Dispatches From The Geeks

News and Announcements from the MCS Systems Group

Author Archive

WordPress Upgrade


We need to upgrade our WordPress install to the latest version. We plan to do this tomorrow, April 17th, at Noon. Downtime is expected to only last for a couple of minutes.

The following sites will be affected:

Please let us know if you have any questions/concerns by e-mailing systems@mcs.anl.gov


Written by Craig Stacey

April 16, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Update: MCS sites available again.

We have successfully wrangled the beast. Boy, do we hate botnets.

Written by Craig Stacey

April 15, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

DOS attack on MCS sites

Some of our sites are being hit with a denial of service attack. This is resulting in temporary failures on a number of MCS sites, including http://www.mcs.anl.gov. We’re working to get things back up quickly.

Written by Craig Stacey

April 15, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Reminder: Summer 2014 Visitor Equipment Orders Due

Just a reminder, we are sending in our orders this Friday, April 18th. If you have already responded to us, you can ignore this message.

Hi all,

Summer is approaching and so it’s time to order any new equipment needed for the influx of visitors.

Below are the specs on our recommended equipment for this summer. Feel free to request a desktop, monitor or both as needed. To ensure your equipment is here prior to your visitor’s arrival, please submit your orders to systems@mcs.anl.gov before Friday, April 18th.

If nothing is submitted to us by April 18th, we will assume you have made other arrangements and we won’t be able to guarantee we will have anything available on their start date if this changes.

Lastly, if possible, let us know who your order will be associated with so we can get them distributed easier when the machines arrive.

As always, let us know if you have any questions!

Recommended Desktop:
* HP EliteDesk 800 G1 Small Form Factor
* $805 ea
* Intel Core i5-4570 Processor (3.20 GHz)
* 500GB HDD
* Integrated Intel HD Graphics 4600

Recommended Monitor:
* HP Compaq LA2405x – LED monitor – 24”
* $265 ea
* 1920×1200


John Roberts
Argonne National Laboratory
Desktop/Network Support

Written by Craig Stacey

April 15, 2014 at 1:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Upcoming IT Maintenance Weekend

CIS is planning their next maintenance weekend from Friday, May 16 through Sunday, May 18. The actual scope of the work to be performed is not yet set, but please let us know if there are any significant impacts any sort of outage would have during these dates so we can plan accordingly.


Written by Craig Stacey

April 15, 2014 at 1:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Be diligent in protecting your account, data, and equipment.

The lab is going through a cyber-security audit this month, which will have a few phases. They’re going to be trying any number of things to test our defenses and our ability to recognize and deal with cyber threats. Social engineering/phishing is almost certain to be part of their toolkit, and at some point they’ll even have physical access to the building.

I’ll send another reminder as we get closer, but I wanted to make sure everyone was in the right mindset. The recent phishing attack simulation demonstrated there were some holes and that people can be fooled. So, let’s be on our toes. Lock down or lock up any equipment that’s going to be unattended. Don’t fall for password reset mails. Or phone calls.

Remember — nobody ever needs to know your password. As a system administrator, if I need to know your password, I can change it to something I know and tell you want it is. You should never need to reveal your password to anyway.


Written by Craig Stacey

April 3, 2014 at 11:57 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Reminder: Windows XP (and Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard) End of Life.

Below is the notice I sent out last month on this. This is just a reminder that it’s happening today. I neglected to mention in the prior notice that older Mac OS installations would also fall into the End of Life rule, and thus anything running MacOS 10.6 or earlier will not be able to access the web from the lab’s wireless or VPN infrastructure. Sorry about that, it was an oversight on my part. If you have a machine that’s affected by this, let us know and we’ll work to get you upgraded or find a solution. Thanks!

Prior announcement:

Hi, folks. For those who don't know, at the end of the month, Windows XP is finally going to be deemed "End of Life" by Microsoft. This means no more security updates, and it's officially an unsupported OS. As part of security mitigations for this, the lab will be clamping down on Windows XP being exposed to the outside world. The first step in this is that come April, any web traffic that's detected to be coming from Windows XP will be blocked by the lab's web proxy. This will affect anyone on the VPN or using the lab's wireless infrastructure, all of which is behind the web proxy. But also, we need to document any Windows XP systems that need to continue running. We have no systems that meet this criteria in our officially supported infrastructure, but if you have any that you're using and rely on for your research, you should let us know if you haven't already been approached on it. Any systems that need to remain running Windows XP need to be protected by a firewall, and we need to make sure that is indeed the case. Please report any Windows XP systems you need running to systems at mcs.anl.gov. Likewise, you can ask any questions at that address, or to me. Thanks!

Written by Craig Stacey

April 2, 2014 at 10:52 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Mailman list cleanup

Just a heads up that over the next couple of weeks, you may get some mail from me regarding mailman list cleanup. The messages are legit, there should be no embedded links, and they will merely inform you that unless you take action, the list mentioned in the subject will be retired.

As a first pass, I’m sending them to the list owners of any lists that haven’t seen any action since Dec 31 2011. More details will be in the message. If you manage multiple lists, you will get multiple messages. Sorry about that, but it’s the most efficient way to make sure everyone is notified.

Just want to make sure we don’t set off any phishing alarms. :)


Written by Craig Stacey

March 13, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Phishing attack on the lab

A number of people are getting mails from security@anl-cis.org telling them of weak passwords and sending them to a site to reset it. It looks very legit, but it is most definitely not. It’s a phishing attack.

If you visited the site in question and entered any information, let us (and cyber@anl.gov) know immediately.

Written by Craig Stacey

March 11, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Network issues fixed

The cause of our issues was an external Denial Of Service attack based around NTP (Network Time Protocol). It was targeted at a server here that used to provide that service to the outside world. We haven’t run an externally-facing NTP server in years, certainly not since we moved from 221. Blocking all access to that host resolved the issue, but created new ones as we have hosts that are outside our firewall that rely on being able to talk to that host.

Eventually, the right combination of blocking and access was installed that accomplished a stop to the DOS while not overtaxing the CPUs on the routers to the point they were dropping packets.

Some services may need a kick, and we’re hitting them as our monitoring tells us, but if you see something out of the ordinary, please let us know at systems@mcs.anl.gov.


Written by Craig Stacey

March 10, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


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