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Using a Synology NAS as a Backup DNS Server for Active Directory

As we onboard any new IT support partner, one of our security and network assessment tasks is to validate a client’s server and disaster recovery environment.

As part of this assessment, we often find a customer will have a single point of failure with their active directory environment – most small businesses don’t have the resources to afford multiple servers, and often times previous systems administrators will have not had the foresight to follow best practices regarding building server resiliency.

One example of a point of failure with a single-server environment that we see all too often is DNS. In many cases, the Primary Domain Controller (PDC) will serve as the sole internal DNS provider. Meaning, if a power outage occurs, or if a PDC goes down for any reason, the entire office will “lose” internet connectivity – often a costly outage until technical help can arrive!

Many of these clients do, however, have secondary “server”-like devices – NAS units, Linux machines, et cetera. While using these as a “backup” DNS provider is not a best practice, we aim to provide the best tech support we can while utilizing resources a client already has in place – thus saving them money!

In the following, we outline steps to convert a Synology NAS device into a backup DNS server for an Active Directory (Windows Server 2019) environment.

1. Install DNS Package on Synology NAS – straightforward, by opening Package Manager.

2. Set up a “Slave Zone” – Within Synology’s DNS manager, create a slave zone, set domain type to Forward Lookup Zone, and enter your PDC’s DNS information.

3. Set up DNS Resolution and forwarding on the NAS – In the below, we have enabled the resolution service, and also forwarders. In our lab, we actually do have a backup local DNS server (192.168.1.8 here), but also forward on DNS requests to Google (8.8.8.8/8.8.6.6) to allow for internet connectivity during PDC downtime.

4. Configure DNS Forwarding on PDC – On your server, open DNS, select your AD’s forward lookup zone, open properties.

4.1 Under Zone Transfers, ensure Allow Zone Transfers is enabled, to servers listed in the DNS Tab.
4.2 Under Notify – Ensure the same setting is enabled.
4.3 Add your Slave Name Server to the list of configured name servers. Important – ensure your server validates, with a green check once its FQDN is added.

5. Verify DNS records and Zone Transfer has completed On the Synology DNS Manager, under ‘Zones’, select ‘Edit’ and open ‘Resource Record’ you should find propagated records.

Optional but recommended – repeat steps 2-5 for the Reverse Lookup Zone (EG, 1.168.192.in-addr.arpa) and _msdcs.yourlocal.domain. You *do* have a reverse lookup zone configured, don’t you? =)

6. Add your New DNS Server to DHCP – Don’t forget to configure your DHCP leases to include your new backup DNS server!

7. Test out DNS resolution – Finally, test your new server to ensure it’s resolving external domain names correctly, and test a failure of your PDC by taking it offline. Success!

If this writeup has been helpful to you, please share your comments below. And as always, if you’re looking for proactive managed IT service in Atlanta, Euclid is here to help!


Here’s What We Know About WannaCry / WannaCrypt / Wcry Ransomware

Over the weekend, businesses, institutions, and individuals in 12+ countries have fallen victim to a ransomware program known as “WannaCrypt”, or a variant thereof. For those unaware, WannaCry is fast-spreading form of malware that remotely targets nearby computers running on unpatched or unsupported versions of Windows.

Once infected, computers with this malware being encrypting all the user files they can find on the network, displaying a red ransom note (below) demanding $300 for a decryption key, with the cost increasing as time goes on.

From a technical perspective, the malware spreads via SMB – that is the Server Message Block protocol – typically used by Windows machines to communicate with file systems over a network.

Microsoft released a fix for the exploits (MS17-010, used as a part of its March “Patch Tuesday” release), but unpatched Windows systems remain vulnerable. If you are certain your PCs were updated after March 28th, you should be safe – if you’re unsure and would like to schedule an assessment, please contact us today!

 

Euclid Network’s Partner Update

For current partners of Euclid Networks, our proactive monitoring and maintenance software ensures all computers on service plans have critical Microsoft patches regularly reviewed, whitelisted by our partner NOC, and deployed to our client’s machines. We strongly believe in a proactive approach to IT Support, and ensuring software is up to date on business systems is our top priority.

Due to the seriousness of this particular outbreak, we are also manually reviewing our partner’s machines to ensure Microsoft security bulletin MS17-010 has been implemented across the board.

Additionally, our Antivirus partner, Webroot, has announced they have deployed preventative measures for this ransomware – and our partners using Dell Sonicwall Firewalls with Comprehensive Gateway Security Suite licenses should rest assured they have another layer of protection, with Sonicwall having discovered this malware and its variants as of mid-April.

 

Your Mitigation Strategies for Ransomware : Backup

In today’s technology environment, having good preventative measures in place is only the first step to having a comprehensive disaster plan in place.

Ideally, you want to have a 3-2-1 backup strategy in place. This means having at least 3 total copies of your data, 2 of which are local but on different physical devices (such as external storage drives) and 1 of which is offsite – preferably cloud based, with versioning capabilities.

If you don’t have a backup strategy in place, or want to re-evaluate your current plan, please contact Euclid Networks for a consultation!

If you’re unsure of how to assess your current needs, just consider your ability to recover from the following scenarios:

  1. All your files become corrupted (or encrypted) and replicated to your backup devices before anyone realizes.
  2. You have backup on one machine or server which is protected, but envision other devices that can communicate with your machine, and how they might be affected by the spread of malware.
  3. Envision a scenario where all your physical devices have been stolen, or your home or business is subject to fire or flood.

Resilience against all of the above scenarios is not difficult, but it takes careful planning, and continually reassessing your technology environment!

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Deleting files from old Offline File Cache in Windows 7 or XP

As network support providers, we frequently come across come across scenarios where a computer on a business domain has a user profile that has old Offline File Cache data in it. Typically, the user account has moved to a new domain, or is pointing to an old server path, no longer in use. This can happen if the user account has redirected folders enabled on the My Documents or Desktop folders – and the server is no longer in use, or unreachable. This can result in low disk space, or in many cases, duplicate files.

You also may need to delete your offline file cache if you are receiving the error message : “Unable to merge offline changes on \\server_name\share_name. The parameter is incorrect.” in your sync center.

Fortunately, the fix is relatively simple.

Windows 7

Open an elevated command prompt (Start -> type CMD in search box -> Right Click, Run as Administrator)

type : “REG ADD “HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\CSC\Parameters” /v FormatDatabase /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /f”

Reboot computer – the Client Side Cache will be cleared on your next login.

THIS WILL DELETE ALL CACHED OFFLINE FILES – DATA WILL NOT BE RECOVERABLE, ENSURE YOU HAVE BACKUPS IN PLACE.

Microsoft’s Notes :

Make sure that files are synchronized before you add this registry entry. Otherwise, unsynchronized changes will be lost.
The actual value of the new registry key is ignored.
This registry change requires a restart. When the computer is restarting, the shell will re-initialize the CSC cache, and then delete the registry key if the registry entry exists.

Windoes 7 Reference : http://support.microsoft.com/kb/942974

 

If you have Windows XP, follow this procedure : http://support.microsoft.com/kb/230738


Windows won’t start after Microsoft Update installation

Windows won’t start after update installation

This is a common problem we run in to while providing IT support with older computers. After applying a Microsoft Update patch, windows will partially boot, or not boot at all. Most of the times, windows will boot to its start screen, with a message similar to the below :

“Configuring Windows updates… 90% complete… Do not turn off your computer.”


Unable to join Windows 7 Workstation to SBS 2008 Domain

“Your computer could not be joined to the domain because : An attempt to resolve the DNS name of a domain controller in the domain being joined has failed.”

We run into this error a lot on improperly configured SBS 2008 domain servers. The issue usually has to do with improper DHCP settings on the domain controller – where an external DNS is listed before the domain controller’s IP address in your IPv4 settings. Check that your domain controller is listed as your primary DNS server – for instance DNS settings should look like this on your client computer :