Who would have thought that all that practice helping people work from home would be so crucial to your company? So, now you're spending a lot more time at home. So… what to do with your time? In this special edition of Citrix Coach in a Car Getting Coffee… or going to the chiropractor, DJ gives some tips on how to manage your time!
Be sure and watch the video – or follow along with the new flipbook feature!
Then, download the PDF and enjoy!
01:21: You will not rise to the occasion. You will only rise to your level of preparedness. 02:31: Even with the right things we can make do with less, and what that means is that we can actually make some sacrices in user experience. 04:20: There's a couple of things that I wanted to recommend to you. One is, if you're not already feeling prepared, get prepared. The other is to educate yourself. 10:28: You need to give yourself that time. Don't think that you will be able to just ignore it. That's not how our minds work. That's not how we are built. We just are not built for isolation as much as we think we are. 10:48: Even the most introverted people in the world still and ways to become connected to others. We are social creatures. And so allocate time for that, along with work, along with everything else. Allocate time to do that. But, here's the key: don't let yourself exceed that time. 11:47: Write down goals for yourself. 12:09: You need to have some structure and you need to have some priorities set. 12:29: Add value right now. 13:15: Be the person who is showing up. Be the person who is making a difference in people's lives. Connect with that. Really, really get into thinking about what it is you're doing and how that's impacting others, because it is. Along with that, give yourself some time to learn and grow. Give yourself some time to expand your knowledge 15:27: [goals] Write these things down during this time when you're at home because there will be distractions 15:41: You make a plan, stick to it, but give yourself grace with these kinds of things. Don't be unrealistic about what we're going to do. 16:01: Don't push yourself beyond what you can handle. But definitely celebrate your wins, make sure you're spending some time learning new processesand new things. Absolutely give yourself grace for things you want to get or you feel like you need to do as far as social interaction when you're kind of cooped up at home. And then, like I said, make a plan and stick to it.
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Want some reading material that can help you better enable remote work? Well- we've got just the thing!
Whether you consider the responses thus far to “Coronavirus” to be panic or sensible precautions, one thing is sure: There hasn’t been a sudden demand for working from home worldwide like this … So how can you be the Citrix Hero during a season like this?
@TheCitrixCoach – D.J. Eshelman
I despise opportunity-based marketing. Yet, whether you consider the responses thus far to Coronavirus COVID-19 to be panic or sensible precautions, one thing is sure: There hasn’t been a demand for working from home worldwide like this since Bird Flu (or, was it Swine Flu?). Certainly not one this sudden and wide ranging. However, this case has been way worse in my observation; not medically but how our fear response has taken over. So how can you be the Citrix Hero during a season like this? If you have been listening to me on my podcast (Better Than You Found It) or reading posts on LinkedIn and such, you’ll be aware of a saying by which I live: You will not rise to the occasion. You will only rise to your level of preparedness. This holds true in EUC as much as in life.
If there is one thing I see consistently in Citrix
Assessments – it is that the systems housing Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktop
VMs (Single or Multi-Session OS) seem to be running past their maximums
already. Adding on even more workloads suddenly is making this problem worse.
Why? Because the IT systems were not PREPARED for this occasion. Time and again,
I hear things like, “We’ll deal with that load when it comes.”
I hate saying I told you so.
How fast do you anticipate getting new servers given where
the parts are manufactured? How will it get to you when delivery services start
to become constrained? And if you believe the hype, how will you install them
when you’re not allowed to go to work?
Citrix Hero Concept – Do More With Less
Something I talk about in my book Be A Citrix Hero is that with the right optimizations and design, you can do more with less. This is how YOU will be the Citrix Hero during the Coronavirus outbreak – you can set systems to perform at scale.
Tweet This to your friends and do everything you can to let your boss know: The same optimizations that improve user performance can help you trade performance for scalability during a crisis.
By organizing resources properly (Chapter 3), optimizing the
operating system to eliminate waste (Chapter 1), Utilize RAM properly for PVS
and MCS workloads (Chapter 4), and using entitlements such as Citrix Workspace
Environment Management (Chapter 6), the Citrix Hero is able to do more with less
and be prepared for temporarily exceeding the design specifications.
I tell a story in Chapter 6 of an environment that I had
done all of these things, and during an administrative glitch, they managed to
shut down eight of their twelve 7.15 LTSR Server OS VMs. We had recently
implemented just the basic settings I describe for WEM. Imagine their shock
that all 300 users were on just four VMs, and no one had complained.
The Coronavirus scare is causing a similar scenario –
suddenly, more users are on the system working remotely than before. Their
expectations have not changed. They just expect to be able to work. Well, that
and have ten browser tabs with Facebook, WHO, CDC, and various news outlets all
open at once. So, are you prepared? There are some 40,000 words I wrote on the
topic, so go get the book, so I don’t have to repeat myself. The good news is
that what you implement during this crisis will set your company up to save
money long term. Worth it.
Quick Coronavirus Citrix Hero Wins Not in the Book
I wanted to highlight a few things that are NOT in the book
that you should be aware of as there is an increased need for users to work
from home. Here are a few time and crisis tested ways you can rise to this
Up to this moment, my go-to event for recommending RemotePC
was during the Toronto floods. While systems were largely intact, many people
could not get to their offices. Sound familiar? Oh, how quickly we forget this
feature built into Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops! RemotePC allows the Citrix
Hero to install a light VDA onto the users’ existing PC and add them to a
Delivery Group. Just like that, the user has remote access to their PC.
I fully recognize a primary challenge here: The Desktop Workstation has been dead or dying for a long time. Most desks today have a docking station for a laptop or a thin client (or PC converted into a thin client thanks to my friends at IGEL). I do NOT recommend installing RemotePC onto a laptop. They tend to be configured to go to sleep or save power. This is not typically a great combination. That said, in a pinch – having a user leave their laptop, pushing the RemotePC VDA along with some Group Policy to control the power state, and then removing all of that after the crisis may be viable.
The key with RemotePC is twofold in a crisis like Coronavirus (COVID-19):
Provide Remote Access to company resources without additional risks, such as enabling VPNs. Because RemotePC utilizes your existing CVAD licensing, there are no added licensing or differences in external networking. This also means no added compliance requirements. It will, of course, consume a license – so keep that in mind.
Lessen the burden on VDI and Server Desktops and provide continued access to user-specific applications and configurations.
Prepare for Increased Citrix Gateway Bandwidth Use
I’m going to ‘fanboy’ for just a moment. I have always loved
that you can increase bandwidth allowed to a NetScaler (sorry… Citrix ADC) with
just a different license key. No ripping out the appliance or having to deploy
a completely new virtual machine. But what I do anticipate is that many
companies out there may double, triple, or further increase the amount of staff
accessing remotely to apps, desktops, or RemotePC. Each of these connections
uses bandwidth – even when it is as highly optimized as Citrix protocols are.
You will want to keep an eye on your ADCs or set up
monitoring to alert you if bandwidth is consistently exceeding 70% or more of
your licensed limit. In some cases, the bottleneck may be external bandwidth.
Either way, I have a quick win tip: Reduce the Bandwidth consumed per session.
There are a few different ways to accomplish this, but first, there is an
important concept to make sure management understands, and that is that the
experience must be less rich.
Reduce ICA Channels. Remember that each component configured that uses the ICA protocol will have a level of bandwidth assigned, and there is always a reserve, even if the components aren’t in active use. This means that if you can reduce the number of unused ICA channels, you can save bandwidth. Remember that these are user-context settings, by and large, so you can make reductions in just the users connected via Gateway with a policy. Here are a few that should be on the chopping block if you can work without them:
TWAIN redirection (what year is it?)
Port Redirection (it’s 2020)
USB Redirection (if not needed, which would be rare for remote access anyway)
Audio, especially microphone
Disk redirection & mapping
Restrict ICA Channel Bandwidth. This is an often missed setting where you can set a limit of bandwidth (or combined with our next tip a percentage of the overall session bandwidth) for certain channels that need to stay active. This has two benefits.
Reduces overall bandwidth for features that provide business value such as clipboard redirection or local drive mapping.
Prevents spikes in usage from exceeding your Gateway or connection maximums, which can cause pauses for other sessions. For example, if you set Printing to use a maximum of 500 kbit/sec, you will cause the print job to take longer but will not impact the other sessions as a result. During a crisis, we all make sacrifices. An extra 15 seconds to print doesn’t seem like much to ask.
Restrict Session Bandwidth. Especially used with setting a percent of a session for channels, this setting can be great in constant-access scenarios. This setting is rarely used because to be effective, you must do a little bit of fortune-telling… you essentially need to predict how many active sessions will need bandwidth, padding against inactive, and all divided by the overall bandwidth available. This is not an exact science so don't treat this as an authoritative formula… but a quick and dirty way to figure out your initial settings. For example:
500 active sessions
100 inactive sessions (connected, just not actively using the screen) estimated at 1kbit/sec to maintain
No problem. But make that 5000 active sessions, and we have a completely different dynamic.
Your session bandwidth restriction for connections over the Gateway should not exceed the math above us.
The Big Win: Reduce Visual Transmission. This highly depends on the version of CVAD you are running, but there are a lot of options to reduce the bandwidth required to conduct this miracle we call remote display. All of these should be validated before simply pushing out via policy and very much keep in mind that they can be applied with additive filters (such as X user group when accessing thru a Gateway gets rule A, but Y user group in the same scenario may get rule B.)
Use Video Codec only for Actively Changing regions – this setting is time-proven.
If bandwidth is very constrained, set Do Not Use Video Codec. This is an “approach with caution” setting in my mind as it will often cause complaints. This setting will force Thinwire encoding, which can cause video to appear ‘choppy.’ Again – if we communicate with users that during the crisis they will have less capability, we can ready them to work differently.
Set a maximum framerate for the session. You can often reduce this to as low as 8 fps and still maintain a usable environment for task workers, but you may need 12 fps as a minimum. The point here is to set something, observe, and fine-tune.
Reduce color depth. Let’s face it, we all like the pretty, but going from 16-bit to 24-bit color was a huge jump. 32-bit color is a lot of information to have to send. I have, however, seen much less need to control this setting than in decades past. The codec is good at only sending what it has to. This is usually the last resort setting.
If you feel like going deeper into this, head over to the Citrix Tech Zone for a briefing.
Avoid Handshakes During this Time of Crisis. Go with UDP based protocols if you can. Enlightened Transport is brilliant. After all – remember that we aren’t supposed to be shaking hands to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, so let’s take the same attitude as much as we can with ICA, shall we? A few caveats here:
Using UDP doesn’t reduce bandwidth; in fact, it may increase it slightly. This changes in high-latency situations where TCP causes retransmits.
Make sure your firewall has 443 UDP and TCP open to the Citrix Gateway VIP
I watch Citrix Engineers and Admins go down rabbit trails all the time, chasing blog after blog of perfect recommended settings. If you have the time to fine-tune – great. But the bookBe A Citrix Hero, as well as this article, reflect my philosophy when dealing with times like dealing with Coronavirus, or any for which you may not be fully prepared. For example, this is not the time to try and implement complicated settings like Browser Content Redirection – even though it may be perfect for reducing server loads during times like this. If you have the time and can test it well enough, fantastic. Just keep a few things in mind for any changes you’re making during these times:
Your Support Desk is probably already overwhelmed. Be their hero, not their villain.
Focus on the highest positive impact in the shortest time
Set expectations appropriately – Be Scotty, not _________ (insert politician full of empty promises here)
Don’t promise everything will be the same with a sudden increase in consumption. It probably won’t be; even if you take these steps, there will still be compromises to make.
Be extremely cautious, estimating timelines. Users that have not used remote access are now using it. This typically means a dramatic increase in handholding and trouble tickets.
Don’t skip testing. I know the timeline is immediate. But if you have to stop everything else you’re doing to validate changes – do that. You will ruin more than just your day in a scenario like this by putting out untested best intentions. I don’t care what any blog or book, including my own, say – TEST BEFORE YOU DEPLOY, HERO.
I hope this was helpful to you.
Now go forth without fear. I know that in times like this,
the fear of the unknown often takes over from the real problems in front of us.
This is your chance to lead. Confidence is just as contagious as… well, come
on, don’t make me say it.
Now for the marketing thing I’ll say and twitch while I’m
Working from home? Perfect time to pick up a copy of Be A Citrix Hero! No one’s watching – go for
I know, I know.
I’m the worst.
But I wouldn’t say all this if I didn’t genuinely believe
that this will help you!
Be safe out there, and for the love of
all that is holy, wash your hands!
Microsoft Teams has been a bit of a nightmare for a long time. This is because Microsoft wasn't following Microsoft's own rules and was installing the app per-user… in AppData! This is a profile management nightmare and always has been. The story is pretty much the same with OneDrive – a recent project of mine with Windows 10 1903 proved to be a challenge with added 30 second logons that couldn't be countered. But that all changed with the option of Per-Machine Installs.
You'll learn how to perform the per-machine install using native & AppLayering methods. Manuel includes scripts and some guidance for managing profiles as well.
Personally, and I'll be honest I never thought I'd say this… but I'm excited to see a practical means for replacing mapped drives and I think OneDrive in a Per-Machine install is exactly what will get us there.
First things first – don't panic if you are one of the literally thousands of companies that were affected by CVE-2019-19781… because everyone was! But just because I say don't panic doesn't mean do nothing. I (DJ) have been working with several clients, experts and Citrix around solutions and I think we are in a place where most people have at least stopped the bleeding… but I grow concerned that many more have not.
Every. Single. Citrix ADC (NetScaler) was vulnerable and should be assumed to have been a target.
Some sentences are really hard to write. That last one was definitely one of them. But that all pales in comparison to the implications. The reality is- not only were several thousand companies not ready to handle this threat, my industry friends remain concerned that several thousand customers have not remediated because they didn't know how. Citrix and several sites including my own have given instructions – but if you don't know a few key things about the ADC and how to manage it outside of the GUI (Web Interface) then there is a confidence problem that has kept people from fixing the issue out of fear of locking out their users or making matters worse.
This has kept me busy at home and at hotel rooms for the last few months and I've come to realize I don't have the ability to help everyone. Here's what I can tell you:
Citrix ADC (NetScaler) VPX with a backup before December has been able to be patched and remediation performed in about 3 consulting hours.
Citrix ADC VPX with no backups have typically taken between 4 and 5 consulting hours.
Citrix ADC MPX (hardware platforms) are a particular challenge and in some cases have taken several evenings of downtime to resolve.
The skills needed to properly assess breaches, prevent them and fully remediate from the real threats of CVE-2019-19781 are those that are not commonly used, even by those that administrate Citrix environments.
Many customers deployed Citrix ADCs as a replacement to legacy Secure Gateways and have zero skills administrating NetScaler/ADCs, depending on the contractors that deployed them – contractors that often have moved on or are now so busy with these efforts on top of their existing workloads that it has become impossible to schedule help for many of them.
To help, I've developed a kind of a checklist/lesson plan, using my RiskLESS Methodology. Expand each section to see the detail of what needs to be done and the tools and knowledge you will need to be aware of to make it happen.
Understand the Threat
History of the issue
What is important to know about how the ADC works in this regard
What Hackers are doing (known threats)
What Citrix is Doing
LDAP threats – high potential for network compromise and backdoors being setup up undetected
If LDAP account was also domain or elevated admin – critical to change password but also begin changing other domain accounts
SSL Key decode threats and need to re-key
NSROOT and any other local account passwords need to be changed
Highly suggested that any person with Citrix Gateway access change their passwords
Download appropriate firmware
During an outage and depending on your specific environment…
Run the remediation script
During a more extended outage
Backup appliance firmware or VM
Backup running/saved config
Applying the configuration to new firmware or updating a clean backup
The Great Password Reset of 2020
LDAP (we recommend changing it again)
Any account that has accessed Citrix via the gateway should be changed
Note – there are instructions on the Citrix website for all of this, but I'm betting if you were confident about them – you wouldn't have read this far. The good news is I think I can help. Scroll down if that's you after you read the final step.
Command line monitoring
Citrix tool to test for compromise
Web Interface watching for policy hits
Taking future notices seriously
You have a day or less. This is proof. Not to get preachy here but if there's one thing this whole event proves
Getting notified of future issues
Regular Tasks to schedule
Change LDAP password every month after breach for 3 months
Change NSROOT password every 90 days
Internal Health Check – watch for .xml files, etc
Health Check by qualified consultants
Get it Done NOW
It is my opinion that you need to be confident to do everything on this list and do it right now, if you haven't already.
The way I see it you have three options:
Power thru it – spend the hours needed researching and making sure everything gets done. The good news is that there is plenty of information out there to help you get there- download the check list here.
Hire someone like me to help. By all means, I'm willing to help. But as you can imagine I'm quite busy. As of this writing my first availability is in early March. You'll need 4 hours minimum and I charge a minimum of $185USD per hour ($740).
Join my workshop on Feb. 17th. I'm taking a huge risk and setting aside a week, along with some of my friends and trusted advisors. We will walk you thru the process step by step and be available at regular times all week to answer your questions. The cost to join this workshop will be $399. If you are interested (or want your boss to pay for it) – see the contact form below and we'll get you in. Can't make it on the 17th? Don't worry – we'll be recording the sessions and I'll be available for office hours for your questions until March 30th, 2020 – and email after that (though hopefully you'd have fixed it by then!)
Grab my PDF Checklist
I put together a quick PDF document so you can make sure you've got your bases covered – download it here (no opt-in required)
Whether you consider the responses thus far to “Coronavirus” to be panic or sensible precautions, one thing is sure: There hasn’t been a sudden demand for working from home worldwide like this … So how can you be the Citrix Hero during a season like this? In this article we explore how D.J. Eshelman is responding to the increased demands on Citrix environments.
Microsoft Teams has been a bit of a nightmare for a long time. This is because Microsoft wasn't following Microsoft's own rules and was installing the app per-user... in AppData! This is a profile management nightmare and always has been. The story is pretty much the...
My own opinions about this aside in terms of ethical hacking – a group claiming to be acting in the collective best interest of the world has released a code that exploits CVE-2019-19781 and starts mining bitcoin on the ADC.
UPDATE: I have put together a remediation checklist and a few more details! You can download the checklist now – head to https://ctxpro.com/?p=1493 for more details.
Oh, NOW I have your attention, huh… What started out as an interesting vulnerability in Citrix NetScaler / ADC code going back clear to version 10… just became a bigger problem. And many people were putting off fixing it until today.
Note the massive uptick in incidents. These people aren't doing anyone any favors or trying to make a statement. People are out to make a coin at your expense. But surely it won't end there so you really need to pay attention!
I (DJ) am working with some additional industry professionals to create a step-by-step course that you or your company will be able to purchase. The course will guide you through what we know so far, what you should know and how to remediate it. More importantly, the course will be updated and updates announced to purchasers and have ‘office hours' for support via chat. The course will include videos, examples and downloadable templates. The course will be offered thru the Citrix Hero Community, our free Citrix geek exclusive Mighty Network app. Pricing for the course itself has not yet been determined but will be announced by this weekend. To get notification of this offering, join the community or sign up for our email list and get a free e-Book.
What we know about CVE-2019-19781
The vulnerability affects all supported product versions and all supported platforms:
• Citrix ADC and Citrix Gateway version 13.0 all supported builds
• Citrix ADC and NetScaler Gateway version 12.1 all supported builds
• Citrix ADC and NetScaler Gateway version 12.0 all supported builds
• Citrix ADC and NetScaler Gateway version 11.1 all supported builds
• Citrix NetScaler ADC and NetScaler Gateway version 10.5 all supported builds
Basically- it allows an attacker to place arbitrary code into portions of the ADC which can allow for a variety of badness to occur. Badness like grabbing password files or mining bitcoin (or whatever), possibly even attempting to create other backdoors.
One thing I will say, especially given how certain people have responded to this – is that this does not at all shake my faith in Citrix ADCs. Show me a company that has never had an exploit – you'll see that same company probably is too small to really matter. NetScaler / ADC deployment is massive, and the fact that it took this long to discover the issue at all speaks to the stability of the platform. Those calling for abandoning Citrix ADC are either acting out of fear, trying to profit from it, or are just jerks. No product out there is perfect or will never have an exploit found. Citrix is not ignoring this, though and neither should you. But don't be that person to use hurtful hashtags or spread fear rather than solutions.
Action Steps for CVE-2019-19781
Last update – 1.17.2020
Fix Script for Citrix NetScaler ADC
Use the instructions at https://support.citrix.com/article/CTX267679right now. The extended Citrix community is working on additional scripts. The easiest way to deploy these is to use Notepad ++ and PuTTY. I say this because you need to be aware of the way that your web browser will display quotation marks verses the way that the ADC will take it. Using Notepad ++ will help identify if you have a bad quote mark. Basically if one looks ‘upside down' from the other, you need to replace it with one from your keyboard. Fortunately – the fix is quick but does require a reboot to take full effect.
Some builds of NetScaler and Citrix ADC have not been properly applying the remediation patch due to a feature flaw that was patched in later builds. Full information from Citrix can be found here, but this looks to be specifically for builds In Citrix ADC and Citrix Gateway Release 12.1 build 50.28. You can logon to your ADC web admin page to verify the build – look in the upper right hand corner. I will be recommending an update regardless but if you are on this build you have to update for this to work, so I'd do so now.
If someone is cryptomining on your ADC- you'll see high utilization – but there's a catch. 100% is EXPECTED on newer versions of NetScaler/ADC.
Here's what do to. After you've run the prevention script and rebooted, get into the shell, or just enter
shell top -n 10
What you are likely to see is a process called NSPEE-00 or similar running at 100%. This is normal. What you DON'T want to see is other strange processes taking up a lot of CPU that stay that way. Knock on wood- so far I have not discovered any clients with active miners. But I have found a few that were compromised. To monitor continuously, just type in top without the -n 10. Once you're satisfied Ctrl-C will take you out of that.
However, in my mind, cryptomining is a secondary concern. Your company's information may have been exposed at some levels that have not yet been fully determined.
The big indicator of a compromise at this point is .xml files in directories they don't belong or have odd names. I will update this list soon but for now, look for some of the indicators noted at https://nerdscaler.com/2020/01/13/citrix-adc-cve-2019-19781-exploited-what-now/amp/ Always run the workaround script first, but if you suspect you've been exploited, exporting your configuration and configuring from fresh firmware isn't a bad idea.
If you are compromised:
Take the ADC off the network.
Change the password of any LDAP or other AD/network accounts stored on the ADC.
Re-issue a new SSL Certificate and key file for any client SSL files on the appliance – the keys are stored in files that could theoretically have been read by the compromise.
If this is a VPX appliance, if you have snapshots of the machine prior to Jan 9th, 2020 it may be worth restoring that first but this is NOT A GUARANTEE of safety. My suggestion to be completely sure is to save your configuration file and restore it to a new VPX download.
Restore without starting – NOTE from the field: make sure your restore has the same Hardware address or your license will be invalid…
Disconnect the network before starting
Start the machine and verify using the console that the VPX does not appear compromised
Change the nsroot password
Attach the internal network only
Run the fix (alternatively- type this via the console to be safer)
attach the external network
Keep an eye on the logs
Replace SSL Certificates on the appliance at your earliest opportunity
Timeline and Updates
Jan 13 2020 Citrix has announced a timeline for ADC firmware that will include fixes.
Note- these are the initial timelines superseded on Jan 19th
Expected Release Date
31st January 2020
20th January 2020
20th January 2020
27th January 2020
27th January 2020
Jan 14 2020
I have started working with clients to remediate compromises and double-check other clients. I've updated some suggested quick things above.
I'm tracking reports from AWS users that if their nsroot password was not changed during deployment, it would expose their instance ID – if anyone can confirm this please let me know so I can update this. It is probably safe to assume at this point that any information stored in the ADC can be read by someone who knows what to look for. Change those passwords, people!
…more updates as I have validated them – there are a few additional remediation scripts being evaluated by other CTAs and CTPs especially.