LFCA Exam, Resources, and Training

Linux Foundation Certified IT Associate (LFCA)

Exam Overview

Since I announced I was part of the team of individuals who helped develop the new Linux Foundation Certified IT Associate (LFCA) exam. I have been bombarded with questions. The majority of these questions I simply will not answer. The Linux Foundation maintains a separation between exam developers and trainers to protect the integrity of the certification.

However, many have asked questions about where to find materials to prepare for the certification, since a specific training course wasn’t released along side the exam. To those questions, I would mention that the Linux Foundation offers free introduction courses that are linked right on the exam page. These same courses have topics that cover the vast majority of the listed exam domain subjects.

Nonetheless exam its self is 60 multiple choice questions with an exam time of 90 minutes. Its also proctored virtually by PSI, alongside all of the other Linux Foundation exams. To support those taking the exam, I pulled together the exam domains, voucher, and handbook links to provide them bellow in a single place. I also provided a list of the free courses listed on the LFCA training page. Additionally, I re-ordered the courses based on pervious experience with the training materials and how the topics listed in the courses map to the exam domain subjects.

LFCA Exam Domains

The following is the full list of the exam domains and subjects covered directly from the certification documentations.

  1. Linux Fundamentals – 20%
    1. Linux Operating System
    2. File Management Commands
    3. System Commands
    4. General Networking Commands
  2. System Administration Fundamentals – 20%
    1. System Administration Tasks
    2. Networking
    3. Troubleshooting
  3. Cloud Computing Fundamentals – 20%
    1. Cloud Computing Fundamentals
    2. Performance / Availability
    3. Serverless
    4. Cloud Costs and Budgeting
  4. Security Fundamentals – 16%
    1. Security Basics
    2. Data Security
    3. Network Security
    4. System Security
  5. DevOps Fundamentals – 16%
    1. DevOps Basics
    2. Containers
    3. Deployment Environments
    4. Git Concepts
  6. Supporting Applications and Developers – 8%
    1. Software Project Management
    2. Software Application Architecture
    3. Functional Analysis
    4. Open-source Software and Licensing

Free Training from the Linux Foundation

These core courses offer roughly 120 hours of free material that relate directly to the exam domains.

  • Introduction to Linux – An introduction course to help build up the foundational Linux, system administration, and security knowledge listed in the core exam domains.
  • Basics of Cloud Computing – An introduction course that covers cloud infrastructure and the technologies that drive delivery. This course relates to the Cloud Computing Fundamentals exam domain.
  • DevOps Fundamentals – An introduction course to the principles and practices of development operations (DevOps). This course relates directly to the DevOps fundamentals exam domain.

These additional recommended courses that relate to one or more exam domains and provide additional detail.

  • Introduction to Kubernetes – An more in-depth dive into Kubernetes as a tool for containerized infrastructure. Highly recommended for those looking to break into the cloud space and/or purpose the CKA Exam.
  • Open Source Licensing – Open source software is now everywhere and the licensing can be very confusing at first. This course offers a clear and concise coverage of licensing, for those who may not encounter it often.
  • Beginners Guide to Software Development – This next course provides a basic introduction into the key concepts for open source software development. This course will give those who don’t develop software often, just enough to be dangerous.

LFCA Exam and Resources

  • LFCA Exam Voucher – This is the official Linux Foundation Certified IT Associate (LFCA) training page to purchase the exam voucher. This includes a retake if you don’t pass the exam on the first attempt.
  • LFCA Handbook – Exam specific handbooks are provided for all Linux Foundation exams and LFCA is no exception. Reading through the handbook will answer common questions regarding the exam, provide an introduction to the exam environment, and help calm some of the pre-exam nerves.

Sometimes You Just Have to Proxy Your Socks Off

Problem

Sometimes during assessments sensitive systems are significantly segmented from other networks. Therefore its very important for penetration testers to know how to proxy your socks off in order to move across network.

Solution

To gain access to other networks, whether it’s the internet or a protected subnet. We can use putty on windows and the native ssh client on Linux to preform port forwarding and create Socks proxies to bypass access controls.

Proxy Your Socks Off - Web server Post Exploitation with SSH Tunnels and Socks Proxy

Proxy Caveats

SOCKS proxies only work for TCP traffic and with applications that support using a transparent proxy. Applications that use their own proxy settings, require forward secrecy, or check session integrity likely won’t function correctly.

All ports from 1-1024 require administrative rights to allocate on both windows and Linux systems.

Port 0 is used to represent a randomly generated port number, in both windows and linux systems.

How to Proxy Your Socks Off

Proxy Traffic in Windows

In Windows simply open putty and enter the IP address you want to connect  in as the Hostname/IP address.

Proxy your socks off - configure Putty SSH connections

Next we have to tell putty that we want it to open a port on the localhost to be used to forward all traffic to our remote host. To do that, we go to the connections -> SSH -> Tunnels section, add a source port, choose the Dynamic option, and click the add button.

Proxy your socks off - configure Putty SSH for dynamic port forwarding options

At this point you can click the open button and authenticate as if it were a normal SSH connection. Just be sure to leave the terminal open once authenticated, to ensure traffic is being passed from the local port to the remote host.

To tell windows to use the socks proxy, open internet options from the control panel or the start menu search. Then go to the connections tab and open LAN Settings.

Proxy your socks off - configure Control Panel Internet Properties for Socks Proxy

Once LAN settings opens, select the “use a proxy server for your LAN” check box and click the advanced.

Proxy your socks off - configure Windows Lan Settings for Socks Proxy

In the Socks box add localhost or 127.0.0.1 and the port you set as dynamic in putty. Then click OK three times to save all the settings.

Proxy your socks off - configure Windows Advanced Proxy Settings for Socks Proxy

Proxy Traffic in Linux

If you need to proxy your Kali system, the process is fairly similar. Start by using the ssh client to dynamically forward traffic from a local port. This can be done with a command similar to the following, where 9050 is our dynamic port.

ssh -NfD 9050 root@159.246.29.206

Next we need to tell proxy chains where to send traffic from our programs. This can be set globally be using a command like the following.

echo "socks4\t127.0.0.1\t9050" >> /etc/proxychains.conf

To run an application through the socks proxy, simply prepend it with the proxychains command, like the following.

proxychains iceweasel

There is not built in means to setup a system wide socks proxy. However the BadVPN package has a package tun2socks that can tunnel all traffic over a local socks proxy.

Proxy Your Socks Off with Metasploit

Sometimes, while doing an assessment you may even want to run some tools such as nmap or even SQL Management studio (ssms.exe) over an established shell. Metasploit has a post module (auxiliary/server/socks4a) that can be used to create a socks4 proxy on an existing session.

However, to start off we need to tell metasploit how to route traffic to each of our shell’s networks before running the socks proxy. This can either be done manually with the route command or if your session is on a windows host with the autoroute module (post/windows/manage/autoroute).

To add a route manually you can use the built in route command with options similar to the following.

route add 10.0.0.0 255.255.255.0 1

To add routes with autoroute, either use the post module or run autoroute from a meterpreter shell. For the autoroute module (post/windows/manage/autoroute) just set the session ID and run. For autoroute from meterpreter use a command similar to the following.

run autoroute -s 10.0.0.0

Once routes are established within metasploit to your target networks, you can run the socks proxy module (auxiliary/server/socks4a) and note the SRVPORT.

Using Proxychains to Proxy Traffic through Metasploit Meterpreter

Next we need to tell proxychains what port to send traffic to within the global configuration file (/etc/proxychains.conf), just like in the Linux example above. There should be a line like “socks4 127.0.0.1 1080” at the bottom of the file, change the port 1080 to whatever your SRVPORT was in metasploit.

Once the configuration file is updated, proxychains can be used to issue commands through metasploit shell(s). Like with the following nmap example.

proxychains nmap -v -sS 10.0.0.0/24

If we want to make this socks proxy available to a windows host for programs like SQL Server Management Studio, perform a local port forward  to the socks port on the Linux system. To do this we can use putty and follow steps similar to those presented above.

Start by creating a local port forward of a local port on our windows system, to the local socks port on the Linux system with putty. Start by allocating a source port for connection on the local system and forward to a destination of 127.0.0.1:1080; where 1080 is your metasploit SRVPORT.

Proxy your socks off - configure Putty SSH to allocate local port to connect to remote Socks Proxy

We can then just configure a system wide proxy by adding our forwarded port as the socks port, instead of using a local socks proxy.

Proxy your socks off - configure Windows Advanced Proxy Settings for forwarded Socks Proxy

Once those settings are changes, we should be able to use the majority of our tools within windows without issue.

Using SSH to Provide Remote System Internet Access via local Socks Proxy

An SSH tunnel can be used to forward traffic from your local system to a port on a remote system. This can be done in Linux by switching the -L option with -R. Or in putty by choosing the Remote option under tunnels instead of Local. For example if you wanted to share your local socks proxy with a remote system to provide internet access, putty can be used with a remote forward like the following.

Proxy your socks off - configure Putty SSH to allow remote host internet access via a remote port forward to a local socks proxy

Using Compromised Linux Webserver to Access Internal Network and Database

It’s also worth noting that SSH port forwarding can be performed on the network socket level and does not require an interactive session be established; only valid authentication is required. For instance, say you wanted to log into a restricted database of a webserver. But you only have access to the webserver account. The webserver user is not allowed to log into the server interactively by default, but that doesn’t mean it can’t authenticate. In many cases SSH can be used as described in my post on SSH for post exploitation to get around limited user shells.

Using Linux Native Tools to Proxy Your Socks Off

Tools natively built-in to windows and linux can also be used to preform port forwarding. Just note that this methodology simply makes a port to port translation and does not manipulate the traffic in any way. Netcat (nc) is found in almost every single Linux distribution and can be used to easily preform port forwarding with commands similar to the following.

First we have to make a named pipe so that any response from the server aren’t dumped to standard out.

mkfifo backpipe

Then we can use a command similar to the following to send traffic from 8080 on the localhost to a remote host on a different port utilizing the named pipe. This could help get around a firewall or help send traffic to another system to be caught by another port translation or process.

nc -l 8080 0<backpipe | nc example.com 80 1>backpipe

Similarly the netsh (commandline windows firewall editor) command in windows can be used to create a local port forward as well. In this cause we can follow the same example and create a port translation from localhost 8080 to example.com on port 80.

netsh interface portproxy add v4tov4 listenport=8080 listenaddress=127.0.0.1 connectport=80 connectaddress=example.com

Windows 7 and above will likely require administrative privileges to make changes to the windows firewall. But you can likely still utilize the windows version of nc or netcat to redirect traffic all the same.

CKA Exam Review, Tips, and Resources

CKA Exam Review Logo

CKA Exam Overview

The Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) exam is the premiere certification to demonstrate a candidates skills with Kubernetes. The exam consists of a set of 15-20 multi-part real world tasks, which must be completed within 2 hours. The exam takes place in a live, multi-cluster Kubernetes environment. Candidates are only given command line access to the exam environment and are expected to have the efficiency to complete the majority of the tasks. Based on my CKA Exam review and experience, I believe this is one of the most rigorous exams I have encountered yet.

CKA Exam Review

The Linux Foundation (LF) and The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) really brought their “A” game, when partnering to develop this exam. Not only is Kubernetes as a technology not very old, its still very much not mainstream. Nonetheless the packaged course work and exam itself provides a robust set of base knowledge that can probably lay the foundation for the start of a career at a modern company or startup. Or if your current company is trying to harness the cost saving power of moving to containerization in the cloud, this exam is also a good starting place.

Preparing for the CKA Exam

When it comes to preparing for the exam, you need to build a strong foundational knowledge through training and/or hands on experience. Part of the rigor of this exam is the sear fact that you will basically be typing non-stop for 2 hours straight in order to successfully complete the exam. If your not very comfortable completing tasks with kubectl, your not likely to pass the exam. When you believe your ready, I’d recommend running through some more practice questions. Just to build up your comfort and efficiency with kubectl commands.

I can’t stress enough, how much pressure is felt during these multi-part tasks as the clock ticks away. You will want to be able to complete the majority of the tasks quick enough to have time to check your work and than work through a few of the task you aren’t as sure about. Use your time wisely and use the CKA exam review feature that’s built into the exam platform. It allows you to mark items for review and add notes, so you can easily come back later.

Get used to the structure of the official kubernetes.io documentation and kubectl command line help. Even though there are tons of resources and communities for Kubernetes administration. These other resources are not available during the exam. So during exam perpetration, only use the official documentation. Limiting yourself, will only help improve familiarity and comfort as you work through more challenging exam tasks.

CKA Exam Resources

  • Kubernetes the hard way – This is a great step by step guide to, setup Kubernetes manually. Highly recommended you work through a manual setup of Kubernetes from scratch at least once. There will likely be exam tasks around installing or fixing base services.
  • The Linux Foundations Official Course – This is the most robust general knowledge based course I’ve seen. If you want to learn Kubernetes and how to do almost anything with it, get the CKA + CKAD combo package.
  • CKA with Practice Tests – The top rated Udemy course for CKA. I highly recommend this course for those who may have some work experience with Kubernetes and want a course that teaches what is directly related to the exam. Its also worth while to pick up this course for the practice tests and exercises alone.
  • CKA and CKAD Instructions – Review the exam instructions and information multiple times, before sitting for the exam. Not only do the exam instructions provide guidance as to what is required during the exam. But it also provides important information about about the exam environment and tips for using the exam platform.
  • Kubernetes Documentation Tasks – These are the administration task guides as laid out by the Kubernetes developers. Not only should you be comfortable completing the majority of these tasks, but these task guides could prove to be a valuable resource during the exam.
  • CKAD Exercises – Although not all exercises directly relate to the CKA exam, they offer a wide range of items to build comfort with the Kubernetes command line tools. What I like about these exercises is each represents an item that may be contained within an exam task. If your unsure, it provides the most direct way to complete the prompt in a hidden field.

CKA Exam Tips and Tricks

  1. Try to do everything with kubectl in order to increase your speed and accuracy. The majority (70-80%) of the exam should be completable with kubectl commands alone.
  2. ALWAYS run the context command at the top of every task, before completing any of the work. If your ever not sure, just run it again. A correct solution to an exam task, completed in the wrong context, likely wont be scored.
  3. The new exam interface is optimized to copy and paste custom strings, such as names, labels, metadata, etc. Utilize the feature heavily in order to avoid type-o’s during the exam.
  4. Read the task fully before beginning work. Things may need to be completed in a certain order or on certain nodes in order to fully complete the question.
  5. Above all priorities your time wisely. You are aloud to utilize the Kubernetes online and system documentation during the exam. But if you don’t know how to efficiently complete the prompt once you have fully read the task, then move on and come back to the task later.