists.

Always click Submit and then click Apply Config to save new settings in FreePBX. This is especially important on the Pogoplug platform because you cannot actually do it once you restore the backup image to the Pogoplug.

4. Activating Additional Trunks with FreePBX. As we mentioned, there are lots of SIP providers to choose from. Once you have signed up for service, configuring the trunk is easy. Here is a quick Cheat Sheet courtesy of Kristian Hare, who translated our original setups into a spreadsheet. Just click on the image below to open it in a new window. Then click on the redisplayed image to enlarge it. The left and right cursor keys will move you around in the image. Click on the image again to shrink it.

5. Changing Extension Passwords. From the main FreePBX GUI, choose Applications -> Extensions. Then click on 701 in the Extension List on the right side of your display. You’ll see a form that looks like this:

For now, we only need to make a few changes. First, you need a very secure password for both the extension itself and your voicemail account for this extension. The extension secret needs to be a combination of letters and numbers. The Voicemail Password needs to be all numbers, preferably six or more. Replace the existing password entries with your own (very secure) entries. You also need to lock down this extension so that it is only accessible from devices on your private LAN. You do that with the deny and permit entries which currently are filled with zeroes. Leave the deny entry the way it is which tells Incredible PBX to block everybody except those allowed in the permit entry below. For the permit, we need the first three octets of your private LAN address, e.g. if your LAN is 192.168.0.something then the permit entry will be 192.168.0.0/255.255.255.0.

Finally, you need to plug in your actual email address in the Voicemail section so that voicemails can be delivered to you when someone leaves a message. You can also include a pager email address if you want a text message alert with incoming voicemails. If you want the voicemails to automatically be deleted from the server after they are emailed to you (a good idea considering the disk storage limitations of your microSD card), change the Delete Voicemail option from No to Yes. That’s it. Now save your settings by clicking the Submit button. Then reload the dialplan by clicking on the red prompt when it appears.

In case you’re curious, unless you’ve chosen to automatically delete voicemails after emailing them, you can retrieve your voicemails by dialing *98701 from any extension on your phone system. You’ll be prompted to enter the voicemail password you set up. In addition to managing your voicemails, you’ll also be given the opportunity to either return the call to the number of the person that called or to transfer the voicemail to another extension’s voicemail box. And you can always leave a voicemail for someone by dialing their extension number preceded by an asterisk, e.g. *701 would let someone leave you a voicemail without actually calling you.

6. Eliminating Audio and DTMF Problems. You can avoid one-way audio on calls and touchtones that don’t work with these simple settings in FreePBX: Settings -> Asterisk SIP Settings. Just plug in your public IP address and your private IP subnet. Then set ULAW as the only Audio Codec.

7. Configuring CallerID Superfecta. In order to match names with phone numbers, Incredible PBX includes a FreePBX application named CallerID Superfecta. Out of the box, Incredible PBX will work fine if you remember to activate CallerID Superfecta whenever you create a new Inbound Route. The CNAM entries also will be displayed in your CDR reports. For those not in the United States, you may prefer to use a lookup source for your numbers other than the ones preconfigured in CallerID Superfecta. You will find all of the available modules on the POSSA GitHub site. Just download the ones desired into /var/www/html/admin/superfecta/sources and then activate the desired sources in Admin -> CID Superfecta -> Default. You can test your results and the performance using the Debug facility that’s built into the module.

If you’re using FreePBX on an Ubuntu server in the Cloud, now is the time to drop down to the Linux command prompt, log in as root, and make a backup: /root/incrediblebackup. Copy the backup from /backup to the same folder on your Pogoplug and restore it: /root/incrediblerestore /backup/DU-somefilename.tar.gz. Then restart Asterisk on your Pogoplug: amportal restart. Finally, log out and back into your Pogoplug to assure that FreePBX will function properly on that platform.

Adding Speech Recognition for Incredible PBX Applications

We used to include Google’s Speech-to-Text service in earlier Incredible PBX builds. Unfortunately, Google has changed the rules a bit. Assuming your server still meets the “personal and development” standard, you can obtain an API key from Google and reactivate speech-to-text functionality for many of the Incredible PBX applications including Weather Reports by City (949), AsteriDex Voice Dialing by Name (411), SMS Dictator (767), and Wolfram Alpha for Asterisk (4747). To activate the STT service, just complete the steps in our tutorial. Then sign up for a Wolfram Alpha App ID (tutorial here), and run the following install scripts:

/root/wolfram/wolframalpha-oneclick.sh
cp /root/pygooglevoice/bin/gvoice /usr/bin
ln -s /usr/bin/gvoice /usr/local/sbin/gvoice
cd /root/pygooglevoice
python setup.py install
/root/smsdictator/sms-dictator.sh

Configuring a YATE Softphone for Pogoplug

As we mentioned, the easiest way to get started with Incredible PBX is to set up a free YATE softphone on your Desktop computer. Versions are available at no cost for Macs, PCs, and Linux machines. Just download the appropriate one and install it from this link. Once installed, it’s a simple matter to plug in your extension 701 credentials and start making calls. Run the application and choose Settings -> Accounts and click the New button. Fill in the blanks using the IP address of Incredible PBX on the Pogoplug, 701 for your account name, and whatever password you’re using for the extension. Click OK.

Once you are registered to extension 701, close the Account window. Then click on YATE’s Telephony Tab and place your first call. It’s that easy!

Introducing Incredible PBX 11.12.0 for the Pogoplug

For those of you that missed last week’s article on the CuBox platform and are new to Asterisk and the world of VoIP telephony, let us take a moment and explain how Incredible PBX fits into the puzzle. For lack of a better term, Incredible PBX is a turnkey aggregation in a bootable image that is based upon a superset of Debian 7 packages plus Asterisk, the FreePBX GUI, and a sizable collection of applications for the Asterisk platform. You download a tarball, decompress it, write the image file to an SD card, insert the card into your Pogoplug 4, and presto! You’ve got a turnkey PBX. Add credentials for a trunk or two to make and receive calls, connect some phones, and your SOHO office or home will come alive with a versatile PBX platform that used to cost organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars. What’s included in Incredible PBX? Glad you asked. Here’s a 3-minute video showcasing a few of our favorite Incredible PBX text-to-speech applications:


The Incredible PBX 11 Inventory. Here’s the current feature set on the Pogoplug platform. In addition to its superset of hundreds of Debian 7 packages, Asterisk 11, and FreePBX 2.11 with the Lighttpd web server, Exim 4 mail server, MySQL, PHP, phpMyAdmin, and the IPtables Linux firewall, check out these additions:

A Few Words About Security. Thanks to its Zero Internet Footprint™ design, Incredible PBX is different. It remains the most secure Asterisk-based PBX around. What this means is Incredible PBX has been engineered to sit anywhere, either behind a NAT-based, hardware firewall or directly on the Internet. No device other than those on your private LAN, a few of the major (trusted) SIP providers around the world, and those that you authorize on your WhiteList can even see your server. Additional IP addresses can be added to the WhiteList by the administrator registering new IP addresses using add-ip or add-fqdn from the Linux CLI. Read about this $100,000 VoIP phone bill, and you’ll better appreciate why WhiteList-based server security has become absolutely essential. WhiteList Security means only those devices with a registered IP address in your WhiteList can get to your server’s resources. To the NSA and everyone else, your server doesn’t even show up on the radar. Their only way to contact you is a POTS telephone using your published phone number. Our complete tutorial on Travelin’ Man 3 is available here. With Incredible PBX for the Pogoplug 4, it’s installed and preconfigured. Enjoy!


Don’t forget to List Yourself in Directory Assistance so everyone can find you by dialing 411. And add your new number to the Do Not Call Registry to block telemarketing calls. Or just call 888-382-1222 from your new number.

Originally published: Monday, September 8, 2014


Support Issues. With any application as sophisticated as this one, you’re bound to have questions. Blog comments are a terrible place to handle support issues although we welcome general comments about our articles and software. If you have particular support issues, we encourage you to get actively involved in the PBX in a Flash Forums. It’s the best Asterisk tech support site in the business, and it’s all free! Please have a look and post your support questions there. Our forum is extremely friendly and is supported by literally hundreds of Asterisk gurus. In fact, we already have a thread underway on the Pogoplug adventure.



Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for PBX in a Flash users. You now can get an almost half-price DID from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you’re seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. And, when you use our special link to sign up, the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects get a few shekels down the road while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity’s DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For PBX in a Flash users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls for just $3.99 a month. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. Do not use this link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage and any balance is fully refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.
 


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