AWS Local Zone: Perth Launch

In the last few days, the AWS Local Zone service launched in Perth.

Articles in the media are claiming this is a significant uplift:

AWS has officially opened a new cloud infrastructure region in Perth.

Kate Weber, IT News

Only problem, this is not a Region (big R) in the AWS vernacular, but a single Availability Zone, attached as an adjunct to the AWS Sydney Region (ap-southeast-2).

Media Statements and press releases are designed to excite the media, but the reality is a little more circumspect. The Local Zone does add local compute (EC2) and block storage (in the form of EBS) within Perth. However, its what many would expect that leads a local zone to be perhaps a little limiting.

First up, the compute is only certain, limited types. The same with the EBS volume types. You may be forced to use more expensive compute and storage, because the cheaper instance sizes or EBS types are not available.

Second, the costs for the Compute and Storage is more expensive than in the full Region, where economies of scale and usage patterns drive down costs. You may see up to a 50% overhead on the same 4xLarge instance type compared to Sydney.

Third, some basics like IPv6 support is not (yet?) supported. That may upset your VPC conventions.

Fourth, you may have wanted close access to managed services, like RDS (databases), or even Workspaces (desktop) and AppStream (application virtualisation). Well, that’s back in the main Region, not in the Local Zone, and at 50ms across Australia, that may be a bit too far, which means you’re back to the stone age of running databases on Instances yourself.

Fifth, being a single AZ, you wont get any multi-AZ resilience that you’re comfortable with an a full Region.

Sixth: the Local zone’s operation is tied to the designated Region: issues in ap-southeast-2 (Sydney) may impact management (control plane) or availability (data plane) of that AZ. Your CloudFormation has to execute in Sydney to stand up a stack.

In essence, a Local Zone needs to be looked at from the Well-Architected Framework perspective, and utilised accordingly.

Once you have reconciled those issues, there is the bright side: compute in cloud, managed in a uniform way, without having to deploy an Outpost and have a datacentre for the Outpost to run in.

Many organisations do want Cloud services locally, and for some high volume, low latency, idempotent, loosely coupled, edge processing, this may be perfect.

An AWS Local Zone is also a small stepping stone to perhaps being a full Region one day, as was seen in Osaka, Japan. It just takes demand to validate the point.

Its 10 years since AWS opened first its point of presence (CloudFront, Route53) in Australia, and then the Sydney Region. We’re on the cusp of a second Local zone up in Brisbane, and a second Australian Region – yes, a full Region – in Melbourne.

It’s the new Region that suddenly opens up Multi-region application architecture, which, for public sector in particular, has not been permissible for data jurisdiction purposes (even if that is just a desire and not a mandated legal requirement).

AWS Consulting Services Partners and Certifications, December 2022

I had previously posted about AWS Consulting Services Partners and Certifications in July 2022. Its been six months, so I decided to run the numbers again.

This time, there were 945 partners in the data set, up from 882 in July by 62 new organisations or a 7.1% increase.

What was clear is that much of this growth is at the lower levels but we can also see some growth in the larger buckets of certs, with two exceptions.

The 100-200 category saw a drop in the number of partners in this space, but only by 5 organisations. Similarly, the 200-300 space remained stable at 43 organisations, but I know of several businesses that have migrated from the 200+ to 300+ category. so others have moved into this grouping from the lower levels.

Dec 2022276262158107432614251519
Jul 202224425214811243258201218
ASW Certifications held by Consulting Services partners in the AWS Partner Finder

Is at the 400-500 grouping that an increase of 75% has been seen, from 8 organisations to 14.

Furthermore, raw data shows that there are 9 organisations who would fit in a 5000+ certification grouping – who combined would have 117,317 AWS certifications.

The largest? 36,098 certifications goes to Accenture, followed by 14,740 at IBM, and Deloitte on 14,605. Deloitte would be #2 if they grouped Deloitte Shanghai and Deloitte Tohmatsu together. Similarly, NTT is in the partner data as 5 separate organisations.

Cert CountConsulting Services Company Name
9673Tata Consutling
Top 10 by Certification count, December 2022

Increased AWS IPv6 Announcements

IPv6 has been something I have long championed, ever since establishing the first tunnels in the last 1990’s when I was working at UWA. Its also something I was pushing to AWS Service Delivery teams when I worked at AWS in the early 2010s, and in my time at Ajilon/Modis/Akkodis, I have set IPv6 as a stretch goal for all AWS projects to support as a standard.

What’s interesting to see is the increase in IPv6 related announcements from ASW in the What’s New page by year:

Number of IPv6 related posts on AWS What’s New page, as at 19 Dec 2022.

It’s clear that IPv6 is now a first class citizen. Coverage is pretty strong, and customers not only can, but in my opinion should, be targeting dual stack solutions, or in some use cases, IPv6-only deployments.

As System Operators (Sys Admins), DevOps and Developer folk, you should be fully comfortable with another transport protocol. Any considerations around addressing should be minimal. In the on-premises desktop/end-user-compute environment, your internal networks are possibly all IPv4 only, but your corporate proxy should now be dual-homed. (It should also be supporting TLS 1.3 and HTTP/3).

The case for NEL

I’ve been talking for the last number of years about some of the web security changes that have happened in the web/browser/PKI landscape, many of which have happened quietly and those not paying attention may have missed.

One very interesting element has been a modern browser capability called Network Error Logging. Its significant as it fixes a problem in the web space where errors may happen on the client side, and the server side hears nothing about it.

You can read the NEL spec here.

Adopting NEL is another tool in your DevOps armoury, to drive operational excellence and continuous improvement of your deployed web applications, helping to retain customers and increase business value.

Essentially, this is a simple HTTP header string that can be set, and browsers that recognise it will cache that information for a period (that you specify). If the browser has any of a whole set of operational issues while using your web site, then it has an opportunity to submit a report to your error logging endpoint (or cache it to submit later).

Prior to this, you would have to rely on the generosity of users reporting issues for you. The chance of a good Samaritan (white hat) getting through a customer support line to report issues is.. small! Try calling your local grocery store and tell them they have a JavaScript error. Indeed, for this issue, we have RFC 9116 for security.txt.

Having your users report your bad news is kind of like this scene from the 1995 James Bond film GoldenEye:

“Unlike the American Government we prefer not to get our bad news from CNN” – M, GoldenEye

So, what’s the use-case of Network Error Logging. I’ll split this into four scenarios:

  1. Developer environments
  2. Testing environments
  3. Non-production UAT environments
  4. Production Environments

Developer Environments

Developers love to code, and will produce vast amounts of code, and have it work in their own browser. They’ll also respond to error sin their own environments. But without the NEL error logs, they may miss the critical point a bug is at, when something fails to render in the browser.

NEL gives developers the visibility they are lacking when they hit issues, with otherwise, need screen captures from the browser session (which are still useful, particularly if your screen capture includes the complete time (including seconds) and the system is NTP synchronised).

With stricter requirements coming (such as Content Security Policies being mandated by the PCI DSS version 4 draft on payment processing pages), the sooner you can give developers the visibility of why operations have failed, the more likely of success when the software project makes it to a higher environment.

So, developers should have a non-production NEL endpoint, just to collect logs, so they can review and sort them, and affect change. Its not likely to be high volume reporting here – it’s just your own development team using it, and old reports are quickly worthless (apart from identifying regressions).

Testing Environments

Like developers, Test Engineers are trying to gather evidence of failures to feed into trouble ticketing systems. A NEL endpoint gives Testers this evidence. Again the volume reporting may be pretty low, but the value of the reporting will again help errors hitting higher environments.

Non-Production UAT Environments

This is your last chance to ensure that the next release into production is not hitting silly issues. The goal here to is make the volume of NEL reports approach zero, and any that come in are likely to be blockers. Depending on the size of your UAT validation, the volume will still be low.

Production Environments

This is where NEL becomes even more important. Your Security teams and your operational teams need to both have real-time visibility of reporting, as the evidence here could be indicative of active attempts to subvert the browser. Of course the volume of reports could also be much larger, so be prepared to trade the fraction of reporting to balance the volume of reports. It may also be worth using a commercial NEL endpoint provider for this environment.

Running your own NEL Endpoint

There is nothing stopping you from running your own NEL endpoint, and this is particularly useful in low volume, non-production scenarios. It’s relatively, simple, you just need to think of your roll out:

  • Let every project define their own NEL endpoints, perhaps one per environment, and let them collect and process their own reports
  • Provide a single central company-wide non-production NEL endpoint, but then give all developers access to the reports
  • Somewhere in the middle of these above two options?

Of course, none of these are One Way Doors. You can always adjust your NEL endpoints, by just updating the NEL headers you have set on your applications. If you don’t know how to adjust HTTP header strings on your applications and set arbitrary values, then you already have a bigger issue in that you don’t know what you’re doing in IT, so please get out of the way and allow those who do know to get stuff done!

Your NEL endpoint should be defined as a HOSTNAME, with a valid (trusted) TLS certification, listening for an HTTP post over HTTPS. Its a simple JSON payload, that you will want to store somewhere. You have a few choices as to what to do with this data when submitted:

  1. Reject it outright. Maybe someone is probing you, or submitting malicious reports (malformed, buffer overflow attempt, SQL injection attempt, etc)? But these events themselves may be of interest…
  2. Store it:
    • In a relational database
    • In a No-SQL database
    • In something like ElasticSearch
  3. Relay it:
    • Via email to a Distribution List or alias
    • Integration to another application or SIEM

My current preference is to use a No-SQL store, with a set retention period on each report.

NEL in AWS API Gateway, Lambda and DynamoDB

The architecture for this is very simple:

Simple NEL endpoint with API Gateway, Lambda and DynamoDB

We have one table which controls access for reports to be submitted; its got config items that are persistent. I like to have a config for banned IPs (so I can block malicious actors), and perhaps banned DNS domains in the NEL report content. Alternately, I may have an allow list of DNS domains (possibly with wildcards, such as *

My Lambda function will get this content, and then evaluate the source IP address of the report, the target DNS domain in the report, and work out if its going to store it in the Reports table.

When inserting the JSON into the report table, I’m also going to record:

  • The current time (UTC)
  • The source address the report came from

Here’s an example report that’s been processed into the table:

This is what the NEL report (Body) looks like:

      "violated-directive":"default-src 'none'",
      "original-policy":"default-src 'none'; img-src 'self' data: ; font-src data: ; script-src 'self' blob: 'unsafe-inline';  style-src 'self' ; frame-ancestors 'none'; form-action 'self'; media-src blog:; connect-src 'self' * wss:// wss:// ; object-src: self ; base-uri 'self'; report-to default; report-uri",

And here is the Lambda code that is validating the reports:

import json
import boto3
import ipaddress
import datetime
import uuid
def lambda_handler(event, context):
    address = report_src_addr(event)
    if address is not False:
        if report_ip_banned(address) or not report_ip_permitted(address):
            return {
                'statusCode': 403,
                'body': json.dumps({ "Status": "rejected", "Message": "Report was rejected from IP address {}".format(address)})
    if not report_hostname_permitted(event):
        return {
            'statusCode': 403,
            'body': json.dumps({ "Status": "rejected", "Message": "Reports for subject not allowed"})
    report_uuid = save_report(event)
    if not report_uuid:
        return {
            'statusCode': 403,
            'body': json.dumps({ "Status": "rejected"})
    return {
        'statusCode': 200,
        'body': json.dumps({ "Status": "accepted", "ReportID": report_uuid})

def save_report(event):
    report_uuid =  uuid.uuid4().hex
    client_ip_str = str(report_src_addr(event))
    print("Saving report {} for IP {}".format(report_uuid, client_ip_str))
    response = report_table.put_item(
            "ReportID": report_uuid,
            "Body": event['body'],
            "ReportTime": str(datetime.datetime.utcnow()),
            "ClientIp": client_ip_str
    if response['ResponseMetadata']['HTTPStatusCode'] is 200:
        return report_uuid
    return False

def report_ip_banned(address):
    fe = Key('ConfigName').eq("BannedIPs")
    response = config_table.scan(FilterExpression=fe)
    if 'Items' not in response.keys():
        print("No items in Banned IPs")
        return False
    if len(response['Items']) is not 1:
        print("Found {} Items for BannedIPs in config".format(len(response['Items'])))
        return False
    if 'IPs' not in response['Items'][0].keys():
        print("No IPs in first item")
        return False
    ip_networks = []
    for banned in response['Items'][0]['IPs']:
            #print("Checking if we're in {}".format(banned))
        except Exception as e:
            print("*** EXCEPTION")
            return False
    for banned in ip_networks:
        if address.version == banned.version:
            if address in banned:
                print("{} is banned (in {})".format(address, banned))
                return True
    #print("Address {} is not banned!".format(address))
    return False

def report_ip_permitted(address):
    fe = Key('ConfigName').eq("PermittedIPs")
    response = config_table.scan(FilterExpression=fe)
    if len(response['Items']) is 0:
        return True
    if len(response['Items']) is not 1:
        print("Found {} Items for PermittedIPs in config".format(len(response['Items'])))
        return False
    if 'IPs' not in response['Items'][0].keys():
        print("IPs not found in permitted list DDB response")
        return False
    ip_networks = []
    for permitted in response['Items'][0]['IPs']:
            ip_networks.append(ipaddress.ip_network(permitted, strict=False))
        except Exception as e:
            print("permit: *** EXCEPTION")
            return False
    for permitted in ip_networks:
        if address.version == permitted.version:
            if address in permitted:
                print("permit: Address {} is permitted".format(address))
                return True
    print("Address {} not permitted?".format(address))
    return False

def report_hostname_permitted(event):
    if 'body' not in event.keys():
        print("No body")
        return False
    if 'httpMethod' not in event.keys():
        print("No method")
        return False
    elif event['httpMethod'].lower() != 'post':
        print("Method is {}".format(event['httpMethod']))
        return False
    if len(event['body']) > 1024 * 100:
        print("Body too large")
        return False
        reports = json.loads(event['body'])
    except Exception as e:
        return False

    for report in reports:
        return True
        if 'url' not in report.keys():
            return False
        url = urlparse(report['url'])
        fe = Key('ConfigName').eq("BannedServerHostnames")
        response = config_table.scan(FilterExpression=fe)
        if len(response['Items']) == 0:
            print("No BannedServerHostnames")
            return True
        for item in response['Items']:
            if 'Hostname'not in item.keys():
            for exxpression in item['Hostname']:
                match = + "$", url.netloc)
                if match:
                    print("Rejecting {} as it matched on {}".format(url.netloc, expression))
                    return False
    return True

def report_src_addr(event):
        addr = ipaddress.ip_address(event['requestContext']['identity']['sourceIp'])
    except Exception as e:
        return False
    #print("Address is {}".format(addr))
    return addr

def parse_X_Forwarded_For(event):
    if 'headers' not in event.keys():
        return False
    if 'X-Forwarded-For' not in event['headers'].keys():
        return False
    address_strings = [x.strip() for x in event['headers']['X-Forwarded-For'].split(',')]
    addresses = []
    for address in address_strings:
            new_addr = ipaddress.ip_address(address)
            if new_addr.is_loopback or new_addr.is_private:
                print("X-Forwarded-For {} is loopback/private".format(new_addr))
        except Exception as e:
            return False
    return addresses

You’ll note that I have a limit on the size of a NEL report – 100KB of JSON is more than enough. I’m also handling CIDR notation for blocking (eg,

Operational Focus

Clearly to use this, you’ll want to push the Lambda function into a repeatable template, along with the API Gateway and DynamoDB table.

You may also want to have a Time To Live (TTL) on the Item being submitted in save_report() function, with perhaps the current time (Unix time) plus a number of seconds to retain (perhaps a month), and configure TTL expiry on the DynamoDB table.

You may also want to generate some custom CloudWatch metrics, based upon the data being submitted; perhaps per hostname or environment, to get metrics on the rate of errors being reported.


Hopefully the above is enough to get you to understand NEL, and help capture these reports from your web clients; in a production environment you may want to look at, in non-production, you may want to roll your own as above.

Australian National Cyber Security Conference, Melbourne 2022

This year I put forward my first proposal to speak at the Australian National Cyber Security Conference, organised by the Australian Information Security Association (AISA) of which I have been a member for around 5 years.

I have previously spoken at the AISA local Perth branch conference, and figured that there was a lack of content around my area of interest, being web security (something I have spoken at other conferences in the past about, and been teaching students and colleagues since 2014.

I was thrilled to be selected, based on merit (and not sponsorship), to present.

Damien Manuel, AISA Chair and Adjunct Professor at Deakin University opening CyberConf 2022

Held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, spanning three floors, there weer to be just shy of 400 speakers, and over 4000 attendees.

MCEC Main Auditorium, with 5000 seat capacity, with delegates starting to file in…

Its a big venue, and there were at times some 15 simultaneous breakout streams running over the three days of the conference, along with a large exhibitor hall. The catering budget alone for the event was in excess of AU$1M.

James Bromberger, listening to the opening presentations and keynote at CyberConf 2022

We started with a word from Clare O’Neil, the federal minister presenting via pre-recorded video:

Clare O’Neil

This was followed by Dillan Alcott giving a no-holes bared authentic blast from his personality on how he sees himself, his challenges, and opportunities:

Dillan Alcott at CyberConference 2022

Later in the day came The Woz, here speaking with conference host Juanita Phillips:

Steve Wozniak (The Woz), Apple Co-Founder, and Juanita Phillips

Steve was a genuine engineer, taking joy in the machines he could build with the chipsets he played with. It was heartening to hear the desire to avoid conflict and disappointment, and focus on achievement and joy.

Next up was Juliette Wilcox CMG, Cyber Security Ambassador for UK Defence and Security Exports at Dept International Trade, UK Government.

Juliette Wilcox, UK Government

Juliette spoke well about the importance of strong cybersecurity, sharing advances, and having reliable systems to ensure that trade and economics could proceed smoothly.

The Hon Julie Bishop.

Next up was Julie Bishop, who also spoke about the important of strong cyber security in our digital systems and the reliance on these systems for international trade and relations.

Julie Bishop

Next up was environmental advocate (not activist), Erin Brockovich.

Erin Brockovich

Erin spoke of her stick-to-it-ivness, determination to write a wrong, and managing conflict. She rejects the title of being an Environmental Activist, as its deemed to negative, but more an advocate for the environment.

Dr Vyom Sharma

Next was Dr Vyom Sharma, talking about managing stress. From Workload, to Reward, Fairness, Autonomy, Community and Values as all being factors in stress that lead to burnout.

The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite, MP

A surprise was Matt Thistlethwaite adding to the line up, who spoke about the Dept Defence programs on Critical Infrastructure and reach out via ACSC and their programs.

Paula Januszkiewicz

Finally a pentester gets to the stage – Paula J – who proceeded to drive holes with Windows Server processes and WMI, demonstrating live to the audience the risks with misconfigured and under-configured systems.

And then, we came to Capt Sully Sullenberger:

Capt Sulley Sullenberger

Capt’n Sulley was the calmest person on stage. He spoke about being passionate about what you love, and becoming a master of it. He says he’s loved two aircraft, and old DC, and the Boeing he was in when he encountered the bird strike in 2009 on flight 1529 our of New York. His passion meant that he had internalised the entire manual, and know which pages he would be turning to, and what the first few actions would be before any manual was opened.

He spoke of his roles and activities since 2009, working with aviation safety, and the improving record on US domestic flights (no deaths since 2009).

The Awards Dinner

As a speaker, I had a ticket to the awards gala dinner.

AISA Awards Gala Dinner, Crown Towers

It was great to see my local North Metro TAFE pick up one award, and Chris Bolan and friends at Seamless Intelligence pick up another. Congatulations to all the nominees and the winners.

A few sessions of note

I kind of liked the presentation on Cyber Asset Attack Surface Management, new in the Gartner graphs of wonder from July 2021 . At its core, its about having more visibility of all the assets, including those SaaS apps that staff sign up for, and at its most basic, can be just a spreadsheet of what’s in use:

Next up, was the Ukranian power outages of 2014:

This was a remote access tool, where by engineers would see their mouse cursor moving and keystrokes being entered, but then custom firmwares flashed onto PLCs, turning the lights out for three regions of Ukraine. Power company staff had to drive to the remote sub stations to physically turn power back on, as all remote operations was lost.

The company had firewalls and VPN services in place, but clearly not strict and restricted enough to block this behavious – let alone network segregation (air-gap).

Of course, my session:

James Bromberger, about to go in and present
James Bromberger presenting at CyberConf 2022, thanks to Kelly Taylor

Another session (no pics) spoke about securing domains (something I look to tools like Ivan Ristic’s A new (minor) record to add to DNS is the BIMI record, to indicate the marketing icon (square SVG) to be displayed to users for authenticated mail from your domain. Personally I see that as just another record that a typo-squatting domain could just copy and use as well, so wont actually elevate security, but it was a new one for me (

But my highlight was meeting Cricket Liu, the author of the original DNS & Bind O’Reilly book.

James Bromberger & Cricket Liu

Cricket spoke about the 30 years tha have passed since then, and the more recent use of Resource Policy Zones in DNS to provide blocking and logging of DNS queries for malicious domains – including generated domains that are registered and activated at particular times to be Command & Control services for botnets. With Bind (and alternatively products from his company) you can easily share the policies to block these services, IMHO akin to the capability now in AWS GuardDuty and AWS DNS Firewall. We also spoke about DNS over HTTPS, DNSSec, and more.

Of course, I wished I had a mug for the occasion.

But this discussion was by far and away the best of the conference for me. DNS is such a critical piece of our network engineering, and in so many environments its set up, works, and is then ignored; despite the fact that it is feasible to exfiltrate data (20 bytes at a time) over DNS – probably with millions of requests – but that will probably be invisible to most network operators.